Strong export markets continue to fuel CV manufacturing

Posted on: November 19, 2015

Figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that foreign demand continues to drive British commercial vehicle manufacturing, with overall production volumes up 10.5% in October. Almost 8,000 commercial vehicles, including vans, trucks and buses, were built in the UK last month, with a 32.1% rise in production for export.

October is the ninth consecutive month of growth for the market, with CV output rising 10.5% to 7,995 units. The year-to-date performance is up by more than a third compared with first 10 months of 2014.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “It’s great to see UK commercial vehicle manufacturing continuing its resurgence in the third quarter of 2015, with year-to-date figures still demonstrating impressive double-digit growth. Particularly encouraging is the growing demand for exports, fuelled by the recovery of the sector’s largest market, Europe.”


UK consortium developing liquid nitrogen hybrid bus

Posted on: November 19, 2015

A consortium of UK companies is developing a hybrid bus powered by liquid nitrogen and diesel. It aims to provide a cost-effective transport solution with a substantially reduced carbon footprint.

The project, named CE Power, is co-ordinated by Innovate UK and is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Contributors to the project include Horiba MIRA, Dearman, Air Products, The Manufacturing Technology Centre, Productiv, CENEX and the Transport Research Laboratory.

CE Power uses a liquid nitrogen expansion engine during acceleration from rest and at speeds below 20mph. In diesel-powered buses, this is where NOx and CO2 emissions are relatively high. The stopping and starting of the liquid nitrogen bus, at speeds under 20mph, produces zero emissions.

The liquid nitrogen is stored in a low-pressure insulated cylinder and is warmed to the point of evaporation which creates sufficient pressure to drive the multi-cylinder Dearman engine. Once the bus reaches 20mph, the diesel engine takes over.

Liquid nitrogen gives a longer life than an electric hybrid system, allows for local production and easy refueling. Batteries, which power many of the UK’s electric hybrids, require changing several times over the lifetime of the bus, whereas the liquid nitrogen system will last the lifetime of the bus.

Liquid nitrogen can be produced locally without the need for neodymium or lithium both of which are used by motors and batteries and sourced from overseas. Furthermore, refueling liquid nitrogen can take 10-15 minutes, enabling the bus to return to the road quickly.

Horiba MIRA’s role in the project includes systems integration, vehicle dynamics modelling and overall vehicle control, ensuring the liquid nitrogen system operates seamlessly and safely with the diesel engine.

Derek Charters, Technical Lead at Horiba MIRA, said, ”This project is a first for liquid nitrogen use in hybrid buses. Liquid nitrogen is a fascinating energy source as it can be created worldwide from many renewable sources, meaning its carbon footprint is minimal. With the UK looking to continue to reduce its reliance on carbon fuels from overseas, and the search for lower emissions buses, this project takes the UK one step closer to achieving this goal.”

The project is expected to be finished by 2016.

Winning vehicles recognised for reducing fuel consumption

Posted on: November 19, 2015

The Iveco Eurocargo, Volkswagen Transporter and Nissan Navara have been recognised as the best new vehicles in their classes by the International Truck and Van of the Year 2016 juries.

The International Truck of the Year 2016 was won by the new Iveco Eurocargo, ahead of Renault Trucks’ C&K range and Ford Trucks’ new construction series.

The annual award is presented to the new truck which has made the greatest contribution to road transport efficiency in the previous 12 months. This is based on several main criteria, which include technical innovation, comfort, safety, driveability, fuel economy, environmental footprint and total cost of ownership (TCO).

The jury praised the advanced features of the Eurocargo’s driveline, including its SCR-only four or six-cylinder engines that offer improved driveability and fuel savings, as well as lower CO2 emissions. Eco strategies in its automated gearbox impressed the jury, as did an eco-roll function that encourages fuel-saving ‘coasting’. Savings in diesel consumption are also achieved by the use of low-viscosity engine oils and the fitment of a ‘smart’ fan, contributing significantly to the TCO reduction.

Summing up the jury vote, International Truck of the Year Chairman Gianenrico Griffini said, “Iveco has delivered a new medium duty truck that raises the bar in a highly competitive segment, in which Eurocargo has set the benchmark for the market in the past 25 years.”

The Volkswagen Transporter T6 took the award for International Van of the Year 2016, with the FIAT Professional Doblo Cargo second and the Volkswagen Caddy in third.

The International Pick-Up of the Year 2016 award was awarded to the Nissan Navara NP300, ahead of the Mitsubishi L200 and Ford Ranger in second and third place respectively.

The juries for the three awards comprise a group of 25 senior commercial vehicle journalists, representing 25 magazines throughout Europe.

Feature: Manufacturers making inroads into conversion market

Posted on: November 19, 2015

Commercial vehicle manufacturers are increasingly offering factory conversion programmes to their customers, providing custom build options previously only available from independent providers.

In recent weeks, DAF Trucks and Renault Trucks have begun advertising pre-built conversion models with an emphasis on immediate delivery. This bypasses the traditional process of a customer managing vehicle chassis and bodies from different suppliers. The DAF ‘Tip, Skip & Grab’ programme is mainly targeted at the burgeoning UK construction and utilities industries, for customers requiring urgent delivery.

Renault’s ‘Ready for Business’ programme offers pre-bodied Master LCVs with dropside, tipper or Luton bodies built by VFS in Hampshire and sold ready for immediate delivery through Renault dealers.

Meanwhile, Vauxhall has also been increasing its in-house conversion programmes over the past year, offering customers a wider range of body styles and fit-outs for their vehicles.

Vauxhall set up a conversions centre at Luton in 2014, not far from the Vivaro assembly line. The operation handles a variety of tasks for retail and fleet customers, from fitting alarm systems for local fleets to full Vivaro double-cab conversions for Vauxhall and Opel brands across Europe. The factory operates two shifts to keep up with demand, and has executed more than 9,000 conversions since opening last year.

Vauxhall is also placing an increased emphasis on its specialist bodies for the Movano chassis. Of the 5,000 Movano models it expects to sell this year, over 1,500 will be chassis cabs, which Vauxhall hopes will increase its share in the conversion market. Vauxhall offers dropside, tipper and box bodies as factory conversions, which are all covered by a manufacturer warranty. It also works with local body builders on specialist conversions, which ensure that the warranty is aligned with that o the manufacturer.

Outlining the benefits for customers, Richard Collier, Vauxhall Commercial Vehicle Sales Manager, said, “Logistically, the Luton conversion centre works well as products can be dispatched quickly to dealerships across the UK. Ancillary kit can be fitted in the conversion centre too, speeding up the process.”

DAF has been building vehicle bodies alongside its chassis for some time at its Leyland plant, and its LF model is available with a range of box and curtainside bodies, as well as tail-lifts and other accessories.

As reported in Transport News Brief’s recent feature, Leyland Trucks is currently producing six bodies a day for the DAF chassis, with a focus on rental companies and larger fleets whose requirements are not dissimilar.

EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval requirements have increased costs and complexity for conversion work, and factory conversion programmes can offer fleet operators an easier, cheaper and faster certification of vehicles. This has provided increased sales opportunities for manufacturers, but has also required them to warrant the conversion work as well as the base vehicle. Operators that require bespoke or complex fitouts are still more likely to need separate conversion or adaptation work to be completed after taking delivery of the vehicle from the dealership.

UK automotive industry is world class, but needs more engineers

Posted on: November 12, 2015

The UK automotive sector’s workforce is one of the world’s most productive – but action is needed to address a shortage of skilled engineers and operators, according to new research by the Automotive Council.

The report, which ranks the UK’s strengths and attractiveness for automotive investment against other European and global countries, places the UK’s automotive ‎productivity in top position in Europe. The UK’s strong performance reflects a culture of constant improvement in the industry and a trend towards more efficient processes adopted since the global financial crisis.

The UK also ranks highly for collaboration between industry and academic bodies – essential in spearheading excellence in research and innovation. Labour flexibility is identified as another area where the UK excels – providing flexibility with working patterns and managing labour demands, vital in such a precision, just-in-time industry.

But while the UK receives strong marks in these fields, the report concludes that it fares less well in other areas such as availability of engineers. It also scores below competitor countries for skills, hourly labour rate, and R&D tax relief for larger companies.

Tony Walker, Chair of the Automotive Council’s Business Environment and Skills Group, said, “It is great to see further evidence of Britain’s strengths in its world-class automotive manufacturing workforce – and while there are clear areas for improvement, this report provides the basis for these to be addressed in the coming months and years.

“A competitive business environment to attract inward investment is vital to the success of any industry. This report demonstrates the importance of the Automotive Council as a joint means for government and industry to identify where work is needed to boost the UK automotive sector’s international competitiveness and to target investment accordingly.”

Formed in 2009, the Automotive Council is a forum for government-industry dialogue, set up to consolidate the UK automotive industry’s position as a leader on the world stage. It developed the report over 18 months, and will continue to update the data to help guide the sector in the long term. The report is intended to illustrate where the UK has a competitive advantage over other countries, and identify where additional attention is needed.

Based on a survey of UK automotive companies, the Automotive Council identified eight Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) particularly influential to investment decisions, including labour cost; productivity and flexibility; availability of skills and engineers; university-industry collaboration; government investment in R&D; and R&D tax relief.

Government engagement with industry has played a vital role in the recent success of the UK automotive sector. The report also states that a continued strong dialogue and consistent policies are essential to ensure this success continues and that potential investors can be confident in the UK’s future position.

Used LCV values remain strong and stable throughout Q3

Posted on: November 10, 2015

The country’s three largest commercial vehicle auctioneers have all recorded strong results for September, continuing a period of stability in the used light commercial vehicle (LCV) market.

Both Manheim and Shoreham Vehicle Auctions reported stable year-on-year residual values, despite a significant increase in volumes, while British Car Auctions saw a slight rise in values.

The average selling price of vans sold by Manheim in September reached its highest level since January 2015, with the auction company seeing the youngest, lowest mileage stock for at least 12 months pass through its network. Conversions also improved in September, with vans registering an average of 19 days in stock.

Shoreham, meanwhile, reported that average prices, year-on-year, have remained stable throughout Q3 2015, staying consistent with yearly fluctuations previously seen throughout the year, as prices between January and September have remained within 6.6% of those in the same period in 2014.

Overall year-on-year residual values of used LCVs at Shoreham have stabilised throughout Q3 2015, holding at £4,843 in September, according to Managing Director Alex Wright.

This is due to a continuing steady balance of supply and demand throughout Q3 2015, even though the market traditionally slows during the summer before the September plate change. The largest physical fluctuation in prices during Q3 was in the four- to six-year-old bracket, with residual values decreasing just 5% (£270) from £4,640 in July to £4,405 in August and stabilising at £4,405 in September.

At BCA, year-on-year values were ahead by £47 (0.8%) at £5,607, with the average van in 2015 being slightly younger but noticeably lower mileage, down by 5,000 miles at 75,000. Manheim reported values down year-on-year by 3.8%, despite an increase in volume of 42%.

Matthew Davock, Head of LCV at Manheim, said, “We continue to see younger and lower mileage vans boost used prices, with September seeing the youngest and lowest mileage stock we have sold for at least 12 months.

“SMMT registration data shows that we are on for a record year for new van registrations. Our sales data shows that the average age of vans we have sold so far this year means that they were registered in 2009/2010, which was a time of record low registration volumes, so we do not expect to see van values face any significant challenges in the coming months.

Duncan Ward, BCA’s LCV Operations Director, added, “The market was strong in September with average values increasing across the board and good levels of demand from buyers for well presented, good quality commercial vehicles.”

Alex Wright at Shoreham concluded, “The end of Q3 has seen overall volumes of used LCVs rise significantly in the three month period between July and September, yet prices continue to remain at their ceiling. Notwithstanding the typical December dip, we expect the market will remain healthy throughout the remainder of the year, while any drop in prices will be slow and gradual.”

Commercial vehicle sector pulling its weight on emissions

Posted on: November 12, 2015

The Euro-VI emissions regulations have delivered significant improvements in the environmental impact of commercial vehicles, according to a leading industry figure.

In a speech at the Transport News Scottish Rewards presentation in Glasgow last week, Stuart Webster, Managing Director of Iveco UK, reiterated that tailpipe emissions from commercial vehicles have reduced dramatically since the introduction of Euro-VI standards.

Acknowledging the controversy and public debate regarding Volkswagen’s manipulation of US passenger car emissions tests, Webster conceded that confidence in the entire automotive industry had been affected.

However, he was also quick to highlight the enormous investments made by CV manufacturers to meet Euro-VI standards while simultaneously delivering improved fuel economy, and expressed confidence that robust CV testing cycles had led to real-world reductions in tailpipe emissions from Euro-VI commercial vehicles.

“Today’s Euro-VI test cycles deliver a very close correlation between regulated emission levels and real emission levels in service,” he said. “Operators can have complete confidence that their Euro-VI trucks are as clean as the legislation requires. The air coming out of today’s Euro-VI diesel engines is cleaner than the air going into them in the first place.

“Diesel will continue to be the fuel of choice for anyone involved in moving goods and road transport for the foreseeable future. The diesel engine remains the most practical and environmentally-sensitive way of moving 25 tonnes of goods by road.”

Despite a long-term commitment to diesel, Webster pointed out that alternative fuels will play an increasingly important role in specific transport applications.

“We have invested – and we continue to invest – heavily in the development of alternative fuels such as CNG, LNG and electric. In the right operation, they’re ideal. Some operators could make up to a third saving on fuel costs, for example. For us as manufacturers, the payback on the development of new technologies is yet to be seen. We do it as a commitment to the future.”

New Natural Gas truck loading facility opens

Posted on: November 12, 2015

National Grid has strengthened the UK’s natural gas infrastructure with the opening of a new truck loading facility at its Isle of Grain LNG terminal in Kent.

The new hub will allow LNG to be transported directly to filling stations, as well as to industrial and commercial markets in the UK and mainland Europe. The new station offers 36 daily slots for road tankers, although National Grid already has planning permission to double the size of the facility.

With an increasing number of manufacturers offering dedicated gas or dual-fuel HGV and LCV models, improving natural gas infrastructure is seen as a key factor in underpinning future sales growth.

Simon Culkin, Importation Terminal Manager at Grain LNG, said, “We are seeing many government and market signals lining up to drive the adoption for LNG as a fuel, together with the huge demand we have had from our customers and road tanker operators.”

LNG supplier Gasrec assisted National Grid with its initial commissioning process over a two day period before the facility went live on 11 November, and will now use the state-of-the-art Grain facility to supply its growing national truck refuelling infrastructure.

Rob Wood, Chief Executive of Gasrec, said, “This is excellent news both for Gasrec and for the many retail and logistics companies in the UK who have invested in fleets of low emission gas vehicles. The critical aspect has always been to ensure the UK has reliable and consistent availability of gas fuel – and the new Grain terminal is a crucial supply point into this network.

“Grain certainly puts the UK ahead of the rest of Europe. We now have the largest LNG import terminal thanks to National Grid investing in such a strategically important piece of infrastructure, we have the largest LNG refuelling station at DIRFT near Northampton and we already have more HGVs running on LNG than anywhere else in Europe – perfect foundations for increased wide scale use.”

Feature: Leyland Trucks sets the pace

Posted on: November 12, 2015

Part of the US-based PACCAR group that includes Kenworth and Peterbilt in the US and DAF Trucks of the Netherlands, Leyland Trucks is gearing up to celebrate 120 years of truck production and 20 years under PACCAR ownership next year.

Leyland employs just under 1,000 people on an 86-acre site in its namesake hometown in Lancashire. The current site opened as a state-of the-art production facility in 1980 and has been extensively modernised over the last 35 years. The latest refurbishment programme is adding a third storey to the office building to accommodate the plant’s design centre, which previously took up space in the production area. The recovered space will be used to help streamline materials flow into the assembly area.

Leyland Trucks produces the DAF LF light truck range, and is the sole production site for the model. The heavier DAF CF and XF models are also built here, mostly in right-hand-drive for the British and Irish markets.

Bryan Sitko is Managing Director of Leyland Trucks, having taken up the post in April. As he explains, the company has 100 design engineers on site and carries full responsibility for designing the LF. “We produce the LF here for the whole world”, he explains, “We ship CKD kits from this site to North America, where both Kenworth and Peterbilt brand the LF.” The truck is also exported to Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

All trucks are built on the same line to order. “At the moment, our build rate is 64 trucks a day”, says Sitko. At full capacity, the plant can produce 12 trucks an hour.

This year, 14,500 new trucks will leave the Leyland site, 40% for export. “Ultimately, our secret is the workforce. With 120 years of building trucks, you get a long history of knowledge and expertise”, explains Sitko. “That history is unmatched. We have one family which is in its fifth generation of workers here in Leyland. You can’t replace that.”

Workforce loyalty and family sentimentalities still have to meet the highest production standards, however. “We do a lot of benchmarking within the nine plants that PACCAR has,” says Sitko. “You can see that with the metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), Leyland is always number one or number two.”

Sitko says no other truck plant in Europe offers factory-built bodies fitted on site. “We’re doing six bodies a day. We think we can add a lot of value in this process.

“Aero bodies have been pretty popular. The same team designing the LF is designing the body. Then we can leverage our manufacturing processes, our quality systems and testing processes to include the manufacture of the body.”

The ready-bodied LFs gain a lead-time advantage as well. “Within just a couple of days of having the chassis completed, we can complete the body”, says Sitko. “It doesn’t go and sit at the bodybuilder to wait to be completed.

“Larger rental companies and fleets, in particular, find a lot of value in that. They don’t want that asset to be sitting around; they want to get it into operation.”

CV market strong as van demand rises for ninth month in 2015

Posted on: November 5, 2015

The UK commercial vehicle market remained steady in October, with a small 2.9% decline in registrations. This reflects a return to business as usual following exceptional demand in the same month last year that was driven by impending regulatory changes. Figures for the year-to-date show overall growth of 16.7% compared with 2014, with a total of 355,301 vehicles registered.

The British van market continued to thrive, as demand rose 6.2% compared with October 2014. 312,369 new vans have been registered so far in 2015 – 16.3% more than this time last year, and fuelled by increasing business confidence and the ever-growing popularity of online shopping.

Truck registrations remained strong, up by nearly a fifth in the year-to-date, with 42,932 new vehicles registered in the first 10 months. A spike in heavy duty demand last October, following the introduction of the Euro-VI emissions standard at the beginning of 2014, caused this month’s figures to appear considerably lower in comparison, falling 31.5%.

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive, SMMT, said, “The van and truck market remains strong, with remarkable growth across all commercial vehicle types so far this year. The rise in demand for vans demonstrates an ongoing trend as more consumers choose the convenience of home delivery.

“Meanwhile, following an exceptionally strong October in 2014, it’s no surprise to see a decline in last month’s truck market. To put this into context, at 5,791 registrations, this October’s performance is more than double the average monthly total of 2,720 delivered by the market since 2001.”