A new era dawns for road transport regulation

A new era dawns for road transport regulation

In his monthly review of global news for local truckers, FRANK BEETON delves deeper into the Performance Based Standards system that recently migrated to SA from Australia, ponders on the emergence of Asian trucks as a world force, describes Hino’s latest Australian flagship, and reports on Voith’s Magnetarder

In most countries, truck operation is subject to a complex set of rules that determine the maximum permissible dimensions and masses of vehicles. Usually, they also set limits on the amount of mass that can be legally imposed on individual axles, and groups of axles, and also on the power/mass ratio of the vehicle or combination of vehicles. These rules serve the dual purpose of protecting the infrastructure from the abuse of constant overloading, and ensuring road safety by ensuring that vehicles operate within their intended design envelope. Unfortunately, the levels of enforcement of these rules can vary enormously from country to country, and we in South Africa have recently seen, at first hand, how inadequate policing of well thought out legislation, coupled with an undisciplined approach by some operators who are prepared to take advantage of the enforcement vacuum for their own short-term gain, can very quickly reduce vast tracts of the non-tolled national road network to a state of ruin.

Although Australia is sometimes regarded as a “nanny state”, with over-zealous law enforcement as a national characteristic, it is interesting to note that a new, highly flexible regulatory system has been developed “down under” that promises to revolutionise road transport productivity, and that a related system is now taking root in South Africa. The aim of the Australian Performance Based Standards is defined as “to encourage heavy vehicle operators to achieve higher productivity and safety through innovative vehicle design”. This is achieved by “engineers and road agencies working together using computer simulation models and real world testing in order to approve innovative and more productive vehicles for use on specific routes within the road network” (Diesel magazine, November-December 2010). The resulting “SMART” vehicles are permitted, by the National Transport Commission and the relevant State authorities, to depart from generally applied dimensions and masses, on designated routes, after a process of pre-qualification has ensured that they do not negatively affect the infrastructure or other road users.

The Australian model recognises four categories of roads, each with their own specific vehicle type limitations. The lower two levels accommodate vehicle configurations that would be familiar to South Africans, while the top two levels envisage road train usage on specially designated routes. Each of the categories above Level 1 (passenger cars to single articulated goods vehicles) have two additional sub-divisions regulating vehicle length maxima. Review of PBS applications is carried out by an eleven-member panel representing all the individual states and the central Australian government. A minimum of seven affirmative votes is required for a PBS approval, and this must then be ratified by the appropriate state authority, which has the ultimate say over the operation of vehicles on its road network.

Reports of South African PBS-type operations were carried in the April and October 2010 editions of Focus, and perusal of these articles will confirm a broadly similar pattern of investigation and approval to that used in Australia. In fact, Australian consultants were employed to guide the South African stakeholders through the process. Up until now, PBS operation has been restricted to agricultural haulage operations in kwaZulu-Natal, but it is hoped that the National Department of Transport will emerge from its dreams of high speed trains long enough to recognise the real benefits that this system could bring to road transport, which will continue to be this country’s most important transportation mode for many years ahead, and the real enabler of sustained growth in our economy. Perhaps we can even hope to see the realisation of the dedicated routes philosophy for long distance haulage that was so enthusiastically advocated by that late and much lamented doyen of South African road transport, Jack Webster. Now, that would be progress!

ASIAN TRUCKS – TOWARDS BECOMING A WORLD FORCE?
As the world enters the second decade of the 21st Century, there is still only limited evidence of emerging Asian vehicle manufacturers becoming a more significant force in the major established global markets. In the light vehicle arena, continuing double-digit percentage growth in domestic Chinese demand has fully occupied the minds of that country’s indigenous and joint venture car builders, and not left them much need to play the export game too seriously, except for some early moves into neighbouring countries, and the development of a growing presence in South America. Indian-built cars, such as Ford’s Ikon, have been fed into the international distribution channels of parent companies, and this modus operandi is likely to be employed by other global players seeking to bring more affordable Asian-sourced products to established markets. Tata’s ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover clearly gives them considerable international presence, although the association has not yet benefited the company’s indigenous products to any visible extent, while Geely’s acquisition of Volvo Cars is a very recent event, and their current strategy seems to favour minimal interference with the brand’s international identity.

The above situation may be about to change. In recent weeks, several Chinese cities have announced measures to contain the numbers of new vehicles entering their overcrowded road systems. This is the first sign that the Chinese market may be about to flatten out, and if this transpires, even to a limited degree, and similar measures are adopted in India, the appetite for export business among Asian manufacturers is sure to become more voracious. In the commercial vehicle business, things have already started to move, although at a fairly modest pace. European manufacturers MAN and Iveco have now included Indian and Chinese-sourced products in their global catalogues, and numerous new joint ventures have been announced between the major Western and Japanese players with partners in China and India. However, the ability of Asian-sourced products to penetrate the “trophy” markets in the USA and Europe is still largely untested, and the following roundup of news items will inform about the most recent developments in this arena.

• Back in 2006, Global Focus reported on the acquisition of assets belonging to Czech truck builder Avia AS by Ashok Leyland of India. Along with this purchase came the Avia D Line range of trucks, originally developed by the defunct Daewoo Avia company, which occupied the Gross Vehicle Mass spectrum between six and twelve tons. At the time, it was announced that the Avia acquisition, and the subsequent establishment of Avia Ashok Leyland Motors, would provide the Indian manufacturer with a production base from which to exploit the European market, and utilise an established sales network in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom. Late last year, however, it was announced that Avia Trucks UK Limited was being closed down, pending a thorough reevaluation of commercial strategy. The company insisted that it was not withdrawing from the UK market, and will continue to support the established parc of some 200 Avia D Series trucks.

• Meanwhile, the parent company in India has started selling its new U-Truck range at home. The initial line-up consists of ten truck-tractor and tipper models, with ratings from 16 tons GVM to 49 tons Gross Combination Mass, and this will be extended to 25 variants over the following 12 months. U-Truck is a modular range aimed at providing an improved customer and driver experience, with each vehicle built to a specific requirement. Design features include suspension sleeper cabs on long-haul models, optional air conditioning, in-cab entertainment, optional parabolic front springs, larger brakes, ABS and exhaust brakes.

• Tata’s Novus range of heavy duty trucks is another product line-up with links going back to the Daewoo collapse. In 2004, Tata Motors acquired the heavy truck assets of the former Daewoo Group, and established its Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle subsidiary in South Korea. The Novus range, which came with the purchase, was originally launched in 1995, and included substantial design input from European sources. These included a cab designed and developed by UK company Hawtal Whiting, and 6, 8 and 10-cylinder diesel engines based on MAN designs. Since then, Tata has developed the range, extended it to include lighter payload models, and introduced Cummins and Iveco engine options for specific markets and variants. Then, in 2009, Tata announced its new Bertone-styled medium-to-heavy duty “World Truck” Series, subsequently named Prima, to be built in India and Korea, and initially to be sold alongside the Novus range, although it is expected that the new model will become the mainstream product offering over time. With the heavy European influence in the original Novus range, it comes as no surprise to read that Tata is planning a possible European offensive with a CKD version of the Prima range. However, as the report pointed out, the Euro 5-compliant Prima will need to achieve Euro 6 emission standards if launched in Europe later than December 31st, 2012.

• The establishment of an Indian joint venture between Volvo Trucks’ and Eicher Motors, now known as VE Commercial Vehicles Limited, has resulted in the opening up of an export sales opportunity for the Indian company. As an early manifestation of planned co-operation in developing markets using Volvo’s international distribution network, Eicher products entered the Indonesian market through a pilot project towards the end of 2010.

• In a similar co-operative arrangement, Iveco has facilitated the shipment of SAIC Iveco Genlyon heavy trucks to its Vietnamese distributor Openasia Heavy Equipment of Ho Chi Minh City. These Stralis-based trucks are built by the Chongqing joint venture between Iveco and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, and are powered by the European manufacturer’s Cursor 9 engine family, also built under license in China.

Hino 700 Automated for Australia.
Hino Motors is the largest Japanese manufacturer of medium and heavy-duty trucks, which, in South African terms, equates, in our classification system, as heavy and extra heavy commercial vehicles. As a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation, it has access to enormous resources, and has benefited from broad global distribution through its parent networks. In recent years, there has been a tendency to give the Hino brand more visibility in its own right, and this has mainly stemmed from the rebadging of certain Toyota Dyna light truck (MCV in South Africa) models as “Hino 300 Series”, which is a more accurate reflection of their origin, anyway.

A new era dawns for road transport regulationDespite considerable success in the export arena, Hino still has some room to grow in important overseas markets. In South Africa, the combination of Hino with a small number of Toyota-badged MCV’s is good enough for a consistent second-place overall ranking in the market for vehicles over 3 500 kg GVM behind the Mercedes-Benz family, with the main performance deficit in the prestigious XHCV segment, where the Hino 700 Series also lags some way behind UD Trucks’ Quon flagship. In Australia, arch-rival Isuzu Motors has ruled the total market over 3,5 tons GVM for the past 22 years, but in the heavy duty category (over 15 tons GVM), the efforts of all other brands are totally eclipsed by US manufacturer Kenworth,

The above situation provides Hino with two important challenges in Australia: 1) Reel in Isuzu in the overall market, and, 2) Enhance the perception and acceptance level of Japanese products in the heavy truck segment. The former is multi-faceted, and may be proving to be more difficult than was imagined some years back when it was identified as a Toyota corporate objective, and this situation has not been improved by Isuzu’s recent product range renewal which has introduced some very impressive new models to markets in Australia, as well as South Africa. The second challenge is more specific, and product related, and a recent announcement of enhancements to Hino’s 700-Series flagship range should certainly help.

While it is unlikely that Japanese trucks will displace the favoured US and European brands at the top end of the Aussie heavy duty rankings anytime soon, there is an important urban/intrastate requirement for multi-axled haulers, tippers and freighters requiring a slightly more modest specification than that required for roadtrains and really serious interstate applications. It is here where the top-of-the-range products of Hino, Isuzu, Fuso and UD can be reasonably expected to pick up their pace. Up until now, demanding Australian operators, who are clearly influenced by the galloping technology finding its way into their linehaul rigs, have put pressure on the Japanese manufacturers to up their game. Many operators in this niche experience heavy urban traffic conditions, and they have increasingly turned to automated mechanical transmissions in order to reduce driver workload, and improve operating economy. Surprisingly, despite having offered this feature in selected lighter payload trucks for some time, the Japanese manufacturers were more tardy in fitting AMT’s into their heaviest models.

Isuzu and UD were quickest off the mark in correcting this omission, the former using its own in-house 16-speed automated unit in the Gigamax, while the latter offers Eaton’s 18-speed RTLO-18918 AS3 Autoshift transmission as a local retrofit option in its GW 470-badged Quon. Hino has now also joined the party by offering its SS 2848 700 Series flagship model with ZF’s 16-speed Astronic automated transmission as an optional fitment, but it has jumped ahead of the Japanese competition by including an integrated hydraulic retarder for improved downhill performance and control when operating at higher all-up masses. The complete package includes Hino’s E13C 6-cylinder overhead-camshaft, in-line diesel rated at 353 kW (473 hp) and 2157 Nm (1591 lb. ft.), a choice of normal height or high-roof sleeper cabs, air-suspended tandem drive hypoid rear axles, full air S-cam brakes with automatic slack adjusters and ABS, supplemented by an engine compression brake and the aforementioned ZF Intarder, and a GCM rating of 72 tons.

Clearly, the addition of the AMT option to these premium Japanese haulers will give them additional appeal to fleets deploying B-double (Interlink) combinations in medium distance hauls, and provide their manufacturers with opportunities to boost their overall market share performances. The other Japanese brand, Fuso, remains “odd-man-out” at time of writing, with an upper limit of 309 kW (nearly 420 hp) to its list of available power ratings, and no sign, yet, of an automated transmission option. It seems that Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific would rather sell Freightliner and Mercedes-Benz models into this market niche for now, and it remains to be seen if a more aggressive posture for this brand will materialise when models fitted with engines from the new Heavy Duty Engine Platform family become available for export at some point in the future.

Voith Turbo Goes Electronic
One of the most vexing problems facing truck designers over the past century has been how to get a loaded vehicle down a steep or long hill at a reasonable speed but in complete safety. Friction wheel brakes heat up very rapidly with continuous use, and over-use of the footbrake pedal still remains one of the most common causes of runaway trucks and horrendous accidents that we see all too often on our roads. Although the progressive introduction of air brakes has eliminated the additional risk of hydraulic fluid boiling, this only helps until the friction material lining the brake shoes or pads heats up to the point where purchase is lost, and away we go.

Traditionally, the adage was that hills should be descended in the same gear that would be used to climb the grade, at equivalent operating mass. In most cases this demanded that downhill speed should be reduced to a crawl, and on a trip traversing numerous steep inclines, “down” trips could be just as slow as those in the opposite direction. In the interests of improved vehicle productivity, therefore, various forms of secondary retardation have been developed to improve this situation. Engine and exhaust brakes were introduced to increase the compression braking effect of the internal combustion power unit by temporarily closing off the exhaust stream, either by means of a simple flap downstream of the manifold, or by a more sophisticated system of valve timing interventions. Transmission retarders, usually hydraulically operated, were developed to add additional friction to the driveline, thus resisting forward motion.

The third type of retarder, first developed in France during the late 1930s, made use of eddy currents in electro-magnets positioned radially around the propeller shaft to resist its rotation, and thus the motion of the vehicle, when they are activated. In 1990, Sumitomo Metal Industries of Japan introduced its Neotard retarder, claimed to be the world’s first using permanent magnets, which are arranged in a stator with opposing poles facing each other. The magnets are activated by means of compressed air, and the resulting magnetic forces resist rotation of the rotor attached to the propeller shaft. More than 120 000 units have been sold, these being used in nearly all the highway buses in Japan and in a substantial proportion of the truck population. Late in 2008, Voith Turbo of Germany announced that it was commencing distribution of the Neotard outside of Japan, under the name Magnetarder, and subsequently commenced manufacture of the product in Germany towards the end of 2010. The target market was identified as being coaches and medium duty trucks in the GVM range between 7,5 and 16 tons.

The latest version weighs only 39 kg, and offers braking torque of up to 650 Nm. It is being offered as an ex-works option on Mercedes-Benz Atego models fitted with G60 and G85 transmissions, and as a retrofit option on Iveco’s EuroCargo range. Benefits claimed include ease of installation, in that the Magnetarder does not require any modification of the recipient vehicle’s propeller shaft, low heat generation, no maintenance, and savings in time and fuel. Voith says that this component is particularly suited for vehicles using compressed natural gas fuel, and can eliminate up to 64% of service brake applications on a 12 ton GVM truck.

 


Global FOCUS is a monthly update of international news relating to the commercial vehicle industry. It is compiled exclusively for FOCUS by Frank

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