BYD enters European electric truck market

06 February 2019

Chinese EV manufacturer BYD, best known in the UK for its electric buses, is to start selling electric commercial vehicles in European markets.

The company revealed its first three European CV models at a media event in Murcia, Spain, last week, made up of two trucks and a delivery van.

BYD’s e-truck range isn’t new – the models have been on sale in China for several years – but this is the first time they have been offered to customers in Europe.

The first trucks available to European customers are the T6 (7.5T GVW) light truck, and a truck specifically designed for airports, ports and distribution centres: the Q1M Yard Tractor (46T GCWR). BYD has also launched is the fully electric BYD T3 delivery van.

They are the initial three vehicles from a full range of electric light and heavy commercial vehicles that BYD plans to release across Europe in the coming years.

Isbrand Ho, Managing Director, of BYD Europe, said: “Our previous pure electric products have cemented their position in their respective categories – taxis, city buses and forklifts. We are confident that this fourth product range – e-trucks – will also win sales success, even though the European CV sector is intensely competitive.”

Javier Contijoch, Vice President of Sales at BYD Europe, said: “Spain was chosen as the first pilot market. The premiere of the BYD electric trucks is the start of the roll-out in Europe. Other European regions are soon to follow.”

Feature: How on-demand bus services could be the future of passenger transport

07 February 2019

With bus ridership numbers continuing to decline in most areas, operators are having to be ever-more dynamic in order to make catching a bus as easy as using any other form of transport.

As a result, there has been a huge surge of interest in Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) services in recent months, including from major national operators and even vehicle manufacturers.

Both Mercedes-Benz and Ford have offered direct ride-hailing services in the past year, though Ford has recently announced that it is to close its ‘Chariot’ service later this year.

But on-demand, app-based passenger services definitely have a future- that’s the view of national bus operator Go-Ahead. Its successful pilot DRT system covers the eastern side of Oxford and will be rolled out across other areas in time.

Last year, Go-Ahead subsidiary, the Oxford Bus Company, invested £850,000 in six 17-seat Mercedes-Benz Euro 6 minibuses, with Wi-Fi, USB charging points, wheelchair access and high-back seating to launch the PickMeUp service. Operating via an app, it connects passengers with buses that are collecting other riders on their route via a network of ‘virtual bus stops’, which are never more than a 200-metre walk away.

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, said: “We are always keen to devise new solutions to meet the needs of our local communities. Though we have great bus links to and from the city centre from the Eastern Arc, connectivity has been a challenge for routes across the east of the city and we believe our new service will help where traditional bus routes do not work commercially.

“The idea of PickMeUp is to provide a new way to get people around swiftly, efficiently and on-demand. I hope this will further encourage people to leave their cars at home, help reduce pollution and improve connectivity in east Oxford.”

Go-Ahead Group Chief Executive, David Brown, said: “We’ve listened closely to what the local community has been asking for in Oxford. Passengers are keen for a quick, easy and flexible way to get to work, to college or simply to travel around town.

“On a broader level, we firmly believe that ride-sharing is part of the solution to congestion and pollution in our towns and cities. It’s essential that we provide services that will tempt people out of their cars and technology will be key to that challenge.”

Users of PickMeUp register either their debit or credit card details with the app, or pay via PayPal, Android Payments or Google Pay, with each journey costing a flat rate of £2.50.

A similar model is being run by national bus operator Arriva, whose ArrivaClick service is now fully operational in Liverpool, following smaller-scale trials in Sittingbourne, Kent, in 2017.

ArrivaClick also uses Mercedes-Benz minibuses, with a fleet of 25 vehicles operating within a defined area between Liverpool City Centre and John Lennon Airport. It uses a cashless app, charged at £1 per mile, which is billed back to the passenger.

Passengers can ‘order’ and track a vehicle from the app, which will also tell them the name of the driver, and allow them to choose their pick-up point, and reserve a seat. Powered by global ride sharing transportation platform, Via, algorithms match passengers traveling in the same direction, dynamically routing vehicles in real-time to find the optimal route for their trip.

The shortest and fastest routes are calculated, with a guaranteed fare and real-time information on time of departure and arrival is provided, much like the ride-haling service Uber. Passengers are then picked up and dropped off by the bus in the order most convenient for them.

During the pilot in Kent, more than half of customers surveyed switched from using private cars to ArrivaClick, with 61% of users using the service a few times a week or more. 43% adopted the service for their daily commute and the average rating from users was 8.3/10, with 9 in 10 saying they would recommend it to a friend.

Kevin O’Connor, Managing Director of UK Bus, Arriva, said: “The bus services we run in Liverpool are relied upon by thousands of customers every day, and we are proud to bring this innovative and complementary new service to the city.

“ArrivaClick will complement existing public transport in the region, giving customers more options to use shared transport and we have big ambitions to make this flexible, responsive service available for thousands more journeys.

Matt Goggins, Head of Bus at Merseytravel, added: “One of Merseytravel’s main aims is to make sustainable journeys a more attractive choice for people in the Liverpool City Region, particularly when accessing things like training, education and employment. By providing a new way to use public transport, ArrivaClick supports that vision.”

It’s not only in major cities that DRT systems can make a big difference, either, with the Isle of Man’s operator, Bus Vannin, launching a new service called connectVILLAGES at the end of last year. The service has no fixed routes or times but can be summoned by residents in the island’s villages to take them to the capital city of Ramsey.

Jason Moorhouse, the island’s Public Transport Minister, said: ‘The trial for connectVILLAGES is all about convenience and social inclusion – many areas in the north are not serviced by a regular bus route and this will provide people with the opportunity to travel more freely.”

It’s surprising, then, that a similar scheme that was launched in Bristol in 2016 has since announced its closure. Slide Bristol was the idea of global public transport operator RATP Dev, which blamed increased competition from rivals for the closure of the DRT system.

Coralie Triadou, Microtransit Director at RATP Dev, said: “Slide Bristol was the first microtransit service to be launched in the United Kingdom and we are proud to have worked with the local community to provide this service to its commuters. Slide has proved to be extremely popular, covering more than 210,000 kilometers over a two-year period and receiving an average 4.9 out of 5 rating from customers for its drivers and service.

“Our experience in Bristol has shown us that Microtransit services in large city centres can only operate smoothly when they are fully integrated with the public transport network, and this is where we want to focus our efforts. As these conditions became challenging to meet in Bristol and with increased competition from two new Metrobus Rapid Transit routes, we decided to end the service.”

“We are proud to have transformed what was initially planned as a short pilot project into a full two-year operation and remain committed to investing in microtransit services and in developing new creative transport solutions which benefit commuters throughout the UK and beyond.”

CV Show exhibitor space sells out

06 February 2019

Exhibitor space at the CV Show is already sold out, almost three months before the show opens its doors to the public.

Back for its 18th year, the largest automotive expo in the UK is being held from the 30 April to 2 May across three halls at Birmingham’s NEC. Last year, close to 21,000 visitors attended the CV Show and this year’s event looks set to be even more popular, with unveilings and global launches set to include the new Vauxhall Vivaro van and Ford Ranger pickup.

Other major exhibitors include VW, MAN, FIAT Professional, LDV, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, SsangYong, Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota, along with allied industries from across the CV sector.

Rob Skelton, CV Show Director, said, “The efforts of the organisers to innovate and improve our offering year on year have paid off yet again in attracting a wide and exciting range of manufacturers and supporting businesses; it cements the show’s status as a truly world-class event. “

To register to attend the CV show for free, go to

New Actros fleet helps the Irn-Bru get through

06 February 2019

Scotland’s most famous export is travelling south in style thanks to a new fleet of
Irn-Bru liveried Mercedes Actros tractor units, with driver assistance technology and Euro 6 diesel engines.

The Actros 2543 models come with ClassicSpace cabs and 10.7-litre straight-six engines producing 315 kW (428bhp). Each is equipped with a Mercedes-Benz Safety Pack incorporating the company’s Active Brake Assist 4 system, which features a sector first in the shape of pedestrian recognition, as well as Proximity Control Assist to help identify vulnerable road users.

AG Barr – Irn-Bru’s parent company – runs 47 trucks, 94% of which are by Mercedes-Benz. Rigid 26-tonners form the backbone of the fleet, with the new Actros models being its only tractors.

Transport Manager Gary Campbell said: “Our policy previously has been to acquire pre-owned vehicles. But we have chosen new trucks on this occasion to ensure that we benefit from their state-of-the-art safety specification. The Active Brake Assist technology in particular, will make a major contribution to the protection not only of our drivers, but also of other road users.”

Eight of the Actros trucks will work from its headquarters and main production and distribution centre in Cumbernauld, with the the other running out of a facility in Forfar.

Mr Campbell added: “With low-emission zones on the horizon for Scotland we were keen to futureproof the business by moving to Euro 6 engines, and to de-risk our maintenance cost exposure by purchasing new, rather than pre-owned vehicles.”.

Tesco trials lightweight trailers

06 February 2019

Tesco is trialling eight trailers using a British-developed steel composite that cuts the overall trailer weight by 22% compared to a standard double-decker unit.

The supermarket chain is testing the eight demonstrators as part a project funded by Innovate UK to reduce the emissions and improve the fuel consumption of trucks.

The Lightweight Aerodynamic Double-Deck Trailer Trial is run by a consortium of partners including Tata Steel, Lawrence David, SDC Trailers and Cambridge University.

The trailers, which are built on an SDC chassis with body design by Lawrence David, use a steel composite shell called Coretinium, developed by Tata Steel.

The finished trailer weighs 8.6 tonnes and can carry a larger payload than a conventional trailer, as well as being much lighter when unladen. It also has a higher proportion of recyclable content than conventional rigid-body trailers.

The Coretinium material has been used in the trailers’ side walls, bulkhead, rear doors and flooring. It sandwiches a polypropylene honeycomb core between two steel outer skin panels, and weighs less than an equivalent-sized wooden fence panel.

Edwin Richards, Technical Sales Manager for Tata Steel, said: “We have developed a product that is not only light and durable, but can be easily and safely recycled. We’re delighted to be working with a highly established trailer manufacturer, such as Lawrence David, to demonstrate how Coretinium can help the truck sector revolutionise its products to be more fuel efficient and sustainable.”

The material is produced at Tata Steel’s Shotton plant in North Wales.

Peugeot keeps Docklands Light Railway running

06 February 2019

A fleet of 27 Peugeot LCVs, including ‘Built for Business’ conversions and ‘Traveller’ business passenger models, has gone into service to keep the Docklands Light Railway running smoothly.

KeolisAmey Docklands, a joint venture between infrastructure companies Keolis and Amey, has taken delivery of the new vans to assist with its operations in maintaining the driverless rail service, which serves the east of the capital and London City Airport.

The vehicles will be used for a wide variety of duties, with panel vans equipped by specialist converter Bott, to carry the necessary tools and equipment.

“We have worked very closely with Peugeot to ensure that the vehicles meet our requirements and are as future-proofed as possible for operation within the London Ultra-Low Emissions Zone that comes into force in less than a year”, says Daniel Tweede, Fleet Co-ordinator for KeolisAmey Docklands. “Peugeot’s low emission vehicle range and flexible approach were important factors in securing the deal.”

The vehicles have been supplied on a three-year, full maintenance contract hire agreement through PSA Free2Move, which includes a replacement vehicle, where needed, within four hours. The vehicles are expected to cover between 8,000-10,000 miles per year.

UK CV manufacturing grows by 8.5% in 2018

31 January 2019

  • British commercial vehicle manufacturing increases 8.5% in 2018, following two years of decline.
  • Demand grows at home and overseas, rising 17.9% and 2.9% respectively.
  • Nearly six in 10 UK built CVs exported to global markets last year.

British commercial vehicle manufacturing grew 8.5% in 2018, with 84,888 units leaving production lines, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The increase in output follows weaker performances in 2016 and 2017, while strong market incentives ahead of model changes also played a part in boosting output.

Domestic demand increased by 17.9% last year, with an additional 5,248 CVs built for UK operators. Meanwhile, exports grew, up 2.9% to 50,320 units. Almost six out of every 10 vans, trucks, taxis and buses built in the UK in 2018 were exported, with some 93.6% of those going to the EU and 2.3% destined for Asian markets.

December finished the year on an exceptional high, with commercial vehicle output up 79.2% as production for home and exports experiencing significant increases, up 175.6% and 40.1%. While the rise in production is considerable, it follows two years of decline in the month and a slow start to 2018, illustrating the dangers of drawing conclusions from a single month’s performance.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

Commercial vehicle production ended 2018 on a very positive note, with strong deals ahead of some important model changes securing significant growth in December resulting in a boost to annual volumes. The boost follows two years of declining output, and low volumes at the beginning of the year. With Europe accounting for more than nine out of every 10 commercial vehicles we export, it is clear that maintaining a beneficial trading relationship with the EU is critical. This means securing a deal that will allow this vital sector to continue to thrive.

Ford reveals heavily revised Ranger

29 January 2019

Ford has pulled the wraps off its heavily revised European Ranger pick-up, which is set to go on sale in the UK this spring.

As well as minor styling tweaks, the latest Ranger gets LED daytime running lights and a different radiator grille, along with a new range of exterior colours.

The most significant changes are under the bonnet, with the old 2.2 and 3.2-litre engines being replaced by one 2.0-litre EcoBlue Euro 6 diesel with two power outputs – 128bhp and 168bhp. It also comes with increased torque and the ability to tow up to 3.5-tonnes.

A flagship 210bhp bi-turbo engine will debut later, in the performance ‘Wildtrack’ version of the truck.

Buyers will have a choice of six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic gearboxes, while Ford is also introducing a new feature called Active Noise Control, which aims to reduce noise intrusion into the cabin.

Advanced safety systems include pre-collision assistance, pedestrian detection and speed limit recognition.

For the first time, it will be available with FordPass Connect – offering Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices, remote functions and a ‘find my vehicle’ function, along with Ford’s SYNC3 system, which allows Apple CarPlay and Android Auto pairing.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles announces new conversion programme

29 January 2019

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has announced details of its new Engineered To Go programme, which offers a range of off-the-shelf conversions, available through dealerships and with full warranty and aftersales back-up.

Launching with a range of conversions based on the Crafter model, the new programme kicks off with a range of Dropside, Tipper and Luton Van conversions available to buy directly and on a single invoice, making the purchasing process simpler for operators.

The scheme will eventually cover the entire range of Caddy, Transporter and Crafter models with numerous derivatives including fridge/freezer conversions, minibuses and a service workshop.

Specialist converter Ingimex will produce the first series of Engineered To Go Crafters, designed to the latest European design standards. The Dropside, available as a single and double cab, is modified ready for the addition of fall arrest rails or tail lifts, while the Tipper, also in single and double cab form, has wander lead controls so the load bed can be operated remotely. The single cab Luton has a unique four-tier load restraint system for deck lashing, standard load lock lashing or for use with an optional Ingimex telescopic load pole.

The Engineered To Go range will be offered directly through VWCV’s dedicated Van Centres.

Nick Axtell, Specialist Sales Manager at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “We are delighted to be able to announce the details of the new Engineered To Go programme which extends the number of conversions on offer to our customers.

“Having these van solutions available as off-the-shelf products ensures we are able to respond to the demands of businesses quickly and efficiently as part of our Working With You promise.”

Feature: How local authorities and fleets can prepare for bad weather

29 January 2019

The winter of 2017-18 was one of the most unpredictable in recent years, with the freezing weather conditions, named ‘Beast from the East’ by the media, bringing widespread disruption to the UK’s transport network.

With a wave of cold weather predicted for the UK over the coming weeks, forward planning, preventative maintenance and lessons learned from the past will hopefully keep our van fleets running more efficiently this year, not least as a result of recent developments in forecasting and route management technology.

Matthew Evans, a winter maintenance expert from the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) says the organisation has undertaken an extensive amount of research around preparation and planning for winter events, from which he believes that authorities need to take a closer look at how they plan their maintenance programmes to efficiently overcome winter’s challenges.

“The world’s climate is changing, meaning authorities will face increased challenges to combat weather events and manage their networks effectively,” he said. “If the UK begins to see warmer winters, a bigger issue may present itself if authorities become less prepared for extreme circumstances as a result.

“Looking ahead, innovative new technologies coming on to the market could provide the UK’s road networks with a variety of ways to combat the winter period. In the first instance, authorities must gain a firm understanding of their own networks and make use of effective strategies to monitor conditions.”

TRL’s experts are working closely with the National Winter Service Research Group (NWSRG) to develop a new framework of research to provide road authorities with the means to better plan and prepare winter maintenance programmes, with the primary aim of keeping the roads moving and allowing councils to be more prepared to deal with the impact of sudden and severe weather events.

The top research priority cited by members of the NWSRG and the wider winter maintenance community is a means of accurately assessing the levels of residual salt on the network.

Residual salt is the background level of salt ‘left’ on the road surface after previous gritting, which can often be a significant amount, especially during dry and cold periods where salt is spread every day without rainfall.

Providing sensors or other technology that can detect this salt could help road authorities’ budgets, and also allow them to use salt reserves on previously untreated roads.

“Technology is improving all the time and making use of route-based forecasting, dynamic route optimisation and the latest sensors to monitor conditions could provide significant savings in maintenance budgets for the typical winter in the UK,” explained Evans.

In addition, by sharing the data with major fleets, knowledge of which routes in the UK will be passable and best treated will allow operators to plan efficient routes for their drivers.

UK authorities typically deal with marginal winter temperatures at around zero degrees, often creating dilemmas around whether they really need to treat the network that night, or indeed where. Improvements in weather forecasting should make it easier for planners to determine the scale of operation required by using domain or route-based forecasting to enable treatment decisions for smaller portions of the network. This gives scope to treat only certain routes rather than having to treat the entire network.

New sensors in the road, coupled to telemetry from Wi-Fi-enabled vehicles, also promises future efficiencies. Using live data and sensors from roads and the vehicles that use them will help to build a picture of overriding travel and traffic conditions, allowing authorities to monitor important factors such as road temperature, road wetness, presence of snow or ice and the amount of salt already on the road before further treatment.

But reliable vehicles are just as important as a reliable road network, meaning fleet managers also have a significant role to play in keeping the wheels of business turning. Alongside developments in infrastructure, a number of van manufacturers are offering schemes that help their key fleet customers to continue their day-to-day business in all conditions.

Mercedes-Benz Vans runs a scheme called ‘Winter Means Business’, which is focused on ensuring customers’ vans are kept in prime condition during what is traditionally one of the busiest periods for home deliveries.

The scheme offers a free health check for any Mercedes-Benz van, including an interior inspection, exterior inspection (including lights and glass), under bonnet and under vehicle inspection, and an all-important brake inspection.

During winter, more than a third of Mercedes-Benz Vans Dealers will be working around the clock, 24-hours, with the rest of the network operating extended opening hours into the evenings and weekends to ensure that the vans stay on the road.

Steve Bridge, Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said: “Winter Means Business really sums it up for us – it means business for the income surges generated during this period, but also means business thanks to the often harsh weather we experience in the UK.

“We know that this is our customers’ busiest time of year and are committed to keeping their businesses moving during the challenging winter months. This isn’t a sales exercise – it’s about our business helping to keep their business moving.”

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is operating a similar scheme, with free ‘Winter Health Checks’ for all van users at its Van Centres until February 28.

Trevor Hodgson-Phillips, Head of Service and Parts at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “For delivery drivers, construction workers and tradespeople, the winter can be a particularly tough time with earlier morning starts in the dark. The mix of cold, damp weather is also bad for vehicles so it’s vital owners keep on top of van maintenance to ensure they stay on the road.

“Ongoing maintenance is key to ensuring fleets remain safe and effective all year round, but when temperatures drop, it is even more important to make sure that all vehicles are prepared for inclement weather and road conditions.”