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Going undercover in Scania’s Transport Laboratory

17 March 2015 #CV Sector #Features & Interviews #Logistics #Truck

Manufacturers’ research and development facilities are busy developing the trucks of tomorrow, but Scania has an additional resource hiding in plain sight – the Scania Transport Laboratory (STL) is actually a haulier with a hidden agenda.

In 2008, Scania’s R&D department in Södertälje, Sweden, set up an independent haulage company to feed back data from a live trunking operation, where it trials upcoming trucks and components, sometimes years before they arrive on sale. It took its first Euro-6 tractors in 2010.

Managing Director Anders Gustavsson (pictured right) spent 25 years in the R&D department at Scania before Anders_Gustavsson1establishing STL. It now runs a trunking service that supplies parts to Scania’s plants, racking up high mileage. Running a fleet of 35 long haul distribution trucks, 150 trailers and six buses, it now employs 96 drivers working triple shifts between Södertälje near Stockholm, Scania’s factory in Lolland, southern Sweden, and the plant at Zwolle in the Netherlands.

The trucks clock up more than 360,000km annually and are used as an accelerated testing facility for all manner of components. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Scania, it runs independent accounts and has to make its own margins. DHL runs the same routes and the transport laboratory gets paid the same commercial rate.

The fleet also uses other brands to establish how the competition is performing, all serviced at the appropriate local dealer for the marque.

STL is a vital part of the jigsaw in product evaluation. Gustavsson says, “This is a complement to Scania’s regular testing activities, and it is proving valuable.” New components, large or small, are introduced to the fleet and the impact on costs evaluated. Gustavsson also experiments with truck-trailer combinations to see how productivity can be increased. He says, “We have had 25.25m double trailer A-frame combinations running here for some time, and I need no convincing they are more efficient than the standard European tractor and single semi-trailer combination, whether five or six axles.”

He’s stretched the idea even further with two special trucks that run daily between Södertälje and Malmö, under a special dispensation agreement, only available in Sweden. A long wheelbase 4×2, R730 tractor runs with a regular tri-axle trailer, but this is coupled to another five-axle A-frame drawbar trailer giving a total length of 31.5 metres, and a gross of up to 78 tonnes. With three turning moments, these are not vehicles for urban distribution.

“This is an experiment in pure long-distance operation,” explains Gustavsson. “The trailers are separated at specific breaking depots and they continue into the city in a more regular form.

“This length of truck would not be suitable for single carriageway work as regular, non-vocational road users could not be blamed for mis-calculating their length.”

They may look startling on the highway, but the economic and environmental gains make you blink too. A 20% saving on diesel, and an up to 80% reduction on CO2 emissions is claimed. Gustavsson adds, “Speed is important too, and I don’t mean faster. If you drive at 80kph instead of 90kph you will gain a 10% fuel bonus, but only lose 1% in journey time, and reduce accidents by 40% into the bargain.” It’s a good illustration of the tortoise-verses-hare scenario that many UK hauliers have already realised. Shaving a few kph off your speed limiter setting means less overtaking, safer journeys, greater fuel efficiency with marginally slower progress.

With some of the STL tractors now up to 1.3 million km, so how was their Euro-6 experience?

“As for fuel economy, they are all doing well, with a slight improvement over Euro-5. We get better fuel economy from the Scanias, but I put most of the difference down to our drivers being less familiar with other brands.”

Gustavsson says the operational difference between Euro-5 and -6 is almost undetectable. Diesel particulate filter regeneration never needs to be forced because operating conditions on long haul are ideal.

In the constant search for the best fuel economy, STL focuses on the Scania Driver Support system, a standard feature which can be addictive in the hunt for lower consumption figures. Drivers who regard learning as a life-long process will take to it. Gustavsson’s data on fuel consumed and where it goes shows where a driver should be looking to make decent savings.

The variation between the best and worst truck on the fleet is 3%, but between the best and worst driver, it’s up to 11%. Variations from the weather also show an 11% swing. Reducing the variables is a challenge and driver training is an obvious solution. The ‘need for speed’ presents a challenge when delivery deadlines need to be met, but re-setting speed limiters and driver training brings significant benefits.

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