2018 International Truck of the Year Announcement

In Europe, the 2018 International Truck of the Year Announcement has been made today. DAF’s new XF/CF truck range has been elected International Truck of the Year for 2018 by a jury of 23 commercial vehicle editors and senior journalists, representing 23 major trucking magazines from throughout Europe.

The prestigious award was handed over to Preston Feight, President of DAF Trucks, during the press day of the Solutrans Commercial Vehicle Show in Lyon, France. Read more

It’s Access, Stupid!

Manufacturing in Australia Is Dead!

We are constantly being told manufacturing in Australia is dead! In fact, we in the trucking industry know manufacturing in Australia is far from dead, as far as trucks, trailers and trucking is concerned.

 

Yes, Holden, Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi have bitten the dust – and the kind of large scale mass manufacturing needed to make cars has probably gone, never to return. There are, however, some big companies in Australia making big bucks from vehicle manufacture, they just aren’t high-profile businesses constantly in the public eye.

 

Last week, Diesel News made its way to the Volvo Group’s Wacol truck assembly plant to see trucks number 60,000 and 60,001 roll off the end of the production line, one Volvo FH and a Mack Superliner.

 

They were wrapped in green and gold artwork displaying the Australia Made logo – they are able to show this label as the manufacturing process is deemed by the Australia Made organisation to meet its criteria.

 

‘What criteria?’ I hear you ask. Well, the criteria for manufactured products were changed in February this year from a narrow definition of a 50-per-cent-of-the-cost-of-production test to a new definition which talks about a ‘substantial transformation’.

 

The definition now goes like this:

 

“A fundamental change – in form, appearance or nature, such that the goods existing after the change are new and different goods from those existing before the change.

What does that mean?

It means that simple treatments or processing – such as repackaging or mere assembly – are not likely to qualify an otherwise imported good for the ‘Made in Australia’ claim.

An item must be ‘substantially transformed’ in Australia.”

 

The Volvo and Mack product fit the new description, as do the other two truck manufacturers putting together trucks in Australia, Kenworth and Iveco. All three take a slightly different approach to the way a truck is made, but all fit into the made in Australia ideal.

 

Of course, the engines are not made here in Australia. Nobody makes engines here anymore. The capital cost is too high. Volvo, Mack and, in some cases, Kenworth do not construct the cabins in Australia either, but just about everything else is sourced here. Iveco actually presses the raw steel to make the cabins for the Acco trucks that collect our garbage and deliver our concrete.

 

When we look at the trailers being hauled by these trucks, they are all, with a few exceptions, made here in Australia from scratch. The trailer manufacturing industry is a true Aussie one. It goes all the way from high-volume assembly-line trailer making, to one man and his dog, with a welder, putting together custom-built specialised trailing equipment for the trucking industry.

 

The trailer industry makes gear to suit Australian conditions, to cope with our terrible roads and our – higher-than-anywhere-else – masses. The stresses and strains we put our trailing gear through are unimaginable for many of the trailer designers plying their trade in Europe and the US.

 

This is just the headline equipment that is manufactured here. There are all those component manufacturers also doing their bit to keep Australian manufacturing alive. I recently had the opportunity to tour the new Dana plant in Keysborough in Victoria. The company took a hit when Ford closed its plant, but the new facility is now buzzing with activity, building axles and driveshafts for all three truck makers who build here in Australia

 

Manufacturing in Australia is dead? Long live manufacturing in Australia!

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.

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. Read more

DAF Looks Good on Saving Fuel

Following the latest release in Europe, Diesel News Europe Correspondent, Brian Weatherley, reckons DAFs look good on saving fuel. He has seen them, and driven them. DAF says its latest CF and XF represent ‘pure excellence’. 

According to Ron Borsboom, DAF’s chief engineer, director of product development and board member: “One of the things where we feel we do a pretty good job is we are close to our customers, and we understand what the requirements and needs of our customers are.” Read more

Remain Vigilant

Looking in from the Outside

It’s not until you start looking in from the outside that you can see the full picture and get some perspective. I have just returned from a holiday in Europe and became a casual observer of the way road transport is handled in Spain, France and the UK.

 

Apart from the obvious differences, like driving on the wrong side of the road and pulling semi-trailers with a single drive prime mover, there is a lot more to think about. The European economy seems to be picking up and, as a result, the trucking industry is hauling more freight.

 

Watching how much of the freight makes it from A to B shows us just how inefficient their transport system is in comparison to our own. First, the biggest truck on the road is semi and often limited to just 40 tonnes gross combination mass (GCM). Second, a lot of the final-mile delivery work is handled by small vans, and I mean small vans, not at a five or six tonne GCM but closer to two.

 

The sheer geography of a lot of the urban environment means it is easier to get around the city in something not much bigger than a car, but even on the outer edges of the cities, vans predominate. Smaller vans means more trips, more vans and more man hours. This equates to lower efficiency.

 

Out on the main freight routes, the roads are a constant stream of semis travelling on the limiter at 90km/h and driving tail to tail for long periods. The combination of the 16.5-metre length limit and a maximum trailer height of four metres means these trailers are cubed out in most cases and running well below maximum gross weights.

 

Rational solutions to the crowded city delivery issues are being tried in the more rational Scandinavian countries, with Stockholm running a consolidation distribution system for deliveries into the city. However, these kinds of ideas are unlikely to get started in the less rational Mediterranean cities. The inefficient and chaotic delivery infrastructure is going to remain the norm.

 

The argument for longer heavier trucks and platooning of line haul trucking in Europe is obvious to the casual Australian observer. A lot of trucks are engaged in a form of ‘virtual’ platooning anyway. They are sitting 40 metres off the truck in front and using active cruise control to maintain distance and speed. Fuel efficiency gains are achievable like this, but getting much closer with some form of autonomous control would reap big savings.

 

A-double combinations would also reap big rewards in these situations. It is not unusual to see several trucks from the same operator, clearly hauling the same goods to the same destination, traveling along together, a strong argument for road trains and a quantum leap in efficiency.

 

Returning home and heading out on the highway from the airport and seeing the trucks on our roads drives home just how efficient we have become, when compared to the rest of the world. We are doing a lot of things right.

 

B-doubles are now the default method of hauling freight in Australia. A-double and larger trucks are handling container movements in and out of ports to regional locations. Even road construction sites are more efficient, on the European motorways you can drive past kilometres of parked rigid tippers in queues. The same amount of material is getting shifted here in ever-larger tipper and dog units at a much lower cost.

 

Next time you think the trucking game is lagging behind in Australia, just have a look at how the job is done elsewhere and things might seem quite so bad.

Most Successful DAF

The DAF CF85 has been the most successful DAF model brought into Australia in the past twenty years by Paccar. It is also successful for the company in Europe. The size and shape of the truck fit neatly into a lot of intrastate or around-town type applications. The truck is simplicity itself to drive, climb in and out of and get into tight corners – and it doesn’t look bad at all.

The driver position is just right – far enough forward to make every area around the truck visible, with all of the controls are close at hand and easily accessible. The driver sits low in the cabin surrounded by the instruments and controls, with a complete view around them. There’s even a small under-bunk fridge accessible to the left hand from the driver’s seat. Read more

The Future of Truck Ownership

New ways of looking at the future of truck ownership see the relationship between truck maker and truck user changing dramatically. New ideas are being investigated in Europe, Diesel News talks to Scania’s global sales and marketing boss to get his thoughts on the process. Read more