CV manufacturing shows signs of improvement in October

Posted on: November 20, 2014

The UK commercial vehicle manufacturing sector is showing signs of improvement, as October saw the smallest monthly fall since June 2013.

A total of 7,235 units were produced in the month, a drop of 8.9% (compared to 23.5% for the year-to-date). The stabilisation was driven by growth in the home market, which grew for the first time in 17 months (+14.6%).

Output for export fell 30.6% in the month, with only 39.6% of vehicles produced destined for export.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said, “The heavy fall seen in UK commercial vehicle manufacturing over the past year is now levelling off as the effects of last year’s restructuring only apply to year-to-date figures.

“With new models now being produced in UK plants, production for the home market grew for the first time since June 2013. It remains to be seen if the recent growth in EU demand will continue, but indications are of greater stability in the months to come,” he continued.

ACEA and IRU call for focus on fuel efficiency

Posted on: November 20, 2014

Fuel efficiency should be the main area of focus for the European Commission weights and dimensions proposal, says two road transport bodies.

Both the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) and the International Road Transport Union (IRU) have called for the proposed legislation to lead with improved overall fuel efficiency as a precondition for allowing increased vehicle length.

Voicing concerns of their members, the groups state that the 96/53/EC weights and dimensions policy should focus on promoting the use of fuel-saving technologies, rather than relying on improved aerodynamics.

Erik Jonnaert, ACEA Secretary General, said, “There are many more effective ways of reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions than entirely redesigning the cabin.

“The industry is committed to continuing to improve truck safety. However, for this, safety technologies that prevent accidents happening in the first place are the best way forward. A whole vehicle approach represents the best possible solution.”

IRU General Delegate to the EU, Michael Nielsen, said that flexibility must be given to freight operators to improve fuel efficiency, emissions, safety and comfort with as few restrictions as possible.

“I urge European decision-makers to reach an agreement that ensures the benefits we all wish to see are realised,” he says.

The proposal outlined by the European Commission states that any increase in vehicle length, including the vehicle cab, would have to include aerodynamic, safety and comfort improvements.

Voluntary bus services set to benefit from £25 million DfT fund

Posted on: November 18, 2014

Rural community groups will be given access to £25 million funding support from the government, to buy new minibuses to help run community transport services.

The new initiative from the Department for Transport hopes to provide hundreds of new vehicles to voluntary organisations across the UK, that can utilise the minibuses and continue to provide a transport service in rural and isolated locations.

Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin, who announced the scheme, said, “As a rural MP, I know how important community bus providers are and how much they matter. These groups help keep rural communities alive and independent.

“We want to do all we can to support local voluntary operators who help out in these areas. This large amount of money is to help those who already do much to support their community.”

The new fund will be mainly accessible to existing voluntary and charity organisations that have a licence to run a not-for-profit transport service for their community. Smaller operators and those who help out in the area will also be given the green light to bid for a new minibus.

Each applicant can bid for one vehicle and will need to prove that the minibus will be used only for non-profit transportation, not to compete for bus service contracts.

Bill Freeman, Chief Executive of the Community Transport Association, said, “This is good news for community transport. Our own research shows that many organisations, particularly smaller ones serving their immediate neighbourhoods, struggle to put aside money to replace vehicles.”

Interview: Keltruck MD Andrew Jamieson

Posted on: November 20, 2014

If anybody wants an accurate diagnosis of the true state of health of the UK’s heavy truck market then they could do worse than talk to Keltruck. Founded in 1983 by Chris Kelly and the biggest independently-owned Scania dealer in Europe with a turnover of £139m in 2013, the West Midlands-based group operates out of no less than 21 locations.

A mixture of dealerships and vehicle maintenance units spread across the Midlands and South Wales, Keltruck has outlets as far apart as Worksop, Cardiff, Rugby and Ross-on-Wye. Keltruck’s West Bromwich head office next to the M5 was redeveloped last year and forms part of an 8.5-acre site that plays host to everything from a large service and repair workshop to a parts recycling centre.

As far as sales of new Scanias are concerned, the first few months of 2014 were hard going, says Keltruck Managing Director, Andrew Jamieson, as the impact of the switch from Euro-5 to Euro-6 made its presence felt. Demand has improved more recently however, he reports, and the company should sell 800 this year.

“Operators are getting used to Euro-6. Many of them now realise that they have hung on to their existing vehicles for too long and need to replace them and they are more positive about the future than they were previously,” he says.

“As a consequence we’re getting a lot of enquiries and we’re putting together plenty of quotations. Things are looking pretty good for 2015.”

Rigids account for around 50% of Keltruck’s sales at present with the balance made up of tractor units and Jamieson is pleased to see that demand for 8×4 tippers has picked up.
Delivery Dates

Obtaining chassis from the factory is proving to be something of a challenge at times, as is getting them built. While tight supply is a clear and welcome indicator that the market is improving, he says that some body builders are quoting delivery dates for May 2015.

Second-hand sales remain an area of concern and at an anticipated 370 units this year, will run at less than half the level of new sales. “We’re only selling 50% of the volume of used trucks we want to sell,” Jamieson says.

That is not because there is a lack of demand but because there is such a dire national shortage of good-quality stock. The paucity is the consequence of poor new truck sales at the height of the recession; a vehicle cannot be sold second-hand if it was not sold new to begin with.

Jamieson worries that today’s used drought may turn into oversupply in two or three years’ time.

“We’re seeing a lot of new trucks across the industry being acquired on three-year contracts at present,” he points out. If they are all disposed of at the same time then used prices could end up being depressed.

“As a consequence I’d like to see a lot more four- and five-year contracts being written to reduce the risk of this happening,” he says.
Long-term deals

Operators need not be wary of entering into longer-term deals, given that trucks are far more durable and reliable than when Keltruck first opened for business some three decades ago. While that is good news for customers, better reliability is having an impact on Keltruck’s aftermarket revenue. “We’ve seen warranty parts sales drop by 24% in just 12 months,” says Jamieson.

All manufacturers are attempting to shore up dealer workshop income by supplying new vehicles complete with a maintenance package, and Scania is no exception. Something else likely to underpin dealer aftermarket activities is a realisation among some hauliers that their in-house workshops may be unable to cope with the complexities of Euro-6 without a major investment in technician training and equipment; an investment they may be either unable or unwilling to make.

“Remember that every time a Scania comes into one of our workshops for an inspection or a service it receives all the latest software updates which can lead, for example, to an improvement in fuel consumption,” Jamieson points out.

“It will not receive them otherwise,” he continues. “Software upgrades are not delivered automatically while the truck is out on the road – although this may change in two to five years’ time – but instead require manual intervention.”
Testing

The company runs four Authorised Testing Facilities and is considering opening a fifth. The £300,000 or so investment that will be required is a significant one, given that an ATF cannot be viewed as a profit centre and in Jamieson’s view does not generate incremental service business either.

So why bother? “It’s about customer support and it’s about the future,” he replies.

That future could hopefully involve suitably-qualified and approved Keltruck technicians being allowed to undertake testing themselves, rather in the way that cars and light commercials are tested, as opposed to continuing to rely on employees of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. That would mean tests could be carried out late at night or early morning which many hauliers would view as far more convenient. It would enable the dealership to maximise the expensive capital equipment it has invested in.

While stressing the high quality of its customer base, Keltruck is well aware that all operators have to control their costs tightly. In response, it has been marketing recycled parts for Scania trucks over several years; second-hand components that have been stripped from older trucks that are being dismantled and can be re-used without affecting safety.

“We’ll sell £900,000 worth this year,” he says. “We export some, but that side of the business is down at the moment thanks to currency movements that have not been in our favour.”

As well as ticking the environmentally-friendly box, recycled spares appeal to budget-conscious operators that need to maintain and repair older Scanias but would probably not buy new parts at a dealership if they could avoid it. As a consequence the recycling operation generates incremental revenue.

“The type of part we sell has changed over the years,” he says. “In the past we sold lots of axles and differentials but these days there isn’t the demand because those fitted originally are so reliable.

“Today around 75% of the items we sell is for R-Series while 20% is for 4-Series,” he reports.

Keltruck continues to supply recycled parts for 3-Series, too. There are still plenty of them out on the road; some in the hands of die-hard Scania preservationists, but a few still earning their living.

So, with registrations up, an increased reliability of vehicles and demand for used parts rising, the overall prognosis for the truck market is good. It’s likely we will see even more Keltruck outlets opening in the years ahead.

Volkswagen aims to minimise CV downtime this winter

Posted on: November 20, 2014

News from Volkswagen: With the annual threat of wet and windy winter weather already looming, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is launching a new, free initiative that will help drivers stay safe, warm and mobile when the temperatures take a turn for the worse.

And, as a thank you for visiting, drivers will be offered a warm drink in a complimentary thermal mug.

The 29-point Express Visual Check (EVC) aims to ensure vehicles withstand the rigours of the colder weather and help to prevent any serious problems occurring. This includes checks on key vulnerable areas such as tyres, wipers and lights. Vehicles will also receive a battery check.

Every year national roadside assistance companies report an increase in breakdowns over the winter months – often due to poorly maintained vehicles. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is hoping to reduce this statistic by providing drivers with a free inspection before they head out onto the roads this winter.

Kevin Rendell, Head of Service and Parts at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles UK, commented, “Ensuring your vehicle is safe for the roads throughout winter is extremely important to prevent accidents and breakdowns.

“We are providing these free checks as a preventative measure as minimising downtime is crucial for our customers.”

The Express Visual Check is available at participating Volkswagen Van Centres until 28th February 2015.

To arrange a free winter health check or for further information, contact your local Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle Van Centre.

Excalibur Coaches selects Volvo for Terravision contract

Posted on: November 20, 2014

News from Volvo: London based coach operator Excalibur Coaches has taken delivery of four new Volvo B11R coaches with Sunsundegui SC7 bodywork to operate on an important Terravision contract.

Operating daily between London and Stanstead Airport, the new tri-axle Euro-5 vehicles are already proving to be popular with both passengers and drivers alike.

“It was the all round package from Volvo that appealed to us,” explained Excalibur Coaches’ Managing Director, Mark Jewell. “We’ve had Volvo coaches before in 2009 and the performance and reliability we’ve had from them undoubtedly played a major role in us specifying Volvo again.

“Volvo impressed us enormously with their fuel economy results. They were able to clearly demonstrate in-service statistics with their B11R coach and those promises are already living up to expectations.

“Our drivers and the passengers have been commenting positively on the new vehicles and we are delighted with their performance so far.”

He continued, “We also receive great back-up and support from Volvo Bus and in addition Regional Coach Sales Manager, Jo Standbridge was extremely helpful and thorough. It has been yet another positive purchasing experience from Volvo Bus.”

The Excalibur Coaches 14 metre vehicles have been specially adapted to adhere to DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) requirements, which include allowing space for an onboard wheelchair and installing a passenger lift.

Mark Jewell added, “It is vitally important, particularly on the busy Terravision contract, that our coaches meet DDA requirement and Volvo Bus supported us in ensuring that we met all requirements.”

Excalibur Coaches four new 61-seat coaches are specified with Volvo’s fuel efficient, D11C 11-litre diesel engine, rated at 460hp and coupled to the Volvo I-Shift gearbox. Each vehicle also features an onboard TV screen, WIFI and eight CCTV cameras.

Volvo Regional Sales Manager, Jo Standbridge said, “Excalibur Coaches were looking for four DDA compliant coaches and we were able to supply some quality B11Rs with Sunsundegui SC7 body in a package that suited their needs.

“Key operator requirements such as passenger capacity, fuel economy and overall reliability were achieved with these new coaches and we look forward to continuing our successful partnership in the future.”

Exol invests £1.5million in its vehicle fleet

Posted on: November 20, 2014

News from Exol Lubricants: Exol, the UK’s largest independent lubricants blender, has invested more than £1.5miilion in making its fleet the most up to date, economical and best performing on UK roads.

Due to Exol’s commitment to excellent customer service and its proven ability to service national contracts, the company’s fleet now includes more than 20 brand new commercial vehicles.

Most recently, two new Scania G320 trucks and trailers have joined the commercial fleet, which offer customers dual pump filling capabilities of both lubricants and anti-freeze.

Exol’s fleet of vehicles comprises a mix of dual-purpose vehicles and large tanker trucks to transport both bulk and packaged Exol products to customers across a variety of sectors including agricultural, automotive, industrial, marine and rail.

Steve Dunn, Exol Sales Director, said, “While our business has grown, we have responded positively by investing in our fleet to ensure the highest levels of customer service are sustained. The enlarged Exol fleet, which is arguably the newest fleet of vehicles on UK roads, means we are ideally positioned to win more business and grow with our existing customers.”

Exol has started the transition into its new building and has added eight brand new forklifts to its fully owned fleet of vehicles.

The new forklifts are another major investment for Exol and are for use in the new site, designed specifically to work with narrow aisles. This allows for the company to add in double the amount of racking in the same amount of space.

Reading Buses investment endorsed by Vice Chancellor

Posted on: November 18, 2014

News from Reading Buses: The newest additions to the Reading Buses fleet brought a ringing endorsement from Sir David Bell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading, during an inauguration ceremony on the campus.

To mark the significant investment of £2 million in new buses, the company joined the Vice Chancellor for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The latest investment has helped to reduce the average age of the buses in the fleet to under four years.

Speaking at the ceremony, Sir David commented on the ‘special partnership’ that the University of Reading has established with Reading Buses and the commitment of the company to keep investing in the fleet which has helped to grow passenger numbers to and from the campus, adding ‘and long may it continue.’

Sir David then showed his true support for the company by flourishing his Reading Buses simplyBus card proving that he is an avid user who ‘always sits at the front on the upper deck when free.’

He paid tribute to the University staff who have worked closely with the company, as well as to the company themselves, to help encourage more people to get out of their cars and onto the bus.

Sir David’s presence at the ribbon cutting ceremony marked seven new E400 Euro-6 engine buses going into service on the claret 21 route between the town centre, the university and Lower Earley.

Tony Pettitt, Reading Buses Director of Resources, spoke about the partnership and the continued investment by the company to put the newest and cleanest vehicles on the University routes.

He said this had enabled Reading Buses to increase passenger numbers every year since the partnership began over six years ago – including an overall 10% increase last year and a great start to the new academic year with a 22% increase already this term compared to last year.

Pettitt said, “The increase in passenger numbers on claret is down to many factors.

Not only have we invested in new vehicles on the claret routes, but have increased the frequency between campus and the town to every five minutes and have claret buses running 24/7.

“This has seen the night traffic on the route increase by nearly 400% when compared to the old N21 which had one journey Monday to Thursday and three early morning journeys Friday and Saturday.

“We hope that more people, not just students, continue to use this service to get home safely and cheaply from their nights out.”

The inauguration was the first official Reading Buses engagement for newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Martijn Gilbert who said the company had a history of working with the University and had expanded their products for students to offer them the best prices.

Gilbert said, “The partnership has seen our simplyUni range grow to include annual passes as well as unisaver 10 passes for students and staff which has encouraged occasional users to travel on the bus more regularly.

“We gave away over 5,000 unisaver 10 cards, with two free journeys, to first year students at the start of term and as a result have already seen a dramatic increase in people using these smartcards.”

He also paid tribute to the British built buses, adding, “These buses are the cleanest diesel engines around and emit half the particulates of their predecessors and a quarter of the Nitrous Oxides (NoX).

“They are also much lighter, improving fuel efficiency, something that is a growing point of interest for the industry.”

The buses themselves are the newest on the market with Reading Buses being only the third operator in the country to have received them.

Some new technology for the company sees the buses fitted with on board systems to achieve the best performance and fuel efficiency as well as monitor the engine and electronics allowing the company’s engineering department to identify issues before they happen.

As is now becoming the Reading Buses standard, all the buses have audio/visual next stop announcements, external destination repeaters and free WiFi. They also offer more leg room as well as lots of space for wheelchairs and buggies.

Iveco Daily 4x4s return from mission across Africa

Posted on: November 18, 2014

News from Iveco: A pair of specially-equipped Iveco Daily 4x4s have returned from the second ‘Daily4Africa’ tour, crossing Angola, Congo, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti – a journey which took nearly 60 days and saw the vehicles clock-up more than 11,000 km amid the spectacular backdrop of Africa.
Organised by Iveco and Taurinorum Travel Team, the objective of the journey was to educate and reinforce the concept of road safety with local populations, as well as demonstrating the high performance and reliability of the Daily 4×4, putting them through their paces amidst the most challenging and remote African terrain.
The Daily4Africa project, a result of the collaboration between Iveco and Taurinorum Team, an agency which specialises in large-scale adventure projects for documentary purposes, helps to promote and consolidate the message of safety and correct behaviour on the road – a central theme of Iveco.
The expedition started in mid-September from Luanda, in Angola, reached Djibouti City, in the Republic of Djibouti, after crossing seven African countries and stopping off at Iveco main dealers throughout the region. During each leg the vehicle was presented to key media outlets, customers and the public, along with organised test drives.
Iveco in Africa

The arrival in Djibouti also provided the opportunity to take part in the official opening of the new Al Ghandi premises, one of Iveco’s key dealers in the Middle East. Al Ghandi is now expanding its presence in the horn of Africa, looking for new business opportunities in the area. It also recently celebrated more than 25 years of collaboration with Iveco.
“An important addition to Iveco’s comprehensive distribution network in Africa, this latest development confirms the growing importance of this area for the company,” commented Luca Sra, Iveco Sales Manager for Africa and the Middle East.
Iveco is present in Africa with an entire range of models produced for the local market and operates via 74 dealers and in excess of 100 commercial outlets. In addition, there are more than 120 centres providing aftersales support to customers throughout Africa. The Iveco product range for the African market has been redesigned and adapted to local needs, offering the best performance to cope with extreme weather and road conditions.

Gwynedd celebrates 30 years with 23 new Volvo FHs

Posted on: November 18, 2014

News from Volvo: Gwynedd Shipping is celebrating their 30th year in business. The company’s relationship with Volvo Trucks and dealer Thomas Hardie Commercials continues to be key, as 23 Euro-6 FH tractor units join its fleet.

Commenting on the 30th anniversary, GSL’s Managing Director Andrew Kinsella said that the company and marketplace had changed significantly during that time. A key reason that the company had continued to purchase Volvo trucks, he explained, was the close working relationship that has developed with Thomas Hardie Commercialswho supply and maintain all GSL’s Volvos.

The latest trucks were specified with Volvo’s 13-litre, D13K engine rated at 460hp. They were also supplied with Volvo’s Uptime Assurance, Dynafleet telematics and a Gold R&M contract. Thomas Hardie Commercials also provide an on-going programme of driver training.

“The support package from Thomas Hardie Commercials is very important to us,” says Kinsella. “Working with the same people over time ensures they develop an understanding of our business and also our service level requirements.”

The fitment of Dynafleet is an innovative factor in the focus on uptime and the maintaining of compliance, as it allows Thomas Hardie Commercials Deeside workshops to be aware of premature wear in a range of components on the trucks.

Dynafleet plays an active role in helping GSL to avoid incurring costs associated with unplanned downtime. In effect, Thomas Hardie Commercials are planning uptime requirements in close conjunction with GSL. The resulting flexibility is an important factor in the success of the long-term relationship with this major customer.

Thomas Hardie Commercials have their own ATF MOT lane and prepare and present GSL’s vehicles and 600 trailers for testing. Two Thomas Hardie Commercials technicians are in fact dedicated to maintenance of the GSL trailers. In addition, two DVSA MOT testers are also based at THC’s Deeside on-site ATF.

Thomas Hardie Commercials also work very closely with GSL on sharing best practice with regard to driver training. In addition to an initial seminar ‘to kick things off’, says Andrew Kinsella, driver training is regularly discussed at GSL’s ‘Toolbox Talks’. These are held on Monday mornings at the transport operating centres.

Thomas Hardie Commercials’ driver training team help GSL’s drivers get the best out of their trucks and the operator maintains a driver performance appraisal matrix to facilitate the open flow of training information.

“Engagement with our drivers is a virtuous circle,” says Kinsella. “We work hard to keep them in the loop regarding training and driving performance information.” To help achieve this, he explains, “GSL’s drivers each have their own Dynafleet log in.”

This enables them to use the Dynafleet app to check on their own performance and effectiveness of their driving techniques.” A print out is also provided and issued with the pay slips. Driver acceptance of the Volvo trucks is high, reports Andrew Kinsella. It is helped, he says, by the company’s focus on taking pride in its vehicles and individual drivers caring for their trucks.

According to Kinsella, another key factor in the long–term relationship between Volvo, Thomas Hardie Commercials and GSL, is the location of the dealer’s workshops and ATF at Deeside. This is also conveniently placed in relation to GSL’s major customers in the region.

Both Volvo Trucks and Thomas Hardie Commercials are committed to continuing to support GSL’s trucks for what we hope will be another thirty years in this important and very close working relationship.