Unitrans Business Operations
Our Proud History
Unitrans started as United Transport in 1962 after acquiring a family-owned business, Thornton’s Transport which dated back to 1892. Since these humble beginnings, our company has grown to be one of Africa’s most recognisable logistics and supply-chain brands. Now well over 100 years old, Unitrans continues to grow and innovate.
1892: The story begins
The origins of the company date back to the 19th century, long before the existence of United Transport. The original core of the business was Thornton’s Transportation, a solid and respectable family transport business founded in 1892 by native Californian Samuel Thornton. Thornton’s steady growth through the acquisition of other transport companies eventually resulted in a major buyout by the United Transportation Company. In turn, the United Transportation Company had started life as a bus operating company in the United Kingdom in 1930. The bus company evolved into a diversified freight and bus business which, prior to the Thornton acquisition and the entry into SA, successfully operated in several other African countries.
1962: United Transport looks to the future
By the early 1970s in South Africa, United Transport had become the country’s largest road transport organisation, with capabilities and major interests in freight haulage, passenger transport, tourism, tanker services, as well as crane and plant hire. The group operated a fleet of some 1 400 buses and commercial vehicles, making it the second largest fleet in the country after the SA Railways. It had also branched out into a car hire business with some 900 vehicles.
1971: A focus on growth history
Unitrans has been in business as United Transport since 1962, our company is one of South Africa’s most recognisable logistics and supply-chain brands, with fleet on roads all over Southern Africa. Now well over 100 years old, Unitrans Africa continues to grow and innovate.
1982: New formation
Saw the formation of United Passenger Transport and United Freight Transport as holding companies for the passenger and freight divisions.
1987: Unitrans is born
United Transport finally listed on the JSE in 1987. United Freight Transport changes its name to Unitrans limited with all of its subsidiary businesses assuming the name Unitrans.
1998: From the late 1990's onwards
Several significant acquisitions expanded the range and geographical reach of the Unitrans business. These included the acquisition of Matthysen Bus Transport, which would be renamed Mega Bus and Coach – still an integral part of the Unitrans passenger transportation business. Malbak Motors, a leading national vehicle distributor at the time, was acquired and renamed Unitrans Motors. This was followed by the launch of Unitrans Finance to provide consumer credit to the burgeoning motor vehicle market. Unitrans Motors’ subsequently acquired the balance of shares in Hertz Rent-a-Car. The Unitrans Motors successes were followed by the acquisition of the entire shareholding in Roadway Logistics(Pty)Ltd., which had been a 50/50 JV with Steinhoff Africa.
2006: A modern restructure
In this year a major restructure of the business saw the creation of Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions. This response to sophisticated changes in the supply chain market saw the existing operations of Unitrans Freight, Fuel and Chemical, Agriculture and Mining Services and Roadway Logistics grouped under the new holding division. An important new function, Unitrans Customer Solution Development, was created to deliver new business to these operational divisions.
Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions acquires 26% stake in a line haul business Xinergistix Management Services
2012: Welcome aboard
KAP Industrial Holdings acquires Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions and Unitrans Passenger
2015: One Unitrans
In the spirit of constant innovation and sustainable business growth, a new business model was successfully implemented at Unitrans. Unitrans operates as one business and functions as one team. The key approach is customer first.
2016: Lucerne Transport
Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions acquires commercial tanker transport company Lucerne Transport
2018: Unitrans Africa
Unitrans Africa emerged as a focused African business in 2018. Following in-depth evaluations of the ways of doing business in Africa, the Unitrans operations in Africa, with a footprint across 9 countries, were given independence in order to allow them to grow at an accelerated pace.
In the same year, Xinergistix becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of the Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions business.
In the spotlight
In today’s rapidly evolving world, where technology is reshaping industries at an unprecedented pace, the logistics sector stands at the forefront of transformation. As the demand for efficient and seamless supply chain operations continues to grow, companies are not only adapting to change – they are proactively shaping the future of logistics through a strategic blend of upskilling and automation.
The convergence of regenerative agriculture and efficient water management presents a transformative opportunity to heal the land, enhance food systems and mitigate the challenges posed by climate change and population growth. As the global demand for food surges towards a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050, the critical role of water resources in sustaining commercial agriculture becomes more pronounced.
Committed to environmental rejuvenation and sustainability, Unitrans has partnered with Adopt-a-River, uniting their efforts in a river clean-up initiative as
part of International Water Week.
The mining industry is undergoing a notable transformation as it embraces increased gender diversity and inclusivity. In regions like South and South-Central Africa, where mining is a crucial economic driver, women’s representation within the sector is on the rise. Despite the unique challenges presented by the historically male-dominated environment, women are demonstrating resilience and determination in pursuit of success
Corporate Social Investment (CSI) is an integral part of a company’s commitment to social responsibility and sustainable economic development. As a leading organisation in the transportation and logistics industry, Unitrans recognises the importance of investing in the communities it serves.
In the dynamic and diverse region of Southern Africa, ensuring a steady and efficient supply of food from farms to consumers’ plates is a complex process.