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Feature: The Road Ahead

15 February 2018 #CV Sector #Features & Interviews #News #TNB News #Top Stories #Tractor

However large or small the operation, costs – and how they affect the bottom line – are an important factor and one that will always remain on a business’s agenda. Reducing costs is a shared goal, but also one that plays a big part in decision-making in all parts of the business.

Cost pressures on hauliers are unlikely to lessen over the coming years but they will have one positive outcome; they will oblige all transport companies to embrace fresh ways of thinking that will change their approach to the job they do.

“It will mean that route planning and efficiency – carrying more, more of the time – will become even more important,” says Iveco UK managing director, Stuart Webster. “Profitability and cost-reduction will come from the efficiency of a haulier’s operation rather than the fuel used.

“Trucks will need to be full for every mile they run, because every empty mile will be money directly out of the door; and the winners in all of this will be those able to deliver the minimum cost per tonne moved.”

It will mean more use of everything from pallet networks to shared data networks, Webster continues. “I’m thinking too of shared loads and connected resources,” he says.

It also means businesses reconsidering what they use to propel their vehicles. “It’s going to require a lot of new thinking on the part of operators because one thing is for sure; alternative fuels and drivelines are here, they’re here now and they’re here to stay,” he says.

Webster was speaking at Iveco’s 32nd annual State Of The Nation press event, held on this occasion at a conference centre attached to an organic farm in Berkshire. The choice of venue was deliberate; Iveco is positioning itself as a leader in low-emission trucks.

“Sustainability is what we at Iveco are all about,” Webster states; and the move to more efficient logistics outlined above will of course play a key role in driving down emissions.

Different duty cycles call for different solutions. While an electric version of Daily, the lightest model in its line-up, is available, Iveco is not switching to battery power across its entire range. Compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are its preferred alternative fuels for its heavier models.

Currently only sold as a 4×2, Iveco’s new gas-powered Stralis NP 460 tractor unit will debut in 6×2 guise for 44-tonne operation in the UK towards the end of this year.

The extra axle restricts the amount of space available on the chassis for the gas tanks however, and as a consequence, the 6×2 will need to be refuelled after 750km which means it has less than half of the 4×2’s available range.

Although there may have to be compromise sometimes, interest in gaseous fuels is nevertheless rising, says Webster.

“The recently-published Shell Rimula 2017 Truck Buyers’ Survey found that three out of ten operators are planning to consider alternative fuels – any fuel other than diesel – as part of their vehicle purchasing plans in 2018,” he points out.

The report adds that of those considering opting for alternative fuels this year, seven out of ten are putting gas at the top of their list.

Much of the interest is being driven by more challenging limits on emissions set to be introduced by local authorities across the UK. They understandably wish to cut harmful levels of NOx and particulates and manufacturers are embracing the challenge, but they would find it easier to meet if greater guidance were to be provided by central government.

Other trends are changing the face of the market says Webster, including what he believes is a growing interest in lighter-weight trucks.

I’ve got in mind are models that are perceived as being friendlier, compact and more acceptable on the high street,” he says. That includes Iveco’s own Daily-based 7.0- and 7.2-tonners which accounted for approximately 1,000 of the company’s UK registrations last year.

Grossing at from 3.5 tonnes, Daily is now being promoted under the Blue Power banner, with gas and Euro 6 diesel models available alongside the aforementioned electric variant.

“Demand for traditional 7.5-tonners has strengthened too but there is some evidence of a move towards 10- and 12-tonners and there are definite signs of growth at 15 to 16 tonnes,” Webster adds. “It seems that 15/16 tonners are starting to take some sales away from traditional 18-tonners on work where payload is not a critical factor.”

While 18-tonners remain popular there is no doubt that they are under pressure says Webster, not solely from 15/16 tonners, but from 26-tonners as well.

“An operator with a 6×2 rigid can carry far more within the same on-road footprint and at hardly any difference to operating costs or even purchase price,” he comments.

“The waste and environmental sector appeared to regain much of its confidence in 2017,” he continues; and three-axle rigids benefited as a consequence.

That’s good news for Iveco’s new Stralis X-Way; a specialist line-up of rigids and tractor units marketed in two-, three-, and four-axle guise and capable of working in arduous conditions, including running on and off landfill sites.

Waste is not the only sector Iveco is targeting with X-Way. It is also aiming at the construction industry and hauliers transporting powders, grain, and animal feed.

Making Stralis NP available at 460hp and as a 6×2 will propel it straight into the mainstream of the tractor unit sector. It is a sector that looks set to remain healthy says Webster.

“We don’t believe that the bottom is going to fall out of the tractor market,” he says.

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