July production dips following strong 2015 performance

Posted on: August 25, 2016

UK commercial vehicle production falls -5.2% in July to 8,794 units.
14.1% uplift in overseas demand sees almost 5,000 CVs produced for export.
Year-to-date output down -2.7% as market readjusts after strong 2015 performance

UK commercial vehicle (CV) manufacturing fell -5.2% in July, according to figures published today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The decline follows a remarkably strong performance in July 2015 when production rose by almost 50%.

Last month a substantial rise in overseas demand saw production for export increase by 14.1%, compensating for a -21.3% decline in domestic custom. Overseas output in the year-to-date remains ahead, up 4.4% on the same period in 2015, with more than half (52.6%) of UK-built CVs destined for international markets.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Despite July’s fall in CV manufacturing, the sector remains strong and output is at a high level. Following last year’s substantial rise in production – the result of market disruption caused by regulatory upheaval – a decline in demand was inevitable and we expect this trend to continue throughout 2016. With the industry highly dependent on exports, maintaining competitive trading conditions and global demand will be vital for future success.”

CV output rolling year totals 2009-2016 July 2016_MO

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‘Self-loading’ truck to debut at Hannover

Posted on: August 23, 2016

A truck than can automatically drive itself into a bay for loading or unloading could save drivers critical time and reduce the risk of accident or injury, claims the manufacturer.

The self-loading feature is among a series of autonomous technologies to be found on Knorr-Bremse’s ‘Future Truck’ concept, which will make its debut at next month’s IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, Germany.

The supplier, which specialises in braking, suspension and steering technologies, has brought together its experience of existing driver assistance systems, such as ABS, ESP, active cruise control, lane departure warning and emergency braking systems, to develop its fully automated truck.

Among its most clever features, and one that could use fully-autonomous vehicle technology ahead of it being approved for use on public highways, is a feature that allows it to drive itself into loading bays.

With its on-board environment detection system and the data from various sensors, combined with intelligently networked brake, drive and steering control systems, it manoeuvres itself to and from the loading bay, automatically stopping if danger is detected.

The advantages are that there is less danger of minor damage being caused during complex manoeuvring, and no time is lost because of errors in bay selection. The driver’s time behind the wheel is also shortened, enabling him to take his statutory rest hours or carry out other tasks.

Once autonomous yard manoeuvring has begun, a smartphone app keeps the driver informed of the loading or unloading process, so he only has to return to the cab when the truck is ready to leave the yard.

Other features on the future truck include an automated blind spot alert, which uses both radar and camera technology to alert the driver of other vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians in front, side and rear blind spots. It also features a scalable brake control feature, where the safety systems fitted to the truck’s braking system can be adapted to best suit the weight, payload and dynamic performance of the truck to ensure optimal safety.

Innovation Truck a vision of what’s to come – as well as what’s behind

Posted on: August 23, 2016

A truck with digital mirrors that project images from all around the vehicle directly onto its dashboard will be shown as a concept at this year’s IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover next month.

Developed by instrument cluster specialists, Stoneridge Electronics, the Innovation Truck features a mirror-replacement system named MirrorEye. The technology uses the latest automotive camera systems to replace traditional mirrors with high definition digital cameras and interior displays, making drivers better aware of dangers around their vehicle, such as pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles that would traditionally be in their blind spots.

“We are very excited about showing customers MirrorEye at this year’s IAA. So far we have received very positive feedback from OEMs, Fleet Operators and Drivers alike”, said Kent Pålsson, head of Vision & Safety at Stoneridge. “Not only does it remove blind spots but tests have shown that it can give fleets substantial fuel savings by removing aerodynamic drag.”

The aerodynamic element would involve removing the conventional mirrors altogether, with the camera images being projected directly onto the truck dashboard onto panels either side of the central instrument cluster.

Stoneridge is one of Europe’s largest CV instrument cluster manufacturers, and the Innovation Truck will feature its new Fully Configurable Dashboard, the FCD4. This is a full display cluster with two rear view displays and an Android tablet working as a central information display, which is configurable with all types of telematics software, including tachograph analysis and live logistics management.

While the Innovation Truck itself is unlikely to see production, elements from it will be actively promoted to truck manufacturers as future safety innovations.

Feature: The changing face of urban deliveries

Posted on: August 24, 2016

Running an urban delivery business comes with its own, unique set of headaches. Parking enforcements, timed deliveries, congestion charges and the general rough and tumble of navigating a choked city centre are a headache, and that’s before the impending introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone and the prospect of other big towns and cities following suit.

But commercial vehicle operators have always been at the sharp end of city logistics, even as far back as the 1980s, when the London Lorry Ban came into force.

“In the early 80s, the then government abolished what was the Greater London Council and so the London Lorry Ban was introduced, which subsequently became the London Road Control Scheme,” says Ian Wainwright, head of freight and fleet programmes at Transport for London (TfL), “that was a way of providing the 33 separate boroughs with a degree of control over the movement of HGVs without the GLC being there.”

But it was the Millennium that was the real cut-off point, says Wainwright. “When we got the first directly elected mayor, Ken Livingstone, in 2000, one of the things he put into his first transport strategy was to start thinking about freight and its impact”, he said. “So, in 2003/2004, TfL got a load of stakeholders together and set up a freight team. Since then, TfL has started thinking a bit more sensibly about how freight works.”

The capital’s subsequent crackdown on freight has caused large, conventional logistics companies to adopt new practices. “We’ve moved away from national distribution centres to micro supply warehouses,” says Martin Dougherty, Vice President, business development & account management for DHL supply chain, automotive.

“There are stock-holding locations of primary parts in city centres and we’re serving those outlets at night by truck, albeit with small, panel van-sized vehicles. Rather than great big warehouses at the side of motorways – they still exist but their footprint is smaller than it used to be – we’re strategically stock-holding in city centres to allow same-day services.”
Gnewt runs a fleet of fully electric vehicles across London

Gnewt runs a fleet of fully electric vehicles across London

Along with legislation, technology has given rise to last-mile delivery companies operating electric vehicles. Gnewt runs a fleet of around 100 electric vans, primarily within the London Congestion Charge zone, where it claims to deliver 8-10,000 parcels a day. The vehicles cover little in terms of mileage. “It can be measured in yards or metres for some drivers,” says executive director, Sam Clarke.

Clarke believes one of the biggest pressures on the courier and logistics industries is expectation. “The customer is now driving the decision making process so they want things now, within the hour or the same day, and that’s putting a huge amount of strain on the streets because you’ve got more and more vehicles on road with more bespoke offerings. When we started, it was much more milk round – you had your parcels in the vans at the beginning of the day, you got them all delivered and that was it.”

“Then there’s the tag of free delivery – I loathe that expression. There is no such thing as free delivery; someone’s paying for it, and it should always be labelled as such in my opinion. People just think stuff materialises and it’s easy – it isn’t.”

Plenty of other organisations are also honing the urban delivery issue. The Institute of Couriers has recently proposed an apprenticeship to train managers in the parcel sector to better handle final-mile deliveries, while Danish firm Trefor has developed an entirely new vehicle.

The Tripl is a cross between a car and a scooter according to the company’s sales director, Steen Laursen. “It’s a three-wheel, all-electric urban cargo vehicle. The front end is like a car: it has two wheels, a Macpherson suspension system and the complete frontal area is for cargo – there’s 750 litres in the standard version. The back end is like a motorcycle or scooter, so you hop on and drive it with the handlebars.”
Trefor TRIPL could soon be available for lease from £160 a month

Trefor Tripl could soon be available for lease from £160 a month

The Tripl is powered by a 4kW electric motor, has a 100km range and can stop 10 times per hour in an average city centre, twice as frequently as a delivery van, according to Laursen. It has yet to go on sale in the UK but Trefor is working on a contract hire arrangement with leasing firm Leaseplan and expects to offer it for around £160 a month.

Laursen says it’s aimed primarily at the post and parcel segment and any business that has to park in urban areas, off the public road.

“They can drive to where the service has to be done, which could be in front of flats, the zoo, in the park, on a construction site – anywhere you have to drive on paths and non-road areas. It’s also going to be used in a new tunnel connecting Denmark and Germany.”

Of course, London is always in the spotlight for anything to do with urban transport but change is afoot in other cities across the UK. Council leaders in Greater Manchester have this month approved plans for a Low-Emission Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan, after a public consultation that will see the city take on a new Euro 6 bus fleet and examine the possibility of a Clean Air Zone, similar to London’s ULEZ.

Gnewt, too, is about to set up in Oxford and plans to expand to Birmingham and Manchester. “Councils are very keen to see zero emissions solutions and whilst London is a unique infrastructure, I think there are a lot of parallels to be drawn with other cities,” says Clarke, “Southampton, for example, is a very high emitting city that’s trying to do something about it and there are many others like it.”

“Sheffield has the Eco Stars programme, which is a voluntary air quality scheme,” says TFL’s Wainwright, “Birmingham is also looking at air quality issues and all the other UK cities are starting to think about what to do.

“Europe has exactly the same problems with historic road networks and growing populations, so we’ve been working with some European cities through Polis [a network of European cities collaborating on transport issues].”

“We’ve had conversations with New York, Sydney, Beijing, Sao Paulo – a whole range of people across the world who are also looking at different ways of managing this approach.

“What we try to do is take what is already out there. There are some very simple solutions for freight; you need to reduce the number of trips on the road network, make sure the timing of that activity is right and make sure you minimise the impact of any vehicles that do occur. It’s fairly simple, but people can make it very complicated when you try and deliver them.”

UK Convertor helps Start/Stop users keep their cool

Posted on: August 23, 2016

A British-based convertor has introduced a new feature that enables temperature-controlled distributors to benefit from Start/Stop technology fitted to the latest vans without risk to their cargo.

The systems, which turn engines off in heavy traffic, are often critical to meeting environmental legislation such as Euro 6, which comes into force for vans next week. But the technology presents a conundrum for refrigerated transport companies, as switching off the engine also turns off the generator for the refrigeration unit when it is interlinked to the vehicle’s engine.

This poses significant problems as the refrigerators often require constant power during transportation to keep food or sensitive goods at the prescribed temperature.

Coolkit, based in Burnley, Lancs, has introduced a feature for its fridge van conversions, which enables the automatic shut-down of the Start/Stop system every time the engine is started. This completely eradicates the issue and is already proving popular with customers. The clever part is that the Start/Stop system can be reactivated when the vehicle is running unladen, thus minimising the environmental impact and allowing users to still run with Start/Stop active on their return to the depot.

CoolKit sales manager, Mark Beaton, said, “The new interface is designed to automatically disable the Start/Stop function on vehicles where this feature is not desired. Each application is designed specifically for a particular vehicle type and provides seamless control over the Start/Stop system.”

“Each time the vehicle engine is started, the interface automatically disengages the Start/Stop control so that manually overriding the function is not necessary. The Start/Stop function can be re-instated by the driver at any time during the journey but will automatically cancel again the next time the vehicle is started.”

One of the first customers to benefit from the system is Metrow Foods of Leigh-On-Sea, Essex.

Metrow Foods Transport Manager, Dave Thomas, said, “The Start/Stop solution fitted to our vehicles now means we can run the fridge system without the worry of causing any damage to the vehicle itself or invalidating any warranty.”

Software is key to compliance control, says convenience store distributor

Posted on: August 23, 2016

One of the UK’s best-known independent convenience store brands says that advances in telematics and tachograph analysis software have seen it reduce compliance infringements by more than half over the past three years.

One Stop says that onboard telematics have been an aid to driver safety and have helped it avoid DVSA penalties by remaining compliant.

“Our distribution operation employs more than 500 people,” said One Stop Distribution’sTransport Manager, Jon Price. “This includes 114 drivers, across three distribution centres in the West Midlands, the South and West Yorkshire. We make approximately 2,900 timed deliveries a week and dispatch around 20,000 cages to our convenience stores. With all this going on, we need an effective transport management system to help maintain an efficient and compliant fleet.”

One of the keys to the improvement was One Stop’s decision to make distribution centres ‘compete’ against each other to improve their compliance levels. The Wakefield depot, for example, started using TruTac’s TruControl system in April 2013, and has successfully reduced its overall infringements by 51%.

One Stop has been using the TruControl tachograph management software in some of its depots since 2006 and has improved compliance across a number of areas including driver hours, tachograph infringements and driver training.

The TruControl system includes an infringement debrief facility. This enables accurate recording and reporting of all tacho infringements to educate and inform drivers. Additionally, digital records are downloaded twice a day and drivers are briefed before and after every shift.

One Stop also employs a full-time compliance co-ordinator at each of its distribution centres to run infringement reports onto the traffic management system. From here, each driver’s infringement ‘points’ can be tallied and monitored in order that markers can be set prior to disciplinary action. The co-ordinators meet with their local management teams every week to discuss working hours, vehicle accidents and missing mileage.

Prototype bus goes on trial in London

Posted on: August 23, 2016

A pre-production prototype bus with class leading fuel economy and a new Euro 6 powertrain is going into service on one of Greater London’s busiest routes. The pilot is part of a series of extensive trials to assess its suitability for the capital ahead of the introduction of Ultra Low Emissions Zones.

Optare’s Metrodecker demonstrator, developed specifically to meet the latest Transport for London (TfL) specification, will go into service with Go-Ahead London, based at the operator’s depot in Bexleyheath.

The Metrodecker will be trialled on various routes around the South-East London district as part of the new model’s ongoing development.

Richard Harrington, Engineering Director for Go-Ahead London, said, “Go-Ahead is committed to taking care of its customers’ changing needs, today, tomorrow and always, so we are delighted to be able to put the Metrodecker through its paces in London and monitor its performance in terms of reliability, serviceability and fuel efficiency and also gain both customer and driver feedback on this new double decker.”

Robert Drewery, Commercial Director, Optare said, “Across all trials we have conducted outside of London, we are seeing the vehicle consistently deliver best in class mpg performance in service. I am delighted that the Metrodecker will now be setting out to prove itself in the capital. We will be monitoring its performance closely and we look forward to the feedback from Go-Ahead London.”

Go-Ahead London provides nearly a quarter of London’s buses with vehicles travelling 80 million miles annually on around 200 day, night and school routes.

The Metrodecker is a 10.5-metre long double decker, and is powered by Mercedes-Benz OM934LA, Euro 6, four cylinder engine with ZF Ecolife transmission. It is Optare’s newest addition to its vehicle portfolio.

The low floor double deck has a fully integral frame, with light weight construction, class-leading fuel economy and spacious seating. The Metrodecker is available in two lengths. The two door TfL specification measures in at 10.5 metres, while the non-TfL specification version is aimed at provincial fleets, has a single door and measures 11.1 metres.

MAN to enter LCV market with new panel van

Posted on: August 23, 2016

Truck manufacturer MAN is set to enter the light van market for the first time with the launch of its new TGE model, due to premier at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover next month.

The TGE is based on the platform of the new Volkswagen Crafter and is the German firm’s first foray into the sub-7.5 tonne sector.

Both models will be built at a new Volkswagen Group plant in Poland, following the end of a shared production agreement with Mercedes-Benz, within which the Crafter is currently made alongside the similar Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

The MAN TGE will be revealed in the metal at IAA 2016 is September and will be on sale from the summer of 2017, with production due to start in April.

MAN Truck & Bus CEO Joachim Drees said, “By launching the MAN light commercial vehicle below our MAN TGL light truck range, we are entering a new business area. Many of our customers with heavy commercial vehicles in their fleets have a requirement for light commercial vehicles as well, so the MAN TGE constitutes a smart enhancement to our already established vehicle range.”

“We know exactly what our customers need and which areas they operate in, and the vehicle solutions and bodies we will offer them will be a perfect fit to their needs and applications. Professional service and also a wide range of solutions from our well established truck business will set standards in this weight range and I’m sure the customers of our light commercial vehicles will be very excited by their introduction as well.”

The company said it will allow it to offer sales, maintenance and repair services from a single source from light commercial vehicles up to heavy trucks through its dealer networks across the UK, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions.

Significant growth in HGV and bus registrations

Posted on: August 18, 2016

The heavy goods vehicle (HGV) market achieved steady growth in the second quarter of 2016 – up 7.6%, with more than 11,000 new vehicles registered, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The performance marks the fifth quarter of consecutive growth for the sector, boosting year-to-date registrations by 12.9% to 21,434 – the highest volume for the period since 2008.

Continuing a trend set in Q1, rigids drove growth for the second quarter, with registrations of vehicles in the 6-16T segment and those weighing in at more than 16T experiencing significant growth, up 25.5% and 20.5% respectively. The rise offset declining demand for 3-axle artics – down 11.4% – while tractor units were the most popular body type, accounting for 39% of the HGVs that hit British roads in Q2.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “It’s encouraging to see HGV operators continuing to invest following the growth seen last year – the result of pent-up demand created by regulatory upheaval in 2014. We’re now seeing fleet renewal patterns return to normal and all the signs point towards further growth, albeit at a steadier rate. Maintaining business confidence must now be a priority to ensure this crucial sector’s ongoing success.”

Meanwhile, the UK bus and coach market enjoyed healthy growth in the second quarter of 2016, according to the SMMT’s data. New bus and coach registrations rose by more than a quarter, with nearly 2,500 vehicles registered. Mini-buses, single-decks and double-decks all experienced notable growth, up 17.5%, 24.9% and 57.9% respectively.

Increased investment in new vehicle stock in Scotland and England drove the overall market in the second quarter, led by operators in the West Midlands where demand tripled, followed by those in the North West where purchases rose by 58.2%. Year-to-date figures show the market remains in growth – up 6.5% against the same period last year.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Resurgent demand for buses and coaches in the second quarter is good news following slower growth earlier in the year, and today’s figures demonstrate continued business confidence of UK operators to invest in their fleets. However, for the market to remain steady, operators, manufacturers and local authorities now need more clarity surrounding the details of the devolution of bus franchising to local authorities via the Bus Services Bill.”

Improved transport sector apprentice funding “will benefit smaller firms”

Posted on: August 17, 2016

An improved funding package for apprentices in the transport sector will open up even more opportunities for smaller firms, claims a haulage pressure group.

According to the Road Halauge Assocition (RHA), the incentive will transform the recruitment and training landscape of the road haulage and logistics industry for those who are willing to invest in the drivers of the future.

From April 2017, lorry driving apprentices will attract government support of £5,000, with an additional £2,000 depending on the age of the individual. Importantly, the funding obligation on smaller firms has been reduced to nil.

Jack Semple, Policy Director for the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said, “The government has listened to what the industry has said and has given a very positive response. The RHA has been arguing for quality-based funding that will drive up levels of recruitment from within the UK and quality of skills training and that is what the Department for Education has now proposed.”

Alongside the package for new lorry drivers is increased support for traffic office and warehouse operative apprenticeships.

There is also assistance available for apprenticeships where the individual needs support with maths or English, totalling £471 for each of the two subjects.

“This is a really exciting time for the industry,” said Semple. “The RHA will be working actively to bring these opportunities alive, not only for our large and medium-sized companies but for the many thousands of owner-drivers and smaller hauliers who want to introduce newcomers to the industry, often through friends and relatives, in a way that gives them a really strong foundation and transferrable skills.”