Having won the title twice in the past four years, it is no surprise to see the DAF XF again on the shortlist.

What makes the XF such a good fleet truck? One of our panel of operators summed it up: “Best purchase price, best back up, good driver appeal, fuel performance which is consistent with its competitors, good parts availability and conservative development over a long period of time meaning that in-house maintenance is still an option.”

The latest generation of XF launched in 2017 set new standards in operational efficiency, using 7% less fuel than its predecessor, while maximum power was increased to 530hp and it was fitted with the new ZF TraXon gearbox. The 6x2 tractors are also 130kg lighter and can run for up to 200,000km between services.

No matter how proven and reliable a truck is, it will break down at some point, and one consistent factor is the quality of its dealer support network, DAFaid.

“The DAF dealership is the most extensive of all the manufacturers and provides an industry best response time to breakdowns,” said one judge.

Mercedes-Benz Actros

M B Actros

Since its launch in 1997 and in its five generations since, the Actros has earned a reputation for being a world leader in technology – the current incarnation is the first production truck available with level 2 autonomous driving and the first with MirrorCam instead of mirrors.

The Actros tractor unit is available in 11 sleeper cab variants and with 18 different engine powers. The choice of many fleet operators, the Actros 2545 LS, with a 2.5m wide StreamSpace flat-floored cab, is one of the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road.

Mercedes-Benz is so confident in the fuel economy of the Actros that it has a fleet of “Fuel Challenger” vehicles available to run alongside rivals of a similar spec in customer fleets of all makes. The Actros has come out on top in over 90% of trials completed, with average savings of over 7%.

Several judges commented on how popular the Actros is with drivers, one saying “the cab environment is an excellent modern place to work”, adding “the number of safety features as standard make this a safe truck to drive and operate”.

Scania R-series

Scania R

Scania based its entry on its unique modular build programme which enables operators to optimise vehicles for their specific operation.

“Tailor-made for applications” is what Scania calls this approach, enabling it to achieve the lowest total cost of operation.

This flexible policy means there is a wide range of cab options from low roof height day cabs to maximum height high roof options, all constructed from a set of standardised panels, to produce any of the five standard variants of the R-series.

Launched in 2016, the current generation R-series has sold extremely well in the UK and by the end of 2019, 6,451 6-wheel R-series tractor units had been registered. That represented 28.8% of the 3-axle market last year, placing Scania 13% ahead of its nearest competitor.

Judges liked Scania’s legendary reliability, build quality and customer support and said the high upfront purchase price was justified by lower operating costs and strong residual values. The R-series also offers “the driver a well-built workplace” and “market leading options for which fuel the operator chooses, giving opportunities to reduce CO2”.

Volvo FH

Volvo FH

Launched in 1993 the Volvo FH is the cornerstone of Volvo Trucks’ heavy truck range, and the current generation of the FH which appeared in 2012 has been steadily developed since.

Key features of the redesign were a new cab and chassis, Dynamic Steering, an improved fuel saving driveline with I-See predictive cruise, new air conditioning with I-Park Cool for use when stationary, better all-round vision and an uptime promise with remote diagnostic capability.

With the recently launched I-Save package and turbo compound engine, the FH is the current fuel economy record holder around Commercial Motor’s test route.

Operators have long rated Volvo for its focus on safety and its best in class I-Shift gearbox and this year its dual clutch option was mentioned “for reducing journey times”.

Volvo has developed its own diesel injection ignition system HPDI for its natural gas trucks and this too was singled out for praise by our panel. One judge also commented that the FH offered “very competitive total cost of ownership when running into seventh year territory” and several highlighted the low weight of the vehicle.