TfL fleet scheme scoops international award

Posted on: October 15, 2014

Transport for London’s Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) has won an international road safety award for its success in improving fleet and freight safety across the UK.

The fleet safety scheme won the Prince Michael International Road Safety Fleet Award, sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), which recognises the best examples of road safety innovation from across the world.

Adrian Walsh, Director of The Prince Michael Awards, said, “One in three serious crashes involves a driver who is at work. FORS is a world-class example of how safety can be improved through engagement and leadership, and here in London we now have a proven programme which is ready to be rolled out across the country and indeed internationally.”

Leon Daniels, Managing Director for Surface Transport at TfL, said he was delighted to pick up the annual Fleet Award, adding that it showed TfL’s ‘determination’ to make London’s roads safer.

“FORS has helped transform how fleet and freight vehicles operate in London, encouraging greater compliance, better training, lower emissions and improved road safety,” he said.

The scheme, originally launched in 2008, is designed to help operators improve operational performance and safety in the London area. It has more than 2,200 accredited companies operating more than 180,000 vehicles, with a third operating in the construction or aggregates sector.

Two-thirds of companies given bronze, silver or gold FORS accreditation are based outside the M25, with many using the scheme as a national road safety and efficiency benchmark.

As a result of this uptake by operators outside of London, TfL has announced that it is expanding the FORS scheme more widely across the UK from January 2015, with the help of an external partner to be announced later this year.

DfT announces £11m low carbon investment

Posted on: October 15, 2014

The Department for Transport has committed £11 million to help develop powertrains for the vehicles of tomorrow. The funding will be made available through a competition run by the Technology Strategy Board, Innovate UK.

Businesses have been urged to bid for a share of the money to boost their ultra low emission technology projects. They now have access to £15 million, with the additional £4 million coming from Innovate UK.

To enter the bidding process, companies must submit their ideas to Innovate UK by 22 October, with applications required by 29 October. Each project will be judged by an independent panel.

The investment is part of a £500 million government pot to promote electric and ultra low emission vehicles in the UK, which was announced earlier this year by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said, “This new £11 million for research and development shows our support to UK companies leading the way to cleaner and greener transport technologies.

“They are investing in more efficient transport, and that is the best way to drive our economy forward.”

She added that the ambition for the UK is that by 2040, almost all new vans and cars will be using low emission technologies, with the majority developed and manufactured on these shores.

Business Minister, Matthew Hancock added, “Our automotive industry has been completely revitalised over the last decade – and with a new lease of life – a new vehicle rolls off a UK production line every 20 seconds.

“As part of our long-term economic plan, investments like this will make sure Britain is the leading light of the automotive industry. Through co-funding this competition, the government is increasing the opportunities for UK industry to progress further in low emission technologies, create UK jobs and capability, and ultimately reduce emissions through technology uptake on the road.”

IRU debates future of road transport

Posted on: October 13, 2014

The International Road Transport Union (IRU), policymakers and industry stakeholders met at a conference on 9 October to discuss the next two decades of road freight transport.

The conference decided to establish a ‘reflection group’, which will bring together industry experts to examine technical and design aspects of future commercial vehicles, as well as considering the entire transport system such as the infrastructure that will need to be in place to support the new vehicles.

In addition, the IRU announced the establishment of an ‘Innovation Lab’ to introduce best practice in the sector and support the development of the transport system.

The conference also looked at the IRU’s ‘Three I’ strategy for sustainable development based on Innovation, Incentives and Infrastructure. To this end, the conference examined alternative fuels and electricity, and the practicalities of operating with them, including refuelling infrastructure and power supply issues.

Other new operating methods and technology-based applications were highlighted, including concepts for the ‘platooning’ of vehicles, driverless vehicles, and Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS).

IRU Secretary General, Umberto de Pretto, commented, “This gathering has stirred concrete and creative ideas that we will take up further in the reflection group. It is high time that stakeholders define how commercial road vehicles should look and operate to optimally integrate into the wider transport system of the future while guaranteeing greater efficiency of the entire transport supply chain.”

No date has yet been set for the first meeting of the new reflection group.

Future trucks arrive in the present

Posted on: October 15, 2014

Readers of Transport Newsbrief will be aware how much talk of ‘the future’ has been in the industry of late. Only last week European transport body IRU set up a forum to discuss how road freight will change over the next twenty years, and a few days before that, an EU directive paved the way for new alternative fuel infrastructure over the coming years.

So what exactly is the future and what will it look like for the industry? The recent IAA trade show in Hannover demonstrated that all of the vehicle builders and original equipment manufacturers are taking major changes in the whole concept of freight transport very seriously. A good example of this is a Mercedes-Benz concept called Future Truck 2025 and equipped with something called Highway Pilot. The equivalent of autopilot on an airliner, when switched on it employs a camera plus sensors to ensure the vehicle doesn’t bump into anything on long and monotonous intercity runs.

Regulating its own speed, the truck uses a navigation app to find the best route automatically and ensures both the operator and the customer waiting for a delivery know exactly where it is and how long it will be before it reaches its destination. Once Highway Pilot gets busy the driver can sit back, relax and read the paper, while retaining the ability to take charge if necessary.

Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz contends that giving a truck the ability to operate autonomously on part of its route offers hard-pressed owner-drivers the opportunity to manage the day-to-day running of their businesses from the cab, chasing debts, hunting around for backloads and so on. Drivers who are employees will be able to take on some of the tasks currently handled by management it adds, potentially giving them more job satisfaction; an important consideration given that hauliers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain people who want to drive a lorry for a living.

Other drivers would certainly be able to see Future Truck coming, especially at night. LEDs illuminate its bodywork, lighting up the paintwork and changing to a specific colour if the truck is running in autonomous mode.

Changes would have to be made to legislation before autonomous driving could become a day-to-day reality, but Mercedes believes there is every possibility that this will happen. “Our aim is to press forward with readying this technology for the market and to bring it to series-production standard,” says Daimler board member for trucks and buses, Dr Wolfgang Bernhard.

How acceptable the sight of a truck travelling down the M6 with whoever is supposed to be behind the wheel doing something else is another matter but it is worth noting that Mercedes is not talking in terms of a driverless drone.

However, there is one company that does see a future for empty cab, albeit for low-speed parking manoeuvres rather than everyday driving. Original equipment manufacturer ZF recently demonstrated a way in which the driver can become banksman. Equipped with an Openmatics telemetry system, a Servotwin superimposed steering system and the hybrid version of the TraXon gearbox, the ZF Innovation Truck can be manoeuvred remotely by somebody standing a few yards away equipped with a tablet computer. The steering wheel swings backwards and forwards as though a ghost had taken charge of it. The cab is unattended. Once again though the truck is not totally autonomous. Someone is operating it remotely, albeit removed from the usual position.

What ZF has developed looks like the ideal way of shunting trucks around a congested haulage yard or distribution centre. What is more, Innovation Truck is quiet and emission-free as only the electric motor in the hybrid system is employed.

Ways of cutting emissions from more conventionally engineered trucks were also on display at the show. MAN’s TGX EfficientLine 2 for example featured a new predictive cruise control system known as EfficientCruise. As GPS-based computer programme, it analyses 3D map data then predicts the right speed for the truck and automatically controls it, no matter whether the driver is travelling up a hill or down the other side. It does so with an eye to using the vehicle’s own momentum to cut fuel bills. MAN contends that fuel savings of roughly 6% are possible without affecting journey times.

MAN is by no means the only manufacturer favouring this type of cruise control. From next January onwards Daf will be offering Predictive Cruise Control and Predictive Shifting as an option on XFs and CFs equipped with AS Tronic 12-speed gearboxes. It is also doing all that it can to encourage operators to keep the decibels down with the introduction of the CF Silent, as noise too is a pollutant.

Push a button on the dashboard and decibel levels instantly drop to below 72dB(A). It’s all down to the way in which the engine’s software limits engine speed and torque and modifies the timing of gear changes with hush-hush running in mind.

As a consequence CF Silent can be certified as a Quiet Truck. That means it can be used to collect and deliver goods in urban areas where out-of-hours noise restrictions are in force. The newcomer will slip silently into the market from 2015 onwards as a 4×2 and 6×2 rigid and tractor unit.

Returning to fuel economy, truck makers are using every trick in the book to improve mpg and shrink the carbon footprint of their products, from scavenging waste heat to measures such as disengaging the retarder wherever possible.

Scania says that its newly introduced R4100D retarder can cut diesel consumption by around 0.5%. It adds that a similar saving can be delivered by the most recent version of Eco-roll, which determines when it makes economic sense for a truck to coast down hills in neutral.

Even the sun is being pressed into service, with solar panels used by Renault Trucks as one of a number of means of making its concept Optifuel Lab 2 laboratory truck more fuel-efficient.

Nor are alternative fuels being neglected. Truck makers are listing engines that can be run on 100% biodiesel, MAN has developed a hybrid system for long-haul trucks while Renault Trucks is busy trialling a battery-powered 16-tonner in France. Operated by Speed Distribution Logistique, it is being employed to deliver perfumes and cosmetics to Guerlain boutiques in Paris.

“We’re using it on 200km/125-mile delivery rounds,” says Renault Trucks project manager, Christophe Vacquier. Not to be outdone, Fuso has eight electric E-Cell Canter 6.0-tonners on trial with a variety of operators in Portugal.

Gaseous fuels are still in contention too. Iveco has developed Stralis Natural Power, a tractor unit fuelled by liquefied natural gas with a claimed range of approaching 500 miles.

Lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems are now a reality as is the ability of trucks to be brought to a halt automatically if there is the risk of a collision. ‘Platooning’, under which a convoy of electronically-linked vehicles travelling closely to one another led and controlled by a professional driver in a truck has been trialled successfully too. Able to leave the convoy at any time, all the vehicles automatically measure the distance from each other leading to safer driving, better utilisation of road space and lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

All of these inovations effectively demonstrate that commercial vehicles are becoming cleaner, quieter and safer than they have ever been and ought to bolster the case for moving freight by road in the future. However, both manufacturers and operators will need to ensure that Joe Public understands and appreciates the technological strides that have been made. Getting this message across remains a key challenge.

Zero emission Mercedes Vito is dynamite in London

Posted on: October 16, 2014

News from Mercedes-Benz: Within three months of commissioning its first all-electric Mercedes-Benz Vito E-cell van, zero-emission final mile delivery specialist Gnewt Cargo had returned with an order for three more.

The vehicles are assigned to the award-winning company’s prestigious contract with TNT Express, and are now operating primarily within London’s Congestion Zone.

Gnewt – the name is an acronym for Green New Transport – was launched in 2009 and utilises a fleet of electric cargocycles and minivans to provide deliveries and collections across Central London.

Co-founder Sam Clarke said, “Our customers include third-party logistics companies, large retailers and other forward-thinking organisations who recognise that freight can be moved around cities in more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly ways.

“Our service, vehicles and micro consolidation hubs are precision-targeted to each client’s needs and locations, we create fulfilling work for local people, and best of all we have been independently verified to cut CO2 emissions per parcel delivered by upwards of 62%.”

Supplied by Dealer S & B Commercials, Gnewt Cargo’s Vito E-Cells are the subject of CharterWay contract hire agreements with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, for which the operator receives funding support via the government’s Plug-in Van Grant. Two charging points by Charging Solutions, part of Chargemaster plc, the UK’s leading provider of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, have been installed at the company’s base in the City.

Key to the ground-breaking vehicle’s appeal for Sam Clarke and his colleagues, is its size and carrying capacity. “We have a lot of electric vans by other manufacturers but they are much smaller and can’t match the Vito E-Cell in terms of load volume and payload potential,” he explained.

“The Mercedes-Benz is a genuinely practical proposition with a very respectable range, while the feedback from those at the wheel has been brilliant too. Jose Britto drives our first E-Cell and he loves it for its comfort and high specification – it’s a proper van, and there’s nothing bigger when it comes to fully electric drivelines.”

The Vito E-Cell is the world’s first battery-powered light commercial vehicle to be built on line at a mainstream production facility. An 82 hp electric motor drives the front wheels, so the space beneath the load floor can be used to store the lithium-ion batteries without impinging on the passenger or cargo areas.

The whisper-quiet E-Cell also employs a regenerative system, which captures the energy that would otherwise be lost in braking. As well as increasing range, this is used to power the heating and ventilation system and standard-fit heated seats, making the vehicle suitable for use on the coldest of days.

The Vito E-Cell is free from the Congestion Charge and VED fees, and meets the requirements of the Mayor of London’s intended Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which is due to be introduced by 2020.

It offers similar cargo carrying capacities to standard models and will cover an average of 80 miles between recharges – to maximise operating range top speed is electronically limited to 56 mph. A completely empty battery can be recharged from a 380/400 volt input in a maximum of six hours. Charging is quick and entirely safe, as the smart cable cannot be removed during charging, nor the vehicle driven off while it is attached.

Argos fleet receives a makeover

Posted on: October 16, 2014

News from Mercedes-Benz: Leading online retailer Argos has announced the launch of a fleet of newly branded trucks. The 76 vehicles, all sporting the new brand colours and designs announced this week, will take to the road this autumn.

Part of Argos’ new multi-million pound advertising campaign, which will bring to life its ongoing drive to become a digital retail leader, the vehicles will carry the new strapline ‘GET SET GO ARGOS’ and feature vibrant colour explosions against a clean, white backdrop. The campaign is the biggest strategic change in its 40-year-plus history.

David Landy, Fleet Manager for Argos, said, “Our vehicles travel all over the country, seven days a week, delivering a range of 43,000 products to our 734 stores and direct to the doorstep, allowing customers to shop how and when they want. They will be seen and recognised by everyone, so it’s exciting to be part of the new campaign and the fantastic new Argos we are creating.”

The newly branded fleet comprises of 71 Mercedes-Benz Actros tractor units and five Scania natural gas-powered trucks. The Scania trucks are designed to run completely on gas and provide carbon dioxide reductions of up to 70% when it uses pure biogas, as well as being extremely quiet.

The New Actros units, which will support Argos’ existing fleet of 400 tractors and 1000 trailers, are all powered by Euro-6 400 hp straight-six engines coupled to the Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated transmission. All feature the 2.3 metre wide ClassicSpace sleeper cab, which offers high levels of safety and comfort.

Helping maximise the new fleets’ efficiency, all 71 vehicles are equipped with Hatcher Components’ unique Active Freddie air management system. This ignition sparked cab top spoiler automatically adjusts to match the height of the trailer, minimising fuel consumption.

James Colbourne, Head of Strategic Accounts of Trucks for Mercedes-Benz UK, said, “Working with Argos on their latest Euro-6 vehicles has been an incredibly interesting and positive experience. Argos has a new fleet that will provide a robust and reliable partner for many years to come.

“The new livery is sure to strike a chord and complement Argos’ strong brand image.”

The multi-million pound advertising campaign will start on 14 October and spans out-of-home, digital, social media, print, radio and in-store channels. The new brand identity will extend to: Argos’ websites and apps; stores, with updated point of sale, redesigned carrier bags and new uniforms; as well as the new vehicles.

Tesco recognises its top drivers at exclusive event

Posted on: October 15, 2014

News from Iveco: has partnered with Iveco to reward the success of 40 of its top drivers, each selected for delivering outstanding service on the doorstep. A group of drivers selected through customer feedback and judged on instances where they have gone the extra mile, were recognised by Tesco senior management as ‘Service Superstars’ and treated to a VIP driving experience.

The event held on 8 October at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, gave drivers the chance to get behind the wheel of some of the world’s most sought after cars – including the Alfa Romeo 4C, Ferrari 458 and Ferrari FF – each made available through Iveco’s sister company, Fiat Chrysler Automotive.

Drivers were also given the chance to put Iveco’s Hi-Matic automatic transmission through its paces on a New Daily, which has just been named International Van of the Year 2015. The Hi-Matic gearbox is set to be introduced next year, but the Tesco drivers became the first UK customers to experience it after Iveco shipped a test vehicle to the UK especially for the event.

Other highlights included a chance to put the New Daily’s intelligent Electronic Stability Program (ESP) through its paces on a damp test track, plus the opportunity to push their driving skills to the limit on Millbrook’s challenging off-road course in the latest generation of Jeep 4x4s.

Chris Burningham, Fleet Development Manager for, says, “As a business delivering upwards of half a million orders every week, it’s only natural that our drivers are going to encounter situations which are out of the ordinary.

“However, the way in which they have gone above and beyond for our customers was deserving of special recognition. Our drivers have not only helped to save lives, but to make our customer’s lives better too. We are extremely proud to have had such amazing range of customer feedback to choose from.”

Examples included one driver from Hereford who, on noticing a disabled customer’s garden had become so overgrown that it was no longer wheelchair accessible, returned on his day off to clear the garden so the customer could enjoy it again. Another driver from Surrey climbed through a window to give first aid when he noticed a customer had collapsed, dialling 999 and staying with the customer until an ambulance crew arrived. The crew said the Tesco driver helped to save the customer’s life.

Stuart Beeton, Sales Director at Iveco, explains, “In an age where we are all leading increasingly busy lives, it was touching to hear the personal stories behind each driver’s achievements. They are a thoroughly deserving group and well worthy of a special commendation. We hope they enjoyed their day behind the wheel of such a diverse fleet from within the Fiat stable, and we valued their praise for the new Hi-Matic gearbox.”

New Renault Trafic proves most frugal in MPG Marathon

Posted on: October 15, 2014

News from Renault: Renault’s all-new Trafic van has triumphed as the best-performing light commercial vehicle at the 2014 MPG Marathon winning the titles of “Best MPG”, as well as “Best percentage improvement” compared to manufacturer claimed economy figures.

The MPG Marathon is a grueling two-day economy challenge designed to put fuel economy performance claims and eco driving techniques under the spotlight.

Behind the wheel of Renault’s all-new Trafic SL27 Energy dCi 120 Business+, Dan Gilkes, Editor of Van Fleet World, and co-driver, Ray Penford drove the 311-mile varied road route through the Cotswolds and South Wales achieving an overall economy figure of 55.55mpg to take the “Best MPG” title for an LCV.

That figure is 15.98% higher than the Trafic’s official EU combined cycle figure of 47.9mpg which was enough for all-new Trafic to also scoop the award for “Best percentage improvement” in the LCV category.

Commenting on the Trafic’s performance in the MPG Marathon, Gilkes said, “With a combined fuel figure of 47.9mpg, the Energy dCi 120 Twin Turbo Trafic is already one of the most economical vans in its class, making it tough to improve upon. But, as a number of vehicles struggled to even reach their advertised combined figure, we were more than happy with a final result of 55.5mpg – the most economical van in the MPG Marathon.

“The Trafic never missed a beat and was a pleasure to drive, with a quiet comfortable cab and effortless controls. Though maintaining low rpm throughout for maximum economy, the new 1.6-litre twin turbo engine delivers plenty of torque, even at lower engine speeds, allowing higher gears to be used. Even in normal driving conditions, customers should find Trafic an economical yet rapid van.

“Having covered 311 miles over the two days, the van was still showing more than 900 miles of available range when we finished. Now that’s a marathon.” added Gilkes.

Mike Willis, Trafic Product Manager for Renault UK said: “The Energy turbodiesel engine range available in all-new Trafic is designed to provide the performance that van drivers want as well as the economy, and associated low fuel bills, that they need. We’re delighted that all-new Trafic has come out on top as the most frugal LCV in the 2014 MPG Marathon and beaten its official economy figures.”

The all-new Renault Trafic went on sale in the UK in September available in a choice of three bodystyles – Panel Van, Crew Van – to carry up to six people and equipment – and Passenger, which seats up to nine people in comfort. all-new Trafic is available with a choice of four efficient turbodiesel engines.

Record demand for Coach and Bus Live 2015

Posted on: October 15, 2014

News from Coach and Bus Live: Organisers of next autumn’s Coach and Bus Live 2015 trade show have announced an unprecedented demand for stands just weeks after going on sale to exhibitors, with 50% of space already taken.

The domestic showcase for the bus and coach sector, already has over fifty companies reserving space 12 months ahead of the two day show opening on 30 September 2015.

Group Director of Diversified Business Communications Mark Griffin is delighted with the early level of support. “Having been associated with the organising of these trade shows for almost twenty years, I struggle to think of a time when demand from the industry has been so strong.”

“We have invested significantly in recent years by delivering a show which is both unique and that supports the industry, particularly during what has been a testing six year economic period. To have so many companies wanting to book space so early on is a positive sign that suppliers are seeing an increase in business, which has to be good for British Business and the economy. ”

The last edition of the show in 2013 saw the introduction of the Live Showcase Arena, which gave manufacturers and dealers an important new feature to the event. This concept has been developed further for Coach & Bus Live 2015 with the full support of event partner, CPT UK.

Coach and Bus Live 2015 is positioned as the key domestic tradeshow for the UK for bus, coach, minibus and emerging technology markets. Organisers Diversified Business Communications report that enquiries for space have come from all areas of the market, with an increase in demand especially from coach manufacturers and mini/midi bus suppliers.

The show will be limited to the same size as last time with many leading industry names reserving prime sites as soon as the event went on sale. Companies such as Irizar, Volvo, Wrights Group, Arriva Bus and Coach, Moseley and Pelican Engineering amongst others have already secured their stands for Coach & Bus Live 2015.

The 2013 event saw 5,733 attendees from 32 countries in two days and the post show survey reported that 84% of exhibitors said that they expected to participate in Coach and Bus Live 2015. The organisers believe that the positive start to sales is a reflection of the encouraging feedback from within the market. The record breaking visitor numbers for the UK domestic tourism market for the first part of 2014 also means that coach operators in particular are also seeing an increase in work levels.

Group Sales Manager Martin Laverton, commented, “It is fantastic that so many of our customers want to take part in Coach & Bus Live 2015 – on the back of both a great show last time round and the general upturn in the market. Given the exceptionally high levels of interest to date, I would strongly advise potential exhibitors – especially in the minibus market – not to wait too long before booking a stand. With space limited, companies considering taking part can plan ahead and secure their participation for next year and avoid inevitable disappointment if demand continues at this pace.”

Griffin added, ” With the show now under the ownership of Diversified Business Communications , who are one of the largest global privately trade show organisers, our customers can look forward to continued innovation and commitment across our show and media portfolio, where we aim to continually raise the bar in our industry for our customers. Coach and Bus Live has a strong reputation for being unique and successfully bringing together buyers and sellers from every part of the UK bus and coach market.”

Volvo’s availability wins over Watts Coaches

Posted on: October 15, 2014

News from Volvo: Cardiff based Watts Coaches reports that the consistent performance of its previous coaches, along with the speed in which Volvo could supply a new vehicle, was enough for them to specify a new B9R coach with Jonckheere bodywork.

Volvo was able to supply the new coach within the family run operator’s limited time frame, ensuring it could enter service quickly.

“The coach has already covered some 10,000 kilometres on our continental tour work and has just got back from a ten day trip, so consistency and reliability are clearly important factors for us,” explained Watts Coaches Managing Director James Watts.

“We’re taking a keen interest in the B9R’s performance in terms of fuel economy and will be able to make a full assessment after we’ve run the coach for a couple of months.”

Watts continued, “We have had Volvo coaches previously, Volvo Bus were able to supply us with a cost effective coach in the time frame we required.

“The aesthetics of the coach certainly make it a very appealing vehicle and our team report it also drives very well.”

Watts Coaches’ new B9R is specified with Jonckheere bodywork. It is fitted with a Volvo rear-mounted, 6-cylinder, 9-litre diesel engine with 380hp.

The coach is fitted with a smooth and efficient Volvo i-Shift 12-speed fully automated mechanical gearbox along with the VR3250 compact retarder, offering very powerful auxiliary braking. It also features Volvo’s electronic braking system which combines with powerful all round disc brakes to give a rapid reaction time and shorter stopping distance making Volvo one of the safest coaches on the road.

Watts Coaches has been operating for more than 50 years, specifying an impressive fleet ranging from 29 to 85 seats. Operations include public services, school contracts, domestic and European private hire. Its luxurious coaches feature toilets, DVD players, reclining seats and air conditioning, catering for any passengers needs.

Volvo Bus Regional Sales Manager, Jo Standbridge, added, “We are delighted to supply a new B9R with Jonckheere bodywork to Watts Coaches. We were able to finalise a deal in the short time frame given.”