Trucks & trends: Present-day scenario in the region
Trends like autonomous trucking and electric-mobility continue to impact the commercial vehicle industry—but keeping customers happy is just as important.
Put cleanly by Kivanc Arman, regional director for Automotive Aftermarket, Turkey, Iran, and Middle East at Bosch, the trucking sector is currently witnessing some interesting developments.
“Electric vehicles are being developed at a faster pace than expected, as their motors have fewer moving parts, require less maintenance and generally have a longer lifespan,” elaborates Arman. “Autonomous transportation technologies are also set to make a mark in this sector. Although self-driving vehicles have their benefits, the downside is likely to be a loss of trucking jobs.”
He also adds that in terms of the workforce, driver shortages will make many trucking companies not only explore automation to a greater degree, but also look to millennials to fill the gap and various ways of incentivising them.
“At Bosch, we are continuously striving to innovate, with research and development built into our DNA. In 2015, we raised R&D expenditure to EUR6.4bn, and for the past five years, we have spent no less than 8.1% of our revenues on R&D. We even have a dedicated research and advance engineering campus in Renningen, Germany. It hosts over 1,500 creative minds, working on accelerating innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration, mainly for microelectronics and software.”
Electrification is burgeoning and to that end, the Nikola Motor Company and Bosch have developed the world’s first powertrain for the electric long-haul truck. Touted as the ‘commercial vehicle powertrain of the future,’ the development partnership will bring to the market the Nikola One and Two, a class 8 hydrogen-electric truck lineup that will deliver more than 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 ft. lbs. of torque.
This advancement is achieved by the eAxle developed by Bosch. A scalable, modular platform with the motor, power electronics and transmission in one compact unit, the eAxle is suitable for vehicles of all kinds, from small passenger cars to light trucks. The technology vision of Nikola and integration expertise from Bosch will enable the Nikola trucks to realize unprecedented targets for e-machine efficiency.
As part of the government’s efforts, Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) recently mandated that all trucks imported starting this year must meet Euro 4 emission standards. Al-Futtaim Auto & Machinery Company (FAMCO) and Volvo Trucks Middle East have taken a step further and introduced the Euro 5-compliant trucks. The new Volvo Trucks are equipped with on-board diagnostics (OBD), which helps monitor the level of AdBlue liquid that together with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology helps lower emission levels. The OBD also easily provides authorities with information regarding the emission levels of the trucks during inspection.
Jan-Erik Thoren, managing director of Volvo Trucks Middle East: “Emission level in the Middle East is moving towards Euro 4 by 2021, and the UAE has already moved to Euro 4. Load legislations are being enforced in most of the countries in this region. The focus ultimately remains on safety and environmental care.”
Vladimir Knezevic, managing director of FAMCO UAE, said: “As the whole industry is shifting its focus to decreased fuel consumption and increased fleet efficiency, Volvo Trucks with its advanced safety features and Euro 5 emission standards is in a class of its own. The new trucks in addition to supporting the government’s efforts to lower pollution levels also ensure our customers drive environment-friendly trucks that are more fuel-efficient and provides greater productivity and returns.”
FAMCO also recently unveiled Volvo Trucks’ special safety edition truck, which contains numerous world’s first innovations to assist in safe driving, fast loading, and fatigue reduction.
Knezevic remarks: “As part of the safety features we’re talking about, it’s also about the total cost of ownership (TCO), which is extremely important in the overall customer business. So, we’re strongly focusing on the awareness of the safety features, but we also emphasise on looking after our customer.”
Thoren supports the above, adding that it is absolutely vital to bring the awareness (of safety) to the customers, as well as the relevant authorities. He also believes that there are plenty of discussions about electro-mobility and autonomous trucks, but the trucks they have today will continue to play an important role over the next five to 10 years.
“But there will be a lot of innovations, and new solutions on the road. Autonomous driving will still take some time, but when it comes to electric vehicles, it is a more practical reality in the next five years.”
A 2016 study by Deloitte predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of only 0.6% for the global heavy and medium commercial vehicle markets until 2026. Could improved customer service and after-sales involvement boost these numbers?
Franz Freiherr von Redwitz, managing director MAN Truck & Bus Middle East, comments: “Customers are more and more empowered and are looking for integrated solutions, end-to end and not just the product itself. An integrated offering is the key for future service contracts with every vehicle, we provide piece of mind, so our customers can ‘focus on running their businesses.”
A ‘CustomerFirst’ programme was developed by MAN Truck & Bus to systematically record data on customer satisfaction and improve service quality. At its heart, the initiative uses customer feedback to monitor the performance of MAN and its distributors on a regular basis, and effectively the scheme ensures that they are constantly delivering on their promises to customers over the days, months, and years following the initial purchase of a vehicle. If MAN or its dealers are falling short, then the solution can be found early and quickly.
Marc Legeay, general manager, Mercedes-Benz Trucks MENA, explains how the all-new Mercedes-Benz Actros and Arocs are packed with the very latest technology; boasting the best in the company’s engineering expertise to specifically keep TCO as low as possible.
“Fleet owners here are focusing more and more on the TCO, seeking for the highest profitability of the overall vehicle lifecycle. Over the last years, we have witnessed an increase of diesel prices in many Middle East markets, which means fuel efficiency becomes increasingly important,” he says. “With the new Actros and Arocs, we are providing a highly attractive product and service offer for TCO-oriented fleet customers. Further, significantly reduced fuel consumption, tailor-made service, and extended warranty packages are just a few aspects paying into the overall attractive TCO for the new Actros and Arocs.”
In a sector shaped by operating costs, efficiency and safety, fleet operators will pursue any opportunity to improve the bottom line and ensure event-free driving. With the driver accounting for much of a fleet’s operating cost, and human error accounting for over 90% of road traffic incidents, technology that can reduce or remove the need for a driver is of growing interest to those fleet operators.
Bosch on: Smart trucking
Bosch’s secure truck parking booking service helps truck drivers find a suitable and safe place to park. To be able to achieve this, Bosch monitors truck parking spaces in real-time. Logistics providers and truck drivers can use a free online portal, and in the future, an app as well, to reserve parking spots located along the route – either in advance or on the way. The result is improved route and break planning.
Further, the connected horizon solution makes driving even safer and more convenient. It supplies traffic data on things such as congestion and accidents, topographical route data including elevation and bends, and infrastructure data such as traffic signs and speed limits – all in real-time. This enables a dynamic preview of the upcoming route and corresponding adjustments to driving strategy. The system allows vehicles to think ahead, thus enhancing both safety and convenience.
“Autonomous driving fits perfectly into our “invented for life” ethos” remarks Arman. “Autonomous driving has innumerable benefits, from reduced traffic jams to saving on time, energy and fuel, and increased safety as 90% of traffic accidents today are the result of human error.”
Aramn believes that implementing autonomous driving in a fast-paced, ever evolving city like Dubai, coupled with a population that is young and technologically savvy, make for a great fit. HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has stated that 25% of all road trips within Dubai will be smart and driverless by the year 2030. There are also ambitious goals in place to make Dubai a smart city, which means it might be faster than the average city in adapting infrastructure to automated vehicles.
Arman continues: “On a global scale, autonomous driving will be introduced in premium vehicles and then trucks, which in the future would be able to maneuver themselves around logistical depots. We are first focusing on Europe, Japan, and the United States, and later China.” Demonstrating an increase in the interest in the region’s fleets to use technology to gain greater control over their costs, Legeay says that Mercedes-Benz Trucks is seeing more fleets request access to its FleetBoard telematics system – which is again available for those wanting to make the most of their new trucks.
“Telematics systems are key when it comes to monitoring and managing your fleet. With the cost pressure on one hand and the ambition to increase profitability, safety, and efficiency, our FleetBoard offer is proving that telematics systems are becoming more and more important, especially for fleet customers here in the region,” he comments. “The key here is that FleetBoard does not only cover tracking and tracing – driver performance monitoring for safe and efficient driving, as well as service uptime are paramount features, maximising the profitability. Major fleets in the region are using FleetBoard already for years and they acknowledge the benefits of the system for their operations.”
Looking even further ahead he suggests that the region could one-day get its own electrically-powered version of a Mercedes-Benz heavy truck.
“Mercedes-Benz Trucks has always been an innovator when it comes to new technologies. Now, with the eActros being rolled out in 2018, first to selected customers in Europe, we are proving our competence in the field of fully electric trucks,” he states. “With the region striving for excellence, for high-tech and sustainability, why should there not be potential for electric trucks in the long-term?”