CV production subdued, but there is optimism

Posted on: August 21, 2014

UK commercial vehicle manufacturing continues to falter throughout 2014, as the sector experiences a tough July.

Just 6,338 units were produced in total throughout the month, which puts the sector down 25% on July 2013.

CV output for export fell by 31% compared to the same month last year, and the home market also suffered with the output for the domestic sector down by 9.4%.

This leaves the overall CV manufacturing sector down 23.3% over the first seven months of this year compared to 2013, while the export and home markets remain behind by 25% and 21.4% respectively.

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said, “UK commercial vehicle production fell by a quarter over last July, continuing the trend seen over thleyland-productione last year.

“With the effects of the 2013 restructuring still evident, as well as the spike in truck registrations towards the end of last year, this was to be expected. The coming months should provide more optimism, however, with European demand showing sustained improvement.”

Annual test fees change from October

Posted on: August 15, 2014

Fleet operators of trucks, buses and trailers using a privately-run Authorised Test Facility (ATF) will benefit from lower annual test fees from 1 October. However, operators that continue to use state-funded DVSA sites will see an average fee increase by an average of 18.5%.

The decision, made by DVSA, DfT and the Traffic Commissioners, will see more than 80% of commercial vehicle examinations cost operators an average of 3.5% less than they do currently as users of the 400-strong ATF network will no longer be supplementing the upkeep of DVSA facilities.

Chief Executive of the DVSA Alastair Peoples, said, “There are now 400 ATFs across the country, and our strategy of providing bus and lorry testing at third-party sites is already giving customers the choice of using a more convenient, local option. By realigning fees we are now making this even more cost-effective for customers.

“With no general fee increases since 2009, and reduced theory test fees starting in October, we’re demonstrating our commitment to minimising costs for all our customers.”

The annual test costs for HGVs range from £91 to £137 at ATFs, and £112 to £177 at DVSA centres, depending on the number of axles the vehicle has. Meanwhile, re-tests range from £35 to £65 and £49 to £91 at ATFs and DVSA centres respectively.

The prices for testing trailers again vary depending on the number of axles on the unit, with ATFs charging between £41 and £64, while the DVSA prices it at between £51 and £84. Public Service Vehicles (PSV) annual test fees sees ATFs charging from £103 to £128 depending on the number of seats the vehicle has, while DVSA sites will charge £127 to £163, and even with the re-tests there is between a £15 and £20 difference in costs between the independent sites and facilities run by DVSA.

HGV user levy a success after four months

Posted on: August 14, 2014

The HGV Road User Levy has made more than £17 million since it came into operation four months ago, says the Department for Transport (DfT).

The government department says that more than 618,000 levies have been purchased for 112,000 vehicles from 76 different countries.

Its figures highlighted that 95% of all HGV operators were paying for the road user levy, while the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency enforcement team has issued more than 850 fixed penalties for non-payment of the levy, resulting in fines totalling in excess of £250,000.

Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said, “I welcome these figures which show that the levy is really working. We anticipated it would generate around £20 million a year: to take £17 million in just four months is impressive and shows that compliance has remained high since introduction.

“Before the levy was introduced, we had a situation where foreign HGV drivers could fill up their tanks on the continent, pick up business in the UK and return to the mainland without even buying fuel here – without giving a penny to help maintain our roads.

“Meanwhile British hauliers were effectively operating at a disadvantage. I’m glad to see this levy has addressed that imbalance.”

Meanwhile, James Hookham, Managing Director of Policy and Communications at the Freight Transport Association, says that the HGV Road User Levy is allowing UK haulage companies to compete with their foreign counterparts more effectively.

“UK road freight operators have consistently argued that foreign-registered HGVs operating in the UK should contribute to their use of our roads,” he adds. “The HGV levy ensures this, and in so doing helps those domestic UK hauliers who are in direct competition with foreign carriers for loads.”

The levy was introduced as a part of the government’s plan to create a level playing field for UK haulage firms, which included cutting the duty paid on diesel and freezing vehicle excise duty (VED).

The current legislation sees UK companies contributing to the upkeep of the country’s roads through paying VED for its fleet. All foreign hauliers using vehicles weighing 12 tonnes or more must pay the levy before using Britain’s roads, with charges ranging from £1.70 to £10 a day or £85 to £1,000 a year.

Trailer manufacturing: Does innovation trump size?

Posted on: August 21, 2014

Already a colossus among trailer builders, Germany’s Schmitz Cargobull looks set to get even bigger over the next few years.

With a total output of 45,300 trailers and bodies for rigid chassis in 2013/14 and a turnover of £1.3bn, it is in the midst of opening an £80m factory in Wuhan, China, in conjunction with Dongfeng Motor Group. The first of the 500 trailers the new operation is scheduled to construct this year are about to roll out of the doors.

Closer to home, Schmitz has just invested over £24m in its Altenberge, Germany, factory to enable it to set up innovative manufacturing facilities for chassis I-beams.

Each beam is cold-formed on a 16m line from a blank without a welding seam. The key benefit of the approach Schmitz is taking is that a pair of I-beams can be turned out in a mere five minutes rather than the half-hour that used to be required.

The firm points out that removing the need for welding means a far more consistent product quality. It also means that the stress placed on steel by the application of heat is eliminated.

The fact that the European Union’s recovery from recession appears to be stuttering and Russia’s economy is facing potentially serious problems does not appear to be denting the trailer maker’s confidence. “In the current business year we are aiming for a turnover of around £1.44bn and a production volume of 47,500 units,” says Board Chairman, Ulrich Schumer.

While UK trailer manufacturers do not all boast the same scale of Schmitz-Cargobull, they can still compete through innovative design and by tailoring what they produce as closely as possible to the needs of operators.

With an annual output of 2,500 to 3,000 trailers and bodies for rigid chassis and a turnover of £50m, Stoke-on-Trent-based Don-Bur is a fraction of the size of Schmitz. It has nonetheless won widespread acclaim for its aerodynamic and visually-distinctive Teardrop trailers and for its success in constructing lifting-deck trailers.

Argos has just placed an order with Don-Bur for 19, 60-pallet-capacity lifting-deck box-van semi-trailers at the trial length of 15.65m.

“British operators tend not to want standardised products,” says Marketing Manager Richard Owens. “Instead they want trailers built to their exact requirements because they know they can benefit massively from them – and that’s something we can do.

“As consequence, each trailer we make often differs substantially from the next one under construction and even repeat orders for the same product differ one from the other,” he continues. “An operator may want a step that tips at a different angle this time round, for instance, and that’s something we’re happy to help with.”

“UK hauliers like bespoke trailers,” agrees SDC Trailers Director, Paul Bratton. “They want curtainsiders with all sorts of different deck configurations and they know we’re willing to make what they require.”

“OK, one of our Teardrop trailers is going to be more expensive than a standardised product, but look at the fuel savings,” says Owens.

“Admittedly Schmitz Cargobull has massive buying clout; but SDC negotiates extremely keen deals with its suppliers, too” Bratton says. It is, of course, easier to cater to the needs of British hauliers and make modifications rapidly if you manufacture in the UK. SDC, which makes just over 7,000 trailers annually, has three British plants.

Schmitz Cargobull shut its Harelaw, County Durham plant in 2010 and relocated its UK head office to Warrington in Cheshire. More recently, however, it has teamed up with Halesowen-based, Bevan Group to manufacture refrigerated bodies for the British market.

The UK’s absence of any restriction on trailer height, other than the practical one of being able to get under motorway bridges, gives domestic builders considerable scope for creativity. By contrast, Continental trailer manufacturers generally build to the European 4m height limit which is also the one imposed on trailers used on cross-border work.
Double-deck trailer has proved to be a hit for a UK manufacturer

Double-deck trailer has proved to be a hit for a UK manufacturer

None of this should be taken to imply that companies such as Schmitz Cargobull lack design flair or are afraid to attack relatively low-volume areas of the market.

Schmitz itself has just unveiled the latest version of the S.KO folding-wall box trailer. It goes some way towards providing a box body with the ease of access offered by a curtainsider but with better security for the cargo.

The company has also responded to new German regulations scheduled to begin coming into force next January that will require hauliers transporting asphalt in tipper trailers to ensure they are fully insulated. A Schmitz trailer that meets the legislation will debut at the IAA Show in Hanover in Germany this September.

It is not having things entirely its own way in international markets, however, with Don-Bur’s Teardrop starting to attract interest in North America. “We’re getting a lot of inquiries from Canada in particular,” reports Richard Owens.

SphereVision gives Veolia a crystal clear view

Posted on: August 20, 2014

News from SphereVision: Leading recycling and waste management company Veolia Environmental Services is taking the smart route to cleaner streets, by using a SphereVision 360 degree video system to monitor its waste management operations around Central London.

Veolia, which provides refuse and recycling collections and street cleansing services to a number of London Boroughs and local authorities across the country, was looking for an effective way of monitoring its operations, as well as collecting data that would inform planning for service improvements.

“We already used a good GPS system and wanted to add video monitoring that would integrate with that and give us the functionality and flexibility to monitor, map and analyse issues in real time,” says Tim Cattermoul, Veolia’s Central London Business Performance Manager.

“We explained our objectives to SphereVision, and they worked with us and our GPS provider to turn our high level vision into a creative solution that has given us exactly the capabilities we wanted.”

The system created for Veolia consists of a car fitted with a roof mounted 360-degree video camera linked to a portable recording system operating with SphereVision’s advanced data processing software. Developers have created a novel function that allows the operator to trigger the system to take additional pictures and clips of specific issues such as overflowing waste bins or uncollected rubbish.

The footage captured provides a view in all directions, and because the system automatically captures GPS, date and other data, analysts can identify trends and pinpoint hot spots and problems such as rubbish being put out after collection times.

“We liken the experience to being a tourist on an open top bus – we can see exactly what they would see, and can sort out problems quickly and efficiently,” says Cattermoul.

Video monitoring is also proving valuable in providing better customer services, enabling the company to be proactive in spotting missed collections, fly tipping and other issues, often identifying and rectifying issues before customers have even reported them.

Veolia’s monitoring service operates five days a week, and the benefits have more than outweighed the investment in the system. Now one auditor can cover the ground that would have taken four, and because data is captured digitally, the company can analyse and interrogate it in a way that would have been impossible before.

He adds that it was important to Veolia to work with a company that could give them a bespoke service, “SphereVision really know what they are doing and you can really see the passion they have for their software and their system.

“They have created an ad-hoc system for us which always intrigues and impresses prospective clients whenever we demonstrate it. The team at SphereVision are always excited about what they are working on, and often approach us with new developments to try to see if they can make our system even better.”

Volvo trucks issue chassis-specific driver manual as an app

Posted on: August 19, 2014

Volvo Trucks’ driver manuals are now available in a new version on the internet and for smartphones and tablets. The idea is to always give customers, drivers and mechanics access to up-to-date, chassis-unique information irrespective of time and place.

Volvo Trucks customers receive a chassis-unique printed driver’s manual when they purchase a new truck. Now the manual will also be available in digital form with extended functionality.

“With our digital driver’s manual the user always has access to complete, up-to-date and specific vehicle information that is even available offline. The digital manual features tools that make it far simpler to find what you are looking for. It includes instructive films and images to show how the truck’s various functions can be handled in the best possible way,” explains Malin Ersman, project manager at Volvo Trucks.

The new driver’s manual can also contribute to increased vehicle uptime. Since the workshop engineers can immediately see exactly how the truck is configured, it is possible for them to respond more quickly to customer questions about various functions and how they should be handled.

Volvo Trucks’ new digital driver manuals are free of charge and will be available for the Volvo FH, Volvo FH16, Volvo FM and Volvo FMX models, with the exception of trucks built in South America. The new digital driver manuals are available both on the Internet and as apps for downloading to Volvo Trucks chassis specific app.

Megabus trials UK’s first 15-metre Scania Irizar i6

Posted on: August 19, 2014

News from Scania: The UK’s first 15-metre overall length Scania Irizar i6 coach is set to enter service later this month when it embarks upon long-term trials for Megabus.com.

The initial trial will run for six months, during which time the vehicle is to be based at Stagecoach’s Rugby depot and will operate on routes across the UK.

Based on a Scania K 410 EB 6×2*4 rear-steer chassis, the vehicle features Scania’s 13-litre DC13-115 engine, which complies with the Euro-6 exhaust emissions standard using Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) only. Power output is 410hp at 1,900rpm and the unit delivers 2,150Nm of torque at 1,000 – 1,300 rpm.

Transmission is by way of Scania’s GR875R eight-speed gearbox with integral retarder and Scania Opticruise fully-automated gear selection system. The vehicle is also equipped with Scania’s C200 OnBoard fleet management system.

In addition to being the UK’s first 15-metre Scania Irizar i6, the vehicle is also the first to be equipped with a 13-litre Euro-6 engine, a front wheelchair lift (PLS and Magic Floor) and a full height emergency door with fold-out cassette steps.

Inside, the coach provides seating for 61 passengers on Irizar PB passenger seats with three-point seatbelts, leather headrests and centre armrests. Seating capacity is reduced to 59 if the vehicle’s NMI Magic seats for wheelchair passengers are in use. Three-pin electrical sockets and USB charging sockets are provided at each double seat. Other interior fitments include Hannover DDA-compliant destination equipment, a Synetics CCTV system and a rear offside surface-mounted Shades freshwater toilet.

“Scania has long enjoyed a productive and mutually beneficial business relationship with Stagecoach and we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to prove this exciting new vehicle on its Megabus.com service,” says Tony Tomsett, Bus, Coach and Engine Sales Director for Scania. “The Scania Irizar i6 is highly appointed, provides exceptional levels of passenger comfort and undoubtedly has the wow factor. We are therefore confident it will be extremely well received both by Megabus.com and its customers.”

Megabus.com Managing Director Elizabeth Esnouf adds, “We are always keen to look at new options that have the potential to enhance our fleet and deliver a continued high standard of service for our customers. This is potentially an exciting new vehicle for us and we look forward to the results of this trial.”

Isuzu Truck makes a splash at Cart Marking ceremony

Posted on: August 19, 2014

News from Isuzu: One of the latest Euro-6 Isuzu Urban 7.5t rigids made a big splash at this year’s annual historic ‘Cart Marking’ ceremony in the City of London.

Cart Marking is a multi-vehicle parade and vehicle drive-past, in the presence of the Rightt Honourable Mayor of London, the Sheriff of London and other city officers.

According to Keith Child, Marketing Director at Isuzu Truck UK, “The Cart Marking ceremony is a prestigious annual event within the City of London calendar and, once again, Isuzu Truck has played an active role in this event, always featuring a latest specification Isuzu that will operate within the London area.”

In the livery of long-time Isuzu customer MC Truck & Bus, the Isuzu truck taking part in the Cart Marking ceremony was one of the first of the new Isuzu Urban N75.150 rigids recently launched by Isuzu as part of its new 2014 Euro-6 product portfolio.

The Isuzu Urban 7.5t 4×2 rigid featured Isuzu’s latest Euro-6, four-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled 3.0-litre diesel engine, producing 150PS, matched to Isuzu’s popular Easyshift automated gearbox. The vehicle was also fitted with a standard curtainsided body.

The Isuzu 7.5 tonne truck range for 2014, of which the Urban model is a key part, is renowned for reliability and durability as well as good payload and performance. The new Euro VI Isuzu Urban is ideal for payload critical, stop-start, local distribution operations. It offers market-leading payload capacity, good fuel economy, easy cross-cab access, reliability and durability. The trucks are popular with customers in small, niche businesses as well as large blue-chip, household-name fleets.

Culina Logistics wins Burnt Tree Refrigerental’s sponsored award

Posted on: August 19, 2014

News from Burnt Tree: Two Shropshire businesses were linked recently when Market Drayton based Culina Logistics fought off the competition to be crowned the successful first time winners of the ‘Temperature Controlled Operator of the Year’ award sponsored by Shrewsbury company Burnt Tree Refrigerental at the 2014 Motor Transport Awards held in London.

According to the award judges, a combination of growth, acquisition, investment, innovation, technology, performance and environmental awareness clinched this award for Culina Logistics.

“We are proud to have won this prestigious industry award in our 20th anniversary year and would like to publicly acknowledge the dedication and hard work of everyone at Culina, their commitment to quality shines through. We take great pride in our roots, based in Market Drayton, and so it is also especially pleasing to have won an award sponsored by Burnt Tree who are based locally too, in Shrewsbury”, said Culina Logistics Chief Executive Thomas van Mourik.

Burnt Tree’s Refrigerental was a headline sponsor at this prestigious industry event, sponsoring the brand-new award category ‘Temperature Controlled Operator of the Year’.

As Mark Howell, Contract Hire and Refrigerental Director at Burnt Tree said, “When the organisers first told us of this new category, it made perfect sense for Refrigerental to sponsor the award. It is a perfect fit for our exciting temperature controlled rental business.”

New Sprinter is the order of the day for Trax Express

Posted on: August 19, 2014

News from APC: A Birmingham courier firm has been boosted by the addition of a new vehicle to its fleet, thanks to the generosity of national contract hire company, Burnt Tree and City West Commercials (CWC).

Saltley-based Trax Express Systems Ltd, which is part of the UK’s largest independent parcel network, APC Overnight, beat off competition from over 100 other delivery companies nationwide, to win a year-long lease of a new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van supplied by City West Commercial Vehicles in partnership with midlands based Burnt Tree Contract Hire. The competition was run as part of Burnt Tree’s ongoing collaboration with APC Overnight.

The addition of the vehicle to its 36-strong fleet will help the courier firm to continue to provide a first-class delivery service for over 350 business customers across Birmingham and the West Midlands from its base on Mainstream Industrial Park.

With last year having seen the business deliver and collect a record 1,300,000 parcels, Trax Express Systems Ltd is on course to raise the bar even higher this year, having already recorded a 28% increase in deliveries & collections. Thanks to the dedication of its 52 members of staff, plans are afoot to double its capacity with a move to a new 30,000 sq ft warehouse in Birmingham early next year.

Craig Mallabone, Director at Trax Express Systems Ltd, added, “As we already have a number Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans within our fleet, we know our drivers can count on them for reliable and economical collection & delivery of parcels across Birmingham. We can’t underestimate the impact the addition of one new vehicle to our fleet will make as it will undoubtedly improve the service we offer for so many businesses in and around the city. The last 12 months couldn’t have gone much better for us as a business, and this really is the icing on the cake.”

Chris Cubitt, National Fleet Manager CWC Corporate Mercedes-Benz, said, “We like to do all we can to support independent couriers around the country as they provide such an important collection and delivery service for so many customers. Having drawn Trax Express Systems Ltd as the winner of our competition, we were only too happy to hand the keys over to one very happy customer.”