Saturday 30 May 2020

Truck manufacture resumes as slow Covid-19 recovery begins

Truck manufacturers have been cautiously resuming operations at reduced volume over recent days, with new measures in place to protect staff from the coronavirus outbreak.

DAF’s facilities in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Westerlo in Belgium and at Leyland Trucks in the UK have successfully restarted operations, with new hygiene and social distancing measures in place.

Hundreds of workstations have been assessed and adapted, DAF reports, with measures implemented to ensure workers maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres (or two metres in the UK).

Cleaning products have been made widely available at the plants, while production staff are also wearing facemasks as a precaution.

“I am proud of the creativity and dedication displayed by our employees,” said DAF president Harry Wolters.

“For the moment we are less concerned about production figures. Instead, the safety of DAF and Leyland Trucks employees is our number one priority.

“That’s why the production volume is still relatively low. We will only crank it up when it is safe to do so.”

He added: “We are very glad that we are in a position to supply our customers with trucks again because transport plays a vital role in the smooth functioning of society.”

Last week, Renault Trucks announced a similar resumption of manufacture from 22 April, with its engine plant at Lyon-Venissieux the first facility to restart operations.

Other sites, including the Bourg-en-Bresse and Blainville-sur-Orne assembly plants, “should gradually resume… in the following weeks”, the company said.

Renault said a “very low level” of activity was planned at the outset, with slow ramp-up over several weeks in line with customer demand and supplier capacity.

However, Bruno Blin, president of Renault Trucks, said: “We will only resume activities if health and safety conditions are exemplary – there will be no compromises.

“This is why we are envisaging a gradual restart, involving an initial period during which we will be testing the health protocols, as well as the supply chain and logistics, before considering a ramp-up.”

FFP2 masks with goggles or visors and gloves when distancing rules could not be respected was among the measures announced, as well as cleaning, restrictions on movement and keeping doors open to prevent contact with handles.

MAN Truck & Bus said it would resume production at reduced capacity from 27 April, following a six-week halt to production, again with “extensive measures” in place to protect employees.

“In recent weeks, the crisis management team has been working intensively on the conditions under which our plants can be restarted,” said Joachim Drees, CEO of MAN Truck & Bus SE.

“Among the key challenges here are the reliable supply of parts by our suppliers, as well as the organisation of our own work processes while protecting our colleagues, but also measures to stimulate demand for commercial vehicles.

“Our suppliers come from all EU countries – therefore we are asking politicians to support us with a coordinated approach at EU level to re-enter the market.”

Manufacturers continued to emphasise their commitment to service and repair operations, meanwhile; DAF said all its workshops had remained open, as well as its 24-hours-a-day helpdesk.

“Service is part of our DNA,” said Harry Wolters.

“We will always be there for our customers. All of the staff at DAF are aware that without transport everything will grind to a halt.”

MAN Truck & Bus said it would continue to fully maintain the service network for its MAN and Neoplan brands “in order to keep emergency vehicles, supply chains and local public transport up and running”.

Renault Trucks said: “Since the start of the lockdown and despite the temporary interruption in production, Renault Trucks has carried on serving its customers, as far as reasonably possible, by continuing in particular to supply spare parts and repair trucks.

“These activities are essential to ensure the continuity of vital services to society, especially to transport and deliver basic necessities, medicines and food.”

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