Taking the “loco” out of local deliveries
Milk to the supermarket, parcels to the front door; the distribution and local delivery sector forms the backbone of any regional economy. JACO DE KLERK takes a global look at this vital segment of the industry.
I dare say that all humanity would be lost without the valour of the transport operators in the local delivery sector, facing, as they must, the urban monstrosities of congested roads, malfunctioning traffic lights and appalling driving habits to bring us our bread and everything else we need.
Their value to the economy was reiterated during the recent strikes by the road freight sector, which resulted in some supermarkets and fuel stations mimicking a post-apocalyptic zombie movie scene with empty shelves and dried-up fuel pumps.
It goes without saying that if it wasn’t for the workhorses that enable those operators to brave the metropols, the apocalyptic film would be on a perpetual re-run cycle …
The dynamic duo of Mercedes-Benz and FUSO, with their extensive range of eco-friendly, cost-effective and versatile vehicles to meet every need of this part of the commercial vehicle segment, is doing much to keep those zombies at bay.
With the Mercedes-Benz Citan, Vito, Sprinter, Vario, Atego and Antos, and the FUSO Canter, these two brands have the European short-radius distribution sector well and truly covered. These vehicles sport gross vehicle mass figures from 1,8 to
26 tonnes, engine power ratings from 55 kW (75 hp) to 375 kW (510 hp), and transmission systems that include five-speed manual shifts, seven-speed torque converter and twelve-speed fully-automatic systems. They include diesel, hybrid and electric models, panel vans and crewbuses and semi-articulated vehicles.
And as they prepare to enter their 2013 model year, both brands are about to add to their wide range of short-radius distribution vehicles.
The Antos, which was unveiled at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover in September, is the latest addition to the Mercedes-Benz truck family. It’s the first heavy-duty truck specifically designed for the very varied requirements of the short-radius distribution transport industry.
This new model series comes with the latest Euro-6 collection of engines, available in 13 power categories ranging from
175 kW (238 hp) to 375 kW (510 hp), with fully-automated transmissions. Additional safety features such as Active Brake Assist, which reacts to stationary obstacles, can be added to its already considerable safety arsenal.
The new vehicles are available as either platform trucks or truck-tractor units and have a total of 67 wheelbase lengths, with axle spacings ranging from 2 650 mm to 6 700 mm. Loader models, with higher payload ratings, and Volumer models, with lower frames, are also on offer. All cabs are 2,3 metres wide, and available in either short or medium sized versions.
FUSO Canter Eco Hybrid
According to FUSO, the Eco Hybrid model offers up to 23 percent lower fuel consumption at a moderate price supplement for greater hybrid propulsion, protecting both the environment and the customers’ wallets. Other features include a Duonic dual clutch transmission, automatic stop-start, and electric start-up functions. FUSO reports that the new vehicle has outstanding payload capacity and delivers robust performance.
The Sprinter has lifted its game with a seven-speed torque converter automatic transmission system – and, as Mercedes-Benz reports, it’s the only van in this class to be fitted with the technology. This new derivative also has the BlueEFFICIENCY package, comprising a range of combined measures for reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Additional functions includes an Adaptive Electronic Stability Programme, which assists drivers in maintaining control of the vehicles and intervenes automatically when a potential issue is detected. These are fitted as standard equipment.
Vito E-Cell crewbus
There is also a newcomer in the Mercedes-Benz Vito range, with the Vito E-Cell now available as a seven-seater crewbus. The company states that this is an ultra-clean vehicle for inner-city and other environmentally sensitive urban areas, with its zero emissions and quiet operation. According to Mercedes-Benz, the Vito E-Cell is the first van to be fitted with an electric drive system series that has been produced by an automobile manufacturer.
This urban delivery van completes the Mercedes-Benz van range. The Citan’s BlueEFFICIENCY system delivers a reported 4,3 litres/100 km. Although these models are aimed at the European market, recent global events have shown that the world is but a global village – and what happens in one “suburb” affects us all.
Joint intelligence venture
Another beneficial improvement to the industry is the global solution developed by Mega Fortris Ctrack Solutions (the joint venture between design company/security seal manufacturer Mega Fortris and the fleet management and vehicle tracking company Ctrack, registered in Malaysia).
Known as Integrated Security Intelligent Solutions (ISIS), it combines Mega Fortris Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) enabled security seals with Ctrack’s fleet management and tracking systems. The product was launched during October in Asia, with a roadmap for global expansion over the course of 2013.
The ISIS asset tracking solutions use active RFID tags that communicate with the Ctrack Solo installed in the vehicle. This, along with unique identification numbers, ensures that each ISIS tag is easily traced on the ISIS inventory system as well as Ctrack Online and Ctrack MAXx fleet management tracking software – subsequently providing real-time visibility of cargo and vehicles.
Real-time journey management is also available to customers as tamper alerts are received using GSM, offering ISIS users end-to-end control of their fleets and cargo. Errors are reported immediately, reducing operational inefficiencies and minimising losses through pilferage or operational negligence.
This new technological offering therefore enables companies to plan, load, tag, reconcile and track contents during transit through to final delivery, and issue instant proof of delivery to customers. According to Mega Fortris Ctrack Solutions, it is ideal for companies that frequently transport cash and high-value goods, such as gold, copper, oil and chemicals.
“ISIS is able to extend its offering to a host of other industries as well,” says Ctrack chief operating officer Mark Rousseau. He cites pharmaceutical and medical industries that need to track temperature-sensitive items in transit, such as life-saving organs for transplant, as an example.
“Should temperatures drop to a certain level within the tote box, an alarm triggers and immediate action can be taken to save the sensitive content.”
Mega Fortris group MD Adrian Ng says ISIS is the answer to those clients who have been asking for solutions beyond simple security seals or GPS tracking. “Going forward, our customers can offer their end-users value added services in real time because of ISIS,” he adds.
With Mercedes-Benz and FUSO’s urbanmobiles, and Mega Fortris Ctrack Solutions’ systems, the brave operators facing all those urban menaces will be able to make light work of averting apocalyptic scenarios and continue to bring produce, products, and even transplantable hearts, to the masses – and proceeds to the economy.