Saturday 24 August 2019

Mixed messages from manufacturers on future of trucking

Four senior industry figures took to the stage at the Microlise Transport Conference to debate the future challenges facing the industry, under the Truck to the Future banner.

MAN’s UK managing director Thomas Hemmerich was joined by DAF marketing manager Phil Moon, Iveco technical director Martin Flach and Scania’s business development marketing and IT director Arif Jafferji.

Mr Jafferji asserted that Scania was aiming to be the leader in providing sustainable transport solutions, to which Iveco’s Martin Flach responded that: “We can all say that, but we are now in the situation where the public is anti-diesel – and our business runs on diesel!

“Gas has to be at the top, but for the last mile, or 10 miles, we may be looking at zero-emissions. But there are CO2, and especially, NOx benefits with gas.

“The problem is that it costs the same £1,800 to tax a gas 4×2 tractor as it does a diesel.”
Phil Moon said the industry was: “on the cusp of significant change.”

A mixed bag of fuel sources would be needed for certain applications.

“But how is this affecting customers?” he asked. “Understanding where demand in the market will be is a bigger challenge than providing the solution.”

Thomas Hemmerich maintained that diesel’s reputation was worse than deserved, pointing out achieved 90 per cent reductions in NOx and PM to support his view.

“But we are following the gas route with citybuses and electric with trucks for urban deliveries,” he admitted.

“In our truck business, unit demand for diesels is still high, although there has been a huge decline in demand for coaches as operators are questioning whether they will be able to bring diesel vehicles into towns at all. But I am amazed by the sustained demand for diesel trucks.”

Mr Moon said there was desperate need for clarity of thought from legislators.

“Short-term local strategies could be detrimental: for instance, LEZs could just put freight onto vans.”

Martin Flach echoed the need for clarity at local and national levels: “We make vehicles for the national and worldwide stage: even the total UK market barely justifies the developing specific vehicles such as 6×2 tractors so the Mayor for London drawing up a unique set of rules is not the answer.”

Arif Jafferji said: “Governments and local authorities need to look for desired outcomes, and then work back from there. We can use the technologies we have in the right ways to achieve those outcomes.”

Mr Hemmerich said that Brexit might provide the UK with opportunities to introduce new technologies. “We need to get rid of mirrors in favour of cameras,” he said. “The UK could do this once outside of the EU: it will take the EU decades to make such a step.”

Turning to platooning, Phil Moon said DAF welcomed the opportunity to support the UK’s work in this from its Eindhoven headquarters, and expertise was being shared with Kenworth and Peterbilt in the USA.

“We’ve got to praise the UK government for introducing operation trials,” he said.

Mr Flach was unconvinced, saying the benefit of platooning would be a five per cent fuel saving at most. “Forming a mixed-make platoon will be a big challenge. And, when different operators are involved, who will benefit?

“The fuel savings aren’t evenly distributed: the lead truck will use more fuel than the followers.

“Who decides when individual drivers should take back control in the event of an incident?” he asked.

Mr Jafferji said Scania had a positive view of platooning and technology was important. “Can we use it to equalise driver performance?”

On the subject of a scrappage scheme for older vehicles, Mr Jafferji said he would have to sit on the fence, while Mr Flach said a firm no.

“It didn’t work for vans, and the operator of a 10-year-old vehicle will never jump the gap to a new one.”

Mr Moon agreed that the gulf between Euro 1 and 2 values and the price of a new truck was just too much.

Mr Hemmerich took a broader view: “Yes and no,” he said. “It would boost volumes and help clean air, but it would also put a huge strain on the balance sheets of many operators and hit residuals of used vehicles. It’s all about striking a balance if a scrappage scheme is to work.”

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