BYD and ADL supply the largest fleet of electric buses in Europe

Posted on: July 29, 2015

BYD and Alexander Dennis (ADL) are to provide 51 new electric buses for London. The £19 million deal will see the capital’s first large-scale, zero-emission, single deck bus fleet with Go-Ahead London.

The single largest fleet of full size electric buses in Europe, it will consist of 51 emission-free vehicles and operate between Waterloo and Victoria on routes 507 and 521.

BYD is providing chassis and electric drivetrain for the buses, while all 51 will be bodied by ADL, using its Enviro200-like midi bus design.

Go-Ahead London expects to introduce the fleet into service by the end of August 2016. The move follows a recent announcement from Transport for London that it would electrify central London routes 507 and 521 as part of its drive to make all of its single deck buses emission-free by 2020.

Isbrand Ho, Managing Director of BYD Europe, said, “Working with our partners at ADL, we can provide a truly optimised blend of expertise. Our experience of battery technology and battery management systems and driveline components necessary to deliver unequalled range and reliability are matched to ADL’s strong track record in building low weight, attractive and durable buses.”

Colin Robertson, CEO of ADL, commented, “Technology is at the forefront of everything we do and this unique alliance with BYD represents a quantum leap into the future. Our combined strengths and, critically, the unified aftermarket support we are putting in place to support Go-Ahead London in the long-term, represents a fundamental ingredient of our combined business philosophy.”

IRTE names bus and coach champions

Posted on: July 27, 2015

The winners of this year’s Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) Skills Challenge have been announced at a ceremony at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull.

Fifty bus and coach technicians and apprentices in the UK and Ireland competed for the awards in a series of mechanical, electrical and bodywork tasks. Teams from Abellio, Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead London, Go South Coast, London United Buses, Metroline, Tower Transit, Translink, and trentbarton took part in this year’s event.

The top prize – the IRTE Outstanding Team Award, given to the highest scoring team – was won by Andrew Howie, Tim Laws-Chapman and Ray Silcox from FirstGroup.
The Outstanding Team Award went to FirstGroup’s Andrew Howie, Tim Laws-Chapman and Ray Silcox

The Outstanding Team Award went to FirstGroup’s Andrew Howie, Tim Laws-Chapman and Ray Silcox

Apprentice mechanic Pamela Chapman from Arriva received a new award, the Philip Margrave Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement. It is presented to the individual who most embodies the spirit of the IRTE Skills Challenge – of engineering excellence, and commitment to their profession. Pamela also walked away with three other awards, for Mechanical Apprentice and Electrical and the Mechanical Award (with team-mate Tom King) as well as a runners-up prize for the DVSA Inspection Apprentice Award.

The IRTE Skills Challenge finds 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, the event has been embraced by operators as a way of benchmarking the skills of their technicians, and celebrating excellence in engineering training and development.

Arriva UK Bus Engineering Development Manager Lloyd Mason, who has led winning contestants from Arriva since the event was founded in 2011, said, “The IRTE Skills Challenge is now an established event in the bus and coach calendar, and encourages engineers to showcase their abilities and perform to the highest level.”

Keynote speaker for the ceremony Sir Moir Lockhead OBE, patron of the Society of Operations Engineers, the umbrella organisation of IRTE, said, “It has been an honour to see the commitment of operators, technicians and apprentices in this year’s competition – commitment that is vital to the success of the UK’s road transport industry. This event rewards not only those individuals who are committed to their profession, but also the operators who strive to ensure their people are trained to the highest standards. Through initiatives like this, IRTE aims to encourage safety, compliance and development in road transport.”

Main Dartford Crossing roadworks complete

Posted on: July 28, 2015

Highways England has confirmed the Dart Charge project to improve the road layout around the Dartford Crossing has been completed.

Roadworks in place since November to remove old payment booths and install a new safety system for heavy vehicles have finished and the road layout is complete. The temporary 30mph speed limit has been replaced with a new 50mph limit.

Dart Charge project director Nigel Gray said, “Dart Charge has already brought significant improvements to the 140,000 journeys that are made at the Dartford Crossing every day. Journeys are now set to improve further, with four lanes in each direction all operating with a 50mph speed limit. It is a significant milestone for the project and means drivers will benefit from faster, less stressful journeys at this vital transport gateway.”

Over the weekend, teams switched southbound traffic onto its final alignment as it leaves the crossing, removing the ‘kink’ in the road that had been necessary through the roadworks. Northbound traffic moved to its final layout in June when the traffic safety system went live. The 50mph limit at the crossing is in place 24 hours a day in both directions and is enforced by average speed cameras.

This latest milestone achievement is the culmination of 82 weeks of construction work. Since mid-June, 4,800 tonnes of Tarmac have been used to surface the new southbound road layout, and 140m3 of concrete have been used to build a new retaining wall to separate the northbound and southbound carriageway and raise the height of the existing carriageway.

Work to construct new roadside verges and install a signage gantry will continue overnight.

Transport Minister gets truck driver’s view of the road

Posted on: July 27, 2015

Transport Minister Andrew Jones gained an “immensely valuable” insight into the challenges faced by HGV drivers this week, courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.

The Minister was handed the keys to three different Mercedes-Benz trucks at the HORIBA MIRA vehicle proving facility in Warwickshire, to experience first-hand the capabilities and limitations of different types of vehicles.

The three trucks chosen for the Minister’s demonstration were the new Econic High Visibility Safety Truck, an Arocs 8×4 tipper and an Actros tractor unit.

Mr Jones described road freight as the “lifeblood running through the veins of the British economy” and said his twin priorities were to improve air quality and safety. “Our roads are among the safest in the world,” he observed, “but there’s always more that can be done to improve things still further.”

Speaking afterwards, the Minister said, “As someone who has never driven a heavy goods vehicle before, I was struck by how easy all are to drive. That said, the first vehicle (the low-entry Econic) felt totally different to the other two. You’re surrounded by glass and sit much closer to the road, so the visibility is incredibly good.”

He added, “It is clear that the industry is trying hard on cycling safety. We need technology like the High Visibility Safety Truck and more education of both HGV drivers and cyclists of the dangers of HGVs in cities.”

Nick Blake, Head of Engineering at Mercedes-Benz Trucks, commented, “The number of cyclist fatalities in London caused by construction vehicles is unacceptable. So it was a great opportunity to demonstrate to Mr Jones how a truck like the Econic tipper can make a real difference when it comes to reducing injuries and deaths.”

McNicholas Construction makes huge order for Volkswagen vans

Posted on: July 30, 2015

Infrastructure services provider McNicholas has ordered 372 new vans from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles for its construction business.

The new contract comprises 262 Caddy Maxi and 110 Transporter T26 models. McNicholas cited the extended body length of the Caddy Maxi as one reason for its choice, as it enables engineers to transport ladders and other equipment within the van instead of on the roof. This reduces potential damage and makes equipment easier to access.

Spencer Ward, Head of Fleet, Plant and Insurance Services at McNicholas, said, “Volkswagen vans are renowned for their efficiency and reliability, which was a major factor for us. This, combined with the aftersales support provided by a dedicated van centre network and competitive finance packages definitely helped to seal the deal. The broad range of vehicles offered by Volkswagen also enabled us to choose vans that suited our specific needs without compromising on specification or performance.”

Feature: Interview with Fiat Professional’s Domenico Gostoli

Posted on: July 29, 2015

Transport News Brief speaks to Fiat Professional’s Domenico Gostoli about plans to boost the brand’s UK success.

Domenico Gostoli, Head of Brand for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Fiat Professional, says the brand has seen global success in recent years.

“We sold more than 510,000 vans worldwide last year and our vehicles are manufactured in Italy, France, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico. Our Ducato factory in Italy is the biggest light commercial plant in the world, producing 300,000 units a year and we are of course part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; the seventh largest auto group in the world.”

With this pedigree he is eager to see Fiat Professional do even better in the UK. “We have a lot of room to grow in Britain,” he observes.

Last year the company was in eighth position in the UK in the up-to-3.5-tonnes sector with 12,629 registrations according to figures compiled by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. That was an improvement of just over 5% on its performance in 2013.

To that can be added a further 1,313 registrations in the 3.5- to 6.0-tonne sector, a rise of almost 7.0% compared with the previous year’s total, where it occupied the third place.

Fiat’s light commercial market share has dropped slightly thanks to the cyclical nature of fleet ordering; if a company has ordered a large number of vans in 2014 it’s unlikely to order more in 2015. However Fiat’s retail sales perform strongly, with the volume of registrations in June alone up 62% compared with June 2014.

Gostoli is keen to forge a path in Britain by showing operators how frugal Fiat’s diesel engines are and highlighting the payload capacity advantage that Ducato in particular has over the competition. Total cost of ownership matters a lot more than the initial price, he says.

Gostoli worked for Iveco for 15 years, and says that truck operators understand this is the case, but not all van operators do. “The fuel efficiency of its diesels alone means Fiat Professional has a good total-cost-of-ownership story to tell.”

A new Ducato and Doblo Cargo were recently introduced, and a face-lifted Fiorino will be added to the line-up in 2016, along with a replacement for Scudo.

Developed in conjunction with Mitsubishi, a 1.0-tonne-payload pick-up will be joining the line-up next year too and will catapult Fiat Professional into a whole new sector of the market.

“The current Scudo is not a huge seller in Britain and its successor will be better at bridging the gap between Doblo and Ducato,” says UK Director, Sebastiano Fedrigo. “That sector of the market requires a slightly bigger vehicle and in this respect Ford’s Transit Custom has nailed it.”

Gostoli says, “We’re also aiming to increase sales of Ducato minibuses and of 17-seaters in particular.” But he is in no rush to launch electric light commercials.

“Electric van technology is not sustainable at the moment because of the extra cost unless there is support from government and I have yet to see a boom in electric van sales,” he says. “We are ready to react if and when a market develops however and this may happen from 2020 onwards when CO2 limits become tighter.”

He believes compressed natural gas represents a better route to environmental virtue despite the fact the limited number of publicly-accessible refueling points restricts its appeal on this side of the Channel.

The British dealer network will not be neglected. “We’ve got 73 sales, service and parts outlets at present and aim to increase the total to 100,” Fedrigo says. “We should have 88 by quarter one 2016 and reach 100 by the end of 2016/start of 2017.”

More than half of the 100 are likely to hold truck franchises: Fiat Professional twins with DAF and Iveco in a number of locations countrywide.

An approved used programme will be launched in early autumn. Dealers old and new will be expected to meet high customer service standards in all of their activities says Gostoli. “There will be zero tolerance of poor performance,” he warns. “You either buy into this as a dealer; or you’re out.”

Mercedes-Benz to retrofit QR stickers to older vans

Posted on: July 28, 2015

Mercedes-Benz has announced a further step in its Rescue Assist QR sticker programme, which provides vital information about a vehicle to emergency service teams.

Already standard on new vans, Mercedes-Benz UK is now offering to retrofit QR stickers free of charge to any of its vans built since 1996.

By scanning the QR code with an enabled smartphone or tablet, emergency crews can access key information for the vehicle to help provide faster rescue of occupants. This includes the location of vital components such as airbags, electrical cables and fuel tanks.

Standardising the location of the stickers ensures rescue workers can easily find them. Each vehicle is fitted with two stickers, one on each side, to ensure they are easily accessible.

In addition to minimising risks to both occupants and emergency workers, Mercedes-Benz estimates the QR stickers can save around two minutes of time in a rescue, which could be critical for the welfare of injured occupants inside the vehicle.

Apprentice programme prepares technicians for the future

Posted on: July 29, 2015

Isuzu Truck UK is confident that the successful introduction of its Advanced Apprenticeship Programme will mean a large talent pool of future Master Technicians for its dealers.

The programme was launched last year in conjunction with specialist automotive training provider Skillnet and three UK Isuzu dealerships. With results proving positive, ITUK expects the programme to expand significantly.

Skillnet manages the recruitment of suitable candidates and liaises with dealerships to ensure the best candidates are provided for the dealer’s needs. The dealers agree to employ the apprentice for a minimum of one year, with a commitment to a further two years subject to satisfaction on both sides. All three dealers have reaffirmed their commitment to their apprentices and the programme after the first year.

“The three dealers who participated in this first year of our programme have already seen excellent results,” said Tim Hicks, Head of Service, Warranty and Training Manager at ITUK. “At least eight of our dealers have said they are interested in taking on apprentices and want them to join in with this initiative.

“As well as providing great careers for a number of young people, we’re looking forward to adding to the existing team of fantastic Isuzu Master Technicians that we have throughout the country.”

The next intake of new apprentices for the programme begins in September.

New weighbridge test units boost uptime for UK businesses

Posted on: July 30, 2015

Seven new weighbridge test units from Avery Weigh-Tronix have commenced duty on British roads.

The company claims that the new units give them the largest fleet of any service provider in the UK, and says they will help Avery Weigh-Tronix improve response times to customer calls.

Weighbridges are business-critical assets for thousands of companies across the country, which are unable to legally trade if their weighbridges are out of order. For a weighbridge to be compliant with the law, it must be verified that it is weighing accurately when installed or repaired.

“Our new fleet allows us to improve speed of service delivery, a critical factor for many weighbridge operators who need to keep downtime to a minimum,” said Pam Shields, UK Business Manager for Avery Weigh-Tronix.

British CV production rises 30% in first half of 2015

Posted on: July 23, 2015

British commercial vehicle manufacturing grew by more than a quarter in the first six months of the year, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Almost 50,000 CVs were built between January and June – a 29.9% growth compared to the same period in 2014.

Growth has been fuelled by demand both in the UK and Europe, with production for the domestic market rising 31.6% and exports recording a 28.3% increase so far in 2015. June saw a particularly robust performance with nearly 10,000 CVs produced – a 54.5% rise.

“Today’s figures are encouraging for the sector, with demand for British-built vans, trucks and buses all on the rise,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive. “The UK commercial vehicle industry has experienced some turbulence in the recent past, with restructuring of some operations and changes to type approval affecting output. It is good to see the recovery continuing, and we are optimistic about the future with demand continuing to grow both in the UK and in Europe.”