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.

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.

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.