Building and maintaining South Africa’s road network is one of the key factors that will ensure the country’s future prosperity. IMIESA talks to Werner Tessendorf, Business Development Manager at Tosas, about how the company’s bitumen solutions and industry partnerships are making the difference.

Please expand on Tosas’ strategy for 2018.

WT  We’ve identified a number of focus areas for this year, with a major emphasis on working with key stakeholders to assist the industry in meeting its empowerment objectives. For Tosas, that means assisting black-owned companies to become fully fledged bitumen suppliers who will own their own delivery trucks.

In this respect, we are in the process of establishing a number of qualifying small enterprise (QSE) firms. These QSE developments are in line with the latest
Sanral requirements.

Tosas we will be working closely with these QSEs to provide mentorship support. Initially, these QSEs will be subcontractors with their own tankers and site support staff to transport and deliver products. However, they will subsequently become involved in the application of bitumen products on road construction projects during the second phase of their development. So they’ll be involved in the whole chain.

Should more emphasis be placed on labour-intensive construction?

Absolutely. We believe that the labour-intensive construction market has huge potential for job creation, skills development and the establishment of SMME contractors. We feel there should be far more focus on this area in 2018 and we are committed to unlocking opportunities. We also feel that a new shift needs to be taken to ensure that those who benefit are not just employed on short-term, community-based projects, but are transferred to other contracts on an ongoing basis. This will ensure the sustainability of labour-intensive construction, which is lacking at present. Deon Pagel, our managing director, has always maintained that “the roads industry is the single biggest potential creator of sustainable jobs in the country.”

Does the Chippy have a role to play?

We’ve developed a number of solutions that will positively contribute to initiatives like the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) as well as certain Sanral initiatives. A prime example is our Chippy machine – a manual chip spreader originally designed and patented by Mr Pagel. The Chippy has taken a bit of a back seat in recent years, but the time has now come for this innovative machine to shine.

The Chippy will form a huge part of our focus this year and we’ve prepared the groundwork with the development of a series of new emulsion products purpose-designed for this unit. These products enable the application of emulsions on any type of road, irrespective of steep gradients or steep cross-falls, and there’s no run-off.

The main product is known as Chipseal, which has already been successfully used on repair sections along Sanral’s Abel Erasmus pass (R36 route) in Mpumalanga.

There’s definitely a lot more potential for labour-intensive methodologies in the maintenance and resealing of roads. Hopefully, the imminent introduction of the new South African Committee of Transport Officials document, developed under the auspices of Sanral, will help to accelerate the process, since one of the sections officially promotes labour-intensive construction.

How important is R&D and new product development?

It’s central to our business and defines our successes to date. Nanotechnology is a new focus. Tosas is also currently conducting further research on emulsions using performance-grade formulations.

Plus, we have other great new products that we’ll be launching in 2018, which will add tremendously to our range. For example, thanks to our new cold-mix binder, contractors will now be able to manufacture cold-mix asphalt via the combination of cold aggregates and a warm bitumen binder.
Once the binder temperature has reached 100°C, the aggregates are mixed cold. Thereafter, you have a stockpile of high-quality cold-mix asphalt.

We’re also refining our New Crumbed Rubber Technology (NCRT), which will shortly be taken up into the TG1 specifications agreed by Sabita and Sanral.

Tosas recently invested in a fleet of microsurfacing slurry trucks. What are the advantages?

The microsurfacing business is an important one for us, so we need to ensure that we keep pace with the latest international practices when it comes to slurry sealing.

After extensively investigating options worldwide, we chose Bergkamp, a leading American OEM. Its systems are simple, robust and reliable. Our plan is to expand the fleet going forward.

During 2017, two Ralumac microsurfacing contracts were completed in the Northern and Western Cape, respectively. One was for overlay works, the other for rut filling.

What about general capex investments?

We are continuously expanding our capabilities. Our new in-house and jointly developed bitumen rubber distributor trucks are a good example and are a wholly African Tosas design. The first two units are now on-site and working extremely well.

The modernisation of our emulsion production facilities are also up to date and incorporate the latest energy-saving features. We have also improved efficiencies in manufacturing and storage.

What are some of the recent road project highlights?

One of the projects we’re particularly proud of is the maintenance of Baden Powell Drive between the M9 and Strandfontein Road for Roadmac Surfacing Cape and the City of Cape Town, where our NCRT was sprayed. This project was completed under extremely challenging conditions in terms of the environment and climate.

The road borders the coast and in Cape Town, as the saying goes, you can typically experience ‘four seasons in one day’ – in other words, constant variables in terms of weather, with strong winds being a prime example. Our NCRT performed exceptionally well, with the city, consulting engineers, SMEC SA and the contractors reporting huge satisfaction with the end result. That’s all because of NCRT.

With conventional rubber crumb technologies, it’s not possible to start and stop when unfavourable weather closes in; however, that’s not a problem with NCRT, and Tosas specifically designed the product to maximise flexibility for contractors.

We believe NCRT is an application that will become one of the products of choice for the roads industry, because you can hold back for a clear weather window, without having to reconstitute the material, which would be the case with standard bitumen rubber.

Going into 2018, we have a number of key Sanral, N3 and TRAC projects that we will
be supplying.

And in closing, are there cross-border opportunities?

There are some major opportunities. Currently, we’re working in territories like Namibia and Botswana, as well as Zambia.

We’ll be attending the Argus Africa Roads 2018 conference in Dar es Salaam in March – an international gathering of experts in the bitumen supply and allied asphalt road construction sectors. This networking opportunity supports our strategy for deeper penetration into the African market where there’s growing recognition for South African expertise. At Argus Africa Roads, we will be presenting on topics that include our new emulsion products, and definitely on the Chippy, since labour-intensive construction is an absolute priority for positive socio-economic change across the continent.