UK new van market down slightly in February

05 March 2020

  • UK light commercial vehicle (LCV) market declines -2.0% after two months of growth.
  • Demand for pickups and smaller commercials falls in double digits, but mid-size vans buck the trend, up 9.3%.
  • Year-to-date performance remains ahead, up 2.8%, with 37,660 new LCVs registered.

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The UK new light commercial vehicle (LCV) market fell -2.0% in the second month of the year, after two successive months of growth, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). February, typically one of the year’s smallest months as many operators wait for the new March number plate, saw 14,103 new units registered.

Pickups and small vans weighing less than 2.0 tonnes experienced double-digit declines, with registrations down -10.1% and -11.1% respectively. Mid-size vans weighing 2.0-2.5 tonnes, however, bucked the trend, with demand growing 9.3%.

Larger vans weighing more than 2.5-3.5 tonnes made up the bulk of registrations, but were down
-2.8%, with 9,082 units registered. Year-to-date, however, the overall market remains ahead by 2.8% on the same period in 2019, bolstered by a strong January when almost 24,000 new models hit UK roads.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

It is important to remember that February is usually a quiet month ahead of the March plate change. However, the dip in registrations is concerning at a time when fleet renewal is more important than ever. The upcoming Budget is an opportunity for government to bolster confidence in the market with supportive fiscal measures to encourage operators to invest in their fleets, because getting more of the latest, cleanest models onto our roads is good for business and the environment.

SMMT response to the UK Government’s Approach to Negotiations

27 February 2020

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive:

With both mandates now on the table, negotiations for an ambitious, world-leading FTA must now begin in earnest. The UK government’s special focus on automotive is welcome given the sector’s importance to both economic prosperity and jobs across Britain. We look forward to continuing our close work with government and our European partners on the detail to ensure we secure a deal that supports UK-EU automotive trade which means that, when it comes to tariffs, zero really does mean zero.

The case for LSTs is building

05 March 2020

The Department for Transport this week released the latest findings of its long-term study into the use of longer semi-trailers (LSTs) on UK roads.

The in-depth, nationwide trial has been running for seven years and aims to establish whether the use of longer semi-trailers can bring about anticipated environmental and economic benefits.

LSTs are up to 2.05 metres longer than the current standard semi-trailers on our roads (15.65 metres instead of 13.6 metres).

While the trailers are longer than existing HGV trailers, they cannot be heavier. The total weight of the trailer, the goods and the tractor unit must still be within the UK domestic weight limit of 44 tonnes. They must also pass the turning circle test applied to the existing 13.6 metre trailers. To achieve this, LSTs usually have a steering rear axle.

The latest results released by the DfT are impressive.

They show that over this time the use of LSTs has resulted in 365,000 fewer journeys being made, saving an estimated 37,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 187 tonnes of nitrogen oxide (NOx).

There’s also a significant economic benefit to operators, who are able to make big savings by delivering more goods in fewer journeys.

Additionally, LSTs had 55% fewer collisions compared to the HGV average.

But despite these findings, the trial is set to run until 2027, meaning the vast majority of hauliers are at least seven years away from being able to capitalise on the potential benefits.

And this week the Freight Transport Association (FTA) called on government to accelerate its timeframe, saying a failure to do so is holding businesses back.

It believes there’s already enough evidence in favour of LSTs to justify the government making them a permanent fixture on our roads.

Phil Lloyd, Head of Engineering & Vehicle Standards Policy at FTA, said, “Failure to make LSTs permanent is holding back an opportunity to significantly reduce carbon emissions. After all, the benefits LSTs provide to both the environment and the economy have been made evident in the government’s study.

“The UK’s roads are congested and carbon emissions from road transport remain too high; with LSTs able to carry more goods per journey than traditional HGVs, they present an efficient and environmentally-prudent method of freight transportation.

“The quantity of freight that needs to be moved is relatively fixed – if we can move the same amount with fewer journeys, the better for the environment, the economy and other road users.”

National Express sets out its route to zero emissions

05 March 2020

Coach operator National Express Group has said it will not buy another diesel bus for UK operations as it set out its vision for a sustainable future.

In addition, the company says it will ‘lead the transition’ to zero emission coaches, with a target for the first electric coaches to be in service next year;

It has also set itself the goal of making its entire UK bus and coach fleets fully zero emission from 2030 and 2035 respectively;

In support of its objectives, the Group will shortly launch a procurement competition to choose the manufacturers and partners to help achieve these ambitions.

This year it will:

Place a major order for electric buses to add to its first zero emission vehicles which will shortly enter service in the West Midlands;
Hold an in-service trial of an electric coach on its Stansted Airport service;
Select partners to develop a zero-emission vehicle suitable for all long distance coach routes.

Dean Finch, National Express Group Chief Executive, said, “Bus and Coach travel is already one of the greenest ways to get around, with each bus removing up to 75 cars from the road. National Express has already invested in clean buses and coaches and kept fares low to support a shift from private cars to mass transit. Working through our West Midlands Bus Alliance we have achieved the fastest passenger growth of any major city-region in the country, demonstrating its success.

“However we understand the imperative to go much further, so we are today setting out an ambition to be the first zero emission transport group in the UK. Our decision to never again buy a diesel bus in the UK coupled with our support in leading the zero emission transition in coach will place our UK operations at the forefront of efforts to tackle climate change and poor air quality. We simply believe this is the right thing to do for our customers, the communities we serve and our stakeholders.”

Scania sets its sights on safety

05 March 2020

Scania has introduced two new side detection systems designed to improve safety.

Working in harmony, the Blind Spot Warning system and passenger side Vulnerable Road User Collision Warning, help avoid or mitigate scenarios where trucks may come into contact with other road users.

Alexander Vlaskamp, Senior Vice President, Head of Scania Trucks, said, “The enhanced Side Detection is yet another component in Scania’s aim to increase the safety of vulnerable road-users.

“I strongly feel that every truck driver would like to have this relentless support system on their side when dealing with busy traffic environments.”

Advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS) support truck drivers by constantly monitoring blind spots beside the vehicle. In the UK, the most common incident is when a truck turns left at a junction while a cyclist tries to pass the truck on the left side. With side detection functionality, if a cyclist (or a pedestrian) enters a risk zone near the truck, the system will alert the truck driver by visual and audible warnings in the cab.

While the BSW system is mainly designed to warn truck drivers of “hidden” cars when at higher speeds switching lanes, it can also warn for bikes and pedestrians. And while the main focus of VRUCW is detecting cyclists and motorbikes, it can also spot pedestrians

ADL secures another major order

05 March 2020

Bus operator trentbarton has placed an order for 55 Alexander Dennis Enviro200 single deck buses.

Entering service this spring and early next year, the new buses will operate on routes across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

The deal will take the total number of Enviro200 buses on the fleet of trentbarton and sister company Kinchbus to 136.

Jeff Counsell, Managing Director at trentbarton and Kinchbus, says: “Our customers love the 81 Enviro200 buses already in our fleet. So, we’re excited about providing their exceptional on-board experience to many more customers on more routes over the next 12 months.

“We remain committed to investing in our fleet, to attract and retain customers by making bus travel the transport mode of choice – by operating buses that are comfortable, clean, green and the perfect environment for relaxing or for keeping connected and productive on journeys.

Exeros Technologies

05 March 2020

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

Founded in September 2009, Exeros Technologies envisions a world in which road safety is a given for all road users and is actively working to reduce the risks associated with driving.

Exeros initially focused on the private hire market becoming the first company to be approved by TfL to fit CCTV systems in London’s black cabs in October 2010.

Exeros Technologies quickly moved on to earn a place in the industry as a pioneer of CCTV systems for fleets and has subsequently partnered with some of the largest fleets in the UK.

In July 2017 Exeros moved into new premises based in Royal Arsenal, London with further expansion scheduled in 2020.

What does the business do?

Exeros Technologies is a pioneer in providing bespoke smart camera systems and software solutions to protect fleet vehicles, assets, and people, supporting fleet operators in mitigating risk and driving performance improvements – whatever the size or nature of the fleet.

To date, Exeros have installed over 15,000 CCTV systems into a variety of vehicles including heavy construction, fleet operators, highways agencies, blue-light emergency services, light commercial vehicles, taxis and private, bus operators to name but a few.

In addition to the flagship multi-camera CCTV system the Exeros solution approach to fleet safety today includes reactive blind spot elimination offerings such as TrackEye Nano, our secure video encrypted dash mounted camera and SkyEye for virtual 360 top down all around the vehicle view.

Proactive driver assistance and protection comes from our forward facing ADAS camera with driver monitoring and fatigue detection and body-worn cameras suitable for when the driver leaves the vehicle.

Early 2018, Exeros discovered that the top ten worst pileups in the world were caused by fog. Recognising that vehicle technology was moving towards connected autonomous vehicles (CAV), machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), Exeros launched SeeTrue in February 2019 to address this issue.

SeeTrue is a visual software enhancement algorithm, that allows any camera-based product to significantly improve vision in real-time by handling live video and displaying the enhanced image in inclement weather such as fog, haze, rain, mist, snow etc.

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

Business is very good and pleased to say buoyant.

Investment, growth and development in people, processes and training will continue as will further improvements in equipment with manufacturing and operations. Recruitment will see us look to employ in-house hardware and software engineers plus technical support will be boosted.

Our latest software development launched in 2020 has seen Exeros move into the area of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) whilst utilising the power of SeeTrue. Object recognition and classification can now be added to SeeTrue to display items such as vehicle type, building, roadside furniture, animals and woodland which can provide invaluable data to our clients.

As we move through 2020, we will continue our work with neural networks for vehicle counting, passenger counting, object tracking, smart cities for car parking, mobility as a service, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) plus moving into other markets sectors including aviation, security & defence, ports and marine and medical, while expanding our international business relationships.

We will continue to strengthen our ties with SMMT, Department for Transport, Department for International Trade, Transport for London, Connected Places Catapult plus others.

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

The automotive industry is fast moving towards connected autonomous vehicles and predictive vehicle technology. Vehicles are becoming large smart devices with advanced emergency braking capabilities, mapping technology for autonomous driving, better fuel efficiency and cars as a service as a form of transportation.

However, safety remains the biggest concern, and this is where Exeros Technologies can truly play its part. As an agile company, continuously innovating and pushing technology boundaries, and with an extensive bank of invaluable data, we are excited to work with global market-leaders to continue developing disruptive safety technology to further advance vehicle and driver safety, in this ever-evolving reality.

As the vehicle technology market is currently going through its greatest technology change seen in decades, Exeros has plans to be at the forefront.

CV sector calls for ambitious deal, as negotiations set to begin

27 February 2020

Today we published manufacturing figures for CVs, down -10.7% for January 2020. The numbers are however all relative: the decrease follows a remarkably buoyant January 2019, a seven-year high for the start of the year. As many of you know, this fluctuation is not a novel idea for our industry – variable fleet buying patterns and model changeovers have a big effect on the commercial vehicle market.

The UK government is also about to begin negotiations with the European Union. With both mandates now published, negotiations for an ambitious FTA must now begin in earnest. The majority of UK-built commercial vehicles are shipped to the EU, so a UK-EU deal that puts automotive at its centre is crucial to sustaining demand from our key export market.

The UK’s commercial vehicle sector is a key driver of economic prosperity, and to keep production lines rolling we need the right conditions that give operators the confidence to invest in their fleets. The SMMT will continue to work closely with government and our European partners to achieve this.

If you would like to know more about the SMMT or are interested in membership then please contact: membership@smmt.co.uk

British commercial vehicle production down -10.7% in January

27 February 2020

  • Start of 2020 sees UK commercial vehicle manufacturing fall -10.7%, following remarkable 49.1% growth in January 2019.1
  • Production falls for both home and overseas markets, down -8.8% and -12.2% respectively.
  • Fifth consecutive month of decline in home demand, with 352 fewer UK-built CVs than last year.

UK commercial vehicle production declined -10.7% in January, with 8,202 units manufactured, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The fall in output follows an unusually buoyant January 2019, which saw the number of vans, trucks, buses and coaches leaving production lines increase by almost half.

In January 2020, CV production for the UK was down -8.8%, marking the fifth successive month of decline in output for the domestic market, as weaker business confidence and variable buying patterns continued to affect orders. Production for export also dropped by -12.2% largely due to slowing demand in key European markets.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,

The UK’s commercial vehicle sector is a key driver of economic prosperity, and to keep production lines rolling we need to create the right conditions that give operators the confidence to invest in their fleets. The upcoming Budget is an opportunity for the government to announce measures to support the domestic market and at the same time, given the majority of UK CV output is shipped to the EU, every effort must now be made to agree an ambitious free trade deal that has automotive at its centre.

Notes to editors

1: January 2018 – 6,088, January 2019 – 9,182. January 2019 was the strongest in seven years.

TNB takes a look into the CAM future of commercial vehicles

27 February 2020

The world of Connected Autonomous Mobility has huge potential for the commercial vehicle, freight and logistics and public transport sectors.

But just how does the development of CAM technologies in the UK compare to that of other countries, and how will our roads change in the next decade or so?

This week TNB caught up with Dr Richard Porter, Technology and Innovation Director at Zenzic – the organisation at the forefront of the UK’s drive to a CAM future – and asked for his thoughts on the subject.

What’s the general picture in terms of CAM development across the UK?

Over the last five years or so there’s been huge investment from government into the industry, totaling about £400 million for research and development of everything from dealing with security issues to running trials on UK roads.

We’ve also had investment in testing and development infrastructure which will support that research.

So we now have a huge ecosystem of companies that have been working together to bring advanced trials to reality across the UK.

What we have is a really great mix of investment and a regulatory environment that allows businesses to be tested in real world environments, with real people to build up those early markets.

How are things progressing in the commercial vehicle sector specifically?

The commercial vehicle sector has huge untapped potential that we need to explore.

There’s certainly been investment in organisations like Arrival, working with UPS in what is a great opportunity for a UK business to deliver electric and eventually automated vehicles to large logistics companies.

We now need to look at things like how freight and logistics will tie into everything from inter-depot deliveries to heavy goods vehicles delivering safe services in platoons up and down our motorways.

Also, then when we look at distribution in built-up areas we’re addressing questions like: how will we be delivering goods much more efficiently to people in our towns, cities and villages? How is freight going to move around? How can freight movements be orchestrated more efficiently?

In terms of delivery to market, freight and logistics is potentially a great early adopter of this technology because decisions are based more on efficiency and cost rather than emotions and personal feelings.

I’ll go so far as to say freight and logistics could be at the vanguard of robotics in terms of delivery to our streets.

Is the investment all being made in London?

There is a concentration in and around London – the Royal Borough of Greenwich in particular – with pod trials in and around the O2, but there are exciting projects taking place nationwide, with investment in Oxbotica and Midlands Future Mobility for example.

One of the most exciting projects for me is CAV Forth – an automated bus service that will run across the Forth Bridge in Scotland in real scale with thousands of passengers every year using that service.

Huge regional opportunities to take the investment and use it to start to determine how services will be delivered on a regional scale.

In terms of commercial vehicles, what needs to happen to ensure the adoption of CAM?

There are a few things.

Firstly, we need to look at regulation. And think about how it meets the needs of technology.

For example, when developing the technology for truck platoons, can the drivers actually take their hands off the wheel? That could have huge implications for things like drivers’ hours, driver health and the efficiency of the distribution network. This will only be possible if regulatory regimes can ensure that this technology is delivered safety to market.

We’d need legislation to allow vehicle drivers to disengage. Very early on we need legal reforms that enable drivers not to have to be legally responsible for driving so they can genuinely shut off.

We also need to invest reasonably heavily in test and development facilities looking into things like how an automated heavy goods vehicle operates in a logistics yard, making and receiving deliveries. That’s something that doesn’t exist globally and I know that if I were building or retrofitting a goods vehicle I’d want to know that it would operate safely, effectively and efficiently.

The third thing is that we need to invest in living labs where we bring together freight and logistics organisations to actually test how we can better orchestrate the delivery of these services. We need to work with local authorities and local government to figure how we can best optimize things like traffic regulations.

How is the wider adoption of autonomous technology going to impact jobs?

There will be long-term changes but, ultimately, what we might see is a change in how people are employed. When we talk to delivery organisations the person making the delivery is an important ambassador for them and how they deliver their service – it’s a great source of intelligence. So, it might be that what we start to see is a shift in the types of jobs people do. Instead of being the driver, for example, you might be the safety operator. In terms of deliveries, you might be engaging with your customers, telling them when their delivery’s coming and doing a different job as part of that service.

We will see fully automated robotic deliveries in some situations but I can’t see the human ever being completely withdrawn from the loop.

How does the UK compare to other countries in terms of CAM development?

Within the G7 we’re ranked second. That’s a very good place to be and is largely because of investment to date in research and development and the regulatory framework in this country.

But also, the UK is a great early adopter of technology. You just have to look at online payments, internet shopping and smartphones to see that the UK public is a very willing audience for new technology.

So we are well placed to capitalise on this position going forward.

Additionally though, when we look at countries and regions with which we have close economic relationships, like Japan, the Middle East and Asia, there are some amazing partnerships to be forged in order that we can get more global consensus on how these services could be delivered to market.

Obviously, you’re on the frontline of the development of CAM technology. What’s your feeling on what our roads will look like in 10 years’ time?

Well, I’m not going to say there’s going to be jet packs.

But there’s a real opportunity that in 10 years’ time, we’ll see visible large-scale deployments of connected automated services running on our roads, whether that be trains or convoys of heavy goods vehicles down our motorways, pod and robo taxi services being delivered within our cities. And I certainly think there will be last-mile automated freight services being rolled out in our cities as well.

That’s the opportunity but it’s going to be a mixed environment and personally, I’m probably going to be driving my classic car for another few years yet.

I think anything bought in the next couple of years is still going to be on the road for a good long while.