Volvo Trucks and Renova test autonomous refuse truck

170331-AB Volvo Förarlös sopbil. Best. av Anna Arbius Bild: Cicci Jonson, Bilduppdraget

Refuse trucks operate in cities and towns. Their operating cycle is typically urban, and with almost a stop at every household to collect refuse. The stop-go operating cycle of a refuse trucks leads to an amount of fuel wastage as well as increases the amount of exhaust gases the truck emits. That is not the only issue with refuse trucks. These trucks also pose a challenge to the driver with their duty cycle. The stop-go operation often results in driver fatigue, and especially in an urban environment. Making a perfect candidate for alternate fuel technologies, like buses, refuse trucks have also been a subject of research for some time now. The effect of their operating cycle on the driver is also prompting companies that build, and operate refuse trucks, to look at making it better and efficient. It does not come as a surprise therefore, that a Swedish waste management company, Renova, and Volvo Trucks, are currently testing an autonomous refuse truck with particular attention to safety. The two are researching on how automated vehicles can contribute to safer, more efficient refuse handling and create a better working environment for drivers. The automated systems being tested are in principle the same as those fitted to the autonomous Volvo truck operating in the Kristineberg Mine in northern Sweden since autumn 2016.

According to Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic & Product Safety Director, Volvo Trucks, that the automated refuse truck is driven manually in a new area for the first time with an on-board system constantly monitoring and mapping the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. “The next time the truck enters the same area, it knows exactly which route to follow and at which bins it has to stop,” he expressed. Stating the reason behind why his company embarked on this exercise, Almqvist mentioned, “Driving a heavy commercial vehicle in an urban residential area with narrow streets and vulnerable road users imposes major demands on safety, even when the vehicle’s speed doesn’t exceed a normal walking pace. The refuse truck we are now testing continuously monitors its surroundings and immediately stops if an obstacle suddenly appears on the road. The automate system, at the same time, creates better prerequisites for the driver to keep a watchful eye on everything that happens near the truck.” At the first stop with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it exactly the way the job is done today by operating the relevant controls. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon receiving the driver’s command. The driver walks the very same route that the truck takes and thus always has full view of what’s happening in the direction of travel.

An odd bit is the truck reversing. It is unheard of that a refuse truck reverses as it goes about picking up refuse at every door step almost. There’s a reason why this refuse truck reverse from one bin to the other, said Hans Zachrisson, Strategic Development Manager, Renova. He stated, “By reversing the truck, the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit instead of having to repeatedly walk between the rear and the cab every time the truck is on the move. And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there’s less risk of work related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints.” Reversing is otherwise a fairly risky manoeuvre as the driver may find it difficult to see who or what is moving behind the vehicle, even if it is fitted with a camera. In certain areas it is not allowed to reverse a heavy commercial vehicle for safety reasons, in others it is a requirement that a co-driver must stand behind the truck to ensure that the road is clear before the vehicle reverses. In this case, the truck – Volvo FM, is designed to eliminate these issues. Sensors monitor the area all around the refuse truck, no matter the direction in which the vehicle is moving.

If a car or any other obstacle is blocking the street, the refuse truck will automatically drive around it provided there is enough space. The automated systems, according to Almqvist, optimise gear changes, steering and speed, fuel consumption, and reduces emissions. Said Almqvist, “The technical scope already exists. However, a lot of research, testing and development remains before self-driving refuse trucks can become a reality.” The current project will continue until the end of 2017. It will be followed by an extremely thorough evaluation of functionality, safety, and how well this type of a vehicle is accepted by drivers, other road users and local residents. “Vehicles with varying degrees of automation will probably be introduced earlier in other applications, where transport assignments take place within strictly confined areas such as mines and cargo terminals,” signed off Almqvist.

170331-AB Volvo Förarlös sopbil. Best. av Anna Arbius Bild: Cicci Jonson, Bilduppdraget

170331-AB Volvo
Förarlös sopbil.
Best. av Anna Arbius
Bild: Cicci Jonson, Bilduppdraget

Pick-up in Tokyo

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Actress Asha Parekh is shown behind the wheel of a pick-up truck in Tokyo in a classic Hindi movie ‘Love in Tokyo’. Released in 1966, the movie went on to be a blockbuster, and featured Joy Mukherjee and the accomplished Lalita Pawar. The story unveils such that Mukherjee is engaged to a girl Sarita (Lata Bose) chosen by his mother played by Lalita Pawar, in a situation that is not to his liking. Sarita is a minor of 17 years, and pampered. Finding himself in a spot, Mukherjee in a turn of events finds himself on the plane to Japan. Lalita Pawar is informed by her lawyer that her daughter-in-law (wife of Mukherjee’s elder brother) is critically ill in Japan, and wants to hand over her son to her husband’s family. Mukherjee’s elder brother married a Japanese girl much to the dislike of his mother.

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Mukherjee bonds well with his elder brother’s son. They visit a shopping mall where he catches a glimpse of Asha Parekh on the television. He is drawn to her. As the performance comes to an end, Parekh’s uncle played by Madan puri announces her engagement with a young pilot of Indian origin, played by Pran. Parekh is not aware of the plot drawn by her uncle to inherit her father’s property with the help of Pran. Unhappy with the turn of the events that unfold with such speed, Parekh decides to flee. As would happen only in a Hindi movie, she bumps into the little fellow. Haggered by their respective uncles, Parekh and the little fellow take to liking each other. A bounty of USD 5,000 is announced for whoever finds Parekh and returns her. After spending the night in hiding, the two decide to move. In an attempt to do so, the little one accidently bumps into Mukherjee who is on the look out. Parekh gets into action. She hijacks a Toyopet pick-up truck, and the two flee as Mukherjee chases them. The driving skills of Parekh as she deftly maneouvres the Toyopet pick-up laden with hay on the roads of Tokyo deserves a mention.

Featured many years later in the movie Betaab, albeit in a battered and badly bruised form by the lead actor Sunny Deol to woo his love interest, Amrita Singh, the Toyopet pick-up truck was launched in 1954 in Japan as a competitor to Nissan Junior. Sharing the platform with Toyota Dyna, the pick-up truck was rechristened as the ‘Scout’ in 1959. Known to be produced until 1989, the pick-up truck made for a successful model run. The one that Parekh is shown to be driving in the movie remained a main stream model for many years, and gave the pick-up the identity it deserves. Looked up to as the forefather of Toyota Hilux, the Scout was powered by a 48 hp, 1.5-litre, diesel engine. It could be also had with a 2-litre Type R engine. If the twin headlights set into a large grille attract, it is the positioning of the parking lights at either corner of the bonnet that draw attention. They present a unique identity to the design. A body on frame construction, the suspension of Scout was made up of independent coil springs at front, and leaf springs at the rear. Measuring 4,286 mm to 4,690 mm mm in length and 1,690 mm in width, the Scout made for an interesting cameo in the movie. Allowing Bollywood fans to catch a glimpse of a pick-up truck in the 60s, the movie, ‘Love in Tokyo’ had a happy ending with Mukherjee and Parekh falling for each other.

Challenges and opportunities

Q & A

Vinod K. Sahay,

CEO – Designate,

Mahindra Trucks & Buses Limited.

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar


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Q. How do you plan to keep the excitement going at Mahindra Trucks and Buses?

A. The team at Mahindra Trucks and Buses Limited (MTBL) has done a good job. The expectations from the Blazo have been met. By and large, wherever the Blazo sold in BSIII version, the promises made by the company have been fulfilled. In this industry, at the end of the day, it is the product, technology and the core offerings that make a difference. Beyond a point, if the core is not delivering, there may not be much to do. A CV is not a lifestyle product. It has to be a profitable business for its buyer. With Blazo BSIV, we strongly believe that the delta, which we used to have earlier, has risen further. The migration to BSIV has brought about a generation change in CVs. It may not be the first time that a new emission norm has come into existence, BSIV emission norms have set a new paradigm nevertheless. The engine remained mechanical through BSI, BSII and BSIII migration. With BSIV migration, there’s not a single mechanical engine in use. It will be a world of electronics hereafter. With the move to BSIV, it is not just the electronic engine, but also the exhaust after treatment. There is an amount of after treatment required in EGR and SCR. It increases the back pressure. Back pressure will only increase further with the move to BSVI emission norms. A six-litre engine of an earlier era will no longer produce the same amount of power and torque. Efficiency, power delivery and torque will change. Coinciding with the implementation of GST almost, the migration to BSIV has signaled that a truck is going to be a far more efficient asset than it was earlier. If it used to travel 90,000 to one-lakh kilometers per year, it will now travel one and a half lakh kilometers. We have come to think that what was probably our weakness is now our strength. If our 7.2-litre engine makes us future-ready, we are quite excited. We are at a very good position right now, and will be taking the same engine to BSVI. Others may have to seek a new engine to meet BSVI emission norms. We are in a position to go forward in a much stronger way. After extensive trials we have come to conclude that our mileage guarantee stands, and in a bigger way than it did in the case of BSIII.

Q. What was the reason behind selecting SCR technology?

A. We decided to move ahead with SCR technology because it does not have any negative impact on the engine. EGR is good for a range of products where the power to weight ratio is high. In LCVs, where the power to weight ratio is upwards of 10, EGR is a good technology. In heavier CVs, where 49-tonne is pulled by a 230 hp engine, the power to weight ratio is just about four. Add the possibility of overloading, and EGR as a technology is just not sufficient. Upon adopting SCR technology, we have made an effort to be future-ready. We have chosen airless SCR, which is a necessity to meet BSVI emission norms. Airless SCR is costlier for the manufacturer, but is cheaper for an operator. Airless SCR consumes less AdBlue. Our truck will thus consume 10 to 15 per cent less AdBlue. Only one filter needs to be changed after every 60,000 kms, and it costs Rs.1200. The four year SCR cost for our truck will be Rs.7300. Frequency of filter change in air-assisted SCR is high. The costs involved are in the region of Rs.60,000 to Rs.70,000 over a span of four years. Our advantage in Blazo BSIV is even bigger than it was in the BSIII guise. We are stressing upon communicating the advantage a Blazo offers, and it is going to be a slow and steady process. Unlike industry leaders, we do not have the ability to put thousands of trucks in one go. For a challenger brand like us, we expect people to conduct a careful evaluation.

Q. What are your plans to fill up the gap between the LCVs and M&HCVs?

A. We have refreshed the cabin of our LCVs during the last two-to-three months. We have also extended ‘Fuel Smart’ technology to our LCV range. It has two modes unlike the three modes the system in the Blazo has. The light goods vehicle range gets ‘mileage guarantee’, which will be extended to light passenger vehicles. To address the gap between six and 25-tonne, we are working on a new platform that will spring up ICVs and MCVs. We plan to launch the next set of vehicles, especially in the nine to 16-tonne range in the next twelve months. The node of highest volumes in ICVs keeps shifting. Five years ago, it was in the 10.5-tonne range, today it is in the region of 13.5- to 14.1-tonne. We see volumes in three segments going forward. These would be tractor-trailers and heavy rigid trucks; trucks in the 13- to 16-tonne bracket, and 3.5- to 4-tonne segment. We will soon complete the missing link.

Q. What plans do you have to tap the growing bus segments?

A. We have been investing in buses, and have a range from 15-seater to 40-seater. In this financial year, Mahindra will launch the LPO range with 30-, 40- and 45-seat configuration. ICV platforms’ ability to come up with passenger vehicles will be explored in the second phase. We have introduced air suspension in our LCV range. The LPO range will complement the existing range of lighter passenger vehicles made at Zaheerabad.

Q. How would MTBL travel along the line of change in technology?

A. The challenge to move up to BSVI in two and half years has been taken. Alternate fuels, especially electricity, will call for supporting ecosystem. Our electric CVs will carry a lot of knowledge acquired by Mahindra Electric, a group entity. We will work jointly with them. We are working on bus projects. Heavy electric CVs call for huge investment. With electric propulsion concentrating around lighter, urban vehicles, we, as a group, do not see much challenge. We may not be ready to sell a vehicle in the market, technology-wise we will not be found wanting. Talking about cabin technology, the one that we offer is crash test certified. Termed the best, and the most modern, the cabin is also well equipped. It measures 2.4 m compared to the cabins others offer, which measure 2.2 m. AC is optional, and new e-commerce companies are opting for it. Acceptance among organised players is rising since an AC cabin improves asset utilisation. DigiSense is a connected vehicles initiative that provides the ability to talk to the driver, operator and the operator’s customer. A wealth of information is obtained. A customer operating oil tankers for Bharat Petroleum for instance can monitor his or her truck beyond the interest of the oil company to monitor its arrival and departure at its terminal. An electronically governed engine enables the ‘box’ to communicate with the engine ECU. CAN-data can be transferred, and used for remote diagnosis and prognosis. Data could be used to provide better service, and to carry out preventive maintenance. Adding huge value for us, and enhancing our ability to design a better truck, the dashboard of our truck could display CAN-data as well. Driving information could be divulged apart from fuel efficiency. When the driver stops, he can use the ‘box’ to find out a better route. Apart from geo-fencing, as and when the regulation demands, driver productivity management or driver utilisation could be incorporated. If a regulation to drive eight hours is implemented, the ‘box’ can be programmed to talk to the driver. This will call for the ‘box’ to be Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled. Information regarding trailer coupling and tyre pressure could be had as well. The possibilities are endless, and up to the imagination of OEM. The driver and operator should migrate to such a platform.

Q. How close are we to truly connected CVs?

A. We are not far from truly connected CVs. It is the cost that has to be justified. Regulatory push makes it easier, but the challenge lies with the operator getting the price from the consumer. What goes into a CV, someone has to pay for it. A consignor’s ability to pay for a safer truck has to be there. Considering the need for a mature ecosystem, our operating economics in BSIV is not inferior to BSIII.

Q. What growth opportunities do you see?

A. For a challenger brand like us, everything is an opportunity. We command a five per cent market share. In heavy commercial vehicles we are the number four player. We are seeing good traction in some of the segments like the 37-tonne segment, and the 49-tonne segment. In these segments our position is better than the industry average of five per cent. There are pockets where we have reached a market share of 15 to 20 per cent. The shift to BSIV has increased our competitiveness. We see a big opportunity in truck body code. Over 65 per cent of what we sell are fully-built vehicles. The sale of BSVI CVs is expected to begin from December 2019 itself. This gives rise to two issues – ROI and the ability to operate BSIV CVs. With BSVI at the doorstep, migration to larger engines will be faster. Engine back pressure will rise. We will stick to our current engine and airless SCR with some additional bits thrown in to meet BSVI emission norms. In LCVs, we will have a mix of EGR and SCR. The power to weight ratio will help to decide.

Q. As competition gets fierce, and ways of working change, what group synergies would you look at?

A. Synergies for us come out of various things. They are about technology mostly. Digisense is a result of synergy. Common-rail diesel engine is another example. There’s much synergy at the supplier end. Without synergies we would not have been as cost competitive. With the entire auto business indulging in common sourcing, the chances of dealing with the same vendors increase. Synergies at the back-end and front-end provide an advantage. Front-end synergies involve dealers. About 25 per cent of the dealers are common to our farm or auto businesses. The facilities are independent but the owner is the same. He gets the advantage of a common back-end, and we get the advantage of familiarity. In service, we are exploring synergies where smaller, lighter and heavier commercial vehicles share the same service center. It saves overheads for the dealer, and we are able to have a better reach. We have synergies with our finance arm, Mahindra Finance, which has a share of 30-35 per cent. We seek synergy with Mahindra Research Valley for development of technology.

Q. Would a new engine be developed for ICVs?

A. Some of the current engines will be upgraded. We will also make new engines out of our portfolio of engines.

Q. How do you plan to keep the suppliers and dealers motivated?

A. We believe that what applies to our employees, also applies to our partners. Satisfaction necessarily does not come from money, it comes from the level of engagement. We have scored high in the J D Power survey despite having come out of red just yet. We have scored much ahead of the Tatas and Leylands of the world. The biggest reason for this is the way we treat our channel partners; treat their problems as ours. If you speak to our channel partners, they will talk about the confidence we have given them. We make an honest attempt to solve their problems. Our partners have been with us through the worst times. Most will today indicate that the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Most of them are raring to go. I wouldn’t say that it is a job done. The process is constant. Players like us can’t take things for granted. We can’t rest on the assumption that our dealers are making good money. Most of them are not. Most of them have just about turned profitable, or have broken even. They have some way to go to recover their past investment. We operate with a thumb rule of full honesty. We tell our partners that let us solve your problems together. We don’t commit that we can solve them 100 per cent as part of it is within our control and part is not. Some things are out of our control because of the way things are happening in the industry right now., which leaves very little retention to most of our dealers’ kitty. We are expanding our dealer network on a need basis largely. Due to our innovative approach to overcome service challenges, we have achieved good results. The service guarantee, for example, we offer on the Mumbai-Delhi corridor. No other player has been able to give such a guarantee. We are stressing on technology and low cost innovation to solve some of our problems. We do not ask dealers to invest beyond what is required. We tell them to keep room for scaling-up the operation when the need arises. In some areas, single digit expansion could happen to fill up the network gaps in this and the next fiscal. We are looking to expand the service guarantee to other Golden Quadrilateral corridors. For the other corridors, and the east-west corridor, our commitment of 48 hours remains. We have 11 parts plazas. At the end of this year, we are looking at crossing 80.

Q.What are your export plans?

A. Under the Auto and Farm sector at Mahindra, we have identified two major geographies – South Africa and South Asia. We have a group-level team looking after these. We support them. In the two geographies, distributors have been appointed. Our focus right now is on the domestic market.

Q. What is your forecast for the CV market?

A. In terms of the quarters, it is very challenging given the current situation. A report mentions that India will be the fastest growing economy till 2025. If the economy grows, commercial vehicles will also grow. There are intermediate challenges. GST is a two-way sword when it comes to commercial vehicles. It will increase the efficiency of existing fleet. It will also add to over capacity in some sectors. It will therefore take three to four months before the order is set. Operators will also evaluate. If the truck were to run 7,000 km a month, it would now run 10,000 km. The operator will evaluate fleet utilisation. He will evaluate how many new trucks are required. Most are re-calculating as the earlier thumb rules are no longer effective. There could be a momentary challenge over two-to-three months. The unfortunate bit is, it gets coupled with the lean season. There is a likelihood of short term stress. In the medium and long-term there is no need to worry. The BSVI migration will haunt the industry next.

Slipper suspension from Meritor India

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Meritor India is banking on slipper suspension to compliment its existing product portfolio and tap growth.

Story by: Bhargav TS

Driver shortage in the CV industry is forcing a change. One of the factors is the rising preference for comfort. The trend could trace its roots to Europe where the emphasis on comfort is high. With rise in infrastructure, and implementation of GST, operating speeds are expected to increase. A CV that clocked 80,000 to 100,000 kms a year is expected to clock 150,000 to 175,000 kms a year. If this will call for higher efficiency, reliability and comfort, the slipper suspension from Meritor could address the need just right. Offering a weight advantage and low ownership cost, the slipper suspension that Meritor has introduced is the result of an extensive market study. Into the manufacture of CV axles and brakes, suspension systems make a logical extension for the company. It also offers the company an opportunity to grow faster.

Currently found in Brazil whose infrastructure and loading conditions are similar to that of India, the slipper suspension, according to Thimmaiah NP, Managing Director & CEO, Meritor India, has an advantage over the Bellcrank suspension Indian CVs are fitted with. States Thimmaiah, that India is the only market, which offers Bellcrank suspension. “There are over 20 joints with bushes and screws, which require lubrication in a Bellcrank suspension. For efficient functioning, they need regular lubrication. In the case of slipper suspension, there are only two links. These are easily operated and maintained,” he explains. Confident of the acceptance of slipper suspension, Meritor is planning to launch the same in the next three to four months. It will be manufactured at the company’s facility at Mysore.

Aimed at M&HCVs, the slipper suspension is being pitched by the company to CV OEMs. It was not easy initially, mentions Thimmaiah. OEMs were not showing much interest. A change in approach accompanied by the highlighting of the pain points associated with Bellcrank suspension drew attention to slipper suspension. A study done by fitting the suspension in customer vehicles revealed maintenace cost reduction from 15 to 20 paise per km to three to five paise per km. “With the slipper suspension, even after 60,000 km, tyre wear was found to be only 30 per cent. No parts were replaced,” explains Thimmaiah. “In the case of Bellcrank suspension, tyre replacement after 40,000 km was necessary,” he quips. Weighing 80 to 100 kg less than a Bellcrank suspension, the slipper suspension, which is just another type of leaf spring suspension, not only enhances the load carrying capacity of a truck, but also reduces downtime, maintenance, and parts replacement needs.

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The first company to warm up to the slipper suspension is Ashok Leyland says Thimmaiah. VRL Logistics has also shown interest, he adds. With a constant change in the stiffness of the spring, which elevates driving comfort and avoids uneven load distribution, slipper suspension promises 180,000 km of tyre life. Opines Thimmaiah, that the vertical load is transferred to the springs. Braking and acceleration are taken care of by the torque rod. Signaling an advantage with greasing points reduced from 20 to two, the slipper suspension is completely localised. It will cost 10 per cent more than the Bellcrank suspension. The chassis and internal packaging will be different across fleet, and across OEMs. A need to match it with each OEM specification will be necessary.

Improving the maneouvrability of CVs, the slipper suspension has its leaves asymmetrically arranged according to Kishan Kumar Udupi, Senior Manager, Engineering. The asymmetrical arrangement helps to achieve optimal spacing between the axles. Laden and unladen ride comfort improves. “We have designed the drive axle spring with 10 per cent higher stiffness to ensure better traction and starting-ability. Having a provision to lift the tag axle with a unique central lifting device, that reduces wear and tear of parts, and increases fuel efficiency, the slipper suspension is packaged within the chassis frame. It provides an opportunity to lower the centre of gravity and improve vehicle dynamics,” explains Kishan Kumar.

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Working on new platforms, Meritor, according to Thimmaiah, is closely following the changes the CV industry is going through. Carrying out activities and developments with the support of its R&D center, the company is also working with OEMs to increase the efficiency of the axles it offers. This should help them to meet the stringent regulations.

Quiet Ride gearing

As part of its endeavour to offer products that are light in weight and enhance the performance, Meritor CVS will also introduce ‘Quiet Ride’ gearing soon. Enjoying good acceptance in global markets, Quiet Ride gearing is applied to buses. Featuring an innovative gear tooth design, which ensures both the drive and coast side of the tooth are quiet, Quiet Ride gearing, made with advanced CNC gear cutting equipment with attention to precise cutting and excellent repeatability, promises low noise signature. Developed in India and supplied the world over, Quiet Ride gearing, mentions Thimmaiah, increases the cost by just one-per cent.

Exporting axles to Brazil, China, Europe and the US, and Quiet Ride gearing to Europe, China and the US, the company is encountering a change in CVs through gear ratios. Reveals Thimmaiah, that the gear ratio of BSVI CVs is different. “Engine speed is decreasing, and is shifting to the axle level,” he adds. Coming out with solutions where the gear ring is laser welded to eliminate churning noises, Meritor CVS, Thimmaiah expresses, is also focusing on off-highway and military applications. The company will soon unveil a backhoe loader axle as part of its strategy to participate in the backhoe and motor grader segments. In-line with the move, plans are being chalked out to localise certain designs. To support such endeavours, Meritor is upgrading its systems and processes. “We are progressing to Industry 4.0, and connected machines. We are upgrading our systems and processes. We are investing Rs.70 crore every year,” explains Thimmaiah.


Present in the aftermarket, Meritor is looking at good growth. Looking to profit from the decision of many operators to retain, and maintain the same truck and bus rather than replace it perhaps, the company is looking at increasing its aftermarket revenue. Close to 10 per cent revenue comes from the aftermarket. The axles and brakes that it manufactures find their way into the aftermarket. The supply of clutch and transmission has also begun. There are 120 retailers pan-India. Another 20 will be added at the end of this year. In the next five years, the company is planning to extend its suspension portfolio to the bus segment. Driving such endeavours is a quest for strong bottomline. Revenue, according to Thimmaiah, has doubled since 2012. “We expect the trend to continue for the next five years,” he concludes.

Wabco banks on air disc brakes

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Leading commercial vehicle supplier, Wabco, is betting big on air disc brakes in India.

Story by: Bhargav TS

The 2017 season of Tata Prima T1 Truck Racing Championship saw Wabco feature its air disc brake technology in India for the first time. The news leaked out slowly, and through sources reliable enough to signal the arrival of yet another, new and significant technology for Indian Commercial Vehicles (CVs). The company, instrumental in the introduction of Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), was at work once again. Bullish about air disc brakes, and the potential it holds, Wabco in India, is pushing air disc brakes on the count of safety, and ease of service.

Offering numerous advantages, including the lack of exaggeration of friction coefficient differences, reduced fade, high thermal load, minimal and consistent hysteresis and ease of servicing, air disc brakes enable easy replacement of brake pads compared to that of the brake shoes in drum brakes. If the initial cost of air disc brakes is high, the advantage it offers is claimed to be an improvement in vehicle braking performance. A factor that is vital to CVs. Available in Europe, China and the US with a penetration level of 85 per cent, eight per cent and 15 per cent respectively, air disc brakes, according to Sven Horak, Vice President, Business Unit Leader, Wheel End Solutions, Wabco, are reliable, robust and easily applicable across vehicle segments. Penetration in India is said to be under one per cent as of current. Given the rate at which the Indian CV market is maturing however, Horak is confident that air disc brakes will soon become a part of new technologies Indian CVs will possess.

For a CV operator with focus on total operating costs, air disc brakes beckon a new way to save costs. Not only is the technology reliable, robust and easily applicable across segments, it is also high on performance. Said Horak, “The stopping performance of air disc brakes is high. They provide a 30 per cent increase in performance at the least. They also extend the service interval of brakes, and are corrosion resistant.”

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Helping to achieve better control and stability, air disc brakes are made attractive by their ability to cut down on vehicle weight. Wabco pioneers single piston air disc brake technology informed Horak. “With this technology the manufacturer can claim to deliver upto 30,000 Nm braking torque, making it one-of-its-kind in the market. Weight reduction of at least 40 per cent is achieved by employing this technology.” Having delivered several million brakes the world over, Wabco is discussing with Indian OEMs. It plans to localise air disc brakes quickly. This will be however dictated by pick-up in demand. The current crop of air disc brakes is being sourced from Germany and China. With drum manufacture captive to many CV OEMs in India, the move to air disc brakes is expected to be met with an amount of resistance. That is however until the distinct advantages of air disc brakes are looked at. The single piston air disc brakes need a lot of technical proficiency mentioned Horak. “We have achieved that proficiency to become a leading player,” he said.

Optimistic about OEM supply tie-ups happening sooner than later, Wabco is looking at sharing the technology with the manufacturers as a retrofitment. Retrofitment of air disc brakes is possible, averred P Kaniappan, Managing Director, Wabco India. He said, “Customers looking for total cost of ownership will get a payback through weight reduction as a major attribute. In heavy vehicles, air disc brakes can help to achieve up to 30 per cent weight reduction. This will have a drastic effect on fuel efficiency.” Regarding homologation under JNNURM guidelines, Kaniappan stated that the discretion lies with the state governments to implement. “The government is recognising this technology, and we are confident that it will be soon explored,” he quipped.

Aimed at HGVs and heavier buses, air disc brakes will elevate driver comfort. This will improve safety and the driver’s ability to drive for long distances without experiencing fatique. “There are testimonies which we could share,” said Horak. Field validation is underway, and the technology is expected to take time to proliferate. Field test on a bus for over a million kilometres was completed recently. Designed to be fitted on the front axle, the air disc brakes, according to Wabco sources, are in-line with a cost pay back period of six months. With less number of parts compared to drum brakes, air disc brakes, stated a source, are ‘plug and play’. He stressed upon their ability to self adjust. Assuring better performance at higher temperatures, air disc brakes are said to contain a clutch in the adjuster mechanism which works in both the directions and ensures a longer life.

Mr. Sven Horak and Mr. P. Kaniappan at the media round table on the Air Disc Brake (ADB) technology by WABCO (2) copy

Saving the trouble of synchronising two pistons, the single piston technology of air disc brakes has been patented by Wabco. Promising 10 per cent longer life of brake pads because of uniform force distribution, the system, encapsulated or sealed with grease is claimed to offer superior corrosion resistance too. With brake indicator to indicate the wear of brake pads, air disc brakes are expected to assume good force by 2019. Employing a modular approach where 90 per cent of the components are optimised and adjusted as per the application needs and specifications, the single piston air disc brakes for CVs are expected to begin manufacture at Wabco’s Indian facilities soon. The company has four manufacturing locations in India. Across four continents, Wabco has five manufacturing locations according to Horak. “We not only have air disc brakes, we also have actuators, brake chambers among others. By 2018, we will have a local assembly for air disc brakes in place”, he said.

In pursuit of business

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Lack of business has the transport industry worried.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

Satwinder Singh Sukhala, a small time business man who repairs truck radiator is worried. He is in search of work, and there isn’t much coming his way. Until last month, that is before the GST rolled out, Sukhala did not get time to look up. There were times when he spent 12 to 14 hours working on radiator jobs at his small shop in Delhi’s biggest trucking hub Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, without taking a break. There’s been a turnaround. Rather than carrying out repairs, Satwinder has come to spend time in worrying about meeting his expenses. Other than assure the people he deals with of a timely payment, Sukhala has little else to do. Time he knows is running out. But having spent so many years of his life repairing radiators, Sukhala is suddenly feeling like a fish out of water. The trade has taken a deep dive. Almost 90 per cent of it is lost. Pointing out to a line of trucks parked, he states that this is not a natural occurrence. Never did he see trucks standing for more than eight hours at a stretch he mentions. They can be seen parked at the same place for days together.

Post the GST roll-out, various stakeholders of the CV industry have been finding their means of livelihood go into a limp mode. Affected by demonetisation given the cash-intensive nature of the business, the CV industry last experienced a hike in freight rates in March 2017. Since April 2017, freight rates have been slipping. On April 01, 2017, the country migrated to BSIV emission norms. It proved to be a disruption. Sales shrunk. Business was already slowing down at the tyre shops, spares retailers, body builders, and dhabas. GST seems to have caused them slow down some more. Insisted Sukhdev Singh (name changed on request) that the cargo movement has gone south by almost 60 per cent. Fleets are not rolling the way they once did. Finding new load is proving strenuous. One gets a feeling that uncertainty has set in. The entire chain seems to have come to a halt. Malkit Singh, a transporter in Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar said that there has been a severe set back. “I don’t even get half the trips out of the eight to 10 trips of truckload I used to get until two months ago on the Delhi-Bangalore route,” mentioned Singh. Another transporter Ritesh Prasad averred, “I used to have six to seven orders every month for Mumbai. Half the month has already passed, and my third bill is waiting to take off.”

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Used to carrying out transactions without proper paperwork, the transport industry is finding it tough to crack the GST. Used to cash transactions with not much record keeping, spare parts retailers and shops selling lubes are seeing their business dwindle. The drop is said to be so drastic, that a six months timeline looks overtly optimistic. According to a report by the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT), almost two and a half million trucks are involved in cargo movement and just ten per cent of them comply with the carriage by road act. There have been very few takers for new orders what with the execution of older orders difficult. Many still don’t comply with GST norms, which is looked upon as a mechanism that includes vigorous tax checks across all levels. Transporters seem extremely wary about the new regime. They are very cautious, and have been pushing the traders for GST numbers. They are not willing to engage with them in case they do not furnish the GST details.

According to an industry source, the number of trucks entering Delhi, or passing through the capital city, has gone down by more than 50 per cent. He reasoned that companies are in a wait and watch mode because of the huge uncertainty that prevails. They are looking for a cleaner air, he said. Since 90 per cent of the transport industry falls under the unorgaised domain, it is looking difficult for them to sustain. The high costs associated with fulfilling the requirements of GST will simply make it unsustainable. About 25 kms from Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, over 5000 trucks are said to have come to halt in Faridabad. A major drop in supply orders is said to be reason. The general secretary of All Faridabad Transporters Association, Subhash Kaushik, is known to say that a majority of trucks are parked in the Transport Nagar, and other places due to lack of orders.

Drivers are happy

With many trucks parked for days on end, drivers are a happy lot. A regular on the Delhi-Kashmir route, Mukesh Pratap is happy because it takes him four days to reach Kashmir. He used to take five days earlier, even six. The disappearance of VAT related check posts has ensured time saving. We no longer have to wait to pay inter-state taxes, mentioned Pratap. With the instances of regular stoppages and checks at the city entry and exits points having gone down, truck drivers are finding it easier to ply. They now spend more time on the road than off it The time taken to reach the destination has gone down, stated Mahadev Ghori, who shuttles between Delhi and Jaipur. Opined an expert, that the gains may be short-lived. Once more and more trucks hit the road, the density of traffic will increase. The time taken to reach the destination will go up. Over a cup of tea at the Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, a driver expressed that checks are still continuing. Two other drivers said that arbitrary charges are still being levied. It is not as seamless as one would think of therefore, he mentioned. With over 50 per cent drop in fleet utilisation, parked trucks have begun to create a bottleneck. Transporters point at suppliers and express that they have stopped placing orders to avoid any problem during or after transportation. They fear that the business should not plunge below 20-25 per cent. We are already struggling to recover from the impact of demonetisation, and this development has hit us once again, said a transporter on the condition of not disclosing his name.

Looking at a buoyant future

If the ground reality at the Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, and at Faridabad reflects a picture where business has been impacted by GST, union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari is claimed to have said that GST will curtail 14 per cent of the logistics costs the country incurs. Claimed an industry source, that transparency will increase, and bring down the costs incurred by logistics companies by over 20 per cent. Analysts at ICRA forecast that GST will improve the flow of goods due to the disappearance of multiple tax liabilities. They are of the opinion that the turnaround time will drastically improve. Truckers will no longer have to stop at borders, and to pay tax at various levels. With hubs determined on logistical considerations rather than state boundaries according to Prof. G Raghuram, Director, IIM-Bangalore, the hub and spoke model of transportation is expected to turn sharper. If this points at a buoyant future, the shift towards higher tonnage trucks and the need to maintain records is expected to influence a market shift to larger fleets. It is the large fleet operators who will make a large chunk of the organised sector. Organised players will help their customers get input tax credit. This will lead to smooth flow of goods albeit in the form of bigger trucks.

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The e-way bill

Starting October 2017, goods that cost more than Rs.50,000 will have to be pre-booked under GST, and an e-way bill will have to be raised. The e-way bill is aimed at seamless movement of goods between two destinations. The e-way bill will be supported by an infrastructure that involves tax officials who will verify with hand held devices. Currently under development at the National Informatics Centre (NIC), the e-way bills will be valid up to 20 days depending upon the distance to be traveled. This would most likely be one day for 100 km, three days for up to 300 km, five days for up to 500 km, and ten days for up to 1000 km. The central government has already relaxed the time-lime to 20 days (from the earlier 15 days) for a travel of over 1000 km. Even though various states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal already have e-way bill in place, nation wide implementation will call for a frame work of rules. Industry stakeholders are of the opinion that it will take six months for sentiments to improve. For the business to get back to normal, they are divided in their opinion on how long it will take.

Safety at Volvo Trucks

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Intelligent and innovative safety technologies developed by Volvo Trucks promise zero accidents.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

Safety is endemic to the Swedish society. It lays much emphasis on accident prevention. If this will help to explain why safety is synonymous with Volvo, which has a long history of establishing safety milestones, at its Experience Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden, recently provided an insight into the safety technologies it has developed. With high commitment to safety, the Swedish truck giant is working on a plethora of technologies that could lead to connected vehicles, and eventually to truly autonomous machines. Present in 68 countries, including India, Volvo Trucks is pro-actively expanding the envelope of automotive safety. With an eye on rising vehicular population, and the resulting challenges, the company is focusing on smart safety technologies like emergency braking and collision warning.

The root of both these technologies lies in accidents where the following vehicle rear-ends the vehicle ahead. The results of which are often disastrous. Underlining the phenomenon of better infrastructure leading to more vehicles and higher traffic speeds, Helene Mellquist, Senior Vice President, Volvo Trucks International, expressed that rear-end collisions account for one-fifth of the overall accidents that involve trucks. “Since November 2015, it is mandatory to equip every two and three-axle trucks with an automatic emergency braking system across the European Union,” she said. According to the EU legislation, the braking system should be effective in slowing down a truck by 10 kmph. The target for next year is 20 kmph. Of the opinion that the amount of jerk that will emanate from such an excercise will cause the driver pain. To avoid this, Volvo Trucks, according to Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic and Products Safety Director, has developed a system that alerts the driver well in advance. If the driver does not pay heed to the warning, the emergency brakes are applied. Mentioned Almqvist, “If you are driving at 80 kmph when the emergency braking system is deployed, there is a need to cut down the speed by more than 20 kmph to avoid a nasty collision because the vehicle ahead has come to a standstill.”

Offering a first-hand feel of the technology on a Volvo FH16 750 carrying a load of over 40-tonnes, the engineers of the company explained how the system works. Noticing another vehicle in front, the truck shed speed from 80 kmph to a standstill in less than 40 m. The braking speed recorded was up to seven-meter per second square. The system, with standard ABS deployed on both the tractor and the trailer, is laced with a camera and radar technology to monitor the vehicular movement ahead of the truck. It is engineered to brave adverse weather conditions. Sensing the risk of a collision, the system gives out a sharp audio warning, closely followed by an escalating lighting combination. If the driver fails to respond, emergency braking is activated. At other times, when the system notices a lack of steering movement, it engages the parking brake in five seconds to avoid a roll over. To warn the following traffic, brakes lights begin to flash.

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Self-driving refuse truck

The self-driving refuse truck Volvo engineers have developed in association with Renova aims for safer, and efficient refuse handling. It provides an insight into how the refuse trucks of tomorrow will be like; how safe they will be. Meant to create a better working environment for drivers, the truck is driven manually the first time it visits a locality. The on-board system constantly monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. The next time the truck visits the locality, it knows exactly which route to follow, and at which bins to stop. At the first stop with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it exactly the way it is done with a conventional refuse truck. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon receiving the driver’s command. The driver walks the very same route that the truck takes. He thus has a full view of what’s happening in the direction of travel always.

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By reversing the truck, the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit instead of having to repeatedly walk between the rear and the cab every time the truck is on the move. And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there’s less risk of work related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints. Carrying the same genetic pattern of autonomous Volvo trucks operating in Kristineberg mine in northern Sweden, the autonomous refuse truck, according to Almqvist, comes to an immediate halt if the sensors monitoring the surrounding area notice another object in close vicinity. The commercial application of such a refuse truck is still some time away. There’s more research to be done, and especially in the wake of the regulation that does not allow trucks to be reversed for reasons of safety. Issues like these, and others need to be addressed. A detailed story on the autonomous refuse truck is featured ahead in the issue.


A convoy of three Volvo FH trucks, as part of an exercise to forward the cause of vehicle automation, under the supervision of the Dutch government, travelled from the Volvo headquarters at Gothenburg to Rotterdam in March 2017. As part of the European Union truck platooning challenge, the three Volvo trucks were driven through five countries while communicating wirelessly with each other through cameras and radars. The communication between the trucks was carried out through G5, a special frequency dealing with encrypted data traffic. The frequency enabled either truck to match the speed of the other trucks, which is essential to a platoon. With a one-second gap between the two trucks, the rate of acceleration and deceleration matched. A glimpse of how the system works was had with the camera fitted on the lead truck sending the footage to the two other trucks in the platoon. While the other drivers continued to steer the vehicle, acceleration and braking was automated. Traveling at 80 kmph, the trucks in the platoon maintained a 22 m gap between each other. The seemingly small gap reduced wind drag. Developing autonomous steering as an effort to reach the goal of a truly self-driving truck, Volvo is aware of the associated risks; the need for the drivers to be ready, and to accept it commercially.

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Visibility and driver awareness

Volvo Trucks is working closely with the Swedish Government to impart training to drivers through the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI), Lindholmen. VTI, in 2011, inaugurated its Sim IV simulator, which produces a large stroke liner motion in both lateral and longitudinal directions. A system consists of three LCD screens for rear view mirrors and nine projector modules for 180 degree forward field view. It is designed such that it studies the driver reactions and imparts training on maneouvring the truck in different situations. The number of accidents involving trucks has fallen as per the Volvo Trucks Safety Report for 2017. The report has mentioned that there are still a considerable number of drivers who do not wear a seat belt. Highlighting the need to focus on pedestrian safety, and that of the cyclists and motorcycles, the report has emphasized on active safety measures like increased seat belt usage, driver awareness as well as direct and indirect visibility from the cab, driver coaching services that provide direct feedback to the driver, and Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB) system.

The current AEB system as per the legislature, is designed to mitigate or avoid rear-end accidents. It will have to, in the future, include scenarios involving pedestrians and cyclists (VRUs). This would call for detection systems that identify VRUs in close proximity to a truck. Also, Cooperative Intelligent Traffic Systems (C-ITS) that enable communication between vehicles and infrastructure. Opined Peter Wells, Head, Volvo Trucks Accident Research, “Often there are these minor factors that foster a safe environment. They also lead to product improvement.” Volvo engineers have set up cameras that complement the rear view mirrors. The combination of cameras and mirrors is aimed at eliminating the limitations posed by a human eye. “There are blind spots around the truck for a driver. Different traffic situations call for them to be dealt accordingly. It is a joint responsibility of the society to see and be seen to elevate road safety,” averred Almqvist. He concluded, that it is important to educate the young and the adults.

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