Trucks that consistently perform well in all respects are invariably the most popular. DAF has continuously achieved this in the UK truck market for the last 25 years, and as market leader for all of that time shows no sign of relinquishing its crown.
Among its extensive product range, one of the most popular models is the XF. Aimed at the long-distance, maximum weight sector, it has become one of the most respected vehicles in a hotly contested marketplace. All of the manufacturers at this end of the market offer highly competent products, and the market leader has to really excel to stay ahead.
While transport press opinions and vehicle road test results carry considerable weight, the real measure of a truck is what the market makes of it, which ultimately translates into vehicle sales and repeat business.
It is no secret that the current DAF XF range is a development of earlier generations of trucks which have themselves carried off the Motor Transport Fleet Truck of the Year Award. Some may consider this long track record to be a disadvantage when comparing the current XF with other manufacturers’ more recent models.
But nothing could be further from the truth. DAF’s engineers and designers have worked hard to update and revise the range, with the last major overhaul in 2017 and continuing detail updates through to the present day. This includes de-speeded engines, giving more power and torque at reduced revs, and new fuel-efficient drivelines providing relaxed cruising at low engine revs, reducing consumption and wear on major components.
Part of this philosophy has included the use of variable geometry turbochargers to boost torque at lower revs and allow a laden truck to climb hills with fewer down-changes.
The use of the fast-changing ZF TraXon transmission, with much improved low-speed clutch control, gear selection and shift strategy, has added to the relaxed driving characteristics of the DAF heavy truck range. Revised software with a range of operational modes that can be tailored to the operator’s requirements, along with a smart/adaptive GPS-guided cruise control (which is linked to a full range of electronic safety systems), ensures safe and stress-free performance on busy
Other safety features such as smooth, predictable handling and suspension systems, which provide the best possible ride for driver and cargo, along with a powerful braking system aided by what is probably the most effective engine brake on the market, can be further supported by gearbox retarders for the toughest jobs at high weights.
DAF now offers connected services under the DAF Connect banner. These include full vehicle and driver performance monitoring, ensuring that the vehicle is operating to its full potential and the driver fully understands how to achieve this. In addition, on-board driver coaching (via the dash display) highlights best practice, with advice on how to improve individual driving scores.
This is supported by smartphone-based apps and a full range of training services available from the dealer network, with qualified and highly experienced personnel. The connected services also include maintenance planning, vehicle tracking, and remote tachograph downloads.
Drivers rightly expect a decent level of comfort from any truck they are given, and vehicles specified for long-distance operation, where the driver is away from base for a couple of days, have to have plenty of living space, lots of storage for personal belongings and a decent level of equipment.
The relative shortage of HGV drivers has really brought this issue into focus. While remuneration and general working conditions are hugely important, the truck you are given plays a big part in attracting and retaining drivers.
Fortunately the DAF XF has long been a driver’s favourite. The Space Cab and the bigger Super Space Cab give drivers virtually everything they need. The basic cab shells might be considered relatively mature designs, but were intended from the outset to meet the needs of long-distance drivers.
DAF’s designers have cleverly updated and improved the basic designs, with masses of storage inside and out, easy cross-cab access, and modern dash and control layouts. There are also effective levels of heating and ventilation, along with comprehensive infotainment/media/navigation/communication systems, supported by a huge range of equipment options, so the cab interior can be tailored to fit the individual and the application.
The beds are probably the feature of the XF that has won most praise from generations of drivers. They are the biggest and quite possibly the most comfortable on the market. While all modern sleeper cabs have decent bunks, the XF is just that bit better.
It has a good mattress that retains its shape and comfort. The bed itself is a one-piece unit that doesn’t have to be manually extended to reach its full width, and the bottom bed is at a perfect height to sit on while making the transition from sleeping to standing.
Drivers’ roadside facilities are becoming scarce in many parts of the country, hence the importance of decent fridges, microwaves and pull-out tables. Trucks have become both workplaces and part-time homes. DAF caters for all of this with the XF, as do others, but the great big bed that guarantees a decent night’s sleep is the stand-out feature. A fully rested driver is a safer, more productive and happier one.
All of the fine qualities of the XF range can only be fully appreciated if the truck is reliable and out on the road, rather than stuck in the workshop. Fortunately DAF has a good reputation in this respect.
Particular attention has been paid to this aspect of the XF range, with detailed design and careful assembly techniques that ensure wiring, pipework and chassis equipment installation are all to a high standard.
Care has been taken with regards to the location and mounting of key components. Most breakdowns are the result of relatively small problems such as air leaks, chafed wires or oil and water leaks that eventually bring the vehicle to a halt.
Mounting the AdBlue tank on the nearside wheelarch beneath the cab is a good example. It’s on the same side as the fuel tank on a 6x2 tractor unit, has ample capacity for up to two weeks’ operation, and the pump and dosing unit are well out of harm’s way.
The MX 11/13 engines have fully encapsulated wiring, surrounded by foam-filled protective covers. Virtually all of the oil and water flows are within the engine block and head, limiting the chance of leaks and failure.
On top of this, almost all of the trucks built for the UK market are assembled in this country at the modern production plant at Leyland. This provides short lines of communication between aftermarket operations and the production facility. If a quality problem should arise it can quickly be nipped in the bud.
While it’s obvious that the consistent quality of the XF range is a huge factor in its wide popularity and its win in this awards category again, there is far more to owning a DAF truck than how it performs and its popularity with drivers.
DAF has offered effective aftermarket support for decades, and operators invariably highlight the effective dealer network and the superb breakdown service offered by DAFAid in the UK and Ireland, supported by the extensive ITS (International Truck Service) network in Europe and beyond.
The DAF dealer network features locations in almost every part of the country, and few operators are ever far from one. All the network members are long-established companies with multiple depots, highly trained staff and a high level of commitment to customer service.
Continuous development in terms of premises, equipment and staff training demonstrates the confidence dealers have in the DAF product and the organisation as a whole. This belief in the DAF brand has been imparted to the staff, whether in workshop, parts, sales or management roles. Many long-serving employees have developed an unrivalled pool of product and customer knowledge.
This consistency is returned in the form of customer loyalty. Long-lasting relationships between customers, dealers and manufacturer mean that when problems do occur, they can invariably be solved quickly, fairly and amicably. As one operator said when asked why it operated DAF trucks: “It’s the products and the people: they are both so easy to get on with – and consistently so.”
The deadline for entries to the 2021 Motor Transport Awards is 9 April so go to the website now for full details on how to enter.