CV Sector Features & Interviews Truck

Feature: The view from the front

05 May 2015 #CV Sector #Features & Interviews #Truck

Transport News Brief speaks to DAF Managing Director Ray Ashworth as he looks back at a successful year for the manufacturer, and ahead to a period of legislative calm post Euro-6.Ray Ashworth 2

Recent SMMT registration figures reveal DAF as UK market leader, with a quarter of all truck registrations over six tonnes and well over 8,500 chassis, all built in Britain.

“We estimate that the pull forward of Euro-5 chassis amounted to around 12,000 units across the market in 2014, and, as ever, uncertainty underpinned that tide,” says Managing Director Ray Ashworth. In an essentially conservative industry, the bulk of the market has a habit of waiting to see what others do, and with wafer-thin margins, who can blame them?

“That hesitation in the first half, over Euro-6 prices, residuals, fuel economy and the technology itself, all translated into a 29.9% market fall over 2013.” But in July-December, it was back to business with Euro-5 stock laundered out, pricing stabilised, new technology performing in service and it all came with the welcome bonus of an improvement in fuel economy. Early buyers of Euro-6 chassis in Europe had been reporting stronger figures for nearly two years, which boosted confidence. “We took 50% more orders in the second half of 2014, compared with the first,” says Ashworth, while the Dutch assembly plant in Eindhoven has recently delivered its one millionth truck.

Part of that uplift was seen in the rigid chassis sector, and the direct result of Vehicle Type Approval legislation. Effective from the end of October 2014, the rules consider a vehicle chassis and its body as a single unit to be type approved, not two products as previously.

“Now these legislative deadlines have gone, truck makers can spend their R&D budgets, actively seeking out further operational economies for their customers, instead of being driven by the calendar.” Ashworth sees the ‘new norm’ for the 6-tonne plus market as 42,000, although he sees 2015 as ending a little shy of that.

DAF has also taken a telematics partner on board, formalising an agreement with Microlise last year – an arrangement that many DAF operators had already been pursuing.

Jake Blowers, DAF’s Telematics Project Manager said, “The basic telematics data comes included with any repair and maintenance contract, and that seems to be sufficient for most of our customers.

“Around 100 customers to date have gone for the extra data available, which vindicates our decision to keep it simple.” Too many fleet managers have thrown themselves in the telematics pool and nearly drowned in data. It is also clear that interpreting the data, on fuel economy for example, is a skilled job. Blowers adds, “Making assumptions from the bottom line consumption figure is a mistake, there’s a lot more to it than that.”

DAF has played its card in waiting for the technology to mature and settle before joining up. More sophisticated Microlise packages are available, with items such as geo-fencing of vehicles. It is sufficiently accurate to record actual time spent in workshops, as distinct from time simply spent on site. Most truck makers have taken the Euro-6 threshold to renew most of, if not all their entire range, and DAF is no exception.

Its range of upgrades are, as other manufacturers, more than just emissions, and in offering customers more than just compliance for the extra cost, transmissions and other technologies have taken a step forward too. The new XF, CF and LF models have been widely reviewed, but there are some less obvious changes under the skin, one of which may give a hint at legislation that could be around the corner.

Based on low noise level requirement in the Netherlands for night deliveries, the Piek performance of 72dB(A) is more than achievable. XF and CF models have modified engine software to alter injection, a rev and torque limiter, gearbox encapsulation and changes to the AS Tronic software to reach compliance.

For hauliers searching for more cube, or just wanting to hide from the fuel-hungry airflow a little better, there are new low deck tractor chassis with either 91cm or 96cms coupling height (FT), for the CF and XF.

Achieved largely by alterations to shock absorbers, tyre sizes and air and steel suspension elements, it offers another option to squeeze productivity. Other new chassis variants include a 6×2/4 rear steer tractor for CF and XF, and an XF 6×4 drawbar. Driveline control has a number of enhancements with mild cruise control that applies a much smoother approach to save fuel, and modifications to the predictive cruise control (PCC) to alter settings. Like any new device, it will have its fair share of upgrades, but fleet managers who have fitted PCC believe it can save money. Advanced Emergency Braking Systems and Lane Departure Warning are due to be added by the legislative deadline of 1st November this year. Which all goes to show that there’s no real holiday from legislative change, but at least the hard work generated by emissions laws is now finally in the rear view mirror.

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