Trucks to Meet the Future Task

Trucks to Meet the Future Task

Discussing trucks to meet the future task in the boardroom at SRT Logistics’ headquarters in Hobart, Tasmania is Executive Director Jim Miller, Chief Operating Officer Brad Hilder and Fleet Manager Nigel Froud. Read more

In less than 18 months, Scania has completely replaced its truck line-up

Completely Replaced its Truck Line-up

In less than 18 months, Scania has completely replaced its truck line-up – from top-weight prime movers down to low-entry urban warriors, stopping off in between with an all-new construction range. Diesel News’ European Correspondent reckons the Swedish truck maker’s recent range renewal isn’t just about multiple new cabs atop a host of revised chassis.

Read more

Die-Hard Caterpillar Fan

Die-Hard Caterpillar Fan

Jim Miller, Executive Director of Statewide Refrigerated Transport (SRT) Logistics, one of Tasmania’s three largest truck operators, is a die-hard Caterpillar fan who is not afraid to declare he’d still be buying Caterpillar-powered Freightliner Argosys if this was a viable or, indeed, possible option.
Read more

Bring Back the Clutch

 

On one of the new models from Scania, the Swedish truck maker has decided to bring back the clutch. Man cannot live on prime mover sales alone – even if they do represent a massive chunk of the new truck market up here. As part of it whole range change, Scania have filled in the remaining gaps in its New Generation line-up.

 

Bring Back the Clutch

 

One new set of models is the new construction range badged as the ‘XT’, which broke cover last September. The initials apparently stand for ‘extra tough’, and the models undoubtedly look the part, being a mixture of mission-matched drive-train components underneath new cabs, with an exterior and interior makeover that emphasises their off-road role.

 

At the XT’s launch, Scania declared it wanted to win more construction industry business. It now has the truck to do that with. The most obvious clue to the XT’s off-road heritage is its all-new steel bumper assembly, which sticks out 15cm from the front of the cab, shielding the lights and radiator behind it. Improved approach angles offer further under-run protection, while the reinforced ribbed housing around the rear-view mirrors should minimise the damage caused by those annoying ‘mirror-on-mirror’ encounters with a truck coming the other way on narrow roads.

 

Meanwhile, for all those drivers who still demand a clutch pedal, even on an auto box, the XT’s Opticruise automated gearbox can be ordered with the optional ‘Clutch on Demand’ function, which allows drivers to manually operate the clutch. Scania says that this if for those conditions where “it is beneficial to ‘feel’ the traction being laid down, for example, when manoeuvring on loose surfaces in demanding off-road situations.”

 

To use Clutch on Demand, you simply press down on the reinstated third pedal. Once you’ve done using it, Opticruise reverts back to full-auto mode, working as a ‘two-pedal’ box, including when stopping and moving off. Clutch on Demand can be ordered on any New Generation heavy, but XT’s off-road operating environment makes it the obvious candidate for fitment.

 

Interestingly, rival manufacturers seem perfectly happy fitting (only) two-pedal autos in their construction chassis, albeit with specific off-road programs, including a ‘rocking’ function. But then, unlike ZF’s AS-Tronic, Volvo’s I-Shift or Mercedes-Benz’s Powershift 3, Opticruise isn’t actually a ‘fully dedicated’ auto transmission. Rather, it’s a regular Scania manual synchromesh box that’s been automated. And although its competitors dispensed with a separate clutch pedal on their autos ages ago, Scania clung on to theirs until 2009 before finally creating a two-pedal version.

 

So bringing back a clutch pedal on Opticruise, particularly as an option on XT construction models, is somewhat intriguing. According to Scania, the decision follows customer requests. I’ll be interested to see how many UK operators specify it.

 

Bring Back the Clutch

 

At the same time as it launched the XT, Scania also rolled out the P-Series, its urban distribution range. Sporting the smallest cab in Scania’s ‘modular’ system, the P-Series is intended for high-street delivery work – in the UK, that means with those operators running two-axle 18-tonners or 26-tonne 6x2s. Likewise, a day-cabbed P-Series prime mover with a 300+hp engine under the hood is your archetypal 4×2 ‘supermarket trolley’. P-Series shares the same exterior and interior styling cues as its bigger siblings, only in a smaller package. An eight-seater crew cab completes the P-Series line-up.

 

Finally, just before Christmas, Scania finished the job, unveiling a low-entry chassis cab called the ‘L-Series’, which will compete head on with the Mercedes Benz Econic, Dennis Eagle and Volvo LEC. Although Scania previously offered a low-entry cab model (based on the old P-cab) it never made a song and dance about it. Clearly that’s all changed.

 

Bring Back the Clutch

 

The L-Series is the logical response to calls from within Europe, and especially the UK, for safer urban trucks that can provide their drivers with a better view of what’s going on around them, in order to avoid collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. Furthermore, the low-entry chassis gives Scania the perfect answer to Transport for London’s forthcoming Direct Vision Standard for heavy trucks working in the city, due to come into effect around 2020. (And it’s also being considered for those tendering for major infrastructure projects in Australia – Ed.)

 

As well as being an obvious platform for refuse-collection operations, the L-Series will also be offered to distribution, construction and waste-handling buyers. Its cab comes with a choice of three roof heights and, thanks to its standard front air suspension, the ability to kneel by 10cm at the kerbside, thereby reducing the cab floor height to just 80cm and the first step to only 44cm off the ground. The kneeling function operates when the park brake is applied.

 

 

 

 

 

Trucks to Meet the Future Task

European Drift

The ongoing quest for improved safety and fuel efficiency in trucks over the last decade has seen a European drift. Some operators who traditionally favoured US brands moving to European marques. Paul Matthei visited just such an operator, SRT Logistics, on the Apple Isle.

Read more

Range Renaissance 

Late last year, Scania completed its long-anticipated ‘New Generation’ range renaissance. Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Brian Weatherley, reckons there’s more to it than just a shedload of bright-new shiny trucks.

 

Range Renaissance 

 

You’ve got to admit it’s impressive. In less than 18 months, Scania has completely replaced its truck line-up – from top-weight prime movers down to low-entry urban warriors, stopping off in between with an all-new construction range. Yet the Swedish truck maker’s recent range renewal isn’t just about multiple new cabs atop a host of revised chassis. It’s introduced a shedload of new engines and drivetrain improvements too. Frankly, it’s been hard to keep up with all the changes but – for the record – the whole shooting match has cost Scania a cool €2 billion ($3.1 billion).

 

So what’s it bought them? Given that the first fruits of Scania’s ‘New Generation’ will be arriving Down Under this year, let me just remind you what Diesel Editor Tim Giles wrote back in the November/December 2016 issue. After having driven the latest top-of-the-range R- and S-Series ‘Glamour Boys’, he declared: “With so much attention to detail, Scania’s new flagship has all the potential to step into the footprints of its globally successful predecessor, and maybe even surpass it.” Far be it from me to argue with the bloke who pays my wages but, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no ‘maybe’ about it.

 

Range Renaissance 

 

Since their European launch, the R- and S-Series have not only walked off with the 2017 ‘International Truck of the Year’ trophy, more importantly, Scania’s promise of greater fuel efficiency from its more-aerodynamic cabs and revised Euro-6 drivetrains is being delivered out on the road, not least in Blighty. When the Swedes unveiled the R- and S-Series, they claimed the new trucks deliver “five per cent lower fuel consumption” on average. Judging by reports from this part of the world, it’s closer to 6.7 per cent on a typical R450 prime mover.

 

However, man cannot live on prime mover sales alone – even if they do represent a massive chunk of the new truck market up here. Today, it’s all about having a ‘whole range’ and, while Scania may only build down to 18 tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM), last June it began filling in the remaining gaps in its New Generation line-up, starting with G-Series. With its narrower (2.3-metre-wide) medium-height cab and lower driving-position, the G-Series is aimed fairly and squarely at the major short-haul distribution fleets and supermarkets. Think DAF CF and Volvo FM – that’s where it sits in the marketplace.

 

17323-025

 

Next to arrive was a collection of new construction models badged as the ‘XT’, which broke cover last September. The initials apparently stand for ‘extra tough’, and the models undoubtedly look the part, being a mixture of mission-matched drive-train components underneath new cabs, with an exterior and interior makeover that emphasises their off-road role. To put it another way, Scania has done to XT what Volvo did with FMX and Mercedes with Arocs – created a dedicated off-road family based on existing components specifically tailored to the job.

 

At the XT’s launch, Scania declared it wanted to win more construction industry business. It now has the truck to do that with. The most obvious clue to the XT’s off-road heritage is its all-new steel bumper assembly, which sticks out 15cm from the front of the cab, shielding the lights and radiator behind it. Improved approach angles offer further under-run protection, while the reinforced ribbed housing around the rear-view mirrors should minimise the damage caused by those annoying ‘mirror-on-mirror’ encounters with a truck coming the other way on narrow roads.

 

Range Renaissance 

 

Other XT attributes include Scania’s trademark well-positioned slip-proof steps, vertical exhausts, durable seats and high-edge rubber mats. On the tech side, you get a electronic braking system (EBS) with either disc or drum brakes, and the new optional electric park brake (offered on all New Generation chassis) incorporates a no-time-limit hill-hold function. It also automatically applies the brakes when the truck stops, for example in a traffic queue, and if your XT is kept stationary for slightly longer, it switches from auto-hold to the park brake.

 

 

 

Autonomous Trucks All Over

Autonomous Trucks All Over

If you read the news it would seem there are autonomous trucks all over the world being trialled ready to take over. A number of projects are coming to a head, to the point where real operations on real roads are going to become more normal.

 

 

US technology company based in California, Starsky Robotics, says it has successfully finished a test run of 7 miles (11 km) with a fully unmanned autonomous truck. In a first for this kind of trechnology, these runs were without a safety driver behind the wheel or an engineer on the sideline.

 

Autonomous Trucks All Over

 

“Ours was a truly driverless vehicle, and to our knowledge, we are the only people who have done a test like that,” said Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, CEO, and co-founder of Starsky Robotics. “The first thing we built was a robust robot that would be able to remote control drive, first a rental car and eventually a truck, around the parking lot.

 

“In August 2016, we drove a truck around the truck yard, moved trailers for money with no person sitting behind the wheel.

 

“By April 2017, our autonomous system was stable enough for regularly using it to haul freight on the highway. We worked from April until September to integrate everything together.”

 

Meanwhile in Finland, Scania has announced a partnership agreement with Finnish company Ahola Transport for the first customer agreement in Europe for semi-autonomous truck platooning on public roads.

 

 

Ahola Transport Oyj will run Scania trucks and technology on Finnish motorways to test semi-autonomous platooning formations with three or more connected trucks. During these tests, drivers will man all trucks. However, the driver in the first truck will control the entire platoon and the following trucks are driven autonomously.

Autonomous Trucks All Over

“For us it is important to enhance our drivers’ work situation with help of new technology,” said Hans Ahola, CEO of Ahola Transport. “The planned solutions also help us to meet customer expectations for faster deliveries and environmental targets. Our association with Scania started with the first truck back in 1959 and we are pleased to extend cooperation to new solutions.”

Meanwhile, USA Today reports Uber running it’s autonomous truck with the first real payload.

 

8x2 Rigid Out For a Spin

8×2 Rigid Out For a Spin

When Diesel News took the new Scania 8×2 rigid out for a spin, we found there’s something reassuring about driving an eight wheeler truck. With twin steer axles taking a good proportion of the weight at the front, the truck seems to sit down well on the road. The rear axles can be set a little closer to the rear, so there is no tendency towards the see-saw motion a driver will sometimes feel in a 6×4 on a rough road.

 

8x2 Rigid Out For a Spin

 

Steering with two axles is also reassuring. The four tyres turning push the front end of the truck around the corner. This allows for very precise turning, especially when the air dump is temporarily activated.

 

Out on the road, there are two AMT programs available to the driver, auto or auto economy. Both function perfectly OK in both urban and highway conditions. Changes are made at higher rpm levels on auto, whereas the economy mode sees the Opticruise holding onto higher gears for longer and minimising rpm levels.

 

The instinct to intervene and go up or down the box manually is always there for any driver brought up in the manual-only era. A quick flick of the right hand steering wheel stalk will get the change made quickly, as will either kicking down or feathering the accelerator. Unfortunately, when the AMT is in economy mode, the stalk intervention is unavailable over 50 kph.

 

On the road across from Brisbane to the foot of the Cunningham’s Gap climb, economy auto had been more than adequate. However, on the climb, at a critical juncture where the driver could see the approaching steepening of the climb, but the truck couldn’t, manual intervention to grab a lower gear to maintain momentum, was not available.

 

It was necessary to hit the button to change from economy to auto, before hitting the control stalk for the downchange. Of course, by the time auto was engaged and then the manual change made, it was too late and momentum was lost on the climb. Unfortunate, as this was on the last, but steepest, section of the grade.

 

Coming back down the grade only armed with an exhaust brake and no engine brake, it is important to get gear selection dead right before starting to descend. The exhaust brake can be activated through a button on the floor next to the steering column, or alternatively set to come on when the brake pedal is first pressed and before the service brakes are activated. This second option seemed to offer the best performance descending the Gap. When the engine revs get too high the driver simply pushes through on the brake pedal to engage enough service braking to get the speed back down.

 

8x2 Rigid Out For a Spin

 

Inside the Cabin

 

The Scania cabin on the P Series is now getting quite old and will be superseded in the next few years as the the new generation of Scania design works its way through the Swedish truck maker’s portfolio.

 

In fact, with the low set cabin and the already large window, the advantages of the new design’s visibility improvement will be quite small. The combination of a low cab height, large windows, plus large mirrors well-placed means the driver is well aware of what is around the truck at all times. Of course, when the new design does come though, the technological upgrades will take the truck to another level. We are likely to have a wait of, at least, a couple of years for the new generation.

 

Hopefully, the new design will improve some of the ergonomics of the current cabin design. The only place for a drinks bottle is on the rear wall of the cabin, behind the driver. There is also no useful pocket or secure shelf on which to put something like a mobile phone apart, from on the module on the rear wall.

 

Impressions

 

There is a lot to like about this unusual configuration. The basic layout works well and does solve the riddle of the conflict between a diminishing load, the need to keep the load stable against the headboard and the need to keep mass off the front axle of a 6×4 or 6×2.

 

Once the risk of overloading the front axle is irrelevant, the issues associated with twin steer trucks need to be solved. The way this truck has been specified does seem to do the trick. Alongside a heavier payload there is a steering and suspension system capable of enabling the truck to get just about anywhere a 6×2 could access. There is one more axle, and two more tyres to wear out, but the added capacity should make the sums add up.

 

8x2 Rigid Out For a Spin

 

The design and visibility do make this a useful and viable distribution truck, which could also handle some of the longer routes, when needed. As a working environment it is comfortable, and feels safe. Ease of access in and out of the cabin is excellent with such a low slung cabin.

 

It will be interesting to see whether this combination does gain any traction in fleets, where it could substitute for the 6×2, 6×4 and some of the heavier trucks in certain situations. Scania have put it out there and now it’s simply a chance to see how the market reacts.

 

Niche in the Truck Market

Niche in the Truck Market

The eight wheeler has always had a limited niche in the truck market, but Scania is trying to change all of that with a specification to compete in the 6×4 rigid market. Diesel News took the new 8×2 rigid out for a spin.

 

Niche in the Truck Market

 

Regulations about axle weight limits and concerns over manoeuvrability have often hampered the eight wheeler truck in the Australian market. The regulations have a three axle rigid running at 22.5 tonnes on general access, but the four axle rigid only gets 26.5 tonnes GVM on the same roads. The higher tare weight, of four axles, reduces any payload advantage.

 

It is also safe to say the steering geometry of twin steer trucks in the past has left a lot to be desired. Not only were they limited in steering cut, making manoeuvrability an issue, but the imprecise geometry also made extra tyre wear an issue.

 

In the last fifteen years or so, the technical improvements in twin steers have come on in leaps and bounds, but the internal prejudices within the Australian truck market had already moved away from the eight legger. The die had been cast.

 

This year, Scania are making a point of talking to operators about bringing back the twin steer. The truck in question is the P 310 8×2 with a lifting tag axle. The specification has been honed down to make this truck a viable option to the buyer of the typical 6×4 or 6×2 distribution truck.

 

Niche in the Truck Market

 

Using just a single drive axle reduces the overall tare of the truck, maximising its GVM advantage over the 6×4. The single drive should also reduce fuel consumption to a figure highly comparable to the 6×4, if not the 6×2. Fitting a lifting axle should alleviate any traction concerns when a tag axle is fitted.

 

Finally, having a twin steer configuration helps to avoid the issue which dogs many distribution fleets. As a load diminishes during the day and the goods are unloaded via the back door, the load over the front axle gets higher and higher. It’s not hard to push well past the 6.5 tonnes mass limit once some of the rear pallets have been removed.

 

As a result of this issue, the load may have to be loaded more carefully and the driver may have to move pallets back and forth during the day to ensure legal axle masses. Adding in the fourth axle means the chances of accidentally unloading the truck to the point where there is more than 11 tonnes over the front end, is virtually impossible.

 

Diesel took an 8×2 tautliner out for a test drive around the Brisbane area to get an idea of how well this configuration can fit into the niche, currently owned by the six leggers. With highway driving to the top of Cunningham’s Gap near Warwick, plus some urban driving in the city of Brisbane, the route was designed to show us just what this set-up can do.

 

Niche in the Truck Market

 

Speccing the Truck

 

The truck tested is the one which was on the Scania stand at the Brisbane Truck Show earlier this year. Since then it has been doing the rounds of a number of fleets, allowing them to assess the feasibility of such a configuration.

 

This is an 8×2 rigid fitted with a 14 pallet 9.1 metre curtainsider body giving the truck an overall length at 11730mm. The body comes as part of the Scania ready built range, which sees the Swedish truck maker offering ready-to-go packages, something more commonly seen in the lighter end of the market with Isuzu, Hino and Fuso offering off the shelf light duty tippers etc.

 

Power comes from the Scania nine litre engine rated at 310 hp (228 kW) with maximum power coming at 1900 rpm. Torque is available at 1550Nm (1143 ft lb) between 1100 and 1350rpm. This five cylinder engine can be specified from 250hp to 360hp. Those looking for more power can go to the 13 litre engine and on up to a maximum of 450hp. The engine uses a single stage turbo, an SCR unit cleans up the exhaust gases and the engine is coupled to the Opticruise 12 speed AMT with a direct drive top gear.

 

A front end like this is unusual to see in the Australian market, but quite common around the world. It uses Scania’s four bag air suspension, rated at 14.2 tonnes. Rear suspension is also a four bag, but this one is rate at 19 tonnes. The Scania system enables a axle mass read-out at all times on the dashboard.

 

The lifting tag axle will automatically raise when the air system senses the axle weight on the rear is low enough for it to be raised legally. In an awkward situation where a driver feels the traction may be compromised with the axle in the down position, a button allows the driver to dump 30 per cent of the air in the system, for a limited number of seconds, to throw mass onto the drive axle, where the traction is needed.

 

 

Testing the system when parked up and watching the weight transfer from beside the truck, it is possible to see the effect clearly. When the weight goes off the lazy axle, its tyres can be see to return to a perfectly round shape, while the drive axle tyres’ deflection increases as the mass is loaded onto it.

 

Actually out on the test route it was possible to test out this system in a number of situations. One useful option is to press the button to take the weight off the tag axle when involved in tight manoeuvring. With the traction decreased on the rear axle, the steering does not have to work against any rear axle tyre scrub and the responsiveness to steering inputs is improved. It turns more like a 4×2 than an 8×2.

 

The button controlling this system is actually positioned down low, near the driver’s left knee. In fact, it would be more useful placed in a more ergonomically efficient position, making it easier to activate the system while driving without the driver having to take their eyes off the road.

 

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.