Buses for Tanzania

Report from the transfer of Dar Es Salaam to Kibindo and Kasulu

The UNHCR needed buses for an aid project. The decision was again made in favour of tried and tested overhauled former government vehicles instead of new buses.

Boss Pro-Tec was entrusted as general contractor with the procurement up to the delivery.

The technical overhaul took place in Germany, the buses were delivered "as new" in Dar Es Salam. The delivery by Boss Pro-Tec GmbH to the destinations was monitored and managed on site.

Report of Convoy

Busses and trucks from Dar Es Salaam to Kibindo and Kasulu
Executed by Boss Pro-Tec GmbH - Peter Glauben, Chief Engineer

Brief report of convoy, daily progress, road condition, driver behaviour and technical problems encountered and modifications made in order to make the 5 busses totally suitable for Tanzanian roads.

The road from DAR to Kigoma is partly in very bad shape, big potholes, ditches etc. Despite this it was without any problems (even with this low ground clearance, as these busses were delivered) possible for all 5 busses to reach Kibondo without even a scratch.


Departure from DAR rather late, due to loading procedures. All vehicles have been fuelled the previous day. Drivers advised to go slow and stick to the convoy. No extra cargo or persons allowed. About 30 km out of DAR bus No. 3172 developed problem with engine brake. Provisional repair on the road. Due to that the convoy could only reach Morogoro that day. Road perfect, average speed 60 kph, drivers behaviour disciplined, average consumption 30 l Diesel/100 km = 3 km/l. Problems with Police station Morogoro for parking the convoy overnight but due to one driver’s very patient negotiations, eventually no problem.


The road to Singida is in very bad shape. For the 242 km the convoy needed 12 h but all busses arrived without any problems due to slow and careful driving. The Landcruiser that was loaded on the truck No. 3154 had to be retightened several times what also slowed the convoy considerably and gives an indication about the road, which is the worst piece of road all the way to Kigoma. But again due to slow and careful driving no bus suffered any damage, even without the modifications that have been made later.


Good road till junction to Ngara, after that mixed conditions but absolutetly no comparison to Singida road. No problems, neither technical, nor disciplinary. Arrival in Kibondo 1600 h. Head of office gave an “extreme warm and polite” welcome.


Training of mechanics from NPA,TCRS+GTZ seriously started. Introduction of basic difference between bus/truck Mercedes Benz and service procedures. Again contradictive information about the condition of the bus in Kasulu comes in. My suggestion of taking the remaining two busses with the assistance of the 4WD-truck that has come back offloaded from Ngara, destination Kasulu, damage assessment and possible repair was scrapped again without consultation. Carried on with training. All frames of spare wheel carriers removed and spare wheels stored in luggage compartments, giving more ground clearance to the front.
Manuals and Laptop and spare parts-software plus tools and jack sets for three busses plus toolbox handed over to TCRS logistics. Logistics was introduced into the spare parts system of Mercedes Benz.


Another change, no bus is leaving Kibondo. I had to go to Kasulu by station wagon, make a damage assessment and come back. Journey to Kasulu on a fairly good road with some difficult stretches in between, but repeat, no comparison to the very bad road to and from Singida. By arrival at Kasulu damage assessment: One wheel rim bent and tyre damaged, both can be repaired easily. Door to one luggage compartment hinges are bent, can be repaired easily.


Absolutely no problems on the road, though there are some bad parts. But again, no comparison to the roads the convoy passed without any damage. By using this road already twice I could not even determine where actually the accident to bus No. 3173 could have happened, unless the cause was reckless driving and overspeeding.
Total time used Kibodo – Kasulu: 3 ½ h for 154 km. By this road test it was possible to gather information how much the busses should be raised on top of the modification already performed.Training at GTZ compound continued. Modification concerning the further raising of the busses carried out to the limit which gave another 10 cm ground clearance. The technical limit are a number of different facts, to be explained later.


Brief meeting with head of sub office Kasulu to report. Road to Kigoma in good condition, 2 h for approx. 100 km with bus No. 3169. Eventually all busses arrived at their final destination, fit for the roads, raised to the max. ground clearance final rear adjustment  (bumper to ground: 62 cm). Brief visit at UNHCR to collect return ticket to DAR. Unfortunately everybody seemed to be in meetings. After check-in at Hilltop return to GTZ-workshop for the first training session. Second will be held tomorrow morning.


Second training session for mechanics at GTZ-workshop. 1720 h return to DAR.


Despite all difficulties encountered I consider this mission a success. First of all I would like to express my gratefulness for all the support given. Without that my mission would not have been successful. Thank you all. As already mentioned these busses are roadworthy in Tanzania, especially after the modifications. The problems we had here are not the busses or the roads but the drivers.

To the technical remarks:

These busses feature an air suspension system instead of leaf- or coil springs. This enabled me to do the modifications as above. But there is an in built limit to the ground clearance. As engine and gearbox are mounted in the body of the bus, the differential in the rear axle is still on low level. The transmission of power is done by a propeller shaft. At that shaft two universal joints are mounted in order to compensate during movement for uneven road surface. If one now raises the body too high, this propeller shaft will eventually have such an awkward angle that these joints will be damaged and even the main bearing in gearbox and differential will suffer.
For this reason no further modification should be done, exceeding the now adjusted level of ground clearance (bumper rear end to ground max. 62 cm). Another reason not to touch the adjustment is possible loss of stability for the whole bus. The higher you go, the lesser stable the bus becomes. In order to raise the busses even further bigger tyres can be fitted to the rear axle (12x22.5 instead of 10x22.5) without loosing stability. This does not apply to the front axle, as there is not enough clearance for the steering. There I will have to inquire if larger bellows and longer shock absorbers can be supplied in order to give the bus the same level for the front and rear. According to my experience and technical expertise the level of ground clearance may not altered. The only readjustment allowed is to readjust to the former level if wear and ageing of the rubber bellows appears and the busses show a ground clearance less then the 62 cm safely adjusted.
But again, the busses as they are, especially now, can be used on Tanzanian roads.
For urgent supply I suggest only the spare parts necessary for service (filters, fan belts, air cleaners) or in case the vehicles should be raised further, purchase of bigger bellows and shock absorbers front and bigger tyres rear). A list of spares needed shall be drafted and communicated

Dar Es Salaam, 16.05.2005

Peter Glauben