Delivering essential goods and services in nation’s time of need

26 March 2020

I have been working in the automotive and road freight sectors since I was 16, and in that time the perception of our industry has undergone a huge shift. In recent years, the importance of delivery and service vehicles was brought to the fore amidst Brexit discussions and now, the current state of national emergency has once again thrust the sector into the limelight. The critical importance of vans and trucks to our society and our economy could not have been made more stark: keeping supermarket and pharmacy shelves stacked and emergency services running during these unprecedented times is, however, a challenge our industry is ready to face head on.

SMMT and other trade bodies have been working hard with government to come up with measures that help the industry deliver vital products and services for our fellow citizens and country. The relaxation of driver’s hours and MoT regulations, business support and loan schemes are all recognition by policy makers of just how important our sector is. We continue this work to find further ways to improve efficiency, and crucially, to keep essential vehicles on the roads.

To help both members and non-members we have created a new section on our website where details of business support and the latest government policy can be found. Please go here.

En-Veco Director looks at the potential of electric conversions

26 March 2020

When it comes to launching a viable electric or alternative fuel commercial vehicle, having the technology to deliver power, range and reliability is only part of the story.

As every operator knows, any truck or van is only as good as the body that’s on the back.

And it’s with this very issue in mind that the long-established and fast-growing Bevan Group has launched a new division – En-Veco (it’s name’s a contraction of ‘electric vehicle conversions’).

The aim of the new division is simple – bring Bevan Group’s huge experience of bodybuilding and conversions to bear on the emerging electric, hybrid and gas-powered commercial vehicle sector.

It’s obvious when you think about it. Electric vehicle manufacturers, particularly start-ups, may be experts in their own technology, but may need advice on how to optimise vehicles for operators. As En-Veco Sales Director, Roy Shelton, explains, this is where new players in the market can to turn to more experienced partners.

He said, ““Some of the newer EV manufacturers are incredibly knowledgeable about what they’re doing but may require additional support in how to best integrate their equipment with a body and its various ancillaries.

“We’re working with them, drawing on our knowledge and experience, to say if you put this here it’s a lot easier for us to build and if you put it here, it’s not going to get damaged.

“We are the interface between what the manufacturers want to do with their vehicles and what the operator actually needs it to do.”

A sure sign of how much potential Bevan Group sees in this new area, in the level of investment it’s making. En-Veco has just opened a dedicated factory facility in Wednesbury in the West Midlands.

Initially, this plant will focus on the manufacture of a fully electric Nissan e-NV200 van with high-volume Voltia body, built under license from the Slovakian company for the UK and Ireland. En-Veco expects big things of this model – a zero-emission 2.2-tonner with twice the load volume of a standard Nissan e-NV200.

But it’s looking beyond the short-term sales volumes to the even greater potential for EV conversions it believes lie ahead.

Roy explained, “We see enormous potential in this new venture and that’s why we’ve invested in this new facility. At the moment our base product is the Voltia and that’s what we’re going into mass production with, but there will be vans that come out in the next year to two years against that so we’re already looking for the next market and the next products that we can bring out. “

He added, “We hope to be getting very quickly up to around 20-25 employees and we have the capacity to go far above that. Those numbers are based just on the Voltia but as we find more products, that will increase.

“It’s difficult to say what sales volumes will be like at this stage. We’re talking to people who only want one and we’re talking to people who want us to be able to commit to putting a thousand in by the end of the year. You only need one big order to come through and it skyrockets very quickly.”

And again, Roy sees the company’s future success being based on its long, proven track record and in-depth knowledge of what operators need from a vehicle, and its understanding of electric, gas and alternative fuel technology.

He said, “With a conventional commercial vehicle, you can pretty much go to any old bodybuilder. But If it’s an electric vehicle, it needs to go to someone who knows what they’re doing.

“If you were to approach an electric vehicle conversion the way you would approach a normal bodybuild you can make very expensive mistakes. Also, when the vehicles go into build, you could have quite a few different issues with them when you start to wire them up.

“With some of the vehicles that aren’t OE there’s not really a bodybuilders’ manual either so you are kind of writing that as you go along. That’s why you need a specialist.”

Murphy Plant strengthens fleet with major Crafter order

26 March 2020

Murphy Plant, a leading supplier of plant, transport and equipment in the UK, has grown its fleet to more than 1,000 vans nationwide.

The company passed the landmark with the delivery of 134 Volkswagen Crafters, all supplied by Alan Day Volkswagen Van Centre and featuring bespoke conversions including new racking systems designed to help safely store and transport equipment up and down the country.

Tony Murphy, Fleet Manager from the Murphy Group, commented: “We invest heavily in our fleets to ensure we can provide the best customer service as efficiently as possible so it was crucial for us to choose a competent and reliable van partner to help bolster our fleet.”

Claire English, Head of Fleet for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “We are delighted to have partnered with Murphy Plant to supply a fleet of Crafter vans. We have worked extensively with the customer to ensure the vans are designed exactly to their needs and feature a completely bespoke body paint and livery to fit with their corporate branding.”

EAV signs agreement with Finnish engineering company

26 March 2020

Electric Assisted Vehicles (EAV) says development of its Urban Lightweight Commercial Vehicles will move to the next level with the signing of a new agreement with a leading Finnish eBike hardware and software engineering company.

Under the deal, Revonte will provide EAV with technology including a fully integrated stepless transmission for its EAVcab model, specifically for eCargo use.

EAV believes the move will allow it to ensure its vehicles provide a greater user experience and improved efficiency while also generating valuable user data.

Adam Barmby, Technical Director and founder of EAV, said, “Technical development is at the forefront of our work at EAV. We know that we can use a bio-mechanical electric hybrid vehicle like EAV to replace most vans and even cars in urban environments without any loss in operational efficiency, but we need to see how far we can improve that offering and where those improvements need to be.

“We’re already fully modular with the EAVcab offering multiple models on the same chassis and we’re working on our own wheel, tyre and braking developments to over-engineer safety in to all EAV vehicles.

“The inclusion of the Revonte ONE Drive system and working with Revonte to package that with EAV vehicles will take our ULCVs well beyond the next level.”

Taiwanese city green lights autonomous buses

26 March 2020

A Taiwanese city has teamed up with LILEE Systems, a specialist in self-driving technologies and system integrations, to launch a revenue-generating autonomous bus programme.

Starting later this year, the scheme will see self-driving buses operating in two business areas of Tainan, one of Taiwan’s biggest cities.

If all goes well, the city will then open more of its roads to autonomous vehicles and look to extend its use of self-driving public transport.

LILEE conducted a self-driving proof-of-concept in 2018 and a proof-of-service in 2019 and demonstrated high passenger satisfaction and reliable operations. Based on rail-control principles, the bus will run on fixed bus routes, remotely managed by a cloud-based, centralised operations control center (OCC) for an added layer of safety.

Ming-Te Wang, Director of the Bureau of Transportation, Tainan City Government, said, “The autonomous bus project opens new opportunities for our city of ample technology resources to cultivate driverless research and development on artificial intelligence, vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, high-definition maps, robotics and remote control.

“We look forward to the partnership with LILEE Systems to enhance the current public transportation system with autonomous buses and together expand the sustainable business model from Tainan to the global market.”

Jia-Ru Li, CEO of LILEE Systems, added, “Given the support of the Tainan City Government, this project will set an example of how governments can use autonomous rapid transit (ART) systems to solve public transportation challenges, such as increasing travel demands and driver shortage.”

Member Profile: FuelDefend Global

26 March 2020

Tell us a bit about your business? When were you founded, where are you based and how many people do you employ?

FuelDefend Global Ltd (FDG) started life as TruckProtect Ltd on 2005 and changed name as our products moved into sectors beyond trucks. The company was started by Russell Fowler, following a return trip to major diamond mine in Botswana where he was once Head Geologist. He realised that fuel theft from vehicles was not just a problem in Southern Africa, but the whole world.

The company operates from Chalfont St Peter just outside London and has a core staff of ten and a virtual team being double that. FDG has large open plan offices, which include its technical design team (and many fuel tanks!) to ensure a flow of ideas and operational items between all parts of the company.

What does the business do?

Fuel anti-siphons. While the most obvious manifestation is the familiar device fitting into the neck of a fuel tank, other protections are available for other parts of the fuel tank and fuel system. Fuel theft is usually relatively small volumes of theft on a regular basis and our main devices allow the normal high-speed filling of a tank, but prevents siphoning of the fuel. Our anti-spill valves within prevent any fuel “sloshing” or spillage even in the event of a vehicle overturning. We have other lines of locking AdBlue and fuel caps with very much the selling point being top quality.

How is business? What’s the outlook for the year ahead?

We supply four of the world’s largest truck manufacturers at HQ level and we’ve just signed up MAN Truck & Bus worldwide, so we’re looking forward to a very good future. We weathered the storm of the financial crisis, when commercial vehicle production virtually stopped worldwide, and Brexit posed challenges of peaks and troughs in ordering patterns. Approximately 90% of our business is overseas, so we’re largely immune to Brexit. We have manufactured in the same factories in China for 12 years and have been wholly unaffected by the corona virus for our supplies, however, no-one can be sure currently for the short-term as European and American vehicle production shuts down. Our devices are fitted at the time of purchase by the dealer and as a retrofit, so we have a business buffer. Our new, lower-priced ULTRAValue coated steel range presents an excellent offering to new markets.

What are the big issues or technological advances that fill you with positivity?

We’ve been first to market with many features such as the revolutionary short anti-siphon device (ASD) about 13 years ago, filling speeds of 120 litres per minute, retro-fit drop-in anti-spill valve (ASV) and first with the integral stainless steel gauze for best fuel flow speed, dirt filtering and improved security, so we enjoy design challenges as markets change. Electric vehicle sales are improving, but liquid fuels will be with us for decades to come around the world.

FuelDefend’s range contains a premium machined aluminium range, ULTRAPlus, a nickel-coated steel budget range, ULTRAValue, with external and internal models and, for the traditionalist, a floating ball-valve model; all of which we can scale up and down for new sectors including vans and large mining machinery.

This year will see the integration of new technologies into our products and new product types in the security and safety sector.

FuelDefend Global Ltd Chairman & CEO, Russell Fowler

COVID-19 response and the road ahead

19 March 2020

In response to the swiftly unfolding COVID-19 situation, SMMT has this week moved to working remotely, following government advice in practicing social distancing. The wellbeing of our members, associates and employees remains our utmost priority, as well as ensuring business continuity and securing critical support for all UK automotive companies and their workforces during this very challenging and unsettling time.

And yet, in many other respects, SMMT business continues as usual. One of the areas that requires continuous effort is improving road safety.

Over the past 30 years, the UK has had a good record of reducing casualties. Latest figures rank the UK second in the EU for road safety (after Sweden), with 1,793 reported fatalities in 2017 – some 39% lower than a decade earlier.

The government has a number of programmes in this area with the main focus being on young and older vulnerable road users, rural road users and motorcyclists. SMMT works closely with government on this issue, particularly in the commercial vehicle sector. We also support Driving for Better Business, a government-backed Highways England programme to help employers reduce work-related road risk and improve compliance with current legislation and guidance. You can find out more about this and how to get involved here.

SMMT response to Chancellor’s announcement on emergency COVID-19 measures

19 March 2020

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive: “We welcome the additional and significant emergency support for business announced by the Chancellor today. The UK automotive industry is inherently strong and globally competitive but now stands on the precipice and will urgently need extraordinary measures such as these to avoid falling over the edge. We are already seeing plant closures as global demand falls and supply chains are stretched. We now seek immediate dialogue with government to agree how such a comprehensive package of measures can ensure business continuity and support for workers. The continued success of this industry is critical not just to the country’s economic performance but also to the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who rely on the sector for their livelihoods.”

A driver’s perspective: The view from inside the cab

19 March 2020

This week, TNB caught up with Mark Field, a long-serving driver for Bibby Distribution, and the current holder of the prestigious Microlise Driver of the Year title.

Name, age and hometown
Mark Field, 48, from Kempston in Bedfordshire.

How long have you been driving professionally?
I passed my Class 1 and 2 tests within four weeks of each other in 2006. I’ve been driving ever since.

What attracted you to driving in the first place?
I was originally in the upholstery trade, but in 2005 I suffered a serious accident and was made redundant. It was hard finding the same sort of work, so I decided I wanted a change and used some of my redundancy pay to cover the cost of training as an HGV driver.

What’s the best thing about your job?
It’s all about the team. I work out of one of Bibby Distribution’s depots in Milton Keynes delivering cans from Ball Packaging. I’m one of the depot assessors, so I coach drivers and love sharing advice.

What’s the worst thing about your job?
I want to drive as safely as possible – so it drives me mad when other road users drive dangerously, as it puts me and others at risk.

What do you drive at the moment? Delivering what and on which routes?
I drive a Euro VI MAN truck for Bibby Distribution, delivering cans for Ball Packaging. We run a dedicated fleet, so I tend to drive on a standard route between distribution centres in Milton Keynes and Northampton

What monitoring do you have on your vehicle and how do you feel about it?
Every truck on the Bibby Distribution fleet is fitted with telematics from Microlise, which records our driving performance. I think it’s fantastic. We’re rewarded for driving as fuel efficiently as we can and for reducing wear-and-tear on the vehicle, so it makes you an all-round better driver.

Do you think this technology has made you a better driver and, if so, how?
Absolutely. First, it makes you think about how you drive. Second, the driver training team at Bibby Distribution is very good – they use the data from the telematics to understand how you drive and then where there are areas you could improve on, they show you and explain how. Then it’s up to you! Plus, as you get better, you can see it in the telematics results so it encourages you to keep going.

Microlise also runs the Driver of the Year Awards, where they review the telematics data from more than 210,000 drivers across the country – and it was a huge honour to be named as both Short Distance Driver of the Year and overall Driver of the Year in 2019! During the previous year, I didn’t record a single instance of harsh braking, overrevving or acceleration – and that’s because I’m encouraged to think about my driving and get great support.

What’s the feature in your truck that’s most important to you?
The radio – when you’re on the road, it’s your best mate.

What do you think of the state of the roads and what do you think of facilities across the country for professional drivers?
Road conditions can be pretty poor – there are often issues with potholes, or road signs covered by foliage, or inadequate road markings.

The biggest issue with facilities for professional drivers is that there is a real shortage of safe places to park when away from the depot.

If you could tell fleet managers across the country one thing on behalf of drivers everywhere, what would it be?
Driving a truck safely and efficiently is a skill – so don’t undervalue us! We’re essential in helping you maintain your safety record and keeping costs under control.

We hear lots about the driver shortage. From the driver’s perspective , what do you think can be done to attract more people into the profession?
Government funding could help companies to train up more drivers – that way, we’ll raise standards and people will see how it’s a highly skilled job. Improving the facilities for drivers on the road would also help as well as it makes the job more pleasant.

Finally, with autonomous driving systems and pelotons on the way, how do you feel about the future?
They’re interesting, but I think it will be quite some time before they will become widespread. The next big thing will probably be electric trucks, so there will still be a requirement for skilled drivers.

UPS begins autonomous electric vehicle trials at London hub

19 March 2020

Delivery giant UPS has begun the testing of electric autonomous vehicles at its advanced technology hub in London.

The company is exploring the sustainability and durability of the Gaussin ‘shifter’ vehicles for moving semi-trailers and containers around the facility.

During the initial phase of the test, UPS will operate the vehicles with drivers in the cabs to evaluate vehicle operations and the efficiencies they generate. Later this year, UPS will progress to the next phase of operation, initiating autonomous driving operations.

Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer, said, “These tests are part of a major UPS effort to integrate electric vehicles throughout our global network. Gaussin’s shifters will help cut our fuel costs and reduce emissions.

“We’re also eager to test the shifters in autonomous driving mode. This is a great opportunity for us to evaluate technologies on our own property.”

Gaussin electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions and include novel battery-swap technology, which enables the shifters to be operated day and night, as the discharged battery pack is immediately replaced by a fully charged one. Additionally, the vehicles will have numerous cameras, sensors and sophisticated algorithms to improve safety. These technologies will continue to create efficiencies and improve safety in UPS operations.