Search is on for best bus and coach technicians

Posted on: January 19, 2015

Bus and coach technicians across the UK and Ireland are being invited to test their skills against each other in a bid to discover the best in the business.

The annual Institute of Road Transport Engineers’ (IRTE) Skills Challenge event takes place between 1-5 June at the S&B Academy in Bristol, and bus and coach operators have until 27 March to register their teams.

TIRTE Skills Challenge logohe event gives technicians the opportunity to show off their expertise in a series of mechanical, electrical and bodywork tasks, with a focus on safety and reliability.

Last year’s competition saw more than 60 technicians and apprentices from the likes of Arriva, First Group and Metroline competing.

This will also be the second year the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has sponsored the Challenge, with two DVSA awards up for grabs – Top Scoring DVSA Inspection Apprentice and Top Scoring DVSA Inspection Technician.

As well as gaining recognition for their expertise, the best teams will have the chance to take home prizes including a year’s free membership to the IRTE.

Entry is free via the registration form on the Society of Operations Engineers’ website. An awards ceremony celebrating the winners will be held in July.

Renault Trucks’ grit rewarded with Scottish haulier deal

Posted on: January 21, 2015

One of Scotland’s leading quarry, coal and road salt hauliers, JW Morrison, has chosen Renault Trucks to replace its 23-strong fleet.

Fitted in the firm’s distinctive metallic brown and cream livery, two 44-tonne T460 6×2 tag-axle units are already travelling the length and breadth of the UK, delivering animal feed and road-gritting salt.

The vehicles will be fitted with front, side and rear Smart Witness cameras, as part of the company’s commitment to safer driving.

Business owner Joe Morrison said he chose Renault Trucks’ T range because he’d heard “good things about the new Euro-6 vehicles and the improvements that have been made”. He was introduced to the vehicle at a Renault Trucks launch event, where his drivers put it to the test.

“They liked it so much they have been converted to Renault Trucks, and I’ve had great feedback about the cab,” he added.

Platts beds down with local MAN dealer

Posted on: January 21, 2015

Wrexham-based animal bedding producer Platts has taken delivery of three Euro-6 MAN TGX 26.440 6×2 tractor units for its operations.

The firm, which has provided high quality animal bedding products to the agricultural industry for 40 years, put pen to paper on a long-term contract hire deal through local MAN dealer AN Richards.

The three XXL-cabbed tractors are fitted with a striking ‘field of cows’ livery, designed by FotoFire and fitted by Now Group in Oswestry.

The firm’s Managing Director, Caroline Thedens, praised AN Richards’ service and support as “second to none”.

“We have taken the decision to move our whole truck fleet to AN Richards for regular servicing and maintenance – and that includes other makes,” added Thedens.

Vauxhall Corsavan to debut at CV Show

Posted on: January 20, 2015

The all-new Vauxhall Corsavan – which will make its UK debut at this year’s CV Show in Birmingham – comes equipped with an array of Euro-6 compliant petrol and diesel engines, offering economy up to 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 90g/km.

The revised model continues in the tradition of its award-winning predecessor, bringing class-leading payload and a flat loading capacity of 920 litres. Despite the space, the Corsavan remains compact enough to fit into tight parking spaces and narrow city streets.

Driver ergonomics have been improved, with new seats featuring increased support, durability and extended travel, as well as reduced noise, harshness and vibration.

Vauxhall has also added its advanced new IntelliLink infotainment smartphone connectivity to the dashboard, making the Corsavan more practical for businesses on the move.

Businesses can also take advantage of four years’ 0% finance and four years’ warranty. The new Corsavan will be in showrooms from February.

Truck registrations predicted at 40,000 to 41,000 in 2015

Posted on: January 20, 2015

Truck registrations could hit 40,000 to 41,000 this year, thanks to a buoyant economy and an absence of new legislation that could distort demand. So says Bob Lowden, Iveco’s newly appointed UK Managing Director.New MD of Iveco UK – Bob Lowden, at the UK HQ – Watford.

“As a country we’re entering 2015 in better economic shape than at any time during the past six or seven years,” he told journalists at Iveco’s annual State of the Nation press conference. “As a result my business barometer currently points to ‘fair’.

“We’re hugely encouraged by the findings of the recent Texaco industry report,” he continues. “Responses from some 500 across-the-spectrum operators suggested that demand for trucks will increase by around 15%, and that’s very much in line with what we were already thinking.”

Such a level would stand in marked contrast to 2014′s performance, which saw fewer than 35,000 truck registrations, according to figures compiled by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). That was a drop of almost 30% on 2013′s total which was artificially inflated by operators racing to get Euro-5 trucks registered in advance of the arrival of Euro-6 last January, pulling forward demand.

2014′s truck market was further distorted by the arrival of European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval on 29 October, says Iveco’s UK Marketing Director, Ian Lumsden. Again, there was a rush to register trucks before the new rules came in.

“We saw registrations up 72% compared with October 2013 with eight-wheelers up a massive 400%,” he reports. “As a consequence, November was a wash-out, with registrations more than 54% down, and December was even worse.”

It only serves to illustrate the dramatic marketplace peaks and troughs that regulatory changes provoke, he says. “No other industry is so immediately and so significantly affected by legislation as ours and no other industry faces up to it quite so positively,” Lumsden comments.

He points out that Euro-6 hasn’t turned out to be the fuel economy disaster some hauliers feared – quite the reverse.

“Forget which make, industry reports suggest that 10mpg (at 44 tonnes) is fast becoming commonplace, with operators reporting figures in excess of that,” he says. “These are fuel economy figures that would have been unimaginable not too many years ago.”

Not surprisingly, Lowden and Lumsden are hoping for a bit more stability during the next 12 months, despite the uncertain outcome of a general election. It is not enough to dent their optimism, however.

While Lowden remains concerned about levels of consumer confidence, he points to a long list of positives.

“Inflation is under control, the deficit is steadily being cut, growth is balanced, and manufacturing is growing faster than any other sector. Unemployment is falling, wages have caught up with inflation, and with lower fuel prices people are finding more pounds in their pockets,” he points out.

All that should spell good news for the van market and the 3.5-to-6-tonne sector, in which Iveco has a presence with the Daily – the International Van of the Year.

“We expect that sector will hold steady in 2015 at some 85,000 to 87,000 units,” says Lowden.

While Daily has a strong presence among fleet operators, Lowden wants to increase sales to small businesses and the self-employed. “Retail is more difficult as we don’t have the same mainstream brand awareness with consumers as car manufacturers do,” he says.

He is not planning to encourage Iveco dealers to set up smart high street showrooms for Daily that wouldn’t pay. “What we have are 30 service and parts dealers that can retail Daily and there may be the possibility of selling through Case and New Holland outlets,” he comments, as Iveco is part of the CNH Industrial group.

Returning to the truck sector, Lowden reveals another reason why he believes his prediction of the size of this year’s total market is an accurate one. “If you average demand over the past three years and eliminate at least some of the extremes brought on by legislation, then you get a figure of exactly 41,000,” he points out.

Lowden’s optimism is shared by the SMMT. Says Chief Executive Mike Hawes, “The outlook is bright, with stability expected to return to the market.”

Bus services see cut in funding

Posted on: January 22, 2015

Funding for bus services across the country has fallen by £44 million according to a new report from the Campaign for Better Transport.

The report, Buses in Crisis, has been welcomed by Claire Walters, Chief Executive of Bus Users, who says the report’s findings are a “stark reminder that rather than being valued, buses are being treated as an expendable resource.

“Many operators have been working to mitigate the effects of funding cuts by making more mileage commercial rather than supported, and some local authorities have been undertaking their own efficiency savings. But there is a limit to how much can be achieved in this way and future cuts will be deeper.

“The impact as more services are reduced or cut altogether will be devastating, on the lives of individuals and on entire communities. It is time that policy makers recognised the real value of bus services before we all pay the price.”

The report found that 50% of local authorities have cut funding for bus services in the past year, with around 500 routes cut or altered – 222 have been withdrawn altogether.

To read the full report, visit the Campaign for Better Transport website.

AECOM in charge of taking FORS national

Posted on: January 20, 2015

Transport for London is handing over the running of the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) to management and technical support firm AECOM.

AECOM, which has helped TfL with FORS since its launch in 2008, will use its extensive freight industry and commercial fleet experience to operate, develop and grow the scheme for the next five years.

The initiative, launched to improve road safety and reduce the environmental and traffic impact of freight and fleet operators, has accredited more than 210,000 vehicles from 2,400 companies.

Such is the reputation of the scheme, accreditation – achieved by demonstrating a commitment to managing road risk, reducing environmental impact and improving operational efficiency – is now seen as an essential requirement for many logistics contracts.

As AECOM gets in the driving seat, it will be responsible for protecting the reputation of FORS and expanding the scheme across the UK, opening up more fleet operators to consistent fleet operating standards.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said the scheme has “helped deliver cleaner and safer freight fleets in the capital”, and its expansion is “great news for road users up and down the country”.

Air quality the focus for SMMT event

Posted on: January 15, 2015

An event focusing on the contribution bus, coach and commercial vehicle operators make to improving the nation’s air quality will be hosted by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in February.

SMMT Improving Air Quality: The Commercial Vehicle Contribution will address concerns about emissions hotspots and demonstrate how the latest vehicle technology is playing a vital role in delivering on strict UK emissions reduction targets.

The event, which aims to inform national and local government policymakers, will also showcase clean air technology embedded in the latest buses, trucks and vans, as well as investigate potential policy ideas for cleaner UK air.

Transport Secretary Baroness Kramer will make the keynote speech, while key figures including Elliot Treharne (Air Quality Manager, Greater London Authority), Dr Jon Lamont (CEO, Transport for Greater Manchester) and Doug Parr (Chief Scientist, Greenpeace) will host the policy debate.

Major commercial vehicle and bus manufacturers, including Ford, Iveco, Mercedes-Benz and Optare, will also demonstrate how new and emerging technology has the potential to all but eliminate diesel nitrogen oxides (NOx) tailpipe emissions.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Buses, coaches, vans and trucks are crucial to the functioning of the UK. Manufacturers have invested heavily in clean Euro-6 technology, which is already playing a vital role in reducing all emissions and making significant improvements to air quality.

“However, as this event will show, vehicle technology is only part of the solution. To help it reach its full potential, we now need to engage policy makers, operators and manufacturers to facilitate a cohesive and sustainable transport policy framework.”

Hawes adds that the UK’s local and national authorities “must work together with the industry to support the uptake of Euro-6 vehicles”, as well as develop “effective traffic management policies and systems, such as low emission zones”.

SMMT Improving Air Quality: The Commercial Vehicle Contribution takes place in London on 11 February 2015. For full details, and to register your interest in this invite-only event, contact cleanair@relishevents.co.uk.

Air quality the focus for SMMT event

Posted on: January 15, 2015

An event focusing on the contribution bus, coach and commercial vehicle operators make to improving the nation’s air quality will be hosted by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in February.

SMMT Improving Air Quality: The Commercial Vehicle Contribution will address concerns about emissions hotspots and demonstrate how the latest vehicle technology is playing a vital role in delivering on strict UK emissions reduction targets.

The event, which aims to inform national and local government policymakers, will also showcase clean air technology embedded in the latest buses, trucks and vans, as well as investigate potential policy ideas for cleaner UK air.

Transport Secretary Baroness Kramer will make the keynote speech, while key figures including Elliot Treharne (Air Quality Manager, Greater London Authority), Dr Jon Lamont (CEO, Transport for Greater Manchester) and Doug Parr (Chief Scientist, Greenpeace) will host the policy debate.

Major commercial vehicle and bus manufacturers, including Ford, Iveco, Mercedes-Benz and Optare, will also demonstrate how new and emerging technology has the potential to all but eliminate diesel nitrogen oxides (NOx) tailpipe emissions.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “Buses, coaches, vans and trucks are crucial to the functioning of the UK. Manufacturers have invested heavily in clean Euro-6 technology, which is already playing a vital role in reducing all emissions and making significant improvements to air quality.

“However, as this event will show, vehicle technology is only part of the solution. To help it reach its full potential, we now need to engage policy makers, operators and manufacturers to facilitate a cohesive and sustainable transport policy framework.”

Hawes adds that the UK’s local and national authorities “must work together with the industry to support the uptake of Euro-6 vehicles”, as well as develop “effective traffic management policies and systems, such as low emission zones”.

SMMT Improving Air Quality: The Commercial Vehicle Contribution takes place in London on 11 February 2015. For full details, and to register your interest in this invite-only event, contact cleanair@relishevents.co.uk.

2014 a record year for van manufacturers

Posted on: January 12, 2015

Citroën, Mercedes-Benz, Vauxhall and Volkswagen were among the CV manufacturers who hailed 2014 as being their best ever year for van sales in the UK.

Sales of Citroën Berlingo models saw an exceptional year, with annual registrations figure of 15,349 units, while the British-built Vauxhall Vivaro enjoyed more than 19,000 registrations in 2014. The all-new model, which went on sale in September, was Vauxhall’s most successful van launch with over 12,000 early orders. Records were notched up by Mercedes-Benz Vans, registering more than 35,000 vehicles in 2014, and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, with over 44,000.

Ford Transit continued to lead the sector with an increase in share of 27.6% compared with 2013.

The UK commercial vehicle market as a whole grew 11.0% to 363,155 units in 2014, the highest level since 2007, according to figures from the SMMT.