Preventative Maintenance is Vital

Heavy Duty Off-Roaders

Unidan Engineering, a Gold Coast–based niche business specialising in the restoration and modification of heavy-duty off-roaders, specifically the mighty Mercedes-Benz Unimog. After operating for the first five-or-so years at an industrial complex in Burleigh Heads, Unidan recently relocated to larger premises at Molendinar near Southport. Read more

The New Sprinter

From Mercedes-Benz the new Sprinter has been released, but it didn’t launch as just a van, it is planned to be more of a transportation solution. Part of the package will be an extensive telematics offering under the Mercedes PRO brand that will allow for highly automated dispatch, optimised routing, traffic information and built-in diagnostics that will issue service and repair notifications.

 

The New Sprinter

 

This will help fill what Mercedes-Benz Vans chief Volker Mornhinweg says will be a shortage of vans for the ever-increasing last-mile deliveries, and returns, which are part and parcel of internet retail.

 

Mercedes Benz’s Innovation Campus showcase of the Sprinter revealed some of the features of the third-generation Sprinter that will offer ultimate uptime as one of its differentiating features over other Euro-style ‘white’ vans.

 

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler predicts vans will become increasingly necessary as the world’s population gravitates to megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants, and as retail shifts to e-commerce, fragmenting loads while increasing consumer demand for ever shorter delivery times. All of this calls for the integration of vehicle design and delivery systems, said presenters at the Innovation Campus event.

 

The New Sprinter

 

“The Sprinter is the flagship of our commercial fleet and embodies our approach toward an integrated system solution,” said Mornhinweg. “Comprehensive industry-specific know-how, a vehicle that is adaptable to different transport requirements, and innovative networking services add up to a fully integrated product offering.”

 

Worldwide, the 2019 Sprinter will have three wheelbases, four body lengths, three roof heights and four dashboard configurations, with the premium level offering up to three top-of-dash lidded storage bins – an industry first.

 

Mercedes-Benz will also offer different drivetrains in the multiple markets where the vans are sold. Today’s rear-wheel drive will continue to be the mainstream in the US, along with the four-wheel drive that is currently in the Sprinter’s mix. The new model will, however, also be available with front-wheel drive in some markets to lower the load floor, boosting interior volume and easing the driver’s loading of cargo.

 

The New Sprinter

 

Mercedes PRO telematics will provide with fleets a cloud-based vehicle management tool, with the telematics data served to a mobile app. Additionally, Mercedes PRO is a Linux-based vehicle platform that’s designed to encourage third-party vehicle apps to further enhance the van-as-a-transportation solution.

 

The Mercedes PRO is available already used on Sprinters in Germany, but with the new van and minibuses, customers will be able to use these services for their fleets. When inserted into a dedicated slot in the vehicle, the adapter establishes a connection between the vehicle, driver and fleet manager. The web-based service links the fleet manager with all vehicles and drivers in the fleet via the Vehicle Management Tool.

 

The Mercedes PRO adapter makes it possible to manage orders online, as well as check vehicle information – such as location, fuel level or maintenance intervals – almost in real time, said Mercedes-Benz.

 

 

 

 

Electric Actros on the Road

Mercedes-Benz unveiled its electric truck back in 2016, but now we will see the electric Actros on the road. The ten eActros models, in two variants, with a GVM of 18 to 25 tonnes, will be handed over in the next few weeks to customers, who will be testing their everyday feasibility and economic efficiency under real-life conditions.

 

Electric Actros on the Road

 

In Germany alone, around 150 very serious enquiries were received. There are a number of technical and business-related issues to be ironed out, like the range and cost of the batteries, but also the infrastructure required for their use as part of customers’ commercial fleets.

 

“Daimler Trucks is synonymous with innovation leadership, allied to a realistic and pragmatic attitude,” said Martin Daum, the Daimler AG Board Member responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses. “This is particularly true when it comes to electric mobility. We now want to work together with our customers to move swiftly forward with the development of our Mercedes-Benz eActros to the point where it becomes a viable proposition in tough everyday operations – both technically and commercially.

 

Electric Actros on the Road

 

“We are beginning this process by creating an innovation fleet and will be supporting its testing in the day-to day logistics environment of our customers. This will enable us to establish just what remains to be done, in terms of technical matters, infrastructure and service, to make our Mercedes-Benz eActros competitive.”

 

The customers involved in this first trial come from a number or sectors, from groceries to building supplies and raw materials. The vehicles are being used by customers for tasks that would otherwise be completed by vehicles with conventional diesel engines.

 

The drivers of the eActros are trained specially to work with the vehicle. The customers will be testing the vehicles in real-life operations for twelve months, after which the trucks will be going out to a second round of customers for a further twelve months.

 

The eActros uses an Actros chassis and cab, but the vehicle architecture has been configured specifically for an electric drive system, with a high proportion of specific components. The drive axle, for example, is based on the ZF AVE 130, already used in hybrids and fuel buses by Mercedes-Benz.

 

The drive system comprises two electric motors located close to the rear-axle wheel hubs. These three-phase asynchronous motors are liquid-cooled and operate with a nominal voltage of 400 volts. They generate an output of 125 kW each, with maximum torque of 485 Nm each. The gearing ratios convert this into 11,000 Nm each, resulting in driving performance on a par with that of a diesel truck.

 

Electric Actros on the Road

 

The payload is 11.5 tonnes and the range, at 200 km comes from two lithium-ion batteries with an output of 240 kWh. The batteries are accommodated in eleven packs, all in all: three of these are located in the frame area, the other eight are to be found underneath.

 

For safety reasons, the battery packs are protected by steel housings. In the event of a collision, the mountings give way and deform, so diverting the energy past the batteries without damaging them. The high-voltage batteries do not just supply energy to the drive system, but to the vehicle as a whole. Ancillary components such as the air compressor for the braking system, the power steering pump, the compressor for the cab air-conditioning system and, where relevant, the refrigerated body, are also all electrically powered.

 

The batteries can be fully recharged within three to eleven hours, assuming a realistic charging capacity of 20 to 80 kW from a mobile charging device at a fleet depot. The normal on-board electrical network uses two conventional 12-volt batteries and is charged from the high-voltage batteries via a DC-DC converter.

 

 

Breaking New Ground

Breaking New Ground

Mercedes-Benz is breaking new ground in releasing the company’s new-generation models refresh. The launch of these rigid trucks follows on from the successful launch of the prime mover models last year. The trucks have just emerged from a similar process to the one the company used in developing the prime mover range. A number of evaluation trucks were put into different fleets around the country. In all, 35 customers tried 20 trucks, covering over 1.8 million kilometres.

 

Breaking New Ground

 

These trucks represent a seismic shift in the way Mercedes-Benz presents itself to the Australian truck market. In the past, the large rigids supplied by Benz were able to be sold into specific niches, areas of the truck market where the numbers sold annually remain relatively small.

 

This time the trucks have been developed specifically from the options available in Germany to sit squarely in high-volume segments of the truck market. These trucks have been specified in a way which will suit a large number of operators in Australia. The analysis of the Australian truck market done by Mercedes-Benz in the run-up to this launch has been well targeted and organised.

 

The world of the heavy rigid truck has been a difficult space for Mercedes-Benz in the past, apart from the niches into which the specifications have slotted. Although part of the new-generation Actros range, the name Actros does not appear on the trucks – they are to be known by their numerical tags alone.

 

Now, with these new models the trucks do look to be a good fit. It is now up to the Mercedes-Benz organisation itself to get out there with the message about the new in-built flexibility in the range and the improved fit of the brand with high-volume sectors of the market.

 

The 6×2 rigids, the 2530 and 2535, do the business and use the combination of the 7.7 litre engine and the eight-speed AMT to get the job done in a major market segment. The specification looks to be effective, productive and, probably, fuel efficient.

 

There is a wider choice in the 6×4 version of this chassis, with two engine options – the 7.7 litre and the 11 litre. This gives a choice of power output all of the way from 354hp to 455hp. Covering everything from a small around-town distribution vehicle to a Performance-Based Standards (PBS) truck and dog combination approaching 60-tonnes GVM.

 

Flexibility in the Range

 

A strong point for these new trucks is the flexibility within the control systems. With a little help from the trainers who are now available to anyone purchasing a new Mercedes truck, it is possible to program your truck to use automatic systems which suit your needs rather than imposing systems on you which you might find unnecessary.

 

A good example of this is the crawler mode. It is possible to program the truck so that if a driver is in a position where they need to crawl away from the situation, as they release the brake the truck will automatically engage a crawler gear and move slowly forward. If the driver puts their foot on the accelerator, the truck will go into normal gear and set off at normal speed.

 

This would be especially useful in situations where the truck has to reverse into an awkward position. The driver simply lines the truck up, puts their foot on the brake, engages reverse and takes their foot off the brake. Then the truck will crawl slowly backwards, as the driver manoeuvres the truck into position.

 

http://www.dieselnews.com.au/category/trucks-lcvs/mercedes/

 

It is refreshing to see all of these new systems and improved technology arriving alongside the reinvigorated Mercedes-Benz organisation in Australia. For too long, the quality of the trucks being designed in Europe and arriving here mismatched with Australian needs and the trucks were poorly supported by the brand managers.

 

These new trucks are only the first flush of options to arrive on our shores. We can expect a second and third wave of models with bigger engines and cabins, plus those aimed at more specific applications.

Top of the Horsepower Tree

Top of the Horsepower Tree

Not that long ago most (if not all) of Europe’s truck makers were still vying to climb to the top of the horsepower tree, reckons Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Brian Weatherley. Today it’s another story altogether. I’d say the first truck maker to publicly take its foot off the power pedal was Mercedes.

 

Top of the Horsepower Tree

 

Back in 2011, at the launch of the original ‘new’ Actros, I asked Daimler’s vice president for truck engineering Georg Weiburg ‘Do you want to have the World’s Most Powerful Series Production Truck’? High torque, rather than high horsepower was, he said, the priority for Mercedes and 600hp was probably as high as most operators needed.

 

It was an insightful reply. Indeed, when Merc’s 15.6 litre OM473 LA in-line six (currently offered in Actros and Arocs) appeared in 2013 it had a 630hp top rating. Despite having the capacity to go higher, it’s stayed there, happily sitting above 580 and 520hp versions.

 

It’s been a similar story for MAN. Having once made Europe’s most powerful prime mover, a TGX with a whopping 680hp 16.2-litre V8, in 2014 the men from Munich dropped their vee-block in favour of the all-new D38 15.2-litre six-pot. While D38 comes with a top-rating of 640hp and 3,000Nm of torque, note this, it’s strictly-for heavy-haulage chassis applications up to 250-tonnes GCW.

 

For ‘regular’ haulage applications, D38 is rated at 520hp/2,500Nm and 560hp/2,700Nm. Having driven both at 40 tonnes at the launch, the 520hp D38 was more than enough for me, and why wouldn’t it be with 11.8hp/tonne on tap? At the time of its launch, MAN’s senior managers went out of their way to stress that with D38 they wanted maximum efficiency rather than record power. At the time that struck me as eminently sensible. It still does.

 

What about the others? Back in 1992 Renault briefly led the field when it offered a 520hp Mack V8 beneath its iconic flat-floored Magnum cab. Today, its latest T-range prime mover’s 13-litre ‘DTI 13’ in-line six delivers an identical 520hp, albeit with 2,550Nm of torque.

 

As for Iveco, its 12.8-litre Cursor 13 fitted in Stralis peaks at 570hp. And while Fiat Powertrain Technologies (the company which supplies Iveco with its engines) has a 15.9-litre Cursor 16 capable of being rated up to 875hp and 3,500Nm of torque, it’s only available for construction, power-generation and agricultural applications. In the latter category it’s already chalked-up its first ‘World’s Most Powerful…’ superlative, in the 625hp New Holland Agriculture CR10.90 combine harvester.

 

Top of the Horsepower Tree

 

Might we yet see a Cursor 16 powering a European heavy?  If you took the amount of money you’d need to engineer it into a Stralis or Trakker, then divided it by the number of vehicles you’d sell in Europe, you’d probably have to charge a heck of a lot for it just to recover the investment. Ah…but what about for Australia I hear you ask? I’ll come to that in a minute.

 

Build More Flat Floor Cabovers

Frankly, I’m surprised more manufacturers don’t do it. ‘Do what?’ I hear you ask Down Under. Build more flat-floor cabovers, that’s what. Given the fact that every night hundreds of thousands of European long-haul drivers are bedding down for the night in a truck (and I reckon 99.99 per cent of them will be doing it in a cabover prime mover) you’d think that all of Europe’s truck makers would be keen to make their cabs as easy to move around in as possible.

 

Build More Flat Floor Cabovers

 

And what better way to ensure effortless cross-cab access and boost the size of your bedroom than by removing the engine hump and replacing it with a perfectly flat cab floor? Yet so far, only three of the major players, Mercedes, Renault and Scania, actually offer one. DAF, Iveco, MAN and Volvo heavies have all still got the ‘hump’, albeit of modest height on their flagship models.

 

The big mystery to yours truly is why, despite the obvious driver appeal of flat-floor cabs, none of the other European truck makers have followed suit. Doubtless they have their reasons. Flat-floor cabs aren’t without their own drawbacks, the most obvious being is that you have to mount them higher up above the chassis to provide sufficient clearance for the engine underneath, particularly if it’s a big banger.

 

As flat-floor cabs are generally taller than their non-flat rivals their size can be a problem when it comes to squeezing into tight delivery spots. For the record, the overall heights (with normal, small roof deflectors fitted) of the Actros, Renault T High and Scania Highline are 3.97m, 3.97m and 3.93m, respectively.

 

Naturally, the higher up the cab, the more steps you’ll need to climb to get into it. Where non-flat floor rivals generally make do with three entry steps, all the above-mentioned ‘flatties’ need four. And with one more step it’s harder to ‘layer’ them, so the entry-step layout can become more like a vertical ladder than a sloping, progressive stairway.

 

That said, Scania has managed the trick well on its S cab. As with its previous prime mover range, it’s scalloped out the edge of the cab floor where it meets the bottom of the door, thereby creating a recess that allows you to see the top step more easily and place your foot on it without having to lean outwards to spot it.

 

Riding so high, flat-floor prime movers provide great forward vision on motorways. However, in towns and busy urban areas the higher up the driving position the harder it is to spot objects within the classic close-in blind-spot areas immediately in front and around the nearside corner of the cab.

 

So much for the cons, what about the pros? Aside from the obvious driver appeal of being easier to move around inside, and the extra headroom they provide when you’re standing up, high-mounted flat-floor cabs tend to have a lot more storage space, both inside and out, not least in terms of extra external lockers.

 

Fitting two beds into a flat-floor cab is also easier and the unobstructed space (thanks to there being no engine hump) beneath the bottom bed means there’s more than enough room for slide-out lockers and fridges. And being so tall it also means the airflow over a 4.0m trailer (the de facto maximum height limit in continental Europe) can be sorted a lot easier with just a small top deflector, if that.

 

So will we see any more flat-floor cabs appearing in Europe soon? Frankly, I think it’s unlikely. Indeed I doubt whether DAF, Iveco or MAN want to spend a lot of money on creating a unique flat-floor version of their existing heavy-duty truck cabs just so they can say they have one, especially when those same cabs have core structures (‘Body-in-White’, for example) that are arguably approaching the end of their lifespans.

 

It’s much easier to create a flat-floor cab when you’re designing ‘from new’, like Scania, Renault or Mercedes. As for Volvo, one can only assume they weren’t prepared to make the current FH cab any taller than it is just to have a flat floor.

 

Against that backdrop, there’s something else bubbling away up here that could affect the future design of long-haul cabs, flat-floor or otherwise. The European Commission wants to relax the rules governing the overall length of semi combinations to allow more room for improved aerodynamics (both at the front and back) to save fuel and reduce emissions. A more aerodynamic ‘long nose’ sloping cab might also help improve driver vision as well, as offering better crash protection for vulnerable road users. Only it’s anyone’s guess when those new rules will become law.

 

MAN More

 

According to one manufacturer I’ve spoken to, the most optimistic timeline for adoption by the European Union’s member states of a revised EU Directive on truck dimensions would be 2018. There would then be a three-year moratorium before it could go ‘live’. So the earliest opportunity for any truck maker to launch a longer, more aerodynamic cab would be 2021.

 

However, as the new EU directive won’t be mandatory I can’t see many of those truck makers who’ve launched new cabs within the past 10 years hurrying to do so, especially when the average lifespan of a truck cab these days is closer to 20 years. But for those whose cabs are already getting somewhat long in the tooth, sometime around 2025 might be a good time to launch a new long-haul prime mover cab that takes advantage of the revised EU rules. And who knows? When those new cabs do appear they might even feature a flat floor, and right-hand drive too.

 

Shaking off the Shackles

Shaking off the Shackles

The new-generation Mercedes-Benz trucks coming onto the market see the German brand shaking off the shackles of being a ‘niche’ truck brand and move into the mainstream.

Shaking off the Shackles

For Australia, the models are being identified by their numbering, those which denote GVM and engine power, all the way from a 3263, 32-tonne GVM and 630hp, down to the 1630, 16-tonne GVM and 300hp. Benz is grouping them under the ‘new-generation’ banner, but the large prime movers are still referred to as Actros, the smaller 4×2 is still an Atego and the twin-steer models all come under the Arocs banner.

 

The twin-steer Arocs is instantly identifiable from its toothed grille, clearly differentiating it from the rest of the Actros range. This truck will give the Mercedes-Benz sales team a truck with which they can go to operators who consistently buy 8×4 trucks from other manufacturers, but have been unable to use the German maker’s trucks in the past, as they did not fit with the applications for which they were required.

 

The Arocs tested by Diesel News has the right dimensions and weight distribution to be able to work as a front-loading garbage compactor, plus many other applications, and looks likely to be able to find a home in some Australian fleets. This would have been unthinkable not that many years ago.

 

Sitting behind the wheel of this Arocs, the driver is holding a wheel showing off the excellent steering on this 8×4. It has been beefed up with more powerful assistance, making for quick and responsive turning, on a truck which could get up to its weights over the front axle, especially in applications like front loading compactor.

 

The cabin is called the Classic Space and is the just the right compromise between having enough room inside the cab, and the cabin floor not being too high off the ground. From this position the driver gets good visibility around the truck and is sitting high enough for highway driving.

 

Power comes from the 11-litre engine, the OM 470. In this case, we are driving a truck with the engine rated at 428hp (319kW), putting out 2,100Nm (1,550 ft lb) of torque. Other options available are the 394hp engine with 1,900Nm and the 455hp model with 2,200Nm available.

 

The engine features an asymmetrical turbo and, what Mercedes-Benz calls, the X-pulse variable high-pressure fuel injection system, where high fuel pressures in the common rail are varied by the injector itself.

 

The result is an engine which may appear lazy, but has plenty of low-down torque to keep the whole thing moving. These trucks need to be driven at a relatively low rpm level to get the best out of them. They are capable of holding onto a gear a lot lower in the rev range than many old-style drivers would allow.

 

To help resist the instinct to change down, the driver of these trucks simply has to put their trust in the 12-speed Powershift AMT. The changing is slick and well timed, there is little need to intervene out on the road. The gear controller, a stalk on the right-hand side of the steering column need only be touched when setting off or when transferring from forward to reverse.

 

There is little need to paddle the control up and down to manually take over gear shifting. The more effective method of control is to simply kick down through the detent on the accelerator to get a down change when climbing. Alternatively, when descending the lower gear, better deceleration from higher revs, can be achieved by simply pulling on the engine brake control with the gear control stalk.

 

Better still, set the speed limiter using the steering wheel buttons to set a sensible speed. This will remain dormant in normal driving, but on reaching the top of a descent, the driver simply hits the limiter-on button and the truck goes into a downhill mode. The AMT will start changing gears and activating the engine brake to achieve the desired speed.

Shaking off the Shackles

A Little Big Truck

 

One of the innovations in the new-generation models is the uniformity of layout and style inside the cabs across the range. The Atego is now more like an Actros ‘mini-me’. It has smaller version of most of the major components on the bigger trucks. This scaling down means a driver jumping into any of the trucks in the Mercedes-Benz range is now greeted by a familiar look and feel, plus all of the controls are in the same location.

 

The Atego is a far more basic truck than its bigger siblings. It comes with one engine option, the 7.7-litre OM 936 with power at 299hp (223kW), and an adequate 1,200Nm (885 ft lb) of torque. This power is handled by the eight-speed Powershift AMT.

 

Although it uses a simpler specification set-up than the larger trucks, this model also feels like a contemporary and capable truck, with the extra sophistication you would expect from the German truck maker. Again, this engine will lug down low in the rpm range and keep pulling.

Flat Floor Thoughts

Flat Floor Thoughts

The long-awaited arrival of the right-hand-drive Renault ‘T High’ tractor in the UK has given Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Brian Weatherley, some flat floor thoughts – thinking about the benefits of flat-floor cab-overs to overnighters.

Flat Floor Thoughts

Frankly, I’m surprised more manufacturers don’t do it. ‘Do what?’ I hear you ask Down Under. Build more flat-floor cab-over models, that’s what. Given the fact that every night hundreds of thousands of European long-haul drivers are bedding down for the night in a truck (and I reckon 99.99 per cent of them will be doing it in a cab-over prime mover) you’d think that all of Europe’s truck makers would be keen to make their cabs as easy to move around in as possible.

 

And what better way to ensure effortless cross-cab access and boost the size of your bedroom than by removing the engine hump and replacing it with a perfectly flat cab floor? Yet so far, only three of the major players – Mercedes, Renault and Scania – actually offer one. DAF, Iveco, MAN and Volvo heavies have all still got the ‘hump’, albeit of modest height on their flagship models.

 

What’s got me writing about flat floors? The recent (and long-awaited) arrival in the UK of the right-hand-drive version of Renault’s towering ‘Range T High’ prime mover complete with a flat-floor cab. While it’s been around ever since the French manufacturer unveiled its Range T long-distance heavy-truck range back in 2013, up until now T Highs have only been available in left-hand drive. So if you were a UK haulier who wanted one, it had to be a left-hooker.

 

While a couple have gone to Pommie hauliers (primarily international operators running onto the continent where a left-hooker makes more sense), calls for a right-hand-drive T High have been slowly mounting, not least from Renault Trucks UK, who clearly sees its sales potential amongst those small fleets and owner-drivers looking for a prestige overnighter.

 

Of course, some of us in the press have been more than ready to add our own ten cents worth, usually along the lines of, “why should the continentals have all the pleasures of a T High flat-floor cab in left-hand drive and not us in right-hand drive?”

 

However, given that the UK and Ireland still insist on having the steering wheel on the other side of the cab, it’s not unusual for right-hand-drive chassis to be at the back of the production queue whenever a new model is launched, as the priority will inevitably be towards the volume left-hand-drive markets. And just as important, if you’re going to engineer a truck for right-hand drive you’d better be sure the cost of doing it will be more than covered by the number you’ll sell. But even so…

 

Fortunately the folks in Lyon have finally relented with the result that Renault Trucks UK recently proclaimed, “In response to the changing UK and Irish markets, and a clear demand from customers, we are delighted to announce the introduction of a newly engineered right-hand-drive Range T High, available from early 2018.” Better late than never I say.

Flat Floor Thoughts

Three Models to Choose From

 

British hauliers keen to get their hands on a T High right-hooker have three models to choose from, all based on the current Range T driveline consisting of the 13-litre ‘DTI 13’ in-line six- and 12-speed Optidriver two-pedal auto.

 

The first, the ‘International’, features fabric seats with a rotating passenger seat, standard bunk and steel wheels, and is available at 440hp and 480hp in a 6×2 configuration only, 6x2s being the industry-standard prime mover for six-axle, top-weight, 44-tonne GCM semi operations in Blighty. The International’s sensible power ratings will doubtless also appeal to those fleet buyers under pressure to retain drivers with a decent flagship cab, but who don’t want a stampede of horses underneath it.

 

Next comes the ‘Driver’, with 440hp, 480hp and 520hp 13-litre ratings, plus a little more comfort including full-leather seats, again with the rotating passenger chair, ‘performance’ lower and ‘ultimate’ upper bunks, a big fridge, compact dashboard, Alcoa alloy wheels, aluminium suzie support and additional catwalk.

 

Finally, there’s the top-of-the-range ‘Driver Lux’. Offered with either the 480hp or 520hp DTI 13, it boasts even more goodies including a tilting backrest on the bunk, big lockers, luxury curtains, laminated side windows and aluminium air tanks. But in all three cases they have that all-important flat floor.

Merc Breaking Out

Merc Breaking Out

The new-generation Mercedes-Benz trucks coming onto the market see Merc breaking out of being a ‘niche’ truck brand and move into the mainstream. Diesel News drives the first batch release of rigid truck models in the range.

Merc Breaking Out

They went on display for the first time at the Brisbane Truck Show, and now the selection of rigid models Mercedes-Benz is releasing in the company’s new-generation refresh are available and on the road.

 

The launch of these rigid trucks follows on from the successful launch of the prime mover models last year. They have just emerged from a similar process to the one the company used in developing the prime mover range. A number of evaluation trucks were put into different fleets around the country. In all, 35 customers tried 20 trucks, covering over 1.8 million kilometres.

 

These trucks represent a seismic shift in the way Mercedes-Benz presents itself to the Australian truck market. In the past, the large rigids supplied by Benz were able to be sold into specific niches, areas of the truck market where the numbers sold annually remain relatively small.

 

This time the trucks have been developed specifically from the options available in Germany to sit squarely in high-volume segments of the truck market. These trucks have been specified in a way which will suit a large number of operators in Australia. The analysis of the Australian truck market done by Mercedes-Benz in the run-up to this launch has been well targeted and organised.

 

In the past, the design and specification of trucks from Mercedes-Benz has been a very inflexible affair. Trucks were designed and built to suit the European market, where the company sold most of his trucks. This meant, sometimes, the trucks had to be shoehorned into roles they weren’t perfectly suited for.

 

The privations that followed the global financial crisis, as the European truck market stagnated and later only grew in small steps when economies did improve, have led to a change of heart on the part of the German truck maker. This time, the entire design process of the Actros has been thought of in more global terms. First of all, the engine design was part of the global engine platform project started by Daimler Trucks after the acquisition of Freightliner and Detroit.

 

Thinking of a truck in terms of how it could be used in different ways in various situations has led to a much more flexible platform from which Australian truck designers have been able to pick and choose from what has been available to create something aligned to the needs of the Australian truck buyer.

Merc Breaking Out

What’s in a Name?

 

Another sign of the change in thinking about the trucks and their suitability for our market is the naming convention chosen for these trucks, or the lack of one. In Europe, the Mercedes-Benz truck brand has moved from three model ranges: Actros, Axor and Atego, to four: Actros, Arocs, Antos and Atego. One part of this ‘new-generation’ process has been in integrating the models; there is now a common electronic architecture across all Benz trucks. The cabin dash layout is mirrored all of the way from the smallest truck to the largest, creating uniformity across the range.

For Australia, the models are being identified by their numbering, those which denote GVM and engine power, all the way from a 3263, 32-tonne GVM and 630hp, down to the 1630, 16-tonne GVM and 300hp. Benz is grouping them under the ‘new-generation’ banner, but the large prime movers are still referred to as Actros, the smaller 4×2 is still an Atego and the twin-steer models all come under the Arocs banner.

New Scania, Trucking Optimism, a Major Fine and Electric Axles

New Scania, Trucking Optimism, a Major Fine and Electric Axles

The news from Diesel this week shows evidence of a new Scania, trucking optimism, a major fine and electric axles, with stories from around the world.

 

Images of the next generation Scania driving on Australian roads have started to appear on social media, as the Swedish truck maker run the new models in a, far from secret, evaluation program. 

New Scania, Trucking Optimism, a Major Fine and Electric Axles

 

New Scania, Trucking Optimism, a Major Fine and Electric Axles

Truck Sales Up

 

The latest monthly truck sales figures released by the Truck Industry Council (TIC) this week demonstrate optimism from truck buyers and show a strong truck market, when compared to the figures from last September. National sales figures are showing a rise in sales over the year when compared to 2016. Overall sales sit at 26,294 so far this year, they were just 23,951 at the same point last year.

 

While just about every truck brand is showing an increase in sales, some have made major gains over 2016. The two German brands MAN and Mercedes Benz, now selling new models and with MAN supplying the Defence Forces, have increased sales with numbers up 198 per cent and 48 per cent respectively.

 

Major Fine for Scania

 

Scania has been hit with an 880 million ($1,316 million) after being found to be part of a trucks cartel by the European Commission. The charges reckon the Swedish truck maker colluded for 14 years with five other European truck manufacturers on the pricing of trucks. There were also irregularities in passing on the costs of new technologies to meet exhaust emission regulations.

 

This follows the fining of MAN, DAF, Daimler, Iveco and Volvo/Renault last year after they also admitted to have acted in a cartel-like fashion. Scania had elected not to settle early and underwent a full investigation.

 

“The decision marks the end of our investigation into a very long lasting cartel, 14 years,” Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, is quoted as saying in reports from Europe. “This cartel affected very substantial numbers of road hauliers in Europe, since Scania and the other truck manufacturers in the cartel produce more than 9 out of every 10 medium and heavy trucks sold in Europe. These trucks account for around three quarters of inland transport of goods in Europe and play a vital role in the European economy. Instead of colluding on pricing, the truck manufacturers should have been competing against each other, also on environmental improvements.”

 

Electric Axles

 

Meritor has announced it is developing a platform of electric drive axles and suspensions as well as supporting systems with the intention to position the company as a leader in electric solutions for the commercial vehicle market.

 

“Essentially, we’re focusing on integrating an electric motor into the differential carrier,” said Jay Craig, CEO and president for Meritor. “As we look to future emissions regulations and our customers’ desire for more efficiency, we’re developing new and innovative solutions to expand our product portfolio.”

 

Meritor designed the e-carrier as a drop-in replacement of a conventional mechanical carrier that does not disrupt axle or suspension packaging. Because the electric motor is integrated into the axle, space is freed up for batteries and other electrical components, offering easier packaging and installation and a safer, more protected location inside the frame rails to mount the batteries.