It’s Truck Test time

Well, almost. FOCUS, in association with Engen and HTM, is planning a massive Truck Test in 2012!


We have Voith’s Peter Wraight to thank for this. At the recent RFA Conference in Gaborone, he approached Fritz Hellberg with the idea. (On behalf of the industry and all the operators out there, who are crying for meaningful data, thank you Peter.)

Fritz, in turn, chatted to me. “I think this could work. It looks as though the recession seems to be over. Truck availability is probably better now than it was in the overheated market of the pre-recession years. In recent years a number of new vehicle brands have entered the heavy end of the truck market and these might want to be showcased to the industry. Furthermore, the world is much more environmentally orientated now, and that includes the trucking industry,” he pointed out.

I agreed. Readily. And so the concept of Truck Test 2012 was born. Fritz and I chatted to Engen immediately. The company enthusiastically welcomed the concept, coming on board straight away and agreeing to sponsor the fuel. (Thank you Karen Smith and Lindsay Bassett from Engen.)

Truck Test 2012 will take place in March next year, giving potential entrants the time to organise their budgets and to test their new models prior to the event. It is an industry event, which will be supported by all the leading manufacturers and distributors of extra-heavy commercial vehicles. Those that are not there will be conspicuous by their absence. In fact, if I was an operator, I would go so far as to question those manufacturers that do not participate. I would wonder why: are they not proud of their products? Is the performance of their products woefully inadequate?

Because, of course, Truck Test 2012 will provide highly scientific, real-world feedback to operators. The purpose of the test will be to showcase the performance of trucks in a controlled environment, the results of which can then be transposed into practical day-to-day operations as benchmarks. It is not intended to be a competition. But, as Fritz notes, our test can practically demonstrate how fuel efficiency has developed in recent times by having, for instance, vehicles with Euro 2 specifications running side-by-side with vehicles having Euro 4 or even Euro 5 engines.

“It can also demonstrate concepts such as the Performance Based Standards (PBS) for vehicle design and the benefits of substantially improved aerodynamics of rigs,” he notes. “Each rig can compete against itself in the form of a vehicle simulation generated by our TransSolve Vehicle Performance software that is now being widely used and trusted throughout the industry. This software can accommodate all the factors that affect vehicle performance.”

We will probably use the Johannesburg-Durban-Johannesburg route. It comprises a variety of topography from very flat between Johannesburg and Harrismith to very steep down and up Van Reenen’s Pass, and everything in between. The route can be broken up into sections to show the effect of topography on vehicle performance (for instance trip time and fuel consumption).

Monitoring of the vehicles before and during the test will be in four categories:
• Pre-test checks to verify stock-standard specifications  and mass legalities
• Physical monitoring while travelling
• Vehicle tracking equipment to monitor compliance with speed limits and to establish start and stop times in each route section
• Fuel usage at the end of the down and up runs to calibrate fuel flow meters.

This test has the potential to be repeated on an annual basis but with different vehicles or configurations each year. For 2012 it has been suggested that we run 6×4 prime movers coupled to semi-, drawbar- or interlink trailers. Each entrant will decide on the configuration of his choice and supply the whole rig complete with a load.

We announced these details to the industry at a recent lunch, very kindly sponsored by Engen (thanks again). The purpose of the occasion was to gather feedback and consult with the industry – as I have already stated, this is an industry event, which we (Engen, HTM and FOCUS) are convening.

We were utterly delighted with the feedback, which was encouragingly positive. There are a number of aspects that need to be ironed out – for instance, back-to-back laden and unladen runs were proposed (which could be interesting). Another suggestion was to differentiate vehicles fitted with AMTs perhaps with two runs – one with AMT in auto, one with drivers controlling it. These are all finer details that will be discussed with everyone involved (we are determined to consult with absolutely everyone). Readers are obviously more than welcome to give me their input – email me at charleen@focusontransport.co.za.

We will organise another meeting to conclude plans – and we’ll obviously announce the precise details here in the pages of FOCUS.

But the good news is that Truck Test 2012 is on! We know that it will provide meaningful and essential data to operators. And we’re convinced that it will be a rip-roaring success!

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