October registrations: van rise continues, trucks rebound

Last week’s UK van and truck registration data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed van and truck numbers at 21,305 in October and up 8.7% to 247,637 for the rolling year.  Within that total, there were 18,147 vans registered in the month, taking the rolling year figure up 14.3% to 215,902.  October’s impressive 3,158 truck registrations still left the rolling year down 18.8% at a total of 31,735.  “The sustained increase in commercial vehicle registrations provides confirmation that the economy is continuing to recover,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.  “Vans continue to lead the recovery, with volumes up for the ninth successive month.  We expect next year will be tough but with slow, steady growth improving confidence and demand.”
More from Robin Dickeson on +44 (0)2 073 449 222 or rdickeson@smmt.co.uk

Midi-buses recover, but overall October volumes weak

Last week’s UK bus and coach registration data showed overall bus and coach volumes down 38.2% in October and down 12.9% for the year to date.  At the same time, 8.5 to 16t midi-bus registrations rose by 19.3% in the month.  Coach numbers dropped 5.9% in October, but were up 21.3% over the year to date.  “Overall bus and coach registrations fell for a seventh straight month in October.  They dropped for all but one month since April 2008.  But it is not all bad,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.  “Coach figures stayed firm over the first ten months of the year, up by a fifth.  It was also good to see midi-bus numbers up almost 20% in the month.  Some manufacturers still benefit from the Green Bus Fund and some sectors of the market may continue to improve.  Changes to concessionary travel from 2011, to the Bus Scheme Operators Grant in 2012 and cuts in Local Authority spending will make for a tough year ahead.”
More from Robin Dickeson on +44 (0)2 073 449 222 or rdickeson@smmt.co.uk

Success for Euro Bus Expo

Its organisers say the Euro Bus Expo bus and coach show last week at the NEC was a success.  Encouragingly, exhibitors reported improving order books for vehicles and their supporting products and services.  The show ran from 2 to 4 November and had 260 exhibitors showing more than 100 buses and coaches and a wide range of supporting products and services.  Firsts included Volvo’s new tri-axle B13 and Setra’s S431 double-deck coach.  Wrightbus had its new StreetLite midi-bus there and Alexander Dennis showed its Enviro200.  Optare showed a 9.7 metre Versa hybrid mid-ibus for Greater Manchester.  The bus is one of a 32-strong order and uses a Siemens hybrid system with a Mercedes-Benz engine.
More from Marcus Hall on +44 (0)1 565 621 350 or Marcus.hall@expom.co.uk

Low-cost hybrid bus trial

Torotrack, Optare, Allison and Ricardo used Euro Bus Expo to show a low-cost, high-efficiency hybrid “Flybus” project.  The Optare Solo midi-bus will use a prototype flywheel-based system to capture braking energy and release up to 100Kw to help the vehicle accelerate, cutting fuel use and emissions by some 20% in stop-start operation.  “The technology offers easier installation than battery-electric systems,” said Richard Stone, Torotrak’s engineering director, who is leading the project. Compared to a typical battery-based hybrid, the system offers “comparable gains in fuel economy” at a “fraction” of the size, weight and cost.  Stone expects that it will be possible to convert existing fleets without cutting passenger capacity.  The flywheel-hybrid bolts directly onto the standard automatic transmission with Torotrak’s CVT managing the energy flow to and from Ricardo’s 60,000rpm “Kinergy” flywheel.  The trial will deliver results next year.
More from Lin Collier on +44(0)1 772 427 864 or lin.collier@torotrak.com

New boss for RHA Midlands and Western

Nick Payne will be the new regional director for the Road Haulage Association’s Midlands and Western area.  He has been with the RHA for five years, starting as advertisement manager for Roadway Magazine.  He moved to general sales manager, based at Peterborough and will take over from the present director, Mike Farmer, when he retires at the end of the year.
More from Kate Gibbs on +44 (0)1 932 838 917 or kate.gibbs@rha.uk.net

Carrier system cuts fuel by 3%

Kings-Lynn-based 3 Distribution Ltd says Carrier Transicold’s Foretrack fleet management and tracking system is paying for itself.  Earlier this year the firm fitted Foretrack across its 26 trucks running with Carrier refrigeration units.  “It is refreshing to find a system that integrates into our existing technology and delivers on its promises,” said Patrick Finch, director of 3 Distribution.  “We now have real-time visibility of the entire temperature controlled fleet and the additional bonus of monitoring the performance of all refrigeration units instantaneously.”  Finch says the firm calculated that a 1% cut in fuel use would pay for the system.  So far the saving is 3%, “just as Carrier suggested.”
More from James Keeler on +44 (0)2 086 474 467 or jk@garnett-keeler.com

Optare optimistic

Jim Sumner, chief executive at Optare is optimistic about the company’s ability to weather “very uncertain times.”  He says the firm has stuck to its plans to cut cost and debt in a changing market and he is confident of the firm’s ability to offer a wider range of “more affordable” solutions to cash-strapped operators.  New advanced technology will help here and Sumner is proud of the firm’s record; “We backed four horses and I think we picked four winners.”  Optare won the first big contract for hybrid buses, with Manchester, it has the first electric bus running, in Durham; it won a CILT award for its Eco Dash and now it is working to help develop a line or retrofit, low-cost mechanical hybrid: The Fly Bus project should start tests early in the new year.  On top of this he expects great things from the partnership with Ashok Leyland.  And “last November our order book stood at about £7.5m, now it is over £35m and should hit £40m by the end of the month.”
More from Martin Hayes on +44 (0)2 074 948 050 or mhayes@automotivepr.com

Show success for new wheelchair safety systems

Q’Straint successfully launched two new products at Eurobus Expo last week – the QM3 wheelchair securing system and the new Flex-i-Trans flooring system.  The QM3 allows operators to safely secure wheelchairs on low-floor city buses, trams and trains.  Flex-i-Trans flooring offers “maximum internal layout versatility” for accessible vehicles.  The firm says it can be fitted to many vans including variants from the Ford Transit, Volkswagen Crafter and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter ranges. “We were extremely busy for all three days of the show,” said Phil Stratton, UK and Ireland sales manager.  “We have already taken orders for both systems.”  He is confident that both will become ‘first choice’ for specifiers.
More from Jon Nock on +44 (0)1 628 529 464 or jon@idiscreativemarketing.co.uk

Ashok-Optare deal looks good

“We are very pleased with our partnership with Optare,” said Dr V Sumantran, executive vice chairman of India’s Hinduja Automotive, parent company to Ashok Leyland.  He sees big opportunities for both partners in the global trend toward urbanisation and the parallel, growing demands for mass transit systems and inevitably growing restrictions on private cars.  He expects Ashok and Optare to develop as integrated transport solution providers rather than simply bus and coach builders.  The deal with Optare should “leverage” both sides of the equation, for instance with Optare able to take advantage of Ashok’s proven natural gas engine technology – it has over 15,000  and Ashok using the UK firm’s integral bus and coach building expertise.  Sumantran says his company has been continuously profitable for 63 straight years.
More from Martin Hayes on +44 (0)2 074 948 050 or mhayes@automotivepr.com

CNG bus from MAN

MAN showed a CNG powered and left hand control version of its successful Lion’s City bus at last week’s Euro Bus Expo 2010 at the NEC.  The firm used the opportunity to gauge UK market interest in its natural gas powered bus technology.  It says sufficient interest could see right hand control models for the UK.  “We have had tremendous interest in CNG vehicles from operators”,” said Tony Griffiths, bus operations manager at MAN Truck & Bus UK.  The firm has sold more than 7,000 CNG buses on the European mainland.  It will judge the level of local interest and decide if and when to add the CNG bus in right-hand drive format to its UK range.”
More from Paul O’Malley on +44 (0)1 263 715 900 or paul@hallspr.com