With the release of the new Scania range the old adage, timing is everything in the truck market, comes true as the new trucks, dubbed the ‘New Truck Generation’ (NTG) by the marketing people at the Swedish truck maker, hit the Australian market on the crest of a wave.
Hauling B-doubles from Sydney to Melbourne two trucks were tested by Diesel News, a G Series with a 500hp 13-litre power plant pulling a B-double at around 55 tonnes gross combination mass (GCM), and an R620 with the V8 16-litre on board, this time loaded up to 61.5 tonnes. Both engines are Euro-5 compliant.
Driving these new Scania models shows us just how far we have come and what the future holds for truck drivers. It is not the automation and safety systems alone that show us this vision of the future, although they are part of it. It’s the seamless integration of every system that characterises the driving experience in this truck.
The driver is not confronted with a variety of separate functions and then turning them on and off when required. Instead, they are selecting a number of components to be active when needed and setting them up to suit the road conditions ahead. The systems then go ahead and run themselves, blending activation on the fly.
In the past, the driver judged when to release the clutch, which gear for a particular grade, when to back off because the truck in front is slowing, and timed gear changes to get the best out of the engine. On this truck, it is possible to hand all of these decisions over to an automated system, if you so choose.
Of course, the driver can make their own decisions at any moment, intervening when something goes wrong, or when they see something happening that the truck’s system can’t see. However, it is possible to get the truck rolling and then switch it all on, sit back, relax and watch the world go by. It’s just a matter of trust.
Just as inexperienced drivers turn the cruise control on for the first time with a bit of trepidation, so it was for this driver. You are handing over everything apart from the steering (you can expect that to be with us soon enough).
In the past, with things like ACC and other automatics, the driver still had to keep an eye out for some of the items the automated systems would miss. Common tricks included grabbing an extra gear at the foot of a climb, keeping up the impetus to maintain momentum uphill, or knocking the cruise off just before the crest of a climb to save fuel.
With the introduction of GPS mapping with topographical data, in a system called Active Cruise Control with Active Prediction, the game has changed. The system does know there’s a hill coming, knocks off any engine braking and gets the truck into the right gear to attack the grade. Similarly, it also knows when the top of the rise is just ahead, knocks off the power and lets the load coast over the crest.
The important point to note is that it’s possible to turn all of these systems on when getting onto the highway and intervene occasionally for long periods of time. In a fully loaded B-double coming down a steep grade, the engine retardation kicks in and does its best to stay below the 105 km/h set. At this point the driver may need to add in a little braking until the retardation is back in control.
Of course, the driver has to remain alert. For example, a slower vehicle may pull out in front of the truck and emergency braking gets activated. A bit of anticipation, moving across a lane before the radar picks up the slow coach, solves the issue.