Even more power

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Trunking vehicles have been increasing in power year by year and that seems to be continuing.

DAF launched its new XF105 at the Amsterdam Show last year. This is its Euro 4 top weight tractor and currently goes up to 510 hp with the new MX engine. Tony Pain of DAF says that this gives 17 per cent more torque than its predecessor. Before too long there will be a 560hp version.

And this is at a time when engine efficiency is increasing. Pain points out that a new 460hp engine is equalling the torque of an old 530hp.

While the XF95, a Euro 3 truck, is currently selling strongly in the UK, the XF105 has been designed with the future in mind. It promises a step up in driver comfort with a lower floor giving improved cross-cab access as well as improvements to the controls.

Many operators are still looking at the impact of the working time directive. It is already apparent that it has exacerbated the driver shortage, says Tony Pain and for some operators on some routes it has meant using two drivers. One of the results of this is that it has become even more important to have a truck that is intuitively easy to drive, he says.

Overall, he says, the fact that the driver shortage is being exacerbated means that it is becoming even more important to have a truck that drivers like. “The driver is the biggest single influence on fuel consumption so it is becoming more and more important that he is happy with the truck he is driving.”

Volvo has just launched its FH16 which it describes as Europe’s most powerful production truck. It has a 660hp 16-litre D16E engine and Volvo says it can handle gross combination weights of 60-tonnes and more. “With the new Volvo FH16, we’re extending our lead in the prestige segment. We are combining top performance with intelligent resource utilisation, economy, comfort and safety,” says Roar Isaksen, European director of Volvo Trucks.

Iveco has traditionally been strong at the lighter end of the market but has not achieved the penetration it would like at the heavy end so it has been putting a lot of effort into winning acceptance for the Stralis. That now seems to be paying off. Last year, sales of the tractor unit were up 80 per cent.

Chris Thorneycroft-Smith, who recently became managing director of Iveco in the UK, said earlier this year: “We have everything going for us in the heavy truck market, with our flagship Stralis widely recognised as a serious performer in terms of cab comfort, reliability, economy and residual values.”

Significantly, in January, Eddie Stobart took delivery of its first Stralis – a six by two for 44 tonnes general haulage operations. “I’m confident the Stralis will attract a lot of attention, and we will be closely monitoring its performance over the next 12 months, especially in terms of fuel economy, reliability and driver comfort,” says managing director William Stobart.

The Stralis six by two, bearing the name ‘Tammie Luan’, is fitted with a mid-steering axle and is powered by Iveco’s 10.3 litre Cursor 10 engine with the fully automated EuroTronic 12 speed gearbox.

Renault is also looking to increase its market penetration and Bruce Allison is reasonably confident about this year. After a disappointing 2005, Renault will have its new Premium distribution tractor unit available and it has been building its relationships with fleet customers. “We have changed most of the range over the past 18 months,” says Allison, “it has been a lot of work but we now have a very strong message.”

Mercedes has now made the Telligent stability control available on its Axor tractor. This system, which has been available for a number of years in the Actros reduces the risk of accidents. Any threat to stability in the form of skidding, tail-sliding, jack-knifing or the onset of a roll-over is detected at an early stage. Telligent stability control counteracts these tendencies with specific braking intervention and control of the engine torque. It responds automatically.

Automatic or semi automatic gearboxes are increasingly replacing conventional manual transmissions in long distance vehicles. Mercedes says the next development stage is now close at hand with the new-generation, automated Powershift 12 and 16-speed transmissions being gradually introduced in 2006. This new generation saves up to 60 kg in weight. The Peacock Group, has added 17 MAN TGAs to its fleet. Seven TGA 18.390 four by two tractors with sleeper cabs and 10 TGA 18.350 four by two rigids, also with sleepers, are already in operation from the company’s Nantgarw distribution centre near Cardiff to its 500 stores around the country. Transport planning manager, Gareth Bents says: “Our trucks are double-shifted and each run 250,000km a year – the engines are hardly ever turned off. That’s why we must have a better projection of fuel expenditure, and MAN’s TipMatic automatic gear system virtually negates any vagaries in driver style. Our latest fleet are averaging 10.5mpg, and there’s not a lot of spread in those figures.”

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