The final session of the conference saw a panel of representatives from four major truck manufacturers debate the future of truck design.
Arif Jafferji, Scania (GB) marketing director, Phil Moon, marketing manager at DAF Trucks, Martin Flach, alternative fuels director of Iveco and Thomas Hemmerich, MD of MAN Truck & Bus UK where quizzed by MT editor Steve Hobson, who started out by asking if the expected proliferation of clean air zones was driving take up of clean Euro-6 trucks or whether confusion among operators about the future of diesel was delaying purchasing decisions.
According to Hemmerich, MAN is seeing strong demand for Euro-6 trucks, in stark contrast to the bus and coach market which has slowed significantly. “In the truck world I am amazed, despite facing Brexit next year, how big the demand is,” he said. “The total market forecast is still pretty high for 2018.”
Moon however sounded a note of caution and said confusing messages from government could hold back purchasing decisions. “The numerous different pressures on future vehicle requirements illustrates the desperate need for clarity and thoroughly researched legislative requirements, whether they be local, regional, national or international,” he said. “Manufacturers, like operators, need foresight of those requirements. Short term local strategies can be very detrimental and one potential downfall of clean air zones is that we move from highly efficient large vehicles to a van-based society which will increase congestion and emissions.”
Flach also called for clarity on a local and national scale. “As manufacturers we work on the worldwide stage and produce vehicles that we sell in every country,” he said. “It is impossible to produce a vehicle for Coventry that is different from a vehicle for Birmingham or London. You have to have a standard that is for Europe or the world. We can't even go to a UK standard – the market is not big enough to justify producing a vehicle just for the UK.
“It's bad enough making 6x2 artics which are largely a UK vehicle.”
Jafferji said uncertainty made traditional UK operators even more risk averse than usual.
“The risk with uncertainty is that people won't try something new. We should look at what outcomes we want from all this – so if we want to reduce CO2 and particulates, how do we do it?” he said. “That is better than mandating the wrong kind of vehicle. That flows into direct vision too. We can then use the right kind of innovation and technology to achieve the right outcome.”
Hemmerich echoed this call for innovative solutions rather than prescriptive legislation. “Within the EU we need a legal basis to get rid of mirrors and put camera systems in,” he said. “They are a better solution but it may take decades. With Brexit maybe the UK can decide internally to accelerate this process. But we need politicians willing to take fast decisions in support of the commercial vehicle industry.”
DAF is leading the current UK platooning trial which the TRL hopes will see the UK take a lead in applying this technology, but as part of the international US-based Paccar group Moon said DAF wanted to see harmonisation of platooning standards.
“While DAF is a UK-based manufacturer we will be supporting the UK trial from Eindhoven [DAF HQ] and of course as part of Paccar we share technology across our global platforms,” he said. “I see this as being transferable. The trial is to establish the business case for platooning on UK roads and we have to praise the government for informing us on the risks and benefits of platooning on actual UK roads.”
For Flach, the real-world fuel efficiency gains from platooning in the UK will be “modest”.
“I expect it to be around 5% and that won't be on every vehicle,” he predicted. “The vehicles at the front and back will have higher fuel consumption – that doesn't matter if they are all DHL vehicles but if you have three different operators joining a platoon who gets the benefit?
“And a trial with one make of vehicle is quite straightforward – the big challenge then comes when we want to do a trial with an MAN, an Iveco and a Scania in line together and here we must have international collaboration.”
Earlier the conference heard a call from RHA CEO Richard Burnett for a scrappage scheme to help smaller hauliers make the transition from older vehicles with low residual values to new, more expensive Euro-6 trucks. But this idea was not universally welcomed by the manufacturers.
“We had a scrappage scheme five years ago for 3.5-tonne vans and we did 20 vehicles over a year,” said Flach. “Why so few? The scheme was for 10-year-old vehicles to be replaced by a brand new van. A guy running a 10-year-old van cannot aspire to a new van. The same will apply to trucks so unless you do a two-stage scrappage scheme you cannot replace a 10-year-old vehicle with a brand new one.”
Moon agreed, saying: “There is too much of a gulf between the old and the new vehicles, and it is the really old Euro-3 and Euro-2 vehicles which are the most polluting. If the government wants to clean up air quality it is those we need to get those off the road. Maybe if we could defer the clean air zones to enable Euro-5 vehicles to continue being used on a lower charge that would be a more practical way of allowing operators of the oldest vehicles to make a more manageable step towards a cleaner vehicle.”