UK CV production boosted by export growth in May

Posted on: June 25, 2015

Commercial vehicle production in the UK was boosted by export growth in May, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

A total of 6,808 vans, trucks and buses were made in Britain last month – a 32.8% year-on-year rise. Data for the first five months of 2015 further demonstrate a CV manufacturing resurgence, with production volumes up by almost a quarter, a total of 38,872 units.

The sector benefitted from increasing European demand in May, as exports rose 69.4%. Half of all commercial vehicles produced to date in 2015 have been built for export.

The home market was up by 5.5% to 3,098 units, reaching 19,702 for the year so far.

“May’s strong figures consolidate the UK commercial vehicle manufacturing sector’s return to form, following a more subdued period over the past couple of years when changes to type approval legislation disrupted fleet renewal patterns,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive. “Continued demand for high quality British engineering, growing business confidence and regulatory stability have helped to fuel steady growth for both the domestic and export markets.”

Bus operators battle it out in most successful challenge yet

Posted on: June 24, 2015

The winners of the IRTE Skills Challenge 2015 will be announced on the 16 July at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull after 10 major operators and 50 competitors faced off during the first week of June.

The annual competition aims to find the best bus and coach technicians and apprentices in the UK and Ireland by testing their skills and knowledge in a series of mechanical, electrical and bodywork tasks.

Since it was founded in 2011, it has been embraced by operators as a way of benchmarking the skills of their technicians against those of other operators, and celebrating excellence in engineering training and development. Testing took place at S&B Automotive Academy in Bristol.

“I feel any opportunity to challenge yourself against the best in the industry can only be a good thing,” said Paul Lenihan, who represented Tower Transit in the Challenge this year. Paul also walked away with the award for top scoring bodywork technician in last year’s competition.

“It’s a great chance to interact with fellow engineers, pushing yourself to the very limit of your skills, under pressure but giving 100% throughout the competition. For me and my fellow engineering team we believe the IRTE skills competition is a great opportunity for any engineer taking part to be the best they can be, and we look forward to many more years of competition.”

Eighteen teams from Abellio, Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead London, Go South Coast, London United Buses, Metroline, Tower Transit, Translink, and trentbarton took part in the competition this year, which was sponsored by Allison Transmission, Bridgestone, Knorr-Bremse, Shell Lubricants, and Teng Tools, and supported by Abellio, DVSA and MAN.

First-time competitor Michelle Wolf, an apprentice coachmaker who represented FirstGroup in the bodywork challenge, said, “I am excited to be taking part in this years’ skills challenge and hope to succeed in the event. I very much appreciate the confidence my manager has in me by putting me forward to represent this great company in this exciting opportunity and hope to do everyone proud.”

UK engine production holds steady with one million produced in May

Posted on: June 25, 2015

European demand for the UK’s latest low-emission Euro-6 engines is poised to drive exports as the market remained stable in May.

In the year to date Britain has made and sold 1,038,110 engines, down by 4.1% but with new plants gearing up for production.

The home market accounted for 69,384 units in May, down by 5.2% year-on-year. Exports of 121,477 made up the rest, a drop of 13.5%.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “UK engine manufacturing remains relatively stable for the year-to-date and although May registered a drop in production, it is encouraging that despite retooling efforts for Euro-6 production, volumes surpassed the all important one million unit mark. We are optimistic that growth will return to the sector over the coming months as UK-produced Euro-6 manufacture gets underway ahead of the September deadline and major new engine plants come on stream later in the year.”

Corporate manslaughter liability in the spotlight

Posted on: June 23, 2015

Van operators running individual vehicles or small fleets need to be aware of legislation that holds them responsible for the working condition of their vehicles, according

In a that poll the website undertook at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show, 82% of those questioned were unaware of corporate manslaughter legislation.

The law asserts that if a staff member driving a company van is involved in a collision resulting in death or serious injury to themselves or a third party, the operator could be found liable, especially if the vehicle is defective.

Operators should be aware that older vans showing signs of structural corrosion, defective lighting, brakes or steering components, could all contribute to a major road traffic accident for which they are liable. Managing Director Kevin Gregory said, “Illegal, badly maintained vans are a peril to other road users, and many owners are not only unaware of the faults on some of their fleet vehicles, but also of their personal liability if something does go horribly wrong.”

The Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM) will be hosting a Knowledge Zone at the DRIVEit LCV show to help van operators, whether large fleets, hire companies or smaller operators such as plumbers, electricians and builders, to better understand the responsibilities they have towards any member of staff who drives a company vehicle.

DriveIt takes place from 7-9 July 2015 at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire.

Strong start to year for the West European trailer market

Posted on: June 19, 2015

Demand for new trailers in Western Europe has been stronger than anticipated in 2015 so far, according to automotive consultancy Clear International.

Registrations of new trailers expanded by 12.8% in the first half of the year and are expected to grow by a further 4.7% in the next six months.

The figures show that several markets which have struggled since the global financial crisis are starting to make significant recoveries. Italy for example is expected to maintain a growth rate of 68% for the rest of the year. Spain, where registrations last year were half what they were pre-crisis, has started the year with an upturn of 60%.

Demand in the Netherlands also grew by 31% in the first four months. Clear predicts that the UK, which set a new record for trailer demand in 2014, looks set for another very strong year.

Clear Managing Director Gary Beecroft said, “What we are seeing in these markets is basically catch-up demand. In many European markets the demand for new trailers has been so far below the long-term trend level for so many years that, as soon as companies regain the confidence to invest in new assets, the floodgates are opened and two or three years of exceptional increases are possible.”

Volvo Trucks certifies synthetic diesel HVO fuel

Posted on: June 23, 2015

Volvo Trucks has approved the use of renewable synthetic diesel Hydrogen Vegetable Oils (HVO) in its Euro-5 engines and is preparing certifications for Euro-6 units.

After extensive field-testing, Volvo Trucks established that HVO performed similarly to regular diesel but reduced CO2 emissions by 30-90%.

Testing started in 2013 with Renova, DHL Freight and OKQ8 to see how the use of 100% HVO affected engine performance and components. Six trucks were equipped with Euro-5 engines and covered around one million kilometres in commercial service over a two-year period.Tobias Bergman

“The field test showed HVO works very well in our engines and can be used under the same conditions as regular diesel,” says Tobias Bergman, Product Manager for Alternative Fuels and Hybrids at Volvo Trucks

“It is also possible to freely mix diesel and HVO.”

Volvo Trucks has now approved the use of HVO in all its Euro-5 engines with unchanged service intervals. In September 2015, there will be global Type Approval for HVO in FL and FE Euro-6 engines and, work is also under way to certify FM, FMX, FH and FH16 engine variants.

Volvo B5LH Euro-6 gets the Go Ahead in London

Posted on: June 24, 2015

Go Ahead London has taken delivery of 16 new Volvo B5LH Euro-6 hybrid double deck buses with Alexander Dennis (ADL) MMC bodywork.

The new vehicles will operate on TfL route 135, which runs from Crossharbour to Old Street in London, via Canary Wharf, providing increased capacity and fleet renewal for Go Ahead London. Significantly, these will be the first Volvo B5LH Euro-6 double deck buses with ADL MMC bodywork to enter service in the capital.

More than 2,000 Volvo parallel hybrid buses are now in service across 20 countries. A large proportion of those – more than 650 – are in operation in the UK.

Go Ahead Engineering Director Richard Harrington said, “Go Ahead Group is one of the biggest operators of Volvo Buses in the UK and Ireland – we appreciate the build quality and safety features that Volvo buses offer and we have also had good experience with its Euro-5 hybrid product in terms of in-service performance and reliability.

“Operating a busy cross city route is challenging on many levels, not least in terms of fuel economy, vehicle availability, passenger capacity and environmental performance. The new Euro-6 Volvo hybrid double deck covers all the bases, with the support we receive from Volvo Truck and Bus Centres in Croydon and Enfield also an important part of the equation.”

Volvo Bus Fleet Sales Manager, Phil Fletcher, said: “The 16 new buses entering service in London is a strong endorsement not only of the Volvo B5LH, but also of the complete package on which the buses will be supported. We have a very positive relationship with Go Ahead London and take pride in working with them to meet their exacting vehicle requirements.”

Volvo Bus Commercial Sales Director Phil Owen added, “In working with ADL, we have introduced further choice for a long standing customer to meet its specific requirements on this route.”

FEATURE: Auto Styling Truckman is on a roll

Posted on: June 23, 2015

Transport News Brief speaks to Auto Styling Truckman Managing Director Mike Wheeler about how his British company is seeing great success manufacturing tough hard tops for vehicle fleets.

Auto Styling Truckman manufactures rugged hard tops for pick-up load areas at its plant at Brierley Hill in the West Midlands, making hard tops that will withstand tough conditions for customers such as Network Rail.17377

Network Rail recently ordered 140 of the company’s Truckman Utility Tops for its new fleet of Volkswagen Amarok double-cab 4x4s, plus 22 Truckman Classic tops with double side access for its single-cab Toyota Hilux 4x4s, all fitted by Clarks Vehicle Conversions. The Amarok models were supplied to Network Rail through Coventry Volkswagen dealer Listers Van Centre.

Auto Styling Truckman Managing Director Mike Wheeler says, “It is a significant order in terms of the number of tops we are supplying but also as they are for an organisation that plays such a key role in maintaining and delivering a core element of the UK’s transport infrastructure.”

SHB Hire is another long-standing customer and has just taken eight S-Series Side Access tops fitted to Toyota Hilux pick-ups, all used by Heathrow Airport’s Airside Operational Fleet.

The vehicles are in service 24 hours a day around the runways and perimeter fencing. As well as escorting aircraft and other airside traffic they form part of the airport’s emergency response team and are used for runway inspection and the maintenance of lights.

Wheeler acquired the long-established Truckman business – still a by-word for hard tops – in 2008.

“In those days it was based in Cheltenham but the impact of the recession forced us to relocate it to our main site at Brierley Hill,” he says. “The period from 2008 to 2010 was really tough.

“Post-recession we’ve kept it here in the West Midlands and we’re currently producing tops for all the main makes and models of pick-up sold in the UK.”

That includes Ford’s Ranger, Mitsubishi’s L200, Nissan’s Navara, and Isuzu’s D-Max as well as Amarok and Hilux.

Brierley Hill turns out 3,500 to 4,000 tops annually but is by no means the sum total of Auto Styling Truckman’s activities. It imports and distributes pick-up hard tops for leisure applications. “We take more than 75% of the output of a factory in Thailand,” Wheeler says, and also supplies a wide variety of pick-up related accessories.

Its portfolio includes tow-bar kits, cargo bed liners and roof bars and it carries out bespoke projects for fleet operators.

The utility tops it supplied to Network Rail are all fitted with rear-facing LED spotlights and interior LED roof lights plus a built-in electrical conduit for additional power requirements.

The tops also feature large, double-skinned side doors and a glazed rear door with a tinted window. They are all secured by double slam locks and are designed to channel rainwater away from the driver and the vehicle’s contents when opened.

The leisure tops tend to be bought by those who need a pick-up as a business tool but also want to use it as their personal transport in the evening and at weekends. “It’s a more predictable market than the commercial sector,” Wheeler observes.

Mike Wheeler has a background in the steel processing industry, in a business that delivered products to assembly lines at Land Rover, Honda and Toyota among others, before establishing Auto Styling Truckman in 2003. Having just achieved ISO 9001 accreditation from TUV in Germany, today it has an annual turnover of £12 million, employs 68 people and has been achieving year-on-year growth rates of more than 30%.

Last year it invested £375,000 in its factory, extending it by 15,000sq ft and doubling its manufacturing capacity. It is continually expanding its range, adding an Aerotop RS for the latest Ford Ranger Super Cab pick-up to its UK-made line-up last year.

It supplies products to a number of pick-up manufacturers on an original equipment basis. “Companies that feature what we have to offer in their accessory programme include Volkswagen, Toyota and Isuzu,” says Wheeler.

Working through the manufacturers, he now intends to tackle export markets and he’s convinced the demand for hardtops will grow. With Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Fiat all signaling their attentions to move into the purpose built pick-up sector in the next few years, that looks like a safe bet, and good news for Auto Styling Truckman.

P&T Woodruff boosts productivity with Volvo Globetrotter

Posted on: June 23, 2015

P&T Woodruff Haulage Ltd says a newly acquired Volvo Globetrotter LXL truck mixer is boosting productivity thanks to its off-road ability on construction sites.

The Cardiff-based company brought in the Volvo FM-450 8×4, 8m³, N3G X-high model – with straight front axles and B-Ride parabolic steel rear suspension – to increase its fleet size to three vehicles. Supplied by Truck and Bus Wales & West in Pontypridd, it operates on behalf of Hope Construction Materials across the south and east of England as well as South Wales.

Tim Woodruff, who runs the company with his brother Philip, said, “I drive the FM and the ground clearance is fantastic, thanks to the straight front axles and high chassis. This FM also has very good approach and departure angles and is proving very capable in deep mud and on wet sites. I’ve had to take it through axle-deep mud and water on a number of occasions and the excellent traction and ground clearance have been much appreciated as have the Bridgestone L355 tyres on the drive axles. The turning circle is very good too.”

P&T Woodruff’s new FM 8×4 is equipped with a manual 12-speed gearbox. Durabright polished aluminium wheels and 11-litre D450K engine, rated at 450hp, help payload capability, while side extender air deflectors are purely cosmetic.

At around 65,000km, annual mileage is low, but Tim Woodruff specified the Globetrotter LXL cab with a 2.1-metre internal height and extra storage lockers, as he spends four nights out each week in the cab. The full-length chassis infill with chequer plate was specified to prevent damage from stones thrown up by the tyres.

Vauxhall gives drivers the keys to DriveIt

Posted on: June 19, 2015

Vauxhall will showcase its line-up of light commercial vehicles at this year’s DriveIt event, taking place at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in the East Midlands from 7-9 July.

Visitors will have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of Vauxhall’s award-winning range of vans, including new Corsavan, Combo, the British-Built Vivaro and Movano.

A range of panel and crew vans, a nine-seat Combi, a Luton and a 4×4 Movano will all be available to test drive at the event, with a wide range of models, variants and customisation opportunities.

The free event provides six miles of test routes, so any Vauxhall model can be tested on its handling and manoeuvrability in motorway conditions as well as on rough terrain. Advisors will also be available to take any questions from interested punters.

“This is a great event as it enables us to showcase our full range of light commercial vehicles, including the award-winning new Vivaro which is built here on British soil,” said Richard Collier, Vauxhall’s National Commercial Vehicle and B2B Manager. “DriveIt is hugely beneficial, giving visitors the chance to get behind the wheel so they can be confident in choosing the best vehicles for the