Engine manufacturing starts with growth

Posted on: February 23, 2015

UK engine manufacturing has started the year in positive fashion with a year-on-year increase of 0.2 per in January, led by demand in the UK.

Home growth was up compared to the same month in 2014 by a significant 11.2%, from 71,016 units to 78,960.

The total output including exports, which dropped by 5.6%, was 206,686 units.

“UK engine manufacturing has seen a solid start to the year, posting positive growth in January, driven by demand in the home market,” said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes. “Manufacturers have invested more than £1 billion in UK engine production in recent years, which is expected to yield an increase in output.”

Registration now open for IRTE bus and coach challenge

Posted on: February 24, 2015

The Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) has opened registration for its annual Skills Challenge, which takes place on 1-5 June at S&B Academy in Bristol.

Championing the vital work done by bus and coach technicians throughout the UK and Ireland, the event invites operators large and small to test their technicians against each other in a bid to discover the best in the business.

The competition has been going since 2011 and recognises the unsung heroes who keep buses and coaches working day and night.

Testing mechanical, electrical and bodywork technicians, the challenge includes theoretical and practical assessments. With a big focus on safety and reliability, this approach aims to provide an invaluable opportunity to raise standards across the industry.

Operators taking part will have the skills and expertise of their technicians recognised and measured against their competitors. Top teams and individuals will have the opportunity to win a wide array of prizes, including a year’s free membership of IRTE.

Paul Lenihan of Tower Transit, the Top Scoring Bodywork Technician in 2014, says, “This award not only highlighted my skills as a coachbuilder, but represents the dedication and teamwork of my fellow teammates and managers.”

Lloyd Mason, Engineering Development Manager at Arriva UK Bus, adds, “The event is a real confidence booster and confirmation for those taking part that they are doing something right. As more operators participate each year it is especially rewarding for these engineers to come out on top, proving they are the best in their discipline.”

Bus and coach operators are invited to enter teams of three technicians/apprentices by 27 March, and the winners will be announced at an award ceremony in July.

The IRTE Skills Challenge is sponsored by Allison Transmission, Bridgestone, Knorr-Bremse and Shell. Entry to the competition is free and operators can complete the registration form at www.soe.org.uk/irteskills.

Masternaut helps Smith construction group to cut fuel bill

Posted on: February 24, 2015

Masternaut’s telematics systems have helped civil engineering firm Smith Construction Group to cut its yearly fuel bill by 15%.

The firm’s implementation of telematics means it can monitor a range of factors, including MPG readings, carbon emissions and idling, across its 60-strong fleet of heavy duty commercial vehicles.

The technology has helped reduce vehicle idling by 87%, while also lowering carbon emissions and fuel use.

Masternaut’s tracking technology has also proved valuable in contesting insurance claims from third parties to prove the location of vehicles at any given time.

As well as cutting down on wasted journeys, it allows Smith Construction Group to inform customers about when a vehicle will arrive.

Smith Construction Group’s Sales Manager, Paul Usher, says the Masternaut system “has helped us make a saving on our annual fuel costs, which means that the system pays for itself through the savings we’re making”.

Mercedes-Benz launches Citan Sport

Posted on: February 25, 2015

Mercedes-Benz Vans has launched a new member of the Vito Sport family aimed at the UK only, the Citan Sport.

Featuring a number of options and unique styling features, Mercedes-Benz Vans says it offers a more cost-effective route to its premium small vans.

Available in Long Panel Van models, buyers can choose from a 109CDI or 111CDI engine, with standard spec including six metallic paints, colour-coded bumpers and 16-inch alloys.

Also included as standard is a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, as well as Service24h, the roadside assistance service, and MobiloVan UK, which keeps drivers mobile in the event of a breakdown.

TOM orders another 330 Ford Transits

Posted on: February 25, 2015

TOM Vehicle Rental has taken delivery of 330 new Ford Transit models, bringing its Ford orders to more than 1,000 during the past year.

The Transits join a fleet of 8,500 vehicles on the books of TOM Vehicle Rental, servicing clients from sites in Manchester, Nottingham and across Scotland.

TOM, established in 1991, is one of the UK’s fastest growing companies in its sector. “In 2010 we had a fleet of 1,500 vehicles and one site,” says Group Sales and Operations Director James Rafferty. “Fast-forward to today and we have 8,500 vehicles across seven sites.”

Around 35% of TOM’s fleet is Ford-badged, and the latest order reflects the van of choice among customers. “We adapt to what our rental customers want,” adds Rafferty. “We find out what they are planning to do with a vehicle to ensure we provide them with the right one.

“Ford has a great range, from small vans to large, so there is something for everyone, and our customers like them. Ford is a manufacturer which stands by its products, which gives us peace of mind, with ease of maintenance a key strength of the Transit range.”

In another deal, conservatory manufacturer and installer Mozolowski & Murray has also taken delivery of 10 Ford Transit models.

Interview with Carl zu Dohna – Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles

Posted on: February 25, 2015

Carl zu Dohna (pictured right) took the helm of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) as Director last September – the number two player in the UK van market behind market leader Ford.zu Dohna, Carl small

With new Caddy and Transporter set to arrive this year, a Crafter replacement set to appear towards the end of 2016 and a facelift for the Amarok pick-up in the offing, things should only get better, says the company.

Last year saw VWCV register 40,238 light commercials up to 3.5 tonnes in the UK – the van manufacturer’s biggest export market – according to figures compiled by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). That was an 8.97% rise on 2013’s performance, giving VWCV a 12.51% share of the sector.

Models grossing at above 3.5 tonnes added a further 386 registrations. Throw passenger-carrying derivatives into the mix and the total reached 44,297.

“We might have done even better if we’d been able to get all the Caddy and Transporter models we wanted,” zu Dohna says. That helps explain why the company’s market share up to 3.5 tonnes dipped a little he suggests, from the 13.62% notched up in 2013.

The ability to deliver quality products with rock-solid residual values underpins Volkswagen’s strong underlying growth in Britain during the past seven years but is not the only reason behind it. One of the key reasons is its decision some years ago to create a dedicated network of dealers separate from the passenger car operation.

“We’ve got 71 Van Centres plus 24 authorised repairers,” says zu Dohna. “The Van Centres achieved an 89.67% customer satisfaction score in 2014 as far as sales are concerned, up from 81.6% if you go back to 2011.”

He believes the network is about the right size and there are no plans to add many more outlets. Instead, the needs of what he hopes will be a steadily-expanding vehicle parc will be handled by expansion at existing locations, with extended workshop opening hours a possibility.

Another key to growth is VWCV’s approach to marketing. Last year it launched a business mentoring programme in conjunction with YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe OBE and The Times. Around 500 businesses pitched for the opportunity to learn from the former Dragon’s Den investor and Woodroffe mentored 10 of them for a month.

It was an initiative calculated to appeal to the SMEs that represent much of the bedrock of VWCV sales in Britain. While VWCV sells vans to a number of major fleet operators including British Gas and Scottish Water, it has always been wary of pumping out large numbers of light commercials to the big self-drive-hire fleets on short-term deals simply to grow registrations.

“We could have done a lot more fleet deals involving Crafter but it wouldn’t have been profitable for us,” says zu Dohna.

SMEs will welcome a new telematics package VWCV has launched in co-operation with the RAC. Using a dongle that plugs into the van’s diagnostic port, it allows the operator to do everything from tracking the vehicle to monitoring the driver’s on-the-road behaviour. If the firm concerned runs a mixed fleet with makes of van other than VW then it will plug into their diagnostic points too, all at a cost of around £12.50 per vehicle per month. VWCV is getting its message across in a variety of ways.

“We’ve redesigned our website with an online vehicle configurator that can be used on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as well as desktops and we’re starting a TV advertising campaign this month,” says zu Dohna.

Nor is VW neglecting the secondhand van market. The Das Welt Auto approved used programme is being modified to make it more readily applicable to light commercials that are more than three years old. They will be covered by a six-month warranty rather than the 12-month package that embraces new vehicles.

While May’s general election and the difficulties experienced by the Eurozone may have an impact on the UK van market, zu Dohna is not expecting a drastic decline in demand. He anticipates it will remain similar to 2014, which was almost 322,000 according to SMMT figures.

VWCV increasingly expects to work with MAN and Scania – both Volkswagen AG members – when putting together packages calculated to appeal to fleet customers. This approach allows the group to offer commercial vehicle customers everything from a light van to a 44-tonner; a breadth and depth of range that few other suppliers can match.

Fleetwood Grab returns to Renault to bolster fleet

Posted on: February 23, 2015

Fleetwood Grab Services has added fourth-generation Renault Trucks to its six-strong fleet.

Supplied by Renault Trucks South, the 32-tonne Range C440 8×4 with ABBA Predator body and Epsilon M125 Classic crane is an addition to the four generations of eight-wheelers already on the fleet, joining a 95-plate Renault Maxter and four Renault Kerax.

Des Fleetwood, owner of the Reading-based grab loader company, said, “I’ve always been happy with the build quality of Renault Trucks and I still have a 1995 Renault Maxter workhorse going strong that has done over 750,000 miles on the original engine, gearbox and axles.

“As well as being company owner I also still work on the trucks and can see a definite improvement in the Euro-6 model which feels tougher, and the height clearance is also good.”

The Range C is used for general grab work for local authorities, utility companies, main contractors, builders, developers, local tradesmen and the general public across Berkshire and the surrounding areas.

Spirit Pub Company drinks to Iveco fleet deal

Posted on: February 23, 2015

Spirit Pub Company has ordered a raft of Iveco commercial vehicles for its distribution fleet.

The order includes 39 Stralis Hi-Street 26-tonne rigids, 14 Stralis Hi-Street 18-tonne rigids and three flagship Stralis Hi-Way 6×2 tractor units.The rigid vehicles will be fitted with refrigerated bodies and equipped with Frigoblock multi-temp refrigeration units.

The fleet will work across the UK and required versatility to cope with urban multi-drop work, regional deliveries and longer distance deliveries.

Daniel Stretton, Senior Supply Chain Manager for Spirit Pub Company said his firm needs vehicles “which perform in all environments and offer maximum reliability and fuel efficiency”.

The trucks, which will operate 12 hours a day, six days per week, will travel an estimated 100,000km a year.

Spirit Pub Company will complete the transition to an all-Iveco operation by the end of October 2015.