Transport Minister announces low emissions winners

18 January 2017

Transport Minister John Hayes has named the 20 companies that are set to benefit from government funding under a £20 million programme to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

The funding, announced at the Sustainable Road Transport Conference in central London last week, is being given to firms that set out plans for innovative ways to deploy low and zero emission vehicles.

The freight industry accounts for about 30% of the UK’s CO2 transport emissions and the money will help fleets get new low emission vehicles on the roads from mid-2017 onwards.

Transport Minister John Hayes said, “Each one of these successful projects will help cut vehicle emissions, improving air quality and reducing pollution in towns and cities. This is yet another important step towards this government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions from transport to help tackle climate change.”

“We are already making headway through our investment in low emission vehicles, greener public transport and walking and cycling, as well as grants for innovative advanced biofuels projects.”

The funding is being delivered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and Innovate UK.

There were over 40 applications for the scheme in which 20 overall winners were identified – with an innovative system using portable boosters to increase EV battery range among the winners. Zapinamo’s system is unique in that it offers a completely portable charging infrastructure, and the company was granted £1.58 million of government funding to further its development.

A partnership led by hydrogen research company ULEMco, from Liverpool, will receive £1.31 million to carry out trials using innovative hydrogen dual-fuel technology, while UPS is to be given £1.33 million to invest in smart charging of its electric vans, which run in central London.

Air Liquide Group will receive the largest amount of funding (£2.57 million) for its project trialling biogas in 86 lorries ranging from 26 to 44 tonnes. In addition, five refrigeration units will use a prototype liquid nitrogen system.

Other beneficiaries include Tevva Motors for its range-extended battery technology, Gnewt Cargo for its zero emissions last-mile delivery schemes, Magnomatics to construct two electric hybrid 18-tonne trucks, Kuehne + Nagel Drinks Logistics for biomethane powered and liquid nitrogen cooled truck projects, Zapinamo for EV infrastructure development, Lawrence David body builders for lightweight aerodynamic double-deck reefers and Howdens Joinery for a Kinetic Energy recovery system in its trailers.

Innovate UK’s Manufacturing and Materials Director Simon Edmonds said, “These 20 projects around the UK will spearhead the uptake of the next generation of innovative low emission freight and fleet vehicles. The impact will benefit the environment, particularly in our big cities.”

“It builds on the results of previous low carbon projects with OLEV, and the data collected from this new trial will be invaluable to future development and commercialisation of these vital technologies.”

Autonomous Volkswagen van concept shown at Detroit

17 January 2017

The driverless van has taken a step closer to reality thanks to a new concept vehicle revealed by Volkswagen at last week’s Detroit Motor Show in the USA.

The German firm’s concept van, which draws heavily from the styling of the iconic VW Type 2 ‘Microbus’, is called the I.D Buzz and will drive itself using laser scanners and ultrasound sensors, whilst having a pure electric range of 372 miles on a single charge. The company says the technology shown on the van could feasibly reach the market by 2025 – a deadline that VW Group has set itself to sell one million electric vehicles per year.

The all-wheel drive I.D Buzz is powered by two electric motors – one at the front and another at the back – with a combined 372bhp, meaning it will accelerate from 0-62mph in just five seconds – making it almost as quick as premium brand electric cars such as the Tesla Model S.

The tech behind the van’s fully autonomous I.D. Pilot system uses laser scanners, ultrasound sensors, cameras and radar to guide the van on both open roads and congested city centres. Its integrated wi-fi hub automatically downloads the latest traffic data and plots its optimal route to avoid congestion or traffic incidents. The driver will be able to take control at any point by taking hold of the steering wheel, while a head-up display will also show speed limits, 3D navigation commands and battery status.

The German firm has already committed to bringing an electric van to market, with the imminent launch of the all-electric eCrafter. Based on the company’s recently launched heavy van, the electric version of the Crafter will go on sale later this year, following its reveal at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover last September.

Swedish city adopts all-electric bus network

18 January 2017

The Swedish city of Värnamo will become the first in Northern Europe to have a fully electric bus fleet as of autumn this year, following an order for a fleet of Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrids.

The electrification of Värnamo’s bus services will contribute to a better urban environment, with less noise and improved air quality. At the same time, the buses will operate more frequently and accessibility will improve, with the construction of an all-new bus lane to accommodate the new fleet. The city’s aim is to quadruple the number of journeys by public transport over a three-year period.

“With this move we are taking yet another step in the construction of tomorrow’s attractive city, with our sights firmly set on growth, with a population of 40,000 by 2035,” said Behnam Sharo, Värnamo city architect. The city currently has 19,000 inhabitants.

“We are very pleased about the investment, it shows the possibilities to be at the forefront when it comes to new technology, even though we are situated outside Sweden’s three largest cities,” said local politician, Rune Backlund.

The Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid operates on electricity and without any exhaust gases for about 70 per cent of its route. Charging the batteries at the charging station takes three to four minutes with the help of a system known as opportunity charging, or OppCharge, from Swedish supplier ABB. Compared with a diesel-powered bus, the electric hybrid uses about 60 per cent less energy. The buses operating in Värnamo will run on renewable electricity and renewable fuel, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by a claimed 90%.

The electric hybrid buses and their ABB charging station will be delivered at a fixed monthly cost, with Volvo assuming responsibility for maintenance of the buses and their batteries.

“It’s gratifying that Värnamo has now decided to lead the way and create a sustainable public transport system based on our hybrid buses,” said Martin Spjern, Key Account Manager Nordic at Volvo Buses. “Electrically powered buses are the future for both large cities and small towns.”

The programme to electrify Värnamo’s public transport is a joint effort by Värnamo municipality and county transport provider Jönköpings länstrafik.

Feature: How haulage managers and drivers can prepare for extreme winter weather

18 January 2017

The recent cold snap has brought the usual chaotic scenes to UK roads. Elsewhere in the world, challenging winter conditions are part of everyday life and, in all but the most extreme cases, road transport continues as normal. What might UK fleets be able to learn from operators who cope with several months of extreme weather, every year?

Based in Toronto, Ontario, John Oxley is the driver safety supervisor at a major Canadian trucking company. He’s also an ex-pat British truck driver who used to haul containers from Felixstowe, Southampton and elsewhere to destinations across the UK.

“When I first came to Canada I lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,” he explains. “During the coldest winter we had there, it got down to -55°C. People tell you it’s going to get cold, but you cannot comprehend what they’re saying to you because you’ve never experienced it. A lot of the Brits who came over with me hightailed it back to the UK, unfortunately, because they couldn’t handle the temperatures. It was so cold that when you stood for five seconds in the direct wind, your skin would freeze.

“Driving in those conditions was scary at first,” he expands. “The first long run I’d done in the bad winter was from Winnipeg back to Saskatoon (about 500 miles), and I was petrified. It was snowing so heavily that you couldn’t even see the tracks of the vehicle in front of you.”

Oxley now teaches his company’s mostly owner-operator drivers how to prepare for winter. Often the drivers are also New Canadians, from Europe or the Indian subcontinent, who won’t have experienced winter conditions like those they’ll encounter as they head north from Toronto to the North Bay area and west into the Prairies.

“Even in the north of Scotland, the weather is nowhere near as bad as we get here,” he notes. “I can remember the police shutting the M25 when there was just a dusting of snow, whereas here, if the police close the road, you may not be able to get off for 120 miles. They have equipment here to clear the roads, but I’ve been driving trucks on a highway that have come to a grinding halt because the snow is falling so hard and fast.”

Oxley’s winter training includes what to do in the event of a jackknife, or if you run off the road or get stuck; how to drive defensively – reducing speed, paying close attention to wildlife warnings and other hazard signs; and when not to use the Jake- or trailer brakes. He also has a checklist of equipment to pack, in order to prepare for the worst. It includes spare clothing and boots, an extra sleeping bag, a thermal foil jacket, fluorescent tubes that snap open to glow, and a first aid kit.

A winter kit is a recommendation echoed by Steve Fields, a driver with lots of experience of winter driving from his base in Kansas City, USA.

“I have a ‘snow bag’ – a duffel bag with all my winter gear in it,” he says. “I carry an extra pair of socks, my coveralls, a blanket and hand-warmers that you snap to generate heat. I also carry extra water and food – if you’re stranded when the road is shut down, for example, you may be there for a day or more. I once spent three days outside of Denver, waiting for the road to open.

“It’s very important to be prepared – it can make the difference between a bad situation being a little uncomfortable, and becoming dangerous,” he continues. “I even have candles so that if the truck isn’t running, I can at least keep the chill off in the cab, although naturally you have to be careful with burning up your oxygen. But I’ve done that in an extreme situation.”

Fields’s preparedness extends to keeping a close eye on the weather forecast for the route ahead, and rerouting if necessary to avoid heavy snowfall, for example. “It’s always beneficial to know what you’re getting into,” he adds.

Both of our experts highlight the need to prepare the truck for what’s ahead. In very low temperatures, that might include an anti-freeze treatment for the diesel fuel. In all cases it should include checking the wipers, keeping anti-freeze and windscreen washer fluid levels high and carrying supplies of fluids and spare bulbs. Tyres should have adequate tread depth and be properly inflated, and chains carried.

“Make sure your lights are working properly,” says Fields. “Just as important as you being able to see, is for you to be seen, by snow ploughs and the like. In the trucking industry here we do a pre-trip inspection. We walk around the truck and make sure everything’s working properly. We do all we can to prepare ourselves properly before heading out on the road.”

Fields’s employer, YRC Freight keeps an eye on the conditions and will instruct drivers to reroute or shut down if the weather gets too severe. Oxley’s company adopts a similar safety-first approach, communicating with drivers via a satellite messaging system, but Oxley adds that it’s crucial for the driver to only drive when they feel comfortable doing so.

“The most important thing for a driver when driving in any extreme weather is to remember that everyone’s comfort zone is different,” he stresses. “Let’s say you have five drivers who all work for one company sitting in the truck stop. Three of those drivers may decide to drive in the extremely cold, snowy conditions outside because they feel comfortable doing so. The other two left behind – and this does happen – feel pressured to continue because their colleagues have left. But their comfort zone doesn’t want them to move because they don’t feel safe.

“There’s nothing more dangerous than a driver driving in extreme weather – whether it’s a thunderstorm, heavy rain, snowstorm – that doesn’t feel comfortable with the conditions,” he continues. “You get stressed and fatigued. Your body tenses up and you hold the steering wheel twice as tightly. You’re more at risk of having an accident when you’re uncomfortable.

“We stress all the time that the load is not worth risking your life for. I remind our drivers that they have families who want them to come home safe. If you don’t feel safe, make the call. Inform someone that you can’t be there for this reason. No one has the right to make someone do something that puts them in a risky situation. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it, stop.”

Truck drivers call for M6 improvements

18 January 2017

Truck drivers have called for improvements to the M6 motorway as the most urgent part of the UK’s strategic road network that needs to benefit from government funding to improve the country’s freight routes.

In his Autumn statement, Philip Hammond said that the government would spend £1.3bn on improving England’s roads, including £220m on tackling congestion at pinch points and £27m on an expressway connecting Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.

In a survey of drivers and hauliers carried out by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the M60 north of Manchester, the M25 to the west of London and the M6 north of Birmingham were identified as three of the most highly congested roads, and in a Twitter poll asking drivers which they thought needed most attention, the M6 narrowly came out on top with 39% of the vote, with the M25 on 37% and the M60 on 24%.

Road delays are a constant issue for FTA members who move goods throughout the UK. It costs around £1 a minute to run a 44-tonne truck so any hold-ups have a huge financial impact on operations.

Malcolm Bingham, the FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy, said, “Every motorist will have view on where the worst spots are on our strategic network and these figures for our poll show that there is a split opinion. It is therefore vital that we get the next programme of road spending to address the concerns on congestion.”

Improvements to the A14, which is one of the busiest East to West routes in the UK, commenced at the end of 2016 to improve journey times between Harwich and Ipswich, and Cambridge and Huntingdon, both of which are major routes to and from the East Coast sea ports.

Renault reveals two new electric vans

17 January 2017

Following its best ever year for UK van sales, French manufacturer Renault has pulled the wraps off one brand new electric van and an updated version of another.

Unveiled at last week’s Brussels Motor Show in Belgium, the Master ZE is the largest vehicle in Renault’s EV line-up and has a quoted range of 124 miles on its all-new battery pack, which will become a key part of the powertrain for all Renault electric vehicles from now on.

“This electric version of Master is aimed primarily at fleets running last-mile distribution services in the city, as well as large municipalities and local government. This heavy van’s load characteristics, range and charge time are tailored to the needs of business customers in and around urban areas,” said Ashwani Gupta, Renault’s Vice President and Global Head of Light Commercial Vehicles.

With traditional large van bodywork, the Master ZE will be available in three lengths and two heights. It has a power output of 57Kw (equivalent to 76bhp) and can be fully charged from a 7Kw charger in around six hours. Sales will commence across Europe in late 2017.

Meanwhile, the company also used the Brussels event to unveil a new version of the Kangoo ZE, which is currently Europe’s best-selling electric van. Using the same battery pack as the Master ZE, the Kangoo ZE has a quoted range of 168 miles, thanks to its lighter weight – an increase in range of around 50% compared to the existing model. The Kangoo ZE also features a heat pump, which helps maintain battery condition and performance in cold weather, a factor that is known to adversely affect range.

The new Kangoo ZE goes on sale across Europe ahead of the Master ZE, with customer deliveries expected by mid-year.

DAF’s Taiwan operation builds 5,000th truck

17 January 2017

Less than a decade after it opened, the 5,000th truck has rolled off the assembly line at DAF’s plant in Dadu, Taiwan, using a number of British components.

DAF has a market share of almost 30% in the 12-tonne truck segment in Taiwan, making it the undisputed market leader among non-Asian truck brands.

Every week, DAF Trucks ships components for the popular LF, CF and XF105 series from its factories in Leyland, Lancashire and Eindhoven, Netherlands, to the Dadu facility. Two years ago, the ultramodern assembly line in Dadu was expanded significantly to meet the growing demand for DAF trucks in Taiwan.

“The quality of the DAF trucks assembled in Taiwan is at the same high level as the trucks that come off the production lines in the Netherlands and the UK”, said Geert van Genugten, who is responsible for sales into south-east Asia at DAF Trucks.

The 5.000thTaiwanese DAF truck is a CF 85.410 tractor unit which will be used to transport raw materials for the paper industry. It will be delivered to the Asian paper giant Shan-Loong and will be the company’s 115th DAF Truck.

Shan-Loong is one of several operators on the island that runs DAF trucks with British-built components.

“The excellent reliability and low costs per kilometre of the DAF trucks set the standard in the industry”, added Wilfred Wang, President & Director of Formosa Plastics Group, which runs an exclusively DAF fleet. “In addition, a tight network of DAF dealers has developed in a short time on the island, offering top-quality service and parts supply.”

Mercedes-Benz Vito joins the ranks

18 January 2017

A van-based six-passenger taxi is the latest cab off the rank, having just gone into service in the UK’s capital.

Built to London Taxi standards, the Mercedes-Benz Vito Taxi is fully wheelchair accessible and offers saloon seating for up to six passengers. It’s the latest van-based taxi to be approved for work in the capital as an alternative to the traditional black cab, joining the outgoing Vito and the Peugeot Partner as a more spacious choice of cab that still meets the city’s demanding requirements.

Tested by real ‘cabbies’ at VanExperience Live in June 2016, and most recently as part of a marketing campaign around the city, the London edition of the new Vito Taxi uses a low-emission 114CDI Euro 6 engine, offering 136 hp.

It has a seven-speed 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic gearbox as standard, with a column change lever to reduce driver fatigue.

The London-specific model comes with a Compact body length and incorporates a rear steering axle that allows it to meet the famous 25ft turning circle rule as prescribed by the Public Carriage Office so it can execute a U-turn in London’s congested streets.

Standard equipment also includes fuel-saving measures like the engine Start/Stop function, air conditioning for the driver and passengers, electric folding mirrors, electrically operated sliding doors on both sides and an electrical nearside and off-side step.

The new Vito Taxi comes with a three-year, unlimited mileage manufacturer’s warranty and round-the-clock emergency roadside assistance.

Steve Bridge, Managing Director, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, commented, “We know that the London taxi fraternity has been waiting in anticipation for us to bring the new Vito Taxi to market – our previous cab took the industry by storm and has sold in excess of 3,000 units since its launch in 2008.

“The new Vito Taxi is quite simply a game-changer in every sense of the word and I’m very proud that our black cab helps to keep businesses moving – both the businesses of the taxi drivers, and the businesses of their clients. I look forward to hearing the feedback of how it is improving the fuel-economy and comfort for our hard-working professional drivers.”

CV Show visitor registration now open

10 January 2017

The UK’s biggest road transport, distribution and logistics event is now open for visitor registration via its official website.

The CV Show 2017 takes place at the NEC, Birmingham, from 25-27 April, and has already attracted close to 400 exhibitors, a number that’s set to grow further in the weeks leading up to the event. The Show also sees the return of two heavy truck manufactures, DAF and MAN, along with Guest Truck and Van and Sherwood Truck and Van, major distributors for Iveco.

Almost 21,000 visitors attended CV Show 2016, and to accommodate the rising number of visitors and exhibitors this year’s show will be 10% bigger than last year’s.

The Show will feature exhibitors spanning the whole road transport, distribution and logistics supply business, from truck, van and trailer manufacturers through to fork lift trucks, insurers, tyre companies, telematics and training providers, fuels and lubricants suppliers and more.

It will also once again feature two specialist sectors, the Workshop and Cool zones, which will cater for products related to keeping vehicles running at maximum efficiency and products specific to cold chain operations.

CV Show Director, Rob Skelton, said, “Yet again, the CV Show promises visitors the opportunity to fulfil all of their sourcing needs under one roof. In 2017, the show is significantly bigger and we look forward to building yet again on visitor numbers, which increased to almost 21,000 in 2016.”

If you want to visit CV Show 2017, you can complete your registration here.

New USA V2V proposal brings platooning closer

10 January 2017

Autonomous truck platooning has taken a step closer to reality thanks to a new proposal from the US Department of Transport (DOT) to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology in new cars, vans and trucks.

While the proposal – which would require all new cars, vans and trucks to have V2V systems by 2020 – is aimed at improving safety in manually-operated vehicles, using the vehicles’ built-in safety functions to help reduce collisions, a number of US States have already provisionally sanctioned the use of platooning and are about to implement trials. One, Michigan, has already approved truck platoons for commercial use.

Peloton Technology, a Californian technology business, has said it will begin supplying packages of transponders and software to enable commercial shippers to form truck platoons later this year. It argues that platoon driving can significantly reduce fuel consumption.

The company’s CEO, Joshua Switkes, said. “We will purposely slow down our initial rollout to make sure it’s going well, but in 2018, we want to deliver as many systems as truck fleets will buy.”

Peloton’s customers will be limited to two vehicle platoons and will only operate on rural highways in States that allow properly equipped trucks to tailgate each other.

In theory, V2V transponders can help vehicles avoid collisions by signalling their locations to one another. Cadillac has announced plans to equip its vehicles with transponders, but other vehicle manufacturers have adopted a wait-and-see approach.

In 2015, platooned pairs of Peloton-equipped Peterbilt trucks were tested on Utah’s Interstate 80 to gauge their fuel savings. The lead trucks cut fuel consumption by 4.5%, while the trailing lorries saved over 10%.

Improved fuel economy will be a major lure for operators, which has helped Peloton attract some big-name financial backers. Denso Corp., which has developed its own V2V data links, has taken a financial stake in Peloton. Other investors include Magna International Inc., Volvo Group, UPS Inc. and Intel Corp.

Peloton’s technology is similar to adaptive cruise control. Each truck in a platoon is equipped with a transponder that uses short-range radio signals to transmit its location to the other vehicle.

When the system is activated, the rear truck automatically pulls closer to the lead vehicle, then maintains a gap of 35 to 80 feet. Both drivers continue to steer their vehicles while their cruise control systems adjust the speed.