Tractor-trailers support efficient operations

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Influenced by GST, transporters are looking at tractor-trailers for efficient and faster operations

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

The roll-out of GST has set the ball rolling. The transport sector is up for a big change. Only those that are efficient, and have efficient solutions to back them, are likely to most succeed. The abolition of border checks is getting transporters to clock more kilometers, and realise faster turnaround times. Influencing a change in the hub and spoke transportation model. GST is also claimed to have begun a shift to higher tonnage trucks. While the absolute number of trucks may decrease over time, the demand for tractor trailers has begun to rise. Drawing attention to the State of Rajasthan, which accounts for the largest number of tractor-trailers in India, an industry expert stated that trailers are being increasingly looked upon as a part of the truck that has technology associated with it. The trend where trailers were looked upon as mere skeletons of steel with axles attached to them is fast fading. Trailers he mentioned, are being increasingly looked upon as a piece of technology crucial to efficient transport operations. Looked upon as a new way to transport safely, efficiently, and profitably, trailers are subject to stricter scrutiny as average speeds rise. The market for trailers in India is estimated to be 20,000 units per annum. Accounting for no more than 12 per cent of the total CV market according to Neha Tayal, Research Manager – Automotive Division of TechSci Research, the trailer market is set to grow faster. As transporters seek efficient trucks, tractor-trailers offer a distinct advantage of lower cost of operations. Opined an expert that a tractor-trailer combination offers lower cost of transportation in comparison to a rigid truck simply because it can carry more, and consume less; have smaller carbon footprint. This, he mentions, is beneficial to the society at large.

Coding trailers

With the demand for tractor trailers set to rise, the call for the implementation of trailer code is growing in strength. There is a safety angle attached to it, mentioned an industry source. He stated that the truck market in India is not yet fully-organised. A strictly cost driven market, the quality and technology that goes into a trailer has to be clearly defined therefore, he mentioned. Another industry opined that the implementation of trailer code could help address the issue of safety associated with trailers, and help the trailer industry to better organise itself. Not only would the trailer code ensure safety for those travelling on the road, it would also increase reliability. It would also ensure a transition of the trailer market towards a sector that is well defined, opined an expert. Close to 80 per cent of the trailer market in India is estimated to be unorganised. The remaining 20 per cent (organised market) is made up of players like Tata DLT, Hvya, Satrac and VMT. The organised players are pushing hard to transform the industry.

Manufacturing a trailer is a complex task, and it is here that the organised players are required to custom alter trailer components in accordance with the demand for niche applications. Unlike the European safety norms, the Indian trailer industry is known to operate with mechanical suspensions and mainly sturdy material citing their robust make. Special application trailers like curtain trailers, tip trailers, running gears are also known to be in demand among niche operators. Experts expect lighter trailers at similar strengths to these, that result in lower total cost of ownership, to witness a higher demand. While the industry looks to graduate to quality components and more efficient transport system overall, applications like container movement have been identified among potential growth trailer segments. Also tip trailers, which could do with a robust design and strong hydraulics.

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The implementation of trailer code could help address the issue of safety associated with trailers , and help the trailer industry to better organise itself.

Outlook

India is currently focusing on the development of its infrastructure, where approximately 65 per cent of the total freight is transported by road, with an average speed of 30 to 40 kmph. Such developments are expected to boost the demand for heavy commercial vehicles and freight transport, boosting the overall potential of growth in the trailer segment. The flat bed and well bed trailer applications serve steel industry needs. Coil movement constitutes 45 per cent of the overall trailer market today. At 35 per cent, cement based applications are served by sidewall trailers and bulkers. Tank trailers and tip trailers that cater to infrastructure sector needs constitute the rest of the segment. Common concerns albeit across these different trailer applications are issues like shortage of skilled drivers, over speeding and overloading. These need to be addressed.With GST expected to bring down logistics costs and enhance overall efficiency levels, India is expected to lead the global trailer market in growth. The global trailer market is expected to grow at a CAGR of three to four per cent over the next five years. Good growth is expected from countries other than the USA, EU and Japan. Apart from India, the ASEAN and East European countries are expected to emerge as the major growth driver. Homegrown players are expected to contribute a good deal. They are expected to invest in technology and tap export opportunities.

Ashok Leyland’ digital path to growth

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To beat market cyclicity and achieve higher growth, Ashok Leyland is looking at digital initiatives as an enabler.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

With an eye on grabbing a greater share of the Rs.2.4 crore spent by an operator on a truck through out its lifecycle, Ashok Leyland has unveiled four digital platforms that promise to enhance value. Claiming to earn only Rs.20 lakh it typically takes to buy a truck out of the Rs.2.4 crore spent, Ashok Leyland is riding on the rapid growth of smart phones. It is hoping that its four digital initiatives – i-Alert, ServiceMandi, e-diagnostics and Leykart – will help customers to better manage their business logging on. Developed over the last year and a half, the four digital initiatives leverage the telematics solutions that the CV maker has invested in. Said to be the first CV maker to offer a telematics platform ‘Alert’ on its trucks since 2008, Ashok Leyland introduced i-Alert in 2016. The telematics platform was updated in July. If the i-Alert saw the company leverage telematics, the four digital platforms were piloted on 100 CVs prior to their unveiling.

Tapping the aftermarket

Looking at a Rs.60,000 crore opportunity on the Indian highways, the digital initiatives ride on a premise that Ashok Leyland continues to under-penetrate its own aftermarket. If the way in which the four digital platforms connect with each other could be termed as unique, Ashok Leyland is claimed to be the first company in India to do so to ensure an integrated approach for the user. Developed with an eye on a typical global aftermarket revenue benchmark of 25 per cent, the digital initiatives have been integrated with the company’s SAP architecture. Ashok Leyland uses the SAP architecture to carry out its various functions, including the identification and listing of parts, and more. The linkage with SAP architecture helped the company to price the parts it offers on the Leykart platform; to ensure that they could be delivered to the door step of the customer, and to connect 20,000 mechanics to the other initiative – ServiceMandi. With the aftermarket revenue benchmark in India at a low five per cent compared to the 25 per cent benchmark in the global markets, the digital initiatives signal a significant revenue growth potential thus.

Brand and platform agnostic

Said to use ‘Adobe Creative Cloud for Business’ as an interface, the digital initiatives are claimed to have been developed with close co-operation between various teams in the company. Part of the company’s broad plan to beat the cyclic nature of the CV market, the four digital platforms are expected to be made commercially available in the next one or two months for those who would want to opt for their existing fleet. To be expanded to Ashok Leyland’s export markets, and in-line with the company’s thrust on exports as it concentrates on margins rather than absolute market share, the digital initiatives are offered as standard on BSIV emission compliant trucks. What makes them suitable is the higher share of electronics they carry; the higher number of sensors they carry, and which makes them more receptive. Engineered to be brand and platform agnostic, Ashok Leyland is claimed to have engaged IT companies whenever the need for specialised knowledge and coding was felt necessary. Developed by a team of eight to ten young engineers with support from various other departments, the hardware bit of the initiatives includes a black-box. It is fitted inside the dashboard, and is hard to identify. Capable of working even on a two wheeler, if not on a CV of another brand, the functionality of the initiatives is best enjoyed on BSIV compliant Ashok Leyland CVs. On non-BSIV CVs or that of the other brand, the functionality of the initiatives may be limited to track and trace, geofencing, driver behaviour and seeking the nearest independent mechanic in case of the need.

Avenue for faster growth

Performing diagnostics and prognostics, the digital initiatives connect to the cloud. They inform as well as establish contact with the company’s nearest dealer outlet in an event of distress. Looked upon as an avenue that will grow faster in the scheme of things at Ashok Leyland, the way the LCV business of the company is growing, the digital initiatives are expected to grow faster too. They are expected to grow faster than the M&HCV business is currently growing. Offering the promise of enhancing operator efficiency, performance and profitability through an ‘anywhere and anytime’ support for his fleet, the digital initiatives, with an estimated potential to generate Rs.1000 crore in the next three years, are said to draw from the company’s use of digital medium for the past five years to dial process efficiency and operational improvements. The telematics-based i-Alert initiative among the four, offers a live dashboard, which displays vital information of the vehicle in real-time. Going beyond the track and trace function, i-Alert sends alerts directly to the smart phone if a Ashok Leyland CV needs attention. ServiceMandi connects customers with Ashok Leyland trained and qualified mechanics. Over 20,000 mechanics have been signed for the initiative, and with a focus that they use genuine spares sourced from authorised company channel. The mechanics have been star-rated according to their capability and skills. Their fees have been pre-determined, and can thus be pre-ascertained by the operator before choosing to entrust the job.

Providing live status updates of vehicle repairs on a smart phone, the operator can pay digitally on the pre-agreed rate once the repairs are executed. If this provides comfort to the driver, and gives him a feeling that he is not alone in his journey, the e-diagnostics platform is Bluetooth-based and pin-points the error by flashing the error code on the smart phone. A troubleshooting list pops up to help the mechanic or the driver to resolve the error in a simple step-by-step process. Offering a round the clock availability of genuine spare parts, Leykart helps to find out a specific part by entering the vehicle registration number, or by selecting the relevant part from the parts list. Customers can add their choice to the kart and pay digitally. The parts are dispatched to their location from the nearest warehouse through a shipment that could be tracked on the smart phone.

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Leveraging tech and knowledge

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Volvo Buses India is leveraging technology and knowledge to increase its market reach.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Present in India since 2001 in the premium bus and coach segment, Volvo Buses India has delivered 100 BSIV emission compliant buses since the standards were implemented on April 01, 2017. Complementing the 1000 BSIV buses the company has delivered from before the BSIV emission regulations were enforcement across the country, the Volvo 9400 range of multi-axle coaches is claimed to be among the first BSIV emission compliant buses to be supplied to Indian customers. The development follows a localisation announcement by Volvo Buses at Busworld India last year. The company announced the deployment of BSIV compliant 330 hp (Volvo D8C) 8-litre six-cylinder engine in its 12 m B8R inter-city coach. The D8C engine is made at the Volvo Eicher PowerTrain (VEPT) joint venture engine plant at Pithampur. The 9400 multi-axle coach, at the other end, is powered by a 370 hp 11-litre six-cylinder engine. Finding use with institutional and private operators for long distance travel, typically in the range of 600 to 1000 kms, the driveline and powertrain of the Volvo 9400 range are designed to last the lifecycle of the bus. This is typically 10 lakh kilometres. Apart from long service intervals, the key aggregates of the Volvo 9400 range are said to significantly lower the running costs and NVH levels. Offering better travel comfort and lower driver fatigue, which elevates safety, the Volvo 9400 range features ABS, Electronic Braking System (EBS), disc brakes and hill-start assist. It also employs the I-Shift automated manual transmission.

Leveraging technology and knowledge

Displaying BSIV emission compliant multi-axle 9400 coach, and a 12 m low-floor hybrid city bus at the Prawaas 2017 exhibition held at Navi Mumbai, Volvo Buses India aptly hinted at a strategy to leverage technology and knowledge to increase the market reach. Speaking on the sidelines of the expo, Akash Passey, Senior Vice President, Business Region International, Volvo Bus Corporation, expressed that they have been talking of this (an bus operator event) even as the bus story in India unfolded. “For someone who has been associated with the bus industry for the last 25 years, it is good to see operators working in the same direction, and towards the improvement of the industry,” mentioned Passey. He described Prawaas 2017 fair, organised by the Bus Operators Confederation of India (BOCI), as momentous.

Defining GST as a pathbreaking development, Passey stressed upon rising unity among private operators in India as a sign of maturity. It is important to Volvo from a business point, he quipped. Opining that for a country that provides long distance and city bus services this is a game changer, Passey termed the Indian bus market as a combination of institutional bodies supported by the government, and small private operators. He drew a comparison with other markets of the world where the line separating the institutional operators and private operators is thin. “Every country has its own processes, procedures and needs. The public transport system works well when the government creates the right infrastructure and frames the right policies.” Passey explained. Opining that the success of an operator is beyond his status as a private or an institutional operator, Passey expressed that successful operators are operating across continents. He cited an example of a Volvo operator in Australia. The same operator runs buses in Singapore, London, Brazil, and Chile. With governments focussing on creating regulatory conditions that are conducive to business, and putting their demands clearly, contracts, said Passey, are given for five, seven, 10, or even 15 years.

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Global trend

Stating that attention is not on cost per km, but on the number of footfalls, Passey said that stress is on 90 per cent occupancy in many parts of the world. “City bus operators are running school bus loads during non-peak hours,” he highlighted. Pointing at LTE (land transport body), Singapore, Passey mentioned that there is a clear vision about what has to be achieved in the next 25 years, and in the next 50 years. There is an implementation plan in place, he said. Five years ago, the LTE opened more routes to global operators. and increased the number of operators from two to five. “In Hong Kong,” said Passey, “the government is focusing on creating a regulatory path.” Public transport there is run through 4000 buses, he informed.

Considered to be one of the most challenging bus operations with little road space and high population, every bus at Hong Kong is a double decker. A private company is running the service for the last 15 years. Drawing a comparison with Singapore and Hong Kong, Passey mentioned, “Unlike these countries and regions, India has a fragmented operator markup, which gives rise to unique challenges, and calls upon the need for the operators and the government to work together to achieve a common goal.” Expressing that the success of the governments is also high in such a situation, Passey stressed upon self sustenance, and operators operating not just buses, but also trains and ferries. Not just in one country but across continents. Pointing at the multi-modal nature of operations of many global operators, Passey expressed that the coming together of operators in India will lead to self sustenance. “It is also in-line with the global trends,” he mentioned.

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The wanted picture

Pointing at a situation twenty years ago when two operators with businesses 10 m apart would not see eye-to-eye, Akash averred that his wanted picture was to see an Indian operator run operations in other parts of the world. “This is irrespective of him being an institutional body or a private body,” he said. Stressing upon the need to arrive at this picture, Akash touched upon the shift in thinking of government and operators over the last few years in India. “It should not be forgotten that India is the second largest bus market after China,” he informed. India and China together account for 60 to 70 per cent of the global bus volume. In terms of population, India and China account for 2.5 to 2.6 billion people out of the seven billion global population. With every fifth person in the world a Chinese, and every sixth person in the world an Indian, China and India are logically the largest and the second largest bus markets in the world. It is in these countries that the need to move people is. Stated Passey, that he clearly sees India as the second largest bus market in the world with enormous potential. “The segment we are in, did not exist ten or twelve years back. Today it is in a small way playing an important role,” he expressed. Terming the rise in local content in Volvo buses as overdue, Passey linked it with the need to efficiently move people from one place to another. Pointing at the D8C engine finding use in Volvo buses the world over, Passey expressed that he looks at demonetisation, migration to BSIV emission standards and the implementation of GST as a way of life.

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Terming demonetisation, migration to BSIV and GST as long overdue, Passey averred that the industry and the government should work together. Pointing out at the BSVI buses rolling out of the Bangalore facility of Volvo for export to Europe, Passey opined that they are sending BSVI engines from here to all parts of the world for the last three years. Of Volvo Group and Volvo Buses moving up to BSVI, Passey said, that it will be a challenge to do it frugally. He mentioned that their premium positioning will add to the challenge, and technology will have to be leveraged to achieve the goal. “Euro6 takes a lot of technology, and we have it,” said Passey. The export of Euro6 12 m two-axle coaches is proceeding as per the plan. According to Passey, the bus bagged the tittle of ‘Bus of the Year’ in Spain. Spain is one of the two markets (the other is France) that the bus is exported to. With new markets for the bus opening up in Europe, Passey commented, “We are going slow and steady.”

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MG Group turns OEM

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The MG Group is looking at an exciting time ahead with new projects up its sleeve.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Post the launch of tarmac coach Columbus and the sleeper version of Mammoth premium front-engine inter-city bus at Busworld India 2016, Mumbai-based MG Group is looking at tapping growth on various fronts. Keen to turn OEM by ‘productionising’ the Columbus, the Group is increasing its thrust in the OEM business by inking an agreement with Scania to build sleeper coaches on its 14.8 m chassis. Achieving a major milestone of 100,000 buses last year (100,000 buses were built in twenty years), the Group, according to Anil M. Kamat, Managing Director, MG Group, is aiming high. Announcing that the Columbus complies with the tarmac coach manual overall in terms of specifications, dimensions, etc., Kamat mentioned that a lean manufacturing system has been installed to produce the coach. Planning to launch the Columbus in January 2018, the Group is looking at supplying 50 to 60 tarmac coaches a year. “The tarmac coach niche,” explained Kamat, “befits the company’s bandwidth.” We are confident of supporting this product in the market, he mentioned.

Driving the Mammoth

Exporting the Mammoth to Africa, Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives, The MG Group will soon deliver four Mammoth coaches to KPN Travels. These will be in the sleeper coach guise. Based on a MAN bus chassis (procured as per an agreement with MAN Trucks India), it took almost a year for the Alma Motors business vertical of the MG Group to develop the (front-engine) Mammoth. To attain the status of a premium offering, particular attention was paid to the design and NVH. Both, the MG Group and MAN worked on the NVH of Mammoth. While the 220 hp Mammoth is specific to the Maldives market, the rest of the markets are catered to by the 280 hp version. Competitively priced in the range of Rs.60 and Rs.62 lakhs, the Mammoth helped the Group to bag the Scania venture.

Paying attention to business areas that were not looking lucrative until now, the Group has begun pursuing the STU business with a hope to make it big. This confidence stems from the order bagged from Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) for 250 ‘Shivshahi’ mid-premum inter-city AC coaches based on a 180 hp Tata LPO chassis. Stated Kamat that the ‘Shivshahi’ bus has been designed by them. As per the agreement between MSRTC and the MG Group, the design will be transferred to MSRTC, said Kamat. With 55 to 60 per cent of the STU sales originating from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, and APRSTC, the Group is finding it advantageous with its facilities at Belgaum and Zaheerabad. Strategically situated according to Kamat, the Zaheerabad unit is already catering to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The MSRTC buses are being built at the Belgaum plant. Responding to private hire orders from MSRTC, the Group is hoping to close the deal soon. The private hire buses are expected to operate on a BOT basis. Confident that the agreement to transfer the design may not rob it of its advantage of building buses in less time, the Group, according to Kamat is a mass producer of bus bodies. he opined that MSRTC may not be able to match the Group’s body building speeds.”

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Growth from OEM business

Crediting OEMs for the capabilities it has come to possess, Kamat mentioned that the future looks exciting. Supporting OEM clients as they embark on new projects and increase their market reach, it was Scania that identified and certified the Group to partner with them, Anil averred. The MG Group, through its facility at Belgaum, which has been renamed as MG Automotives Bus and Coach Pvt. Ltd. from the earlier Alma Motors, will deliver sleeper coaches on Scania’s 14.8 m multi axle bus chassis beginning January 2018. “There are some other products that we are working upon with Scania, the details of which cannot be shared now,” said Kamat. Marketed by Scania, the engineering and product development of the premium sleeper coaches will be done by the MG Group. The sleeper coaches will be co-branded, and the IPR rights will be owned by the MG Group according to Kamat. Describing the development as a feather in the hat, Kamat expressed that they entered the premium bus market with the Mammoth. The Scania development marks the next phase of the strategy. In-line with the development, the Group has revised its manufacturing footprint. The unit-one at Belgaum is being expanded, refurbished and restructured. It will be dedicated to the building of premium buses, and was recently quality certified by Daimler Buses as well. The unit-two will cater to smaller buses that were earlier being built at unit-one.

Flexibility and versatility

To continue to build buses for fleet operators, the MG Group may build some premium coaches on Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors’ chassis too. Focus would be on MNC business as far as the premium coaches are concerned. It will entail a different style of working according to Kamat. It will also entail a different culture of working, and a totally different manufacturing process. Not a big player in the fleet operator bus building market, the Group, Kamat mentioned, will continue to pursue school and staff buses as its primary business. Growth will come, said Kamat, as OEMs seek to increase their market reach and market share. “As far as the mid-segment AC coaches are concerned, we were never that big. It will not be our top-most priority. We will be concentrating on the premium end of the bus spectrum with the Mammoth, the Scania coaches, and coaches for other OEMs apart from our very own Columbus,” Kamat explained. The expansion of unit-two at Belgaum should enable the Group to build 4000 bus units per annum. In discussion with Tata Motors for their export business, the Group is well aware of the flexibility and versatility that is essential to succeed in the industry. Kamat is confident of working up to the expectations of his clients. He cited an example of the Group building 1500 refuse trucks on the Jeeto platform for Mahindra’s Value Added Products (VAP) business division in a short span of three months. “The VAP division bagged the order under the ‘Swach Bharat’ scheme for GHMC, Hyderabad. We displayed immense flexibility and versatility by developing as well as delivering 1500 refuse trucks in three months from our Zaheerabad plant,” mentioned Kamat. To cater to higher volumes, the Group is expanding its Zaheerabad facility. The plan is to turn out more variants from this plant.

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Growth from allied business

Setting up a modern facility for its business vertical MG Composites vertical at Zaheerabad, the Group is eyeing the advanced composites space. Supported by a R&D center, and technology secured from UK, the Group is keen that MG Composites expands its product portfolio to nasal covers for wind mills and other non-automotive parts. The current product range of the company includes bus front and rear fascia, dashboard, interior trim parts, etc. Expected to be operational by the end of the second or third quarter this fiscal, the new MG Composites facility is expected to reflect upon the change in skill sets that the Group is experiencing. Attention is being paid on team building. Team building is also on at the Group’s MG Grey Engines business vertical. The company will break even this year according to Kamat. Plans are being chalked out to double the turnover. Supplying wiring harness, passenger announcement systems, destination boards, LED saloon lights, and more, the company is developing new products. Like MG Composites, it is also independent of the bus and coach business of the Group. It is free to offer its products to other players, and will soon increase its thrust in the ITS and telematics space. To drive out of red this year, MG Grey Engines will aim higher, and innovate. The company will support the Group’s plan to play a role in connected CVs.

Looking at 100 per cent growth this year on the basis of the STU business, the Group hopes to maintain that mark, and progress at 10 to 15 per cent year-on-year. Currently employing 2300 people, the Group hopes to hire 700 to 800 more people by 2020. With the first Scania bus slated to roll out of the Belgaum plant by January 2018, the Group is looking at launching an electric version of the Columbus tarmac coach next year. It is keen to build electric bus bodies as well.

Hubli-Dharwad to get BRT system

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Hubli-Dharwad BRT system is set to be operational in a few months from now.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system is not new to India. The Rainbow BRT system at Pune is said to be the first to began operation in India. Under the aegis of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML), the system envisages 113 km of dedicated bus corridors along with buses, bus stations, terminals and intelligent transit management system. The first route of the Delhi BRT system began operation in 2008. It drew inspiration from a similar system in Curitiba, Brazil, which had been in operation since 1975. RITES (formerly Rail India Technical and Economic Service) and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) were appointed to design and implement the system. Set to be scrapped for a reason that it is difficult to access the platforms, the Delhi BRT system may soon be history. Like the Delhi BRT system, the Pune BRT system also faced resistance initially. In 2010, the Jaipur BRT system began operation. A year later, the Vijaywada BRT system was also operational. Including Delhi BRT system, industry sources claim that there are 24 BRT networks in India. Of these nine are said to be under construction, or are in the planning stages. The Hubli-Dharwad BRT system is claimed to be progressing the fastest.

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The design

The construction of Hubli-Dharwad BRT system is funded by the respective state government. To be precise, the Government of Karnataka has a 70 per cent stake in the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the Hubli-Dharwad BRTS Company Limited (HDBRTSCO). HDBRTSCO has an authorised capital of Rs.200 million, and is implementing the project. The remaining 30 per cent stake is shared by Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC), North-Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) and Hubli-Dharwad Urban Development Authority (HDUDA). The operation and maintenance work will be done by Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC) in association with Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). Claimed to operate over a distance of 70 km, the Hubli-Dharwad BRTS, claim sources, was originally designed to operate over a distance of 22.25 km, originating from Hubli CBT and ending at Dharwad CBT. Overtime the corridor was extended to include the Agricultural University, Dharwad. A four-lane bus corridor will thus run in the middle of an eight-lane freeway, mention sources. They state that the freeway will include two lanes for mixed traffic in both the directions. The width of the corridor is set to vary from 24.5 m to 44.0 m. Four underpasses for regular traffic are planned at Unkal Lake, Unkal-Cross Road, Bairidevarakoppa, and Navanagar. Designed to have two lines – trunk and feeder, the BRT system will have 33 stations. Out of the 33 stations planned, 12 stations will be located on the 44 m wide express corridor starting from Taj Hotel and ending at the Gandhinagar Cross, Dharwad.

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Smart transport

Located at the middle of the BRT corridor, the stations will be four-meter wide. Each station will act as reference point for GPS. Each station will have LED displays, which will display the schedule of bus arrival and departure. The BRTS (trunk) corridor, claim sources, will operate as a ‘closed system’ whereas the feeder and city bus services will operate in the ‘open system’. The ridership for the project was said to be 237,968 in 2014 against a fleet size of 190 buses. In 2017, the ridership is estimated to be 564,000 against a fleet size of 452 buses. Over 200,000 people are expected to use the corridor daily. Considering the rush the buses currently plying between Dharwad CBT and Hubli CBT experience in either direction, the BRT system will have to have a high frequency of buses on the corridor. With the ridership estimated to reach 400,000 people by 2021, the Hubli-Dharwad BRT system is no doubt one of the important such projects in the country.

Designed with central bus lanes to minimise interference of traffic plying on the mixed traffic lanes, the system will include segregated bus ways, controlled bus stations, physical and fare integration with BRT feeder, off-board ticketing through smart cards and paper tickets, and high quality buses (standard as well as articulated). The corridor is designed to operate regular and express services. Consisting of two lanes for BRTS buses on either side of the median bus station facilitating overtaking lanes for express services, the key infrastructure includes stations with two and three-bay configuration to support standard and articulated bus docking. Tickets shall be issued at stations, and commuters with a valid ticket or a smart card can only access the platform through automatic sliding doors. Two new depots at Dharwad and Hubli respectively are being constructed for the parking and maintenance of the buses. The depots will be equipped with modern facilities like automatic washing and automated oil dispensing system. HDBRTS is also developing a divisional workshop for heavy maintenance at Hubli.

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An order for 30 (18 m long) vestibule buses has been placed by HDBRTS with Tata Motors. The buses will have a floor height of 900 mm. An order for 100 (12 m long) two-axle buses with a floor height of 900 mm has been placed with Volvo Buses India. These buses, claim industry sources, are of the UD make. Sources also mentioned that an order for 60 (9 m long and 650 mm floor height) midi buses has been placed with Ashok Leyland. The buses will be laced with an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) as part of the need to comply with UBS II specifications. To make the Hubli-Dharwad BRT system truly smart, the ITS will include automated vehicle location system, passenger information system, automatic fare collection system, transit management system, and an incident management system. With the learnings of the BRT system at Ahmedabad, Pune and Delhi put to use, the Hubli-Dharwad BRT system, claim industry sources, will have buses that are fitted with a camera, DVR and speakers. The driver will have an address system at his disposal, may he feel the need to make an announcement or provide information.

Engineered to have a distance based fare structure, the BRT system will offer smart cards and bar-coded paper tickets to commuters. On-board ticketing will be used for the feeder service, integrated with the BRT corridor. HDBRTS will introduce complete transit management system to automate schedule of buses and manpower. Different organisation functions like administration, finance and human resources will be integrated for efficient and smooth functioning. An incident management system is designed to monitor day-to-day operations, and supplement passenger safety other than aiding effective enforcement with the help of technologies like CCTV and passenger announcement system. HDBRTS will setup a control centre to monitor all systems. Called the central monitoring center, it will provide space and connectivity for around 32 workstations, which will monitor the ITS systems.

Commuter-centric

Expected to operate with the prime aim of being commuter-centric, the BRT system at Hubli-Dharwad is slated to be operational by the end of this year. Opinion is divided on the time-line of September. Some industry sources with the knowledge of the development claim that it may take a little longer to ensure a smooth start. They stress on factors like accessibility and safety, and the need for integration with other new and existing modes of transportation to increase transit ridership with convenience. It is necessary that this BRT system does not suffer from the resistance faced by the system at Pune during the initial period, said another source. He also drew attention to the factors like difficulty in accessing the station, which caused the Delhi BRT system to falter. Attention was also drawn towards the need to provide parking space (on ground or under ground) near the station for two wheelers and cars to make it easier for commuters to avail of the BRT services. Also, stops for the feeder bus service.

The success of the Hubli-Dharwad BRT system will lie in the last mile transportation opined a source. He pointed at the Ahmedabad and Indore BRT system’s inability to address last mile connectivity. Much attention was paid at Ahmedabad to provide dedicated routes for buses to operate with hardly any shaded pedestrian footpaths sans obstacles, he said. The same is now being rectified, he added. If the demand for CNG buses in the interest of environment picked up albeit after the order for 30 diesel-powered vestibule buses, 100 diesel-powered 12 m long buses was placed, the fact is, diesel-powered buses are proving to be more economical and practical considering the operating costs of CNG and its availability. Diesel technology too has been progressing, and emission levels with the migration to BSIV have further dipped. While the scope for electric buses looks brighter, the Hubli-Dharwad BRT system could do with efficient management and commuter friendly operations.

MAN India as Asia hub looks up

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MAN Trucks India has reiterated its position as the Asia hub for its principal, the MAN Group.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

Reiterating its position as the Asia hub for the MAN Group, MAN Trucks India is looking to contribute 10 per cent of MAN’s total factory output over the next three-to-four years. The strategy seems to be not so much about achieving higher sales as much as it is about achieving higher production numbers. The manufacturing facility of MAN Trucks India at Pithampur has the capacity to manufacture 9,000 to 10,000 Cargo Line Asia (CLA) range of trucks in the 16- to 49-tonne segments, and front engine bus chassis measuring 12 m in length. Though the name CLA may suggest flaunting this that the trucks – are about Asia, they are in fact, exported as CKD kits to a MAN joint venture in Uzbekistan; to South Africa, and to the neighbouring countries. To achieve the 10 per cent target, the company is looking at invading new African markets, the Middle East, and East Asian countries like Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. Expressed Jeorg Mommertz, Chairman and Managing Director, MAN Trucks India, “The target to contribute 10 per cent of MAN’s total factory output over the next three-to-four years will be inclusive of the 50 per cent export volumes we wish to attain from India.” Poised to play a pivotal role in MAN’s global growth strategy, the only market the company is not looking at is Russia, which requires a operating guarantee under extreme climatic conditions like temperature as low as (-) 51 degree centigrade.

CLA for Asia and beyond

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Planning to widen the scope of Cargo Line Asia (CLA) trucks, which were initially conceived for Asia, MAN Trucks India is eyeing the premium segment too. While the mid-premium segment, the premium segment could be invaded with global models like the TGE, TGL and the new Lion.According to Mommertz, MAN Trucks India is looking at the 300 hp market to deliver a certain payload and fuel efficiency. “We want to attain the highest possible payload and best-in-class fuel economy. It will help us to convince our customers in India of a value for money proposition,” he mentioned. Aware of GST influencing a market shift to higher tonnage CVs, Mommertz is keen to carve out a greater pie of the Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle (M&HCV) segments. Both, at the mid-premium and premium level. Stress is upon leveraging the high level of localisation (of up to 82 per cent) the CVs made in India have come to have. At 2015 Excon, the company announced the launch of the Evo range of CVs. They mark a CLA face-lift, and are powered by the D08 engine family. Confident of the Indian products reflecting core MAN values of, the MAN Trucks India is updating the (CLA) range to better address the market need.

A large chunk of MAN trucks in India is tippers as of current. The higher hp engine helps. What is however seeming to limit the company’s ability to set the sales charts on fire is the higher price positioning. If the higher price positioning is claimed to limit the play-ability, the thrust of the government to boost infrastructure in India may result MAN Trucks India to invade long-haul segments. In India, MAN also operates in the ODC segment, and special application segments like fire tenders, garbage compactors, concrete mixers, boom pumps, tip-trailers and bulkers. Last year the company supplied a fair number of fire tenders and special application trucks to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The R&D centre at Pune is said to help the company to address such needs. Selling over 25000 trucks till date, MAN Trucks India has come to operate through a network of 64 dealers in India, and a dealer each in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. According to Mommertz, there is a need to attain high quality at competitive costs. Describing MAN trucks as high-endurance machines, Mommertz stated, “Trucks sold in 2006 are still in operation in Kochi. They are a testimony to the reliability of a MAN truck.” We have also had our trucks operate in sub zero degree temperatures in India, he mentioned.

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New technologies to increase market share

Of what is produced at Pithampur, 40 per cent is exported. This may translate into 35 per cent plant utilisation Year-To-Date (YTD). The target is to achieve an output of 50,000 units per annum through a gradual ramp up of 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent per year. Tractor trailers currently constitute 60 per cent of the overall business volume. Their share is expected to rise. Said Mommertz, that the regime will materialise demand for long-haul trucks, which translates into a 20 hour duty cycle, and 40 per cent higher round-trip efficiency.

If the higher horse power and tougher build will make a strong business case for MAN Trucks India, the talks with suppliers are proceeding as expected according to Mommertz. They are expected to result in the company offering new technologies like AMT to its customers to achieve higher level of business efficiency. The company, said Mommertz, is looking at localising the CLA fire tenders. Having supplied them to Mumbai, the company is confident of a good play.

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Employing SCR technology to meet BSIV emission norms, MAN Trucks India, following the Product Cost Optimisation (PKO) process it has inherited from its principal, is keen to meet the 10 per cent production contribution target sooner than later. Holding a key position in MAN Group’s global growth endeavour, MAN Trucks India, claimed industry sources, will create awareness about its products. It can no longer be satisfied with the amount of market share – domestic and export, that it has. Stressing upon performance, productivity and profitability, Mommertz said that the products the company will offer will guarantee low total cost of ownership. Up-time improvements are being worked upon by restructuring the support network, he explained. Of the opinion that hardware investments and the life of a truck are a petty 15 per cent of the overall operational costs, Mommertz said, “Transport business in India is highly competitive. While the short-to-medium focus areas continue to be truck-tractor and haulage, our long-term strategy entails a look at the sub-16 tonne segment.” There is some time before MAN Trucks India formulates a strategy for this, it seems. If the strategy will strike a synergy with Volkswagen of which it is a part, or with Scania, which is also a Volkswagen Group company, will be too early to be delved upon. Processes like common sourcing are already in place, and are expected to profit MAN Trucks India as it buckles up to play a more decisive role in the scheme of things at MAN Group.

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Ashok Leyland gets innovative

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In view of the changes affecting the CV industry, Ashok Leyland is banking on technology and innovation.

Story by:

Bhargav TS

After revealing the use of ‘smart’ EGR to help its CVs to comply with BSIV emission norms, Ashok Leyland has announced that it is innovating on various fronts to ensure that its products are relevant, and make a profitable business case. If the ‘Smart’ EGR technology, which the folks at Ashok Leyland call iEGR, has enhanced fuel efficiency by 10 per cent, and minimised the usage of electronics; have kept the weight constant and reliability good, the innovation is also expected to result in lighter, safer, efficient and world-class products. According to the chief technology officer Dr. Seshu Bhagavathula, the company is planning three upgrades to address a shift to CVs with higher power to weight ratio, and CVs with fully-built AC cabins. This, mentions Bhagavathula, will occupy our time and effort.

Market vibes

With the rise in operating speeds set to change the way the long haul segment operates, Ashok Leyland is finding an opportunity to innovate. It also stems from the need to match the duty cycle requirements; the need to change engine calibration parameters, and to collect data. “All this will have to be done in the next couple of years,” mentions Bhagavathula. He explains, “EGR is suitable for Indian conditions rather than SCR. SCR can be offered at the price of an EGR, but will result in higher maintenance cost.” Connecting higher maintenance cost of SCR to the need for urea dosing and electronics, Bhagavathula opines, “SCR systems are not bad. It is EGR that we believe will help our CV users in the long run.” A function of engine as much as it is the function of fuel quality, driver and the road conditions, EGR, mentions Bhagavathula, offers the advantage of less number of parts. The bill of materials is better. “We researched. We collected data. We found out that EGR is less complex,” he reveals.

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If the ‘smart’ EGR developed by Ashok Leyland has the ability to help a 400 hp engine to meet BSIV emission norms, much work has gone into the tweaking of the cooling system, the exhaust gas control valve among others. The in-cylinder combustion process was optimised. “We combined intelligence with EGR. We gave five per cent back and a maximum of 10 per cent exhaust gas instead of 20 per cent. The intelligence thus is in the combustion chamber, and not at the EGR level. It reduces the role of a Particle Oxidation Catalyst (POC), and could even eliminate it. We optimised in-cylinder temperature as well,” Bhagavathula elaborates.

Optimising injection pressure by modifying the design of the nozzle, Ashok Leyland engineers claim to have upped the fuel efficiency, and the life of the engine. Planning to keep the electronic content to the bare essential, the CV maker is keen to gradually increase the complexity of its products. The current efficiency of the engine at around 40 per cent, states Bhagavathula. It leaves enough potential for improvement, he adds. Touching upon the potential to improve material technology, Bhagavathula opines, “Over 60 per cent of the engine efficiency can be achieved by using fine materials. There will be no corrosion or sound, and hardly will there be a need for oil.” Hoping that one fine day it will be possible to arrive at such a development in real-time, Bhagavathula draws attention to the engines they make. We make our own engines, and not source them, he says.

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Tech upgrade

At Ashok Leyland, a separate team is working to improve the combustion process. Products that have higher power to weight ratio will be launched. Also launched will be CVs with a power output of more than 400 hp. According to Bhagavathula, 49-tonne vehicles with 180 and 190 hp will rise to 200 and 220 hp. The AC cabs, he adds, will flaunt a different level of fit and finish. The use of light weight material is set to increase, states Bhagavathula, the future lies with the suppliers, and how they could help reduce the cost of the end product. Ashok Leyland is closely following alternate fuel technology developments. In the electric vehicle space, it is working on new management strategies. They are about controlling the vehicle and battery functions.

With Optare, Ashok Leyland has developed a strategy to enhance the bus range by 45 per cent. Efforts are being made to access new technologies. Reveals Bhagavathula, “Fruitful exchange of technologies is taking place.” In the direction of connected CVs, the work on driver warning systems is underway. Three systems would be offered. The basic system will warn the driver. The mid-level system will address the needs of fleet operators that are keen to deliver their cargo on time. The premium-level system is autonomous, and engineered to offer complete control. What Ashok Leyland currently offers is ‘iAlert’ and ‘Ley Assist’. ‘iAlert’ improves viability through state-of-the-art, innovative, user-friendly, and cost effective services. Through the ‘Ley Assist’ app., the owner or driver can avail of all the information about the truck through Bluetooth. This includes information about the problems faced too.

Full-range strategy

Keen to become a full range player, Ashok Leyland will launch one new product every three months for the next two years. With an aim to bag 30 per cent of the LCV market, the company is planning to invest Rs.400 crore over the next two years for LCVs. An electric LCV range is also said to be on the cards, and would be soon unveiled. With the Indian CV market set to change, it is natural of Ashok Leyland to innovate. It will not just benefit the CV buyer, but also the society at large.