CIRT for safer roads and efficient transport

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The Pune-based Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT) is playing an important role in elevating safety, performance and transport efficiency in India.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Photos: Saurabh Botre

The driving license tests in the Pune region are carried out at a modern testing facility called the Institute of Driving Training and Research (IDTR). Best and the most fool proof testing facility in India ever, IDTR is located over a 15 acres portion of the sprawling 90 acres campus of the Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT), which was established in 1967 as a joint initiative between the Association of State Road Transport Undertakings (ASRTU) & the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH), Government of India. A result of significant research carried across two generations of driver licensing procedures – proximity sensor-based and RFID-based, IDTR includes 15 different tracks – the shape of ‘eight’, ‘H’ and ‘S’, and a centre elevation. Developed by CIRT under a mandate from MoRTH, IDTR carries out camera-based video analytics employing a software developed specifically for the task. There is no manual intervention at all. Not stopping at that, CIRT is also helping various government agencies to replicate driving licensing infrastructure across India on the same lines. With Tata Motors having played a role in the setting up of IDTR, the facility includes heavy-duty vehicle and light motor vehicle simulators. IDTR also has cutaways of important aggregates like engines, transmissions, axles, turbochargers, etc., as part of the theoretical training it imparts.

Before the IDTR gained shape, an automated vehicle inspection centre went on stream in June last year at Nashik. CIRT was instrumental in developing it too. Sans manual intervention, the centre carries out vehicle fitness checks for emission, speed calibration, brakes, suspension and wheel alignment. As MoRTH and various state governments look at replicating such facilities, CIRT is helping them. Says Dr. R B Saner-Patil, Director, CIRT, “The road map of CIRT is very progressive. It has achieved excellent footprint in consultancy, training, component testing, and more, as part of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR). CIRT has played a pivotal role, and is continuing to do so”. Mentions Prashant Kakade, Manager & Co-Ordinator MDC, CIRT, that norms are strictly adhered to. “Stress is on being neutral,” he adds. Like other bodies under the MoRTH, CIRT plays an advisory role to the secretariat for formulating rules and policies for vehicles above 3.5-tonnes. It is a vehicle certifying body that provides services to automotive OEMs and application specialists like vehicle body builders, trailer manufacturers, and component manufacturers.

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Component testing and validation

CIRT has made a mark in components testing, states Dr. Saner-Patil, through transparency and by adhering to high testing standards. As a technical arm of ASRTU, CIRT carries out components testing for STUs (State Transport Undertakings) primarily. STUs often buy components in bulk. Explains Dr. Saner-Patil, “We are investing in new mediums like website on components testing. The status of the component submitted for testing can be tracked, and how it is progressing through the test phases.” The test lab for tyres and wheel discs provides a good insight into how these two crucial automobile elements are tested as per the prescribed norms. The testing infrastructure includes a tyre testing machine; universal tyre testing machine; CV tyre uniformity testing machine, tyre bursting test bench, dynamic wheel cornering fatigue testing machine and radial impact resistance testing bench for wheel rims. Also into the testing of aeroplance tyres, CIRT, for load testing of tyres, subjects two wheeler and passenger car tyres to a continuous run of 34 hours.

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CV tyres are subjected to 48 hours of running. Other tests include cornering fatigue test; tyre uniformity test, endurance test, and load speed performance test. Wheel rim is subjected to radial fatigue test and impact test. Other tests include tyre burst test, radial, lateral and tangential stiffness test, plunger energy test, bead unseating force test, and footprint test.

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The Photometry lab tests head lights, tail lights, direction indicators, reflectors, stop lights, plastic lens, etc. It has photo-goniometer and retro (LMT make) – photometry and colourimetry, integrating spheres, spectrometer for UV radiation for halogen lamps, intensity and colour for LED, reflectance and transmittance tester, colour spectrometer for warning triangle and reflective tapes, bending tester for mirror, impact tester for mirror, and spectro-photometer. The highlight of the photometry lab is its capability to test vintage lamp designs to the most modern ones. States Kakade, “Since the mediator is the technical directorate, the lab only knows the product, and not from where it has come or who has sent it.” Equipped with a fire resistance test rig for plastic fuel tank, fuel permeability test chamber for plastic fuel tank, heating chamber for fuel tank, lubricating oil filter test rig, oil seal test rig, pendulum impact tester for plastic fuel tank, height gauge, profile projector, roundness tester, and surface roughness tester, the Auto lab tests brake linings, clutch facings, lubricating oil filters, diesel filters and air filters, oil seals, fan belts (cogged v-belts and v-ribbed belts), fuel and oil hoses, hydraulic brake hose assembly, radiator hoses, rubber hoses, water pumps, radiator pressure cap, fuel tanks (metallic and plastic), mechanical and hydraulic jacks, welding electrodes, plywood, ball and roller bearings, leaf spring assemblies and spring leaves, spring steel flats for leaf springs, piston, gudgeon pin and piston rings, high pressure fuel pipes and nozzle leakage pipes, fasteners, and wheel nut spanner and tommy bar.

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The Environmental lab is equipped with horizontal flammability chamber, humidity chamber, PVC flexing machine, xenon arc weather (o meter ci – 4000 and ci – 5000) UV weather-o-meter (uv 2000), and vertical flammability chamber. Tests carried out here, include paints, safety glass, upholstery fabric, PVC flooring, PU foam, latex foam, bus body materials, etc. Undertaking the testing of batteries, lamps, switches, voltage regulators, alternators, wiping system, mirrors, cables, pressure and temperature gauges, carbon brushes, electrical fan, field coils, insulation tapes, etc., the Electrical lab is equipped with battery testing system for capacity, high rate discharge, life cycle tests of batteries for automobiles and other applications, electro dynamic vibration system, wheat stone and kelvin bridge, high voltage tester, spark test rig for cables, climate chamber, air circulating ovens, water spray chamber, dust chamber, salt spray test chamber, switch test rig, voltage regulator and alternator test rig, and co-efficient of friction test rig for carbon brushes. The Polymer lab tests retreading materials, extruded rubber products, tubes, flaps and other rubber components.

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The structural dynamic laboratory at CIRT is equipped with special purpose machines and universal test machines to test various automotive sub-assemblies like steering, CV joint, ball joint, clutch plate assembly, etc. The metallurgical lab tests metallic auto components for their microstructure. It does inclusion rating, case depth, grain size measurement, hardness, tensile strength, impact strength, etc. The chemical lab carries out chemical analysis of ferrous and non-ferrous materials. Recognised by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), and approved by MoRTH, the labs at CIRT perform testing and certification of components as well as materials in adherence to national and international standards.

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Vehicle testing and homologation

MoRTH has created a technical secretariat at CIRT to enable the functioning of Automotive Industry Standards Committee (AISC), which reviews design safety, construction, operation and maintenance of motor vehicles with GVW of more than 3.5-tonnes. AISC comprises of MoRTH, Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, National Automotive Testing, Research & Infrastructure Project, CIRT, ARAI, Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), VRDE, ICAT, Maharashtra Transport Commissioner’s Office, Karnataka Commissioner for Transport & Road Safety, SIAM, ASRTU, BIS, Tractor Manufacturers Association, ACMA, Indian Construction Equipment Manufacturers Association (ICEMA), Collaborative Advance Research for Transportation (CART), Association of Tamilnadu Coach Builders (ATCB), All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), and Maharashtra Rajya Truck Tempo Tankers Bus Vahatuk Mahasangh (MRTTTBVM). Dr. Saner-Patil is the chairman of AISC.

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Playing an advisory role for vehicles above 3.5-tonnes to AISC, CIRT has acquired vital vehicle testing and homologation capabilities. According to Kakade, the institution has also certified two wheelers and LMVs apart from CVs. It was in 2007 that CIRT approached MoRTH for Safety and Homologation (S&H) certification. CIRT was working under MoRTH already, and the MoRTH secretary is CIRT president. CIRT also works under the apex motor vehicle regulations authority unlike other similar such institutions. Permission to certify all types of vehicles – right from a two wheeler to a heavy commercial vehicle, was secured. The S&H division of CIRT thus carries out certification. Avers Kakade, that CIRT is an authorised test agency for vehicle certification by MoRTH under the CMVR (Rule) 126. He adds, “CIRT commenced certification of motor vehicles in the year 2008, and has so far carried out vehicle certification for customers like Volvo Buses India, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, AMW, Mahindra, Premier, Corona, and Scania. CIRT has also carried out certification of a good number of two wheelers and (electric) three wheelers as per the CMVR.” Interestingly, an automotive manufacturer is free to approach any authorised testing agency in India. He could approach CIRT or ARAI, or both. He could also approach some other agency. The advantage of approachhing CIRT, says Kakade, is transparency and neutrality. Drawing attention to CIRT being a member institution of AISC, WP.1, Dr. Saner-Patil mentions, “We do components testing and S&H. Considering the global scenario, S&H will assume good pace in the future.” “The movement to hybrid and electric vehicles will demand that we upgrade and modify our capabilities and facilities,” he adds.

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For S&H, CIRT uses the VRDE test track at Ahmednagar. It has acquired the necessary equipment for the task. Certification of bus body builders occupies a major portion of S&H activities. Bus body builders are accreditated; their plant audits are carried out. If this activity contributes good amount of revenue to CIRT, an important role S&H division plays is in the inspection of different types of buses. These include diesel and CNG buses; AC and non-AC buses; special purpose buses, including school buses and ambulances. The S&H division also undertakes third party inspection. It is this experience that has got CIRT to play an important role in the formulation of Automotive Industry Standards and Indian Standards. The S&H division also undertakes activity of Conformity of Production (COP) and type approval for safety critical components. The vehicle crash test lab tests structural strength of trucks and buses as per national and international standards. Cabin roof strength, under run protection, water proofing, cold start-ability, corrosion resistance, and climatic aging of vehicles is checked using equipment like frontal impact test rig, rear underrun protective device test facility, rear wall strength test rig, roll over test facility, roof strength test rig, climatic chamber, and shower testing facility. The first 15 m tarmac bus is currently undergoing testing at CIRT, and is expected to soon complete it.

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Consultancy services

Consultancy services form an important part of CIRT’s functioing. They were born out of the creation of a database, which Dr. Saner-Patil describes as cohesive and the maximum in Asia. Consultancy competencies at CIRT include transport planning, traffic engineering and management, road safety audit and public transport, parking space management, pedestrian master plan, intelligent transport system, project management for automated inspection and certification, automated driving licensing (IDTR), planning for tracks and other allied infrastructure for driver training institutes, planning and designing for integrated border check post, innovative Driving Test System (IDTS) using RFID technology, preparation of DPR for bus fleet procurement under JNNURM, and issues pertaining to Motor Vehicles Act and CMVR. CIRT also does organisational restructuring for transport undertakings. Avers Shekhar N Dhole, Scientist, Safety & Homologation, CIRT, “CIRT has developed in the region of 450 specifications – right from a washer to a crankshaft. CIRT developed AS44 standard for tyres, which was later adopted by IS and became an IS standard. A nodal agency for buses, CIRT certifies e-rickshaws.” He adds,“CIRT caters to complete certification of buses procured by STUs and others. CIRT is playing a key role in the development of double-decker and sleeper coach standards. For any and every standard that we define, safety is at the forefront.”

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CIRT has played a crucial role in the development of sleeper coach code (AIS 119), which is claimed to be the first of its kind in the world. For the development of this code, CIRT studied sleeper coaches in Europe and China among other markets. Instrumental in developing such codes and specifications, CIRT also trains RTOs to decipher type approval certficates and Conformity of Production (COP). A neutral body that CIRT is, what stands out, is the passion with which the team there works. Keeping up with the changing times – no vehicle is tested since October 01, 2016, that does not conform to EMC standards, CIRT offers STUs turnkey projects where it will carry out tasks right from the development of specifications to third-party inspections. Also involved in the testing and certification of ethanol bus, CIRT, says Dhole, carried out third-aprty inspection of the first 500 PMPL buses. These buses, he adds, were subjected to inspection in three stages – at the structural stage, at the panelling stage and at the fully-built bus stage. This, apart from a shower test. Keeping safety at the helm of any activity it performs, CIRT is well aware of its duty towards the society. The institution is working on many exciting projects, both in the area of S&H, and consultancy. These projects will assume shape in the years to come, underlining the solid work done by CIRT. Signs off Dr. Saner-Patil, “With the amount of faith MoRTH has put in CIRT, we are confident of supporting as well as setting up new benchmarks.”


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Dr. R B Saner-Patil, Director, CIRT

Q. CIRT turned 50 in 2015. How do you look at the journey?

A. The road map of CIRT is progressive. CIRT has achieved excellent standing in consultancy, training and components testing for CMVR. CIRT has played a pivotal role for MoRTH.

Q. Born out of an association between ASRTU and MoRTH, what role has CIRT played, and is looking to play in public transport development?

A. CIRT is a technical arm of ASRTU. All the STUs, RTOs, and now even the Police, come to CIRT for training in road traffic economy, road safety, accident analysis, and audit among others. CIRT has the maximum data in Asia. Our databank is very cohesive. We are striving to develop it further, and make changes to it by publishing the data on our website. This will help create high level of transparency in what we do. We are similarly building a components website, which will help the manufacturer track his component. He will be able to known at what stage of test the component is, and how it is moving through the process.

Q. MoRTH is proactively promoting safety in the road eco system. What role is CIRT playing there?

A. A proposal has been put up to the ministry for Centre for Excellence in Road Transport (CERT). It is about improving the road eco system. Our Institute of Driving Training & Research (IDTR), under the aegis of MoRTH, and its 11th Five year plan as a road safety initiative, is an example of our work in that direction. We are playing a role in the upgrading of the licensing system. We are moving ahead in the area of Intelligent Transport System (ITS), GPS, and vehicle tracking system. Government is very proactive in these areas. CIRT is getting strong support from MoRTH for these endeavours. We played a vital role in the formulation of the Bus Body Code, and the upgrading of CMVR. To ensure that such changes are well known to the authorities. We are proposing to the Government an academy for RTOs as well.

Q. How does CIRT support its proposals to the Government to bring about a change?

A. I will once again turn to IDTR. It is a big step that has been taken. There is no manual intervention in the issuance of driving license. CIRT is doing this pilot project such that the module is travelling to Bengal, Sikkim, Manipur, Uttarakhand and numerous other places. The other is the IMC centre for inspection and certification of vehicles. Here too, there is no manual intervention. The vehicle will be inspected automatically. A centre at Nashik is operational. With the amount of faith MoRTH has put in CIRT, we are confident of supporting as well as setting new benchmarks. CIRT is the only institution that compiles the performance of all STUs. ASRTU and MoRTH uses this as a basis to award STUs for their performance. We also have alliances with universities and engineering colleges. For skill development of their people, ITRs are approaching us. CIRT officers train them. To effectively impart training and knowledge, CIRT officers travel across India.

Q. STUs have numerous challenges to overcome. Not always technical in nature. Does CIRT play a role?

A. MSRTC has given us the mandate to train all their officers. CIRT academy carries out motivational training, behavioural training, how the officers should look at their profession, changes in CMVR, bus body code, etc., in the form of a capsule. The officers are from the lower, middle and higher management level. By bringing together officers from different walks of life, CIRT also plays an integrating role for the overall upliftment of standards and knowledge base. We, at CIRT, conduct training such that it is a comprehensive module of management and technical science.

Q. You were instrumental in the formation of bus body code. What inspired you to do this, and what were the benchmarks?

A. CIRT was given the mandate to develop the bus body code. It was born out of the need to achieve common standards. Different dimensions and different approaches, it was found, could create a safety hazard. With the bus body code, bus body building industry, which to a large extent was unorganised, has come together. It was tough, given the industry’s differing standards of knowledge and operation. We called the stakeholders to our campus. An example I would like to provide at this stage is of our customer Veera Vahana. It builds almost 100 buses per month. The training imparted by CIRT, he acknowledges, has helped him. For development of bus code, we interacted with similar institutions and labs in Europe and other parts of the world. Some of them were found to be advanced and costly. With passenger safety at the core, the team at CIRT went about their task to develop the bus code. They chose the economy model. The bus code has resulted in the elevation of productivity of bus body builders, and their ability to customise.

Q. You also type certify vehicles. How did it help you to formulate bus body code?

A. Yes, our ability to type certify vehicles and components helped. We do components testing and Safety and Homologation (S&H). Considering the global scenario, S&H will assume good pace in the future. The movement to hybrid and electric vehicles will demand that we upgrade and modify our capabilities and facilities.

Q. What changes is CIRT implementing to test electric and hybrid vehicles; their components, batteries, etc.?

A. We are working towards achieving this goal.

Q. Your vision for CIRT’s future?

A. CIRT should evolve as the best training academy in the field that it specialises in. It should impart the best training to STU officers, RTO officers, revenue officers, and others. Road safety is the key. With the Government keen to strengthen public transport, CIRT has a crucial role to play. The vision therefore is for CIRT to play a consultancy role. We are upgrading our components testing labs with the help of ASRTU and Ministry of Heavy Industries, and have a vision that it will play a vital role in promoting safety and technology. My vision is for CIRT to carry out future BS regulations. In this direction, one of our scientist has filed a patent for a telematics-based platform CIRT is working upon.

Q. How does CIRT interact with similar such institutions the world over, and keep up with the latest developments?

A. We are a member of Working Party (WP.1) on Road Traffic Safety of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The meeting of WP.1 takes place at Geneva. WP.1 deals with homologation of vehicles globally. Over 172 representatives of testing agencies the world over meet. India is represented by CIRT, ARAI, ICAT, ACMA, SIAM and others. Also, WP.29, which is about harmonisation of vehicles. It is a UNECE World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29), and a unique worldwide regulatory forum within the institutional framework of the UNECE Inland Transport Committee. Every country presents their proposals. We presented IDTR, and our work was appreciated. We are now working on CERT.

Q. With non-traditional projects like NATRIP, what role do you see for traditional mediums like CIRT to create an integrated network?

A. All the testing agencies including CIRT, which work under the aegis of MoRTH, and are a part of AISC, meet regularly. Non-governmental stakeholders also meet at these meetings. Exchange of thoughts and ideas takes place. This creates an ideal platform for harmonisation of all the testing bodies. Emphasis is laid on developing complementary capabilities such that public money is efficiently utilised.

Q. Your vision for an integrated public transportation infrastructure in India?

A. As an apex body, ASRTU is playing a prime role in shaping up public transport. Similarly, the Ministry of Skill Development is working on driver development. There is much integration underway. As a technical arm of ASRTU, we play a vital support role in this direction. Also, in areas like accident analysis, which is new to India.

Q. What developments are taking place in the area of accident analysis?

A. CIRT is playing a role in helping the agencies analyse accidents. We are also playing a role in eliminating black spots. I am a member of the Rashtria Suraksha Parishad. The world is coming closer. We are almost on par with European standards as we prepare for BSVI emission standards. This will entail the installation of new machines, and a change in infrastructure. Work would involve bringing the STUs up to speed. It is a tough task. Integration on that count includes changes the Petroleum Ministry is executing towards making available new fuels. A big task for us would be to promote the move up to BSVI standards in STUs.

Tata Prima T1 truck racing fever

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The fourth edition of Tata Prima T1 Truck Racing Championship held at Delhi made for a fine display of excitement and grit.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

The 1000 hp Tata Prima T1 race truck in a shade of gold made for an exciting welcome to the world of truck racing. It was parked right in front, and added a new perspective to the fourth edition of Tata Prima T1 truck racing championship on the morning of March 18, 2017, at the Buddh International racing circuit, Greater Noida. Another 1000 hp truck, a colour of bright red, stood in the garage. Adding yet another perspective to the race was a charming women truck driver, Stephanie Halm, from Germany. She represented the women and girls involved in this motorsport, may it be Veena who trains race truck drivers or all those girls who top up water or fill fuel in the race trucks.

The third and the last Formula 1 race at Buddh International Circuit was held in 2013. The Tata Prima T1 truck racing championship has outlived the Formula 1 race at the Buddh International racing circuit. Reflecting upon the determination of Tata Motors and all those involved, the series endeavours to ensure that truck drivers are respected.

The other reason, said Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, before the race, that it is an opportunity for the company to showcase a distinctive partnership between sporting and technological excellence, and to introduce new innovations and trucking heroes. Mentioned R Ramakrishnan, Senior Vice President, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, “The 1000 hp racing truck showcases our technological prowess, and the role played by our suppliers.”

Averred R.T. Wasan, Vice President (Commercial), Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, “Tata Motors has always been at the forefront of introducing first-of-its-kind innovations. Through truck racing, we conceptualized another unique property called the T1 Racer Program. Called TRP 2.0, the racer program received strong response from Indian truck drivers. A decision to retain the last year’s drivers was taken, and they were grouped under the ‘Champion Class’. The new drivers were grouped under the ‘Super Class’. Involved in the process were Tata Motors, Accenture, Moma, Dreamworks and MangoOrange. A good 3300 driver nominations were received for the ‘Super Class’. Of these, 200 were shortlisted. Further filtration and a comprehensive training programme led to the selection of 10 drivers. Opined Wasan, “We are confident that the Indian drivers will excel in the sport, and in their respective professions.” Vicky Chandhok, Mentor, T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship, mentioned that this is one of the most awaited events on the Indian motorsports calendar.” Describing the TRP2.0 as the most comprehensive training program, Vicky said, “What makes it more fulfilling is the sense of purpose it brings, not only to the motorsports scene, but how it relates with the Indian commercial vehicle industry and with the profession of truck driving.” Tony Iddon, Director, FIA, hinted at a world trucking series with the best race drivers from each country participating. Steve Horne, Organiser, BTRA (British Truck Racing Association), and the one who helped Tata to bring truck racing to India, credited Tata’s vision.”

New Cummins ISG engine powers 1000 hp Prima T1

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Two new 1000 hp Tata Prima T1 Racing trucks were the centre of attraction among others at the 2017 Tata Prima T1 Racing Championship. A colour of bright red and glittering gold, the two trucks were powered by Cummins ISG12, 11.8-litre in-line six-cylinder common-rail diesel engine sourced from China. Sources in the know of the development claim that Cummins India Limited will introduce this engine in India in a few months from now. In the two engine racing trucks, the engine, which, in a production truck, produces between 440 hp and 540 hp, does 1040 hp of peak power and 3500 Nm of peak torque. Paul Sowerby, Chief Technical Officer, Cummins India, and Managing Director, Cummins Research and Technology India Ltd., mentioned that the engine measures as long as a Royal Enfield in length and weighs 850 kg. “This engine sips one litre of diesel every three kms and inhales air the size of a football stadium,” he stated. “It needs a lot of air”.

Setting a benchmark in weight, performance, fuel efficiency and cost of ownership, the engine, employing composite materials and an innovative block design, retains its structural strength despite being lighter, compact and quiet. Using wet liners according to Dr. A K Jindal, Head – Engineering Research Centre, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, the ECU (engine mapping, or flashing) of the ISG engine has been tweaked to produce almost double the power the same engine in a road-going truck produces. If this indicates the progress in engine technology with the ISG series capable of meeting Euro6 emission norms, Cummins has also tweaked the current racing Prima’s ISLe engine. The ISLe engine now produces 400 bhp @ 2100 rpm over the last season truck’s 375 hp. Simon Reid, the international championship driver at T1 Racing said that the difference in power is noticeable. “The speeds have gone up.”

Resulting in higher speeds, the ISLe engine has been a crucial link in making the T1 Prima Racing truck reliable. While the 1000 hp trucks is hand-built, the current 4×2 Primas are production oriented. They are taken off the production line. Said Simon, “The good part about these trucks are that they are very reliable”. The current racing truck, according to Paul, can now achieve a top speed of 145 kmph over the top speed of 135 kmph last year. The ISG engine 1000 hp race Prima in comparison is able to achieve top speeds in the region of 160 kmph. A high-point of the new ISG engine is its highly advantageous power to weight ratio and the electronic nature, which opens up numerous possibilities to tweak the truck such that it is one, truly mean racing machine. The 1000 hp Prima racing truck can do 0 to 100 kmph in under 10 seconds!

  • Bhushan Mhapralkar

Indian drivers show their mettle

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Indian drivers proved that they are second to noe inn the fourth season of Tata Prima T1 Truck Racing Championship

The qualifying session on March 18 saw the 10 ‘Super Class’ drivers (Gurujant Singh, Pitambar, Mahendar Pratap and Shivnihal Singh from Uttar Pradesh; Mohabat Singh and Mubarik from Rajasthan; Vikramjit Singh and Dharminder Singh from Punjab; Harish from Haryana, and Himanshu Kumar from Bihar) demonstrate their desire to excel. Around the trimmed version of the track that had a span of 3100 m, the ten drivers fought tooth and nail. They had demonstrated their abilities during their training at Chennai, but on this track, they were moving as if it were a familiar territory. With 400 hp available at the tip of the right pedal, it was a matter of judgement and luck to end up at the front. With the trucks capable of reaching higher speeds this season than those during the last season, average speeds of over 97kmph were regularly clocked. Less than four seconds separated the top ten Super Class drivers. Across straights, the drivers regularly achieved speeds of over 130kmph. Under the first provisional set of laps of free practice, it was Mubarik who clocked the fastest lap time of 1.50.386 seconds, marking a clear lead of 1.8 seconds over Pitambar who registered his personal best time of 1.52.125 seconds. Dharminder Singh came third with a lap time of 1.52.744 seconds, 2.538 seconds behind the winning driver. Gurujant Singh came fourth, clocking a time of 1.52.819 seconds, 2.433 seconds behind Mubarik.

The qualifying race saw the action get fierce and exciting. The roar of the machines, and the smell of burnt rubber added a new meaning to the effort. It made for a noisy environment, but the kind that was as exciting as it would get. What added to the excitement most was perhaps the thought of having those very men behind the wheel of the race Primas, which at other times, drive trucks on Indian roads for their livelihood. It was to be their day of reckoning. The quest to win began reflecting from earlier on as the race started. Speeds began rising. Grabbing the lead position at the very first corner of the race, Mubarik started coming under pressure from the second placed Pitambar. In an attempt to retain his lead, Mubarik started pushing harder. This was going to be one exciting race even though it felt like these drivers were careful. Were cautious about their trucks. A tough proposition for certain!

At the corner before the long straight, Mubarik ran wide. Sensing an opportunity, Pitambar promptly pulled past. Mubarik slipped to second position. Mubarik’s best lap time was 1.50.386 seconds, 0.7 seconds slower than his best time during free practice. Pitambar recorded a lap time of 1.50.422 seconds to clinch the pole position in the Super Class qualifier. Dharminder Singh, who came third in the practice session could not retain his position. He slipped to eighth position by the time the race ended. Gurujant Singh, who finished fourth in the practice race, turned out to be quicker than Dharminder Singh. Sticking to the race lines he was able to clock quicker times. He came third with a lap time of 1.51.426 seconds, a little over a second slower than the race winner, Pitambar. The second position was promptly retained by Mubarik, clocking a lap time of 1.51.114 seconds, 0.692 seconds behind Pitambar. Mohabat Singh came fourth, clocking a lap time of 1.51.421 seconds, 1.099 seconds behind Pitambar. Vikramjit Singh came fifth, and Shivnihal Singh came sixth.

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Super Class final

Pitambar was first on the grid with Mubarik and Gurujant Singh on his tail as the race began at 2.30 pm on March 19. Trucks charged into the first right-hander with Pitambar maintaining the lead. It was behind Pitambar that excitement started building up between Mubarik and Gurujant Singh. On one of the turns, the Primas of Harish and Vikramjit made contact. Harish lost his left side rear view mirror. Undaunted he carried on, reflecting once again the winning spirit of this series. By the end of first lap, Pitambar extended his lead by two seconds over Mubarik. Starting sixth from the grid, Shivnihal Singh took advantage from the low air resistance of Vikramjit’s and Mohabat Singh’s Primas, and on turn four, just after the straight, took an inside line to overtake Mohabat Singh. It did not take long for Shivnihal Singh to get close to Harish who was placed fourth. The fight for the fourth place became fierce. Under pressure from Shivnihal Singh, Harish ran wide on turn three in third lap. Shivnihal slipped through to get into the fourth position. The fight moved a notch higher as Shivnihal Singh started exerting pressure on Vikramjit, placed third.

Not to give up, Harish kept exerting pressure on Shivnihal. In lap five Harish overtook Shivnihal between turn four and five to get back into the fourth position. Harish could not maintain the lead for long. Shivnihal once again grabbed the lead at the start of lap six. Clocking the fastest lap time of 1.50.677 seconds in lap six, Mubarik, in lap seven, on turn three, went out. He lost his track position and fell down to the ninth position. By the end of lap seven, Pitambar had extended his lead by over 25 seconds. Vikramjit and Shivnihal Singh were less than two seconds apart. None of the two were willing to cede ground. They were both eyeing the second place. On lap eight, Harish, in at attempt to take the inside line over Vikramjit and Shivnihal Singh, went off the track on turn one. While this was happening, Gurujant Singh moved past Mohabat Singh to gain fourth position. Vikramjit, in a serious attempt to save his second position went out on turn three. Shivnihal Singh and Gurujant Singh promptly moved ahead. When the chequered flag came down at the end of lap ten, Pitambar was in a firm lead. He was a good 33.266 seconds ahead of the second placed Shivnihal Singh, who clocked the fastest lap time of 1.51.715 seconds in lap eight. Gurujant Singh came third with the fastest lap time of 1.52.912 seconds in last lap. Harish came fourth, and Hisamshu kumar Ray came fifth.

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The Champion Class

The Champion Class saw the 10 Indian drivers of the last season fight fierce battle. They would also reflect upon the next level of training imparted to them under the TRP2.0 program on technical aspects of racing safely. The 10 Champion Class drivers included defending champion Nagarjunaa from Andhra Pradesh; Mohd. Parvez and Rabinder Yadav from Bihar; Bikash Mahato and Shankar Singh from Jharkhand; Bhag Chand and Raju Lal Gurjar from Rajasthan; Malkeet Singh from Uttar Pradesh; Jagat Singh from Haryana, and Gobind Singh from Punjab.

In the qualifying race Nagarjunaa took the lead to show that he still had it in him. He registered the fatest lap time of 1.50.294 seconds in the qualifying race. Malkeet Singh gave him a tough fight, but could not snatch the lead. He clocked a fastest lap time of 1.51.706 seconds in lap 9, 0.412 second behind Nagarjunaa. From Nagarjunaa’s driving style, it was aptly clear, right from the start, that he had a good understanding of the track. He kept a tight line through the turns even as he pushed hard to maintain the lead. A new entry, Shankar Kumar Singh proved his mettle by clinching the third spot during the qualifying race. Last year’s winner from the first race of Indian drivers, Jagat singh completed the second row with Shankar. Where Shankar managed to clock 1.51.778 seconds lap time, Jagat managed to clock a lap time of 1.52.010 seconds.

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The final race for Champion Class started at five in the evening. Nagarjunaa remained focused from the very start of the race. At the very first corner in the first lap, in an attempt to gain track position, Shankar Kumar Singh spun out into the gravel and lost his track position. He fell to the seventh position. Second placed qualifier, Malkeet Singh gave a strong fight to Nagarjunaa. Nagarjunaa kept his cards close to his chest, and put up a well calculated fight, extending the gap between him and Malkeet Singh by a shade under two seconds in the very first lap of the race. He clocked the fastest lap of the race in the process, further extending his lead over others. Despite falling back, Shankar Singh fought back to regain positions. In the second lap he overtook Jagat Singh to move into the sixth place. In the very next lap, he grabbed the fifth place from Rabinder Yadav.

In their attempt to out do each other, Rabinder Yadav and Jagat Singh moved out of the track while negotiating a turn, and presented Bikas Mahato an opportunity to move up. Nagarjuna continued to be in firm lead of the race with Malkeet, Bhag Chand and Gobind Singh in hot pursuit. On lap five, Malkeet Singh clocked the fastest lap of the race. In the very next lap Nagarjunaa responded by clocking his personal and fastest lap of the race at 1.50.562 seconds. The anxiety to win was palpable as the Champion Class drivers fought a fierce battle. Even at the back of the grid, Raju Lal Gurjar fought a hard battle with Rabinder Yadav to gain eighth position in lap seven. Even till the end of race, Malkeet Singh fought hard and stayed within overtaking range of Nagarjunaa. When the chequered flag came down at the end of lap 10, Malkeet was a little over three seconds behind race winner Nagarjunaa, and ahead of third placed Bhag Chand by over 12 seconds.

The making of the 1000 hp racing Prima

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Truck racing championship is the second most popular spectator event after Formula 1. Tony Iddon, Director, FIA, said this on the occasion of the fourth Tata Prima T1 Racing Championship in Delhi. Appreciating the ideas, initiatives and innovations involved, he said, he likes the way Tata has taken this sport in an exciting way to the man in the truck in India. Announcing that truck racing series are held in nine countries in Europe apart from Brazil, China and India, Tony averred that truck racing has become a marketing platform for all those who are involved in trucks. “The new, 1000 hp truck is exciting. I believe it will make it to Europe,” he said. The racing trucks participating in the European championships produce over 1000 hp. It is the drivers who develop these trucks with manufacturers providing engines or any other assistance needed. In India, Tata Motors took the initiative of starting the truck racing sport four years ago. It has once again taken the initiative to build a 1000 hp truck.

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The 1000 hp race truck, according to Dr. A K Jindal, Head – Engineering Research Centre, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, is built around the engine. The 12-litre Cummins in-line, six-cylinder ISG engine is placed mid-ways to ensure an equal weight distribution. There are no cross members between the two ‘C’ sections of the chassis when compared to the current racing Primas, which have been taken off the assembly line at Jamshedpur and fitted with the necessary racing gear, and suitably modified. The 1000 hp truck is hand-built almost. With cross members only at the front and rear, for torsional rigidity, sub-frames have been suitably engineered, both on the inside of the ‘C’ long members and on the outside. With the engine positioned mid-ways, there’s not much space between the six-speed gearbox with hydraulically assisted shifter and the Dana differential. Compared to the current racing truck, the wheelbase of the 1000 hp truck is slightly longer than that of the current truck. Pointing at the piping and its connecting joints for cooling coils, Dr, Jindal revealed that components found on F1 cars have been used in this truck. “The electronic nature of this truck, which makes its CAN-bus enabled, has ensured the packaging of many advanced technologies,” he said.

A tablet-like screen instead of a dashboard is indicative of the electronic nature of this truck. With Steve Horne and his son’s company Cherwell Trucks involved, the 1000 hp race truck has its intercooler located at the front, and behind the grille. The radiator is below, and behind the bumper. It is placed at an angle. Both, have water jets aimed at them to make certain that the temperatures do not rise quickly, and affect the performance. The jets execute the task of ensuring good charge density, and production of good amount of power by keeping the engine operating temperatures low. There are two cooling fans inside the closed duct too. The torque curve of this ISG engine, which produces almost twice the power it does in a production truck, is claimed to be wide and flat. For such an amount of power it was necessary to achieve good stability. The 1000 hp truck runs on wider tracks as compared to the current racing Primas. Featuring three-step adjustable Penske dampers with displacement sensors, the 1000 hp racing truck is fitted with two leaf springs at each corner. Its steering column is uniquely routed for reach. The steering wheel is of the quick detachable variety. The rear wheels sport light-weight aluminium wheel rims whereas the design of the front wheel rims is such that the offset is almost flush to that of the wheel arches. This was done to ensure that no damage is incurred in case of a contact with other truck while racing. The day cabin on the 1000 hp truck is lower as compared to the current racing Primas. It looks very similar to the cabin of the Tata Daewoo Prima cargo trucks in Korea, and has been suitably strengthened apart from the fitting of the roll cage. The cabin mountings are on the side of the long members rather than on the top of them.

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1000 hp truck features Wabco air disc brakes. This makes the 1000 hp truck the first to feature this tech in India. Apart from reducing the weight of the braking system, the air disc brakes make for more efficient braking, and enable quick changing of the wearable parts like brake pads. To keep the brake temeprature low, the truck comes with brake disc cooling. Air pressurised water is fed to brake discs through sensor based nozzle Jets. Primary cooling is through continuous water flow. The secondary jets operate automatically upon rise in of brake disc temperature. The sensors judge the rise in temperature. Water for brake cooling is stored in three aluminium tanks with a total capacity of 180-litres. Fuel is stored in a 80-litre aluminium tank and fuel cooler. Apart from the power cut off switch on a massive looking centre console inside the cabin, there is another one at the rear. The specifications demand their presence. Coming back to the electronic system of the truck, there are these small switches on the centre console that are used to control, even over ride some of the functions on the move if the driver feels the need. The CAN-Bus enabled electronic system is app.-based and Wi-Fi enabled to allow remote diagnosis. There is provision for fitting of rear view camera, GPS, etc. Tyres are from JK Tyres, and the size of 315/70 R22.5. These were specially developed by JK Tyres for racing, and carry a special racing compound. “We need better sidewalls to sustain high pressure cornering and braking forces. The racing tyres with special compound have tapered tread. It has special wire wrap and HE wire that reduces skidding and slipping during challenging conditions” Sanjay Sharma, Head-Motorsport, JK Tyre.

  • Bhushan Mhapralkar

David Vrsecky grabs Pro Class title

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David Vrescky bagged the Pro Class title in the fourth season of the Tata Prima T1 Truck Racing Championship.

David Vršecký, the most successful Czech trucker in history, and double European champion in 2008 and 2009, grabbed the Pro Class title at what could be termed as the most fiercely fought race out of the races held over the two days of the fourth season of Tata Prima T1 Truck Racing Championship. A holder of several world speed records in trucks, David made it to the race series at the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, along with 11 European and British truck race drivers – Stephanie Halm from Germany; David Vrsecky from Czech Republic; Norbert Kiss from Hungary; Ryan Smith from UK; Adam Bint from UK; Gerd Korber from Germany; Oliver Janes from UK; Shane Brereton from UK, David Jenkins from UK; Simon Reid from UK, and Thomas Robineau from France. Both, David Jenkins and Simon Reid participated in the Prima T1 truck racing championship last year. They represented Team Cummins this year. Stephanie and Ryan represented Team Castrol Vecton. Antonio and David Vrsecky represented Team Dealer Daredevils. Norbert and Adam Bint drove for Team Tata Technologies. Gerd and Oliver drove for Team Dealer Warriors. Shane and Thomas drove for the new team entry, Team One World Racing. Team One World Racing replaced Team Tata Finance.

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It was quite warm as the Pro Class qualifier race got off to a heady start. The contingent of foreign race drivers seemed to be in no mood to let go off any opportunity to win. It was clear at once, the Pro Class race would be exciting, period. The Pro Class drivers did not seem to exercise caution; it would be a fight to the finish. Ryan Smith posted a lap time of 1.48.470 seconds with Norbert Kiss a good 0.6 seconds faster than him. Norbert posted the fastest qualifying lap time of 1.47.881 seconds. Stephanie showed that she was no less. She clocked a lap time of 1.48.470 seconds. From what happened on the track, the results threw a big surprise. Top three drivers incurred penalties for exceeding track limits including cutting corners. Ryan was pushed to the last position. Stephanie was pushed to the ninth position, and Norbert Kiss was pushed to the fifth position. Clocking a fastest lap time of 1.48.641, and crossing the finish line in fourth position, David Vrsecky was announced as the winner. Antonio was adjudged second. He clocked the fastest time of 1.49.223 seconds in the second lap, and kept ahead of Korber, who came third. Oliver came fourth. With the Team Dealer Daredevils winning the first and second position in the qualifier race, it was time to celebrate.

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The Pro Class race 1

The race fever was at its peak as the twelve Pro Class race trucks took off on March 19 with David in the front. A fierce battle it would be, and without much ado. The entire grid came to a halt between turn four and five however during the formation lap. This led to a second formation lap, and a rolling start. As the race began, Vrsecky and Antonio got off to a good start. The Dealer Warriors team consisting of Korber and Oliver exerted pressure on the front row from the beginning. At turn three on lap two, Adam Bint of Team Tata Technologies established contact with Oliver’s Prima. This allowed David Jenkins, driving a Cummins race truck in a bright shade of red, to gain a track position. On the very next turn, using slip stream of the truck ahead, Korber overtook Antonio by taking the inner line. Last year’s race winner, David Jenkins overtook Antonio to move into the third place.

It was turn three that proved to be tricky for many drivers in this class. In lap three, Ryan Smith, in an attempt to take the outside line and overtake Simon Reid, ran wide and got his rear tyres spinning in the gravel area. In the same lap, Stephanie pushed Simon off the track to gain a track position. She pushed harder. In no time Robineau, placed eighth, was under pressure from Stephanie. Stephanie was however not successful in displacing Robineau. In a bid to save his position, Kiss, placed fifth, clocked the fastest time of 1.49.579 seconds in lap four. Undaunted, Oliver, placed fourth, continued to hold his position. He too clocked the fatest time of 1.49.283 seconds in the same lap. In his attempt to overtake Oliver, Kiss continued to push himself. On turn three, while trying to pick up an outside line, Kiss made contact with Antonio and went off the track. He got stuck in the gravel with no traction. It was the same place where Reid had run off into a gravel patch, and continued to be stuck. Yellow flags came out, and the race marshals took over. The race was brought to a halt. It was red flagged in lap six after considering the safety aspects for the drivers. David Vrsecky took the first position, and Gerhard Korber took the second position. David Jenkins took the third position.

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The final race of

the evening

It was half past five by the time the final race of the evening was flagged off. As the lights turned green at the end of formation lap, it was David Vrsecky who took off. He clocked the fastest lap time of 1.47.204 seconds. Keeping the lead, Vrsecky had Korber exert pressure on him. Korber tried taking an inner line on turn three, but Vrsecky skillfully stalled Korber’s move. Such was the fervor, speeding past turn four, Oliver and Ryan came to run parallel. They did so until the next turn. The two almost ran off the track on turn five, allowing Norbert to overtake. He moved into fourth position. In lap three, Simon Reid and Oliver Janes fought fiercely to earn the sixth position. This fight too took place between turn four and five. Reid managed to get ahead of Oliver.

With 11 laps to go, Norbert kept on pushing. He took the precaution to not repeat the same mistake, which he commited in the first race. He kept on exerting pressure on David Jenkins for the entire lap. David managed to keep the third position to himself even as Norbert seemed to display his fine racing skills. Norbert did not let Jenkins to consolidate at the third position. On lap five, Stephanie stepped up her fight. She began exerting pressure on Oliver Janes. A fierce fight took place between turn two and three. Stephanie however failed to overtake Janes. Not to give up, she continued to build pressure on him. On the next straight she made her move. Taking an inside line, She overtook Oliver to move into the seventh place. On lap seven, David Jenkins lost his track position to Simon Reid and slipped to sixth position. Next three laps proved to be fierce. A battle raged for the second position. Korber and Kiss continued to engage in a fierce fight that saw Kiss moving into the second place ahead of Korber. This happened in lap nine, and on turn four. As the race neared the last three laps, it looked like the first three positions were more or less final.

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Down the field, the battle between Antonio and Robineau continued to rage. The two made contact on the straight between turn two and three. In (second last lap) lap 14, Norbert made an attempt to overtake Vrsecky. He posted his personal best time of 1.48.445 seconds in doing so. Vrsecky did not seem to be in any mood to give Norbert a chance however. Janes, in an attempt to make a serious comeback after starting fourth off the grid, tried hard to overtake Adam Brint on the last lap. There was an impact, and Janes had his rear tyre peel off the rim. At front, David Vrsecky crossed the finish line, confident of his abilities and that of his racing Prima. Kiss was placed just 0.257 seconds behind Vrsecky when he crossed the finish line. Korber, six seconds behind the winner, came third. Ryan came fourth, and Simon came fifth.

Our humble tribute to the industry

Photography : Sanjay Raikar, Saurabh Botre and Mahesh Reddy

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The eighth edition of Apollo-CV Awards (2017) will go down in history as the one that dared to step away from the traddition of being held in the last week of January in every calendar year. The ceremony, this time, was held on February 09, 2017, and marked yet another round of resounding success with the strong support of the CV industry, and from our partner Apollo Tyres. The nomination call for the awards, both for the fleet side and the non-fleet side, was announced in the November 2016 issue of CV magazine. Nomination calls were simultanously sent to OEMs, CV components manufacturers, application builders and transporters over email and other communication mediums. The intention was to reach out to as many stakeholders in the CV industry as was possible. There was some reason for worry. The nomination call for awards coincided with the call by prime minister Narendra Modi to withdraw Rs.500 and Rs.1000 currency notes from circulation with immediate effect on the evening of November 08, 2016. As long queues formed outside banks, and transporters spoke about facing supply chain disruption even as they managed to keep the cash flow unaffected, the amount of nominations we received were overwhelming. Over 45 nominations were received in a short span of time. Numerous nominations were received on the fleet side.

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The Apollo-CV Awards 2017 saw Kaushik Madhavan, Director – Automotive & Transportation, Frost & Sullivan, come in as a new jury member, taking the jury count to five. The awards would profit from Kaushik’s experience and knowledge in the field of automobiles and transportation. The five jury members, comprising Kaushik Madhavan, Rajat Kataria, Divisional Head, Marketing – CV (Asia Pacific, Middle East, North Africa), Apollo Tyres, Dilip Chhabria, Founder, DC Design, VG Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Avanteum Advisors, and Bhushan Mhapralkar, Editor, CV magazine, met in Mumbai in January 2017 to adjudge OEMs (trucks and buses), auto components and CV application award categories. It was not an easy task. After absteining from nominating products for many years, two OEMs chose to participate this year. The 50 non-fleet nominations reflected upon the changes – undercurrents and complexities, that are sweeping the CV industry. New trends, including blurring of boundaries between various CV segments was observed. Also observed was a move towards higher tonnage and higher digistiaton in the quest to up efficiency, safety and lower the TCO. With sales figures in 2016 indicating good growth (especially in the M&HCV category) until the decision to withdraw currency in November 2016 kicked in, the CV industry introduced a good number of products in the respective calendar year. Conspicuously missing were nominations in the SCV category. If this indicated a move to higher tonnage CVs as boundaries blurred, it was not easy for the jury to judge; to pick up the winners. Especially in the wake of a firm resolve by the CV industry to conquer challenges; to keep moving, and to turn out new, exciting products.

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Many intricacies evolved as the judging process progressed. The process involved long debates; a deep exploration of domain knowledge and experience was resorted to. It was after considerable effort that the results were achieved. They were born out of the consideration for parameters like (a) fitness for application, (b) quality of aggregates, (c) fuel efficiency and top speed, (d) option to have a vehicle better suited for the purpose, (e) price, and (f) sales. This was applied to vehicles that were made available during the 2016 calendar year. The jury arrived at 24 awards to do justice to all the constituents. The expertise of Metric Consultancy Ltd. was tapped into. To first invite and then vet fleet operator and dealer nominations. Metric dealt with 622 nominations over a span of three months. These nominations were put through the wringer using the Journey of Excellence parameter derived from the British Quality Foundation.

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To host senior representatives of the CV industry was a privilege. To watch them interact with the incumbents provided a glimpse of the shape of things to come. The picture (on the left) should provide a fair idea of what happened at the Jury meet on January 20, 2017. On the following pages is a synopses for each of the panel discussion that preceded the awards evening. As one may discover, the industry heavyweights did not hesitate to air their views on issues that are important and have the ability to influence the course of the industry. First, let us get to understand who the nominations were, and who won on the evening of February 09, 2017, when the Apollo-CV Awards 2017 were announced.

  1. Pick-up of the Year

    Nominees: a) Isuzu D-Max S-Cab. b) Mahindra Imperio.

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The pick-up truck market is growing. It is attracting the attention of global players. Assuming different dimensions in a bid to address the changing requirements of its operators, pick-up trucks are coming to cater to a well-informed clientele. Making up the one-tonne to 3.5-tonne CV category, they are about fuel economy, payload, speed and price. Found in a single cab, dual cab, rear-wheel drive, and 4×4 guise, pick-up trucks are about business and pleasure. Conforming to owner-operator model, pick-ups, promising faster turnaround, are turning out to be true workhorses. The Mahindra Imperio is no exception. It builds upon its manufacturer’s experience in building dandy pick-up trucks spanning several decades. With a 2990 kg GVW, the Imperio rides on 225/75 R16 tyres; has a 211 ground clearance, and is powered by a 2.5-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine that produces 75 hp of peak power and 220 Nm of peak torque. The pick-up truck features engine immobiliser, fuelsmart technology, adjustable power steering and an independent front suspension. It is also available in a dual-cab variant.

  1. LCV cargo carrier of the year

Nominees: a) Eicher Pro 1049. b) Mahindra DI3200 Jayo. c)Mahindra Optimo Cargo. d)Force Traveller (T2) Delivery van.

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The LCV cargo carrier market saw movement in 2016. A focus of attention by players who have been traditionally strong in the M&HCV categories, the movement in LCV segment signals their high potential. Demand for LCVs continues to rise in-line with the growth in urbanisation. Demand for LCVs is also driven by the further fine-tunning of hub and spoke transportation model. Continuing to absorb new technology and smart ways of addressing customer demand, LCVs are addressing the exacting needs of their customers. They are addressing a clientele that is demanding. The Eicher Pro 1049 is a small truck with big space for cargo. It is smart, modern, agile and easy to manoeuvre.

  1. Large Truck Fleet operator of the Year

Nominees: a) NTC Logistics India (P) Limited. b) Lalji Mulji Transport Company. c) Inland World Logistics Pvt. Ltd.

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As big boys of the logistics industry, they excel in service and operations. They also have a strong balance sheet to flaunt. Always ready to adopt the latest technological innovations or logistical paradigms, they set the standards for those aspiring to make it big in their field. Headquartered at Kolkata, and established in 1989, Inland World Logistics began transporting consignments in eastern and north-eastern region in India. It grew by offering point-to-point services with a promise of 50 per cent reduction in stock delivery time. Operating out of 350 locations across India, Inland World Logistics has come to build a large truck fleet. Leveraging technology for express distribution, the company is consistently providing efficient end-to-end logistics solutions to customers without sacrificing quality.

  1. Small Fleet Operator of the Year

Nominees: a) CCI Logistics Ltd. b) Gujarat Logistics. c) Schedulers Logistics India Pvt. Ltd.

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Contrary to their size, small fleet operators have come to acquire exemplary standards in business and operations, inversely proportionate to their size, almost. Often faced with the daunting task of managing their business within limited means, our nominees this year did not lack on any score. Beginning its journey 10 years ago, Gujarat Logistics has exhibited an endeavor for excellence by setting high standards with the virtue of its excellent business practices and management. Making a modest beginning with two young entrepreneurs – Deepak Thakker and Ramesh Madhvi, setting up the company in 2006, Gujarat Logistics has stood up to its motto of providing accurate and secure transportation services of value cargo. An ISO 9001-8000 certfied company, Gujarat Logistics has kept itself up to speed with judicious use of technology. It has invested in a GPS analytics dashboard. Its fleet of 100 vehicles is backed by GPS based fleet management system to ensure timely delivery and collection of cargo. Known to deliver container equipment on stipulated time, the company has evolved into an organisation that employees 250 people. Gujarat Logistics operates through 10 offices. Its operations span major port cities, and industrial towns of Gujarat.

  1. HCV Rigid Cargo Carrier of the Year

Nominees: a) Eicher Pro 6037. b) BharatBenz 3723R. c) Mahindra Blazo 37. d ) Tata LPT 3718 PA

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Engineered to be a workaholic – ferrying cargo over long distances, heavy commercial vehicles are staging a comeback in a form that is new, well engineered, efficient and performance oriented. An intrinsic part of the hub and spoke transportation model, heavy commercial vehicles are proving to be feature-intensive and technologically rich. The winner in this category, the Mahindra Blazo 37 aligns itself accurately wit h the market demand for higher tonnage vehicles that are efficient and cost competitive. Employing a common-rail turbo diesel engine of 7.2-litre, the Blazo 37 has a GVW of 37-tonne. The 10×4 configuration of the Blazo 37 along with its dimensions presents it with an ability to manoeuvre through tight spots and achieve a faster turnaround time. The engine, developing 220 hp and 800 Nm of peak torque at 1100-1700 rpm, makes the truck agile and powerful. Unique are the three drive modes that offer the truck the ability to save fuel when running empty or with partial load. The four-post suspended cabin is modern and comfortable. The quality of build is good, and the 6-speed manual synchromesh transmission is engineered to offer a good balance of tractability and efficiency. The front two axles are steerable; the rear axle is a lift axle. It senses when the vehicle is running in an unloaded condition and lifts automatically. The 350-litre diesel tank presents the truck with the ability to cover a good deal of distance between refills.

  1. HCV Tractor Cargo Carrier of the Year

Nominees: a) MAN CLA 49.300. b) Tata Signa 4923.S. c) Mahindra Blazo 49

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HCV tractor cargo carriers are dandy workhorses. The tractor-trailer combination results in versatility that is hard to match. Capable of ferrying goods that a rigid cargo truck simply cannot think of, the HCV tractor-trailer, with better earning potential, can be a car carrier, a steel coil carrier, or a container carrier. The winner in this arena is a volume oriented tractor that has the Tata legacy heavy-duty truck range as the basis. The 49-tonne GVW Tata Signa 4923.S builds on the highly popular Tata LPT/LPK range of heavy-duty trucks that are the main stay of Tata Motor’s commercial vehicle range. The LPT/LPK cabin was tweaked to bring the truck up to the modern standards in terms of noise, refinement and comfort without a substantial price increase. The proven driveline was left untouched except for some improvements that would enhance performance and efficiency. Powering the Signa 4923.S is a 227 hp, 5.9-litre Cummins 6B six-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine that does 800 Nm of peak torque at 1400-1700 rpm. Transmission is a nine-speed manual synchromesh unit. With 23.5 per cent gradebility, the tractor draws from Tata Motors’ long standing experience in making heavy-duty trucks at a cost that is just about one to two per cent more than the model it builds upon.

  1. Fleet Operator of the Year – Niche Applications

Nominees: a) Schedulers Logistics India Pvt. Ltd. b) CRL Express Logistics India LLP.

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There is no better way to describe a specialty than to term it as a niche. It is a place for a few, and takes a good deal of effort and attention. The nominees in this category have not only perfected the art of rising upto a certain standard, they have also managed to excel in their chosen arena. Founded in 2012 by Akshay Sharma and Colonel Arvind Gangoly, Scheduler Logistics India operates a fleet of reefer vehicles and temperature controlled warehouses across the country. Raising Series A capital from Aspada Investment Company in 2014, Schedulers Logistics India has been clocking good growth. It has been growing its fleet and warehousing facilities with an intention to reach a fleet count of over 500 trucks and 18 cold storage locations by 2020. Attracting an investment of Rs.40 crore in 2016 from Gujarat-based venture fund, GVFL Ltd., Scheduler Logistics India has been successful in exploiting the demand-supply gap in the cold chain sector to its advantage.

  1. ICV People Mover of the Year

Nominees: a) BharatBenz 917 Tourist. b) Tata Starbus Ultra Wide.

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ICV people movers are a step ahead. Especially when compared to their counterparts in the cargo segment. With impressive applications, engineering qualities and specifications, they make modern marvels that are capable of addressing emerging market niches. Delivering on various fronts, and in various capacities, ICV people movers make efficient staff carriers, school buses or metro feeders. Their performance is indicative of the general direction in which the bus industry is heading. Of the two contenders, the BharatBenz 917 Tourist impressed because of its abilities and versatility. With a 9-tonne GVW, the bus measures 9815 mm in length and 2,350 mm in width. Employing aluminium in its body construction, which helps to up the fuel efficiency and performance, the 917 Tourist can seat 26 people in addition to the driver in good comfort. Featuring push back seats, clear lens head lamps with daytime driving lamps, fixed toughened glass windows, and a 27kW AC, the 917 Tourist is powered by a 4-litre, turbo-diesel engine that produces 170 hp and 520 Nm of peak torque. Adhering to the bus code, the bus features an emergency exit at the rear right. Fuel tank capacity of the 917 tourist is 160-litres.

  1. School Bus of the Year

Nominees: a) BharatBenz 917 School bus. b) Ashok Leyland Sunshine School bus.

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Ferrying pupils, school buses are about safety, comfort and punctuality. Impervious to fluctuations in the CV industry, these new breed of buses comply with often conflicting parameters. Standing up to the expectations of parents and school managements, not to forget the expectations of those that manage the operations day-in and day-out, school buses are catering to emerging needs. They are also catering to the changing needs and regulations. Consider the winner in this category, and the Ashok Leyland Sunshine school bus amounts to a modern construction. Built with inputs from pupils, parents, school teachers and the rest of the stakeholders, the bus is claimed to be the first to offer frontal crash protection and rollover protection. It is also claimed to be the first to offer anti-bacteial interiors. Meeting AIS052 and AIS063 bus codes, the Sunshine features low entry step to facilitate easy entry and exit. Efforts have been made to eliminate blind spots faced by the driver. Powering the bus is a 100 hp, 2.9-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine that produces a peak torque of 320 Nm at 1200-2000 rpm.

  1. Private Sector bus operator of the Year

Nominees: a) Royal Tourist. b) Orange Tours & Travels. c) Tirupati Travels & Goods Service Pvt. Ltd.

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Bus fleet management has turned into a serious, professional activity. It has turned into a serious business that includes equations like yield per seat, online ticketing, life cycle value of buses, in-bus entertainment and fancy bus shelters. Established in 2011 in Hyderabad, Orange Tours & Travels traces its origin to Thirumala Cabs, which specialised in corporate car rentals since 2000. The company operates semi-sleeper and AC sleeper coaches on inter-state routes. With an annual turnover of Rs, 20,000 million, Orange Tours & Travels has invested in a central call centre to address the needs of its customers. With a fleet size of 130 buses, it is the value added services like mineral water bottle, branded snacks specially packed in a box, wi-fi, missed call alert for real time vehicle information, live bus tracking with PNR/mobile, and display of videos in vernacular languages for entrainment, that sets the company apart from its competitors.

  1. LCV people mover of the Year

Nominees: a) SML Isuzu Executive LX Coach. b) SML Isuzu EcoMax.

  1. Force Traveller (T2) Royale. d) Force Traveller. (T2) Smartcitibus.

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Rising urbanisation is creating a need for distinct ways of travel. This is ensuring that buses reinvent themselves to fit the exacting needs of travellers. As metros and monorails find a place in India’s growing cities as a means to facilitate better infrastructure, lighter and ‘easy to manoeuvre’ buses are finding a way of serving the last mile transportation needs. They are finding a place as feeder service, point-to-point service, local area service, city bus service and as executive travel service. Aimed at meeting the needs of corporates and tourists for executive travel, SML Isuzu Executive LX Coach follows in the footsteps of a shorter wheelbase Executive Coach launched by the company a few years ago on its highly versatile S7 bus platform. Capable of seating between 19 and 30 people, the Executive LX Coach looks modern and plush. Featuring fixed glass windows, it is well built and well engineered. Offering a low step entry, dual colour interiors, AC, moble charging points, onboard entertainment with LCD screen, the Executive LX Coach comes across as refined and comfortable. It is powered by a 101 hp, 3.5-litre turbo-diesel engine that produces a peak torque of 310 Nm at 1500-1750 rpm.

  1. ICV Cargo Carrier of the Year

Nominees: a) Eicher Pro 1110XP Hexadrive. b) Ashok Leyland Guru 1211. c) BharatBenz 914R

  1. BharatBenz 1214R. e) Tata LPT 1412 CRX.

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ICV cargo carriers are showing signs of growth. a good five nominations were received this year. A result of customer-centric approach that is also about blurring the boundaries between segments, ICVs are about technology, image, price and TCO. Part of the ‘hub and spoke’ transportation model that is continuing to evolve, ICVs are set to play an important role. They make modern and versatile cargo carriers that promise better value while being reliable and efficient. The winner in this space, the Eicher Pro 1110XP Hexadrive, offers better payload capacity at a highly comeptitive price. With an ability to employ aggregrates that are shared by other company, the 1110XP Hexadrive makes a reliable and efficient truck. It is powered by a 118 hp, 3.3-litre four cylinder, common-rail turbo-diesel engine that produces a peak torque of 400 Nm at 1400-1600 rpm in BSIV compliant guise. The 1110XP Hexadrive, in a fiercely competitive space, is a versatile offering.

  1. MCV Cargo Carrier of the Year

Nominees: a) BharatBenz 1617R. b) Eicher Pro 3016.

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The strong and versatile MCV segment continues to grow. It is emerging as a segment that addresses the myriad needs of the market, be it a rigid truck tipper or a special application truck. Capable of addressing a diverse range of applications and customer requirements, BharatBenz 1617R draws attention due to its modern construction and an ability to deliver. A medium segment cargo carrier, the 1617R is indicative of how CV makers are striving to address the changing needs of the market. Powering the 1617R is a 170 hp, 4-litre diesel engine that produces a peak torque of 520 Nm at 1500 rpm. Transmission is a six-speed unit. With a 16-tonne GVW, the 1617R is efficient, well built, and offers a high earning potential.

  1. HCV tipper of the Year

Nominees: a) Eicher Pro 8031T/8031XM. b) Volvo FMX 440.

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These pragmatic and reliable machines are best suited for the rough and tumble of mining, quarrying and construction operations. They can be looked upon to perform one of the most demanding jobs a truck has to perform. Building on Volvo’s experience of making some of the most successful premium segment trucks on global platforms, the Volvo FMX440 impressed the jury for its abilities and technological prowess. It is powered by a 440 hp 12.8-litre, six-cylinder electronically governed engine, and an automated splitter range heavy-duty ‘I-Shift’ transmission. Producing 2200 Nm of peak torque, the FMX440 makes easy work of the deep mines. Costing a little under Rupees one-crore, the heavy-duty tippers works in arduous conditions, which reflects on its reliability, technology and superior productivity. The 31-tonne tipper comes with a 19 cu.m rock body superstructure, and is supported by Volvo Dynafleet telematics. Providing onboard diagnostics and driver information for an efficient operation, the FMX440 makes for a world-class truck with engineering attributes like hub reduction.

  1. Promising Debut of the Year

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There were some interesting debuts last year. They reflected upon the changes that are taking place in the Indian CV industry. They also pointed at a burning desire to grow come what may. If the debuts emphasised upon a potential to change the market perception, they also made a lasting impression. The winner, the Volvo 8400 Hybrid city bus, makes a lasting impression in terms of technology. It may be based on a conventional 8400 diesel-powered city bus that is found in over 30 cities in India, it elevates city bus travel to a new level. Not only does the bus assure less emissions with the help of its parallel electric-diesel hybrid mechanism, it also assures comfortable travel in an urban environment. What is particularly interesting is the fuel efficiency the bus offers. It consumes 30-35 per cent less diesel over a conventional diesel bus, employing technologies like regenerative braking.

  1. CV application builder of the Year

Nominees: a) Alma Motors – Tarmac Bus. b) Tata DLT – Double-deck tractor trailer. c) Randhawa Automobile Engineering – Double-deck bike carrier container body . d) Schwing Stetter – Truck mounted transit concrete mixer.

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CV applications can be highly diverse and differ in terms of use, and in terms of productivity gains. An outcome of diverse technological inputs, they can mean different business propositions to different people. Of the three nominations received, it was the double-deck tractor trailer (carrier) nomination which drew attention. Perhaps due to the fact that the trailer has been designed to transport 10 tractors against eight tractors that are carried by transporters, and often in a way that is deemed dangerous. The trailer is built to comply with the legally prescribed dimensions. With the additional capacity of tractors that transporters can expect to transport, the added capacity is also aimed at minimising the operating costs. What proved to be of advantage to Tata DLT is its claim of being the first company in India to get certified by ARAI as per the AIS113 code of practice for type approval of trailers.

  1. CV component of the Year

Nominees: a) Spheros Motherson Revo-E rooftop air conditioner. b) Rane TRW hydraulic and modular power steering. c) Federal-Mogul Goetze diamond coating piston ring.

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A formidable field CV components is. Three nominations were shortlisted on the merit of technology, market performance, price, and relevance to category. Each entry was subjected to a detailed scrutiny. Attention was paid to the infrastructure and capabilities of the suppliers, which make these products. One component stood out in context to commercial vehicles – the Spheros Motherson Revo-E rooftop hybrid and electric bus air-conditioner. It stood out on the count of technology, and the value it packed; on the count of frugal engineering and an ability to meet market demand. The Revo E impressed by its ability to enhance efficiency and comfort. What tilted the scale in favour of Revo E is its ability to save energy, and in the process make for an eco-friendly apparatus.

  1. MCV tipper of the Year

Nominees: a) Tata LPK1615. b) MAN CLA 25.300. c) Tata Prima 2528.K.

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Medium capacity tippers in the 16-tonne to 25-tonne range make versatile creatures. They are capable of finding work at the construction site; at a highway project, and at a mining site. There are numerous other duties MCV tippers can perform efficiently. They are workhorses that are modern in construction, efficient and capable of living many lives in one. The Tata Prima 2528.K found favour because of its modern build, world-class platform architecture and competitive pricing. Equipped with a 18 cu. m. box body that offers a 11-tonne payload against a GVW of 25-tonne, the 2528.K is powerful and fit for tough off-road tasks such as those found at mines. Powering the 2528.k is a 267 hp 6.7-litre six-cylinder common-rail diesel engine with a 970 Nm peak torque at 1200-1700 rpm. Transmission is an eight-speed manual synchromesh unit with crawler gear. Priced at Rs.43 lakh, ex-showroom Thane, the 2528.K is capable of a maximum speed of 78 kmph, and a gradeability of 58 per cent in crawler gear. The tipper features remote keyles entry with central door locking, four-post suspended cab, adjustable steering wheel, air suspended driver seat with reclining mechansim, AC, data logger, music systems and power windows.

  1. Special application CV of the Year

Nominees: a) Eicher Pro 6025 TM. b) Tata Armored Personnel Carrier.

  1. Force Traveller First Responder.

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Special application CVs address special needs of the market. They are engineered to perform a task, or a series of tasks, that requires them to be equipped and worthy of the job. Special application CVs are an outcome of an extensive study of their target audience. They are specialised to the core. Two special application CVs drew attention – the Tata armored personnel carrier and the Force Traveller First Responder. Designed and developed to perform military duties, both at the time of war and during peace missions, the Tata Armored personnel carrier produces 240 hp of power and 925 Nm of peak torque. Capable of seating 12 troopers, driver and a co-driver, the vehicle, equipped with a six-speed gearbox, features firing ports, ballistic protection, integrated gun ports with sighting glasses, explosive suppressant fuel tank material, side wall mounted seats for blast protection with four-point harness, twin AC, and run-flat tyres. Like the Tata Aromored Personnel Carrier, the Force Traveller First Responder is also engineered and built to serve the nation; to serve for the betterment of the human kind. The First Responder is deployed along key highways including the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in India. Powered by a 2.2-litre common-rail, turbo-diesel engine that produces 127 hp of power and 300 Nm of peak torque at 1600-2400 rpm, the First Responder, equipped with a five-speed manual synchromesh transmission, has a GVW of 3510 Kg. It is equipped with a high pressure water mist system with foam and rescue tools like high capacity compact cutters and spreaders. The vehicle is also equipped with lighting and positioning systems that are operational with a wireless remote, and Controller Area Network (CAN) Bus system.

20. CV dealer of the Year

Nominees: a) Anamallais Agencies. b) Cargo Motors Pvt. Ltd. c) TV Sundram Iyengar & Sons Pvt. Ltd.

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They are the OEM’s interface. An important element in the CV ecosystem that either conveys a good impression about the manufacturer, or otherwise. Left with an amount of operating costs to handle, and in a situation where the needs of the buyers are changing, dealers have to exude much professionalism. They are expected to evolve; respond to market changes quickly, and keep those who look up to them, happy and satisfied. Established in 1959 by Yash Pal Nanda, Cargo Motors stood out on the virtue of its professional management. This, despite being a family-owned enterprise. Looked after by the third generation of the family, Cargo Motors Pvt. Ltd. are dealers for Tata Motors commercial vehicles. Having come to build a loyal workforce, Cargo Motors operates out of Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan through 60 sales outlets and 20 workshops. One of the oldest dealers of Tata Motors in West India, Gandhidham-based Cargo Motors achieved sales of 17,321 CVs of Tata make in 2016. What is impressive about the dealer is the various services it offers, including standardised process for familiarising customers with product features, on-time and one cost service delivery, in-house tie-up with financers like TMFL and others, prompt service with 24×7 support, and customer app. for service booking, breakdown and vehicle data repository.

  1. Best practice adopter of the Year

Nominees: a) NTC Logistics India (P) Limited. b) S.K. Translines Pvt. Ltd. c) V-Trans (India) Limited.

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In an era where technology rules the roost, fleet owners have leveraged to their advantage technology, and an ability to control costs. To seek better operational control, attain good customer focus and excel in the management of business. Of the three nominations received, NTC Logistics India (P) Ltd. stood out because of its ability to utilise technology in the best possible manner, and a standard in cost control, operational control, customer focus and overall management. Established in 1997, NTC Logistics India (P) Ltd., formerly Namakkal Transport Carriers (P) Limited, evolved from being a small-time specialised trucking company into a multi-modal logistics service provider. Offering seamless turnkey project logistics solutions, including budgeting, planning and successful project execution, the company, specialising in ODC movement, claims to be one of the largest and the most specialised fleets in the country. It also claims to move windmill equipment like blades, nacelles, and towers across the length and breath of the country. To do so, NTC Logistics India (P) Ltd. has adopted modern technology, international quality control measures, processes and service delivery machanims. With a fleet size of 599 vehicles, the company caters to renewable energy sector, power generation sector, automotive sector, engineering and manufacturing sectors, earth moving and transportation sectors, oil and gas, metals and mining, hyrdo and thermal, consumer durable, life sciences and healthcare, and FMCG sector.

  1. CV man of the Year

Nominees: a)Vinod K. Dasari. b) Erich Nesselhauf. c) Vinod Aggarwal. d) Ravi Pisharody. e) Nalin Mehta.

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An IIT, Kahargpur engineer with a MBA degree from Delhi Unversity, Nalin Mehta was appointed as the Chief Operating Officer of Mahindra Navistar joint venture in 2000. The JV marked Mahindra’s entry into the M&HCV segment. The LCV business at Zaheerabad, was hived off to the JV. After some time of making LCVs and M&HCVs the JV gave way. New challenges emerged. Undeterred, Mehta led the company from the front. Employing non-traditional routes like transport excellence and awards empower to better address the needs of various stakeholders of the transport industry, Mehta’s company improve their product offering. Mehta’s pursuit for a powerful yet efficient truck led to the development of a new, electronic engine with multi-mode technology. This tech has come to define the Blazo range. The Blazo, with its multi-mode technology, guarantees the operator of superior fuel efficiency over the competition. Over 2000 units of Blazo have been sold after the truck was unveiled at Auto Expo 2016, aptly reflecting upon Mehta’s ability to steer his company to a path of strong growth. And, in an enviroment that is challenging.

  1. CV maker of the Year

Nominees: a) Tata Motors. b) Daimler India Commercial Vehicles Ltd. c) Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles Pvt Ltd. d) Mahindra Trucks & Buses Ltd. e) Ashok Leyland Ltd.

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A 50:50 joint venture between Volvo Group and Eicher Motors, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles (VECV) has seen sales double since its inception in 2008. The market share of the company has gone up to over 14 per cent, including exports. The new range of trucks and buses under the Pro Series nomenclature are reflecting upon the company’s customer-centric approach. Launches like the Pro 1049, and the Pro 8031T/XM indicate a calculated effort, backed by Volvo Group, to move up the technology and value ladder. Investing Rs.1800 crore over five years to develop products, engines and upgrade the existing manufacturing facilities, the CV maker, in 2016, continued to change ahead. It pledged an investment of Rs.700 crore to enhance the quality of products; to modernise them in view of the regulatory needs and market demands.

24. CV of the year

Nominees: a) Mahindra Imperio. b) Eicher Pro 1049. c) BharatBenz 917 Tourist. d)Tata Prima 2528.K. e) Volvo FMX 440. f) Tata Signa 4923.S. g) SML Isuzu Executive LX Coach. h)Mahindra Blazo 37. i)Ashok Leyland Sunshine school bus. j) Volvo Hybrid 8400. k) Eicher Pro 1110XP Hexadrive. l)BharatBenz 1617R.

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Combining tradition, technology and a deep understanding of the market, modern CVs are promising better productivity and gains. Fitting the bill, the Mahindra Blazo 37 made it to the top of its quest to address the exacting requirements of its buyers, operators and drivers. One among a range of medium and heavy-duty trucks that share the same name (Blazo) except for a different suffix, the Blazo 37 is carving out a place for itself in a category, which until two to three years ago, did not exist. Tapping into the shift towards higher tonnage trucks, the Blazo 37 is digital in nature, well equipped and versatile.

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CV industry triumphs at the Apollo CV awards 2017

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The Indian Commercial Vehicle (CV) industry came together to celebrate success at the Apollo CV Awards 2017 on February 09, 2017, in Mumbai. The eight edition of the awards, which were jointly founded by Commercial Vehicle magazine (belonging to Next Gen Publishing Pvt. Ltd.) and Apollo Tyres, adjudged products, OEMs, CV components manufacturers, CV application builders, and transporters. Held every year, the 2017 edition took into consideration developments that took place in the 2016 calendar year. Accordingly nominations were called from OEMs, CV components manufacturers, CV application builders and fleet operators in a process that lasted over two months before culminating into 24 awards and a plaque honouring the contribution of the CV man of the year.

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The five member jury of the Apollo CV awards 2017 comprised of Dilip Chhabria, Founder, DC Design, Rajat Kataria, Divisional Head – Marketing (Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa), Commercial Vehicles, Apollo Tyres, V G Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Avanteum Advisors, Kaushik Madhavan, Director – Automotive & Transportation, Frost & Sullivan, and Bhushan Mhapralkar, Editor, Commercial Vehicle magazine. The jury scrutinised close to 50 ‘non-fleet’ nominations received. This involved long debates, a deep exploration of domain knowledge and experience. Parameters like fitness for application, quality of aggregates, fuel efficiency and top speed, option to have vehicle better suited for the purpose, price and sales were considered. Over 622 ‘fleet’ nominations were received. These were scrutinised by Metric Consultancy Ltd. by using the Journey of Excellence parameter derived from the British Quality Foundation.

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The Mahindra Blazo 37 won the CV of the year award. Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles Ltd. won the CV maker of the year. Nalin Mehta, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Mahindra Trucks and Buses Ltd. won the CV man of the year. The ‘Best practice adopter of the Year’ award was won by NTC Logistics India (P) Limited. CV dealer of the Year award was won by Cargo Motors Pvt. Ltd. Tata Armored Personnel Carrier and Force Traveller First Responder were joint winners of the Special CV application of the Year award. MCV tipper of the Year award was won by Tata Prima 2528.K. Spheros Motherson’s Revo E roof-top AC for hybrid and electric buses won the CV component of the Year award. Tata DLT double-deck tractor (trailor) carrier won the CV application builder of the Year award. Volvo 8400 Hybrid city-bus won the Promising debut of the Year award. Volvo FMX440 won the HCV tipper of the Year award. BharatBenz 1617R won the MCV cargo carrier of the Year award. Eicher Pro 1110XP Hexadrive won the ICV cargo carrier of the Year. SML Isuzu Executive LX Coach won the LCV people mover of the Year award.

Orange Tours & Travels won the Private sector bus fleet operator of the Year award. The School bus of the Year award was bagged by Ashok Leyland Sunshine school bus. The ICV people mover of the Year award was won by BharatBenz 917 Tourist. The Fleet application of the Year – Niche award was bagged by Schedulers Logistics India Pvt. Ltd. Tata Signa 4923.S tractor won the HCV tractor cargo carrier of the Year. Mahindra Blazo 37 won the HCV rigid cargo carrier of the Year award. Gujarat Logistics won the Small fleet operator of the Year award. The Large truck fleet operator of the Year award was won by Inland World Logistics Pvt. Ltd. Eicher Pro 1049 won the LCV cargo carrier of the Year. Mahindra Imperio was judged the Pick-up of the Year.


Executive travel

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To address the need for executive travel, SML Isuzu has introduced an executive coach based on its highly popular S7 platform.

Story & photos: Anirudh Raheja

With a 7500 kg gross vehicle weight, the SML Isuzu Executive LX Coach seats 19 people in high levels of comfort. If the push back luxury seats are replaced with semi-reclining seats, the coach can accommodate between 28 and 30 people. Based on SML Isuzu’s S7 platform, which has sprang numerous derivatives including a range of school buses, the executive coach incorporates the updates the Ropar-based commercial vehicle manufacturer has subjected its S7 platform too. The Executive LX Coach is thus a combination of new and familiar.


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In terms of appearance, ‘modish’ could well be the word. A large windshield that extends way down dominates the front fascia. It also signals a clever use of glass to ensure good visibility ahead as well as add a dash of style to what would otherwise have been a boxy structure. Designed and engineered to accommodate as many people, the Executive LX Coach looks modern and smart. Its front FRP fascia, seems to strike a resemblance with an Executive LX bus built on the same, S7 platform, but with a shorter wheelbase of 2815 mm. The streaked, twin-beam head lamp assemblies add a touch of style, and as does the bumper. It is an integral part of the front fascia. SML Isuzu sources claim that the Executive LX Coach is aimed at tourist and staff transport. The good fit-finish levels will provide this coach an ability to attract both, the tourist and the staff bus commuters. Seeming to carry an amount of influence of the bigger Isuzu FR1318 bus, the Executive LX Coach flaunts fixed side windows. They are glued and provide a pillarless look, like that of the Isuzu FR1318! Measuring 8,291 mm in length, 2,262 mm in width and 3,060 mm in height, the Executive LX Coach looks well proportioned. Its wheelbase measures 4,240 mm. The body structure of the front-engine bus is made of reinforced steel. Riding on 16-inch wheels, the coach has an emergency exit door at the rear-right. Complying with the bus code, the rear fascia of the coach, sports a hatch with the tail lamp consoles on either side. There is a small windshield at the rear. Its functional value is however not clear. Opening the hatch hinged at the top provides access to the storage space. It is big enough to store the bags of all those who could ride this coach.


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If the fixed windows provide a clue, the Executive LX Coach is fitted with a Trans ACNR 25 kW roof top air-conditioner. Entry into the coach is through a pneumatically operated door on the left. The low step entry makes it easier to get into the bus and get down from the bus. The first impression upon climbing inside is the good fit-finish levels. This particular coach came fitted with 2×1 push-back seats. These were arranged across five rows. The seats have been procured from Harita Seating Systems, and come with padded arm rests and footrests. Each row of seats is provided with two mobile charging points to address the needs of commuters. The hat racks have air-con ducts running through them. Above each row are a bank of adjustable AC vents and reading lights. Also built into the hat rack are the speakers. A 19-inch, foldable LCD panel is built into the roof. For emergency evacuation, a red button has been placed in the passenger compartment. On the pillars is a hammer painted in red. This could be used to break the window glass in case of an emergency.

In-line with the other S7 (platform) variants, the Executive LX Coach does not have a full driver partition. The front passenger seat could be reached by stepping past the lid, which provides access to the engine compartment below. This lid is flush with the floor! Even the driver could choose to take this route to his cockpit or climb in through the dedicated door provided to him. Built at SML Isuzu’s bus building facility at Ropar, the driver cockpit of the Executive LX Coach will look familair to those who have been in an S7 (platform) bus, or have piloted one. It is not a complicated place to be in. It is not a place that is buzzing with a lot of electronics; digital stuff, that is.

At the wheel

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The driving position of the Executive Coach is commanding. The large front windshield provides a good view of all that lies in front. Ergonomically well engineered, the dashboard, as part of the driver’s cockpit is functional and simple. It flaunts a faux-wood and black surface finish. The instrument console is made up of a large speedometer, front and rear air pressure gauge, and fuel and engine temperature gauge. A strip at the bottom of what could be defined as a simple looking conolse, is a strip that contains the warning lamps. To the right of the instrument console is the head lamp height adjustment switch. The center console has an array of buttons followed by a music system and the AC controls. The three spoke steering wheel is a carry over from other S7 buses. Below the steering wheel, and to the left, is a blue coloured knob that switches on or off the pneumatic control system of the passenger door entry. Above the driver’s seat is a large mirror to help him quickly glance at the pasengers. For him to watch the traffic behind his bus or in the vicinity are the large external mirrors. The gear shifter is well placed and is within easy reach of the driver. In terms of ergonomics and comfort, the Executive LX Coach scores well.

On the road

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Turn the key; the SL T3 diesel motor fires to life. Available in BSIII and BSIV guise, the engine is located longitudinally at front with the drive going to the rear through a five-speed synchromesh manual transmission and a hypoid live axle. The 3455cc diesel engine produces 101 hp and 310 Nm of peak torque at 1500-1750 rpm. Good response translates into the coach smartly moving away from standstill. The SL T3 unit produces good torque from lower rpm. This helps to enhance tract-ability. Good insulation adds to the refined natire of the engine. The Executive LX Coach is a good place to be in. It is quiet and devoid of harshness. Switch to second gear, and the action, though not quite car-like, is smooth and predictable. Engage third gear, and the coach picks up speed. The lower ratios feel taller a shade taller than the higher ones. They ensure good supply of torque. With speeds in the region of 50 kmph attained easily, the coach displays good refinement. The driver area is not very noisy or a tough place to be in. It is reflective of the good sound insulation the company has deployed. The recirculating ball type power steering is light and offers good feedback. It helps to manoeuvre the coach with ease. The semi-elliptical multi leaf suspension along with hydraulic double acting and telescopic dampers at both, the front end and the rear end, support a pliant ride over a variety of surfaces. It does have a firm edge to it, but is pliant. The dual circuit vaccum assisted pneumatic brakes offer a good bite. They retard the coach, and provide a progressive feel. The air-conditioner cools the large area inside the bus effectively, and without robbing the engine of its ability to propel the vehicle at good speeds.

Bright future

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The Executive LX Coach follows the 11 m-long FR1318 in a territory were customer preferences are changing. Expectations about comfort, efficiency and safety are rising as much as they are changing. For SML Isuzu, which posted a growth of 18.8 per cent in the first half of FY2016-17, the Executive LX Coach does not signal a new territory. It has had a presence in the executive tourist and staff bus transport segments, albeit with its small wheelbase Executive bus. The Executive LX Coach promises better operating economics no doubt. Meeting the AIS 052 bus body code specifications, the Executive LX Coach from SML Isuzu points at a modern build and high standards of fit-finish. With the BSIV and CNG versions of the Executive LX Coach under certification, the future for this particular example looks bright. The Executive LX Coach extends the company’s possibilities to gain a greater pie of the market that is growing in.

Gazing into the future

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The display of people movers by Tata Motors at its Pune plant provided an opportunity to gaze into the future of public transportation mediums.

Story & photos: Ashish Bhatia

To gaze into the future is not easy. To gaze into the future of technology that will influence the transportation of masses is not easy. Tata Motors, at its Pune plant, provided an opportunity to look some of the most exciting buses that will define the future modes of transportation recently. It displayed its people mover range, starting from the alternate fuel Ace Magic to the flagship Starbus fuel cell bus concept. Guenter Butschek, CEO and Managing Director, Tata Motors, announced the launch of the Starbus Hybrid city bus on the occasion. A series hybrid city bus, modelled closely on the 10 Tata CNG hybrid city buses that are running on a route in Madrid, the capital city of Spain, the Starbus Hybrid will soon hit the roads of Mumbai, at the Bandra-Kurla Complex. They will ply between BKC and the nearby suburban rail stations of Sion, Kurla and Bandra. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has placed an order of 25 hybrid buses with Tata Motors under the FAME program. These buses will be operated by BEST. With the municipal elections in Mumbai drawing close, the first Starbus Hybrid, is expected to hit the BKC roads only after the elections are held and a new governing body comes to power.

For a democratic country like India, that is the second most populous in the world, and spread over an area of 3.287 million sq. km, the need is to move people in a manner that is well integrated. To ensure an integrated and efficient travel is a challenge. In his inaugural speech at the Busworld 2015, P S Ananda Rao, Executive Director, ASRTU, expressed the need to inculcat one-million busses immediately in addition to 7.5 lakh buses present (in the system) to address the need for people in the vast country to move. Highlighting the potential for rural connectivity, he mentioned that there is a need for 50,854 buses at 600 buses per 10 million rural population. According to a survey, claimed to be conducted by the government, over 50 per cent of the workforce continues to work at home or travel to their workplace by foot in the absence of adequate transport facilities. Many are largely dependent on private transport as the share of public transport is just 18.1 per cent of work trips. The data collected by the survey indicates that citizens are largely dependent on private modes of transport, such as bicycles (26.3 million) and motorcycles (25.4 million) in rural and urban India. In 2015 the number of daily trips using a motorcycle for commuting was 35 million (excluding personal trips).

Fuel cell bus

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With a typical city bus expected to do 200 runs a day, it made for an interesting display of six most modern buses by Tata Motors including the BKC-bound Starbus Hybrid. All five buses were prototypes, and provided an opportunity to gaze into the future. The most interesting was the ‘Tata Starbus Fuel Cell bus’. This bus is said to be the country’s first ‘Fuel Cell’ bus. Touted as a zero emission mass transport solution for city travel, it was developed in partnership with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), and combines hydrogen gas and oxygen. The bus measures 12 m in length and is claimed to have a power output of 114 bhp. If the use of fuel cell technology results in 40-60 per cent efficiency in energy conversion over conventional diesel buses, the bus, based on the previous-generation LPO 1625 Starbus Fuel Cell bus concept, shares the platform with the Starbus Hybrid and Starbus Electric. Four hydrogen cylinders of 205 litre capacity each are placed in the roof casing. A longitudinally arranged hydrogen fuel cell power system at the rear produces electric energy (equivalent to 114 hp) via the Lithium-ion battery pack. The battery delivers power to a rear-axle mounted propulsion motor through a summation gearbox, resulting in a combined output of 250 hp and 1,050 Nm of torque at 800 rpm. Featuring independent pneumatic suspension with hydraulic double-acting telescopic shock absorbers, the fuel cell bus features pneumatic dual-circuit s-cam braking system, which is ABS assisted. The full low-floor bus can seat 30 passengers in air-conditioned comfort. Top speed is 70 kmph, and maximum gradeability is 17 percent.

Vestibule bus

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The Tata Marcopolo urban 9/18 FE vestibule bus measures 18 m in length. It can carry 120 (including 50 seated) passengers, which is almost equivalent of two 12 m buses. Powering this bus is a Cummins 6.7-litre, 280 hp engine located at the front. Aimed at moving more people in less space (in a typical urban landscape), the vestibule bus has a compact turn circle and can be manoeuvred with ease. The turning radius of this bus is claimed to be no different than a regular bus. What makes the vestibule bus significant is the order Tata Motors bagged recently to supply 30 vestibule buses for the BRT corridor at Dharwad-Hubli. Each bus is said to cost Rs.1.6 crore, and will ply on a 22.2 km-long corridor.

Mini people movers

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Standing out of the crowd of buses, the electric Super Ace, Magic and Magic Iris made for a portfolio of mini people movers that Tata Motors is working on. Albeit in an electric form, they are looked upon to play the role of a feeder vehicle and last mile transporter. Already a word in last mile connectivity, the electric forms of Super Ace, Magic and Magic Iris could well set a precedent in last mile connectivity for others to follow. Powering the Super Ace electric is a permanent magnet AC motor. Electricity is fed by a 20.7 kWh lithium-ion battery. The top speed of the CV is 80 kmph. The travel range is in the region of 100 kmph, and the rated payload is 600 kg against a GVW of 1750 kg. Magic electric contains 12.6 volt, 180 Ah batteries. Equipped with regenerative braking tech, the vehicle has a power rating of 15kW. It can reach a top speed of 40 kmph, and cover a distance of 50 km on a single charge. Battery takes eight to 12 hours to charge. The Magic Iris is powered by lithium-ion battery modules of 48 volt and 110 Ah capacity. Capable of ferrying four passengers, the traction motor of the Magic Iris is rated at 9 kW. Peak torque is 42 Nm. Capable of travelling 100 km on a single charge, the two battery modules of Magic Iris take eight hours to charge fully. The vehicle can be had with a 120 watt solar panel on the roof for supplementary charging, making it a first of its kind in its segment.

LNG bus

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It was late last year that Tata Motors showcased a LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) powered city bus based on its LPO1613 platform at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. It did so in association with Petronet LNG Limited (PLL) and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. Displayed here, the bus, painted in an attractive shade of orange, was powered by a 5.7-litre BSIV engine that produces 130 hp of peak power at 2500 rpm and a peak torque of 405 Nm at 1250-1500 rpm. The LPO1613 chassis is built at the Lucknow plant, and the body is built at Marcopolo’s Dharwad plant. Dr. A K Jindal, Head – Engineering Research Centre, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, expressed that Kerala is keen to place an order for 10,000 buses, with 10 per cent of them, LNG powered. He added, “The supply constraints posed by CNG infrastructure makes LNG a logical extension. To increase the range of a CNG powered bus (from 300 km), more storage cylinders will be needed. This will adversely affect the power to weight ratio, payload capacity and seating capacity. LNG has a two-and-a-half times more per litre capacity than diesel. The range therefore will be between 600 to 700 km.” RT Wasan, Vice President – Sales and Marketing, Tata Motors, mentioned that cities are growing, leading to traffic congestion, in-turn bringing out a need to design different modes of public transportation. “The Urbanisation in India is skewed as compared to countries like China,” he added.

Buses for a greener tomorrow

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As countries the world over seek greener ways of move people, putting impetus on alternate mediums of propulsion, it did not come as a surprise when Dr. Jindal stated that, there is a need to adopt a viable combination of fuel and vehicle technology. Stressing upon rapid urbanisation, Wasan said that there was a need to look at the mode of transport that would best suit the needs. This would call for lower investment in infrastructure, and relate to issues like direct health-cost of urban pollution, transport mortality, air quality, climate change and depleting natural resources, he added. With the rate of electric and hybrid technology penetration to be dictated by the pace of technological breakthrough and federal policies, it is essential to take into account a study conducted by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), which projected average speeds across cities are falling. Said Wasan, “The government’s approach to building more roads looks contradictory to the need for facilitating an eco-system where sustained mobility coexists.” Wasan cited the example of Jakarta, the most populous city of Indonesia. He explained, “Families traveling in private vehicles are charged a levy for using the infrastructure. In such an instance, public transport provides the answers.” Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director – Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, expressed that December sales figures are a testimony to buses doing well. “We are doing well in buses,” he added. Pointing at State Transport Undertakings (STUs), Pisharody stated, “Buying is coming back and a lot of tenders are being floated as we speak. It is after a long time that buses have come into a space they deserve. The Indian economy does not support them.” Announced Butschek that the company’s aspiration is to be among the top three global CV players by FY2018-19. “The objective is to transform the Indian commercial vehicle landscape, and to offer the customers cutting edge auto technologies, packaged for superior performance and low lifecycle costs,” added Butschek.

Gazing into the future

Taking a holistic view, and as far as the application of technology is concerned, Dr. Jindal said that the reduction in battery costs is a positive sign. “Electrification does make an ideal choice for long haul or for heavy-duty application. The technology model is simply unsustainable, and would eat into the vehicle payload,” he mentioned. Electromobility, according to Dr. Jindal is suitable for vehicles that travel over shorter distances. Hybridisation, he added, is suitable for a medium-duty vehicle that travels over a medium distance. While the lifecycle cost is lowest in hybrid and electric vehicles, the major challenge for operators is the acquisition cost. It is two-to-three times higher than conventionally powered vehicles. A ray of hope according to Dr. Jindal, is if the government intervenes to make it feasible for new technology to embed itself sooner than later. Driving a frugal strategy, technology development at Tata Motors spans across diverse areas like vehicle control strategy, electric and hybrid vehicle battery development, traction system development, high voltage components and safety, Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH), durability testing, light weighting, and customer trials. A part of the strategy is also to build key components in-house. Fast charging batteries are being worked upon by using Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) technology. According to Dr. Jindal, the advantages of LTO are significant. This battery technology is considered to be a game changer. Working on a future ready product pipeline, Tata Motors, said Dr. Jindal, has already exceeded the 20 per cent fuel reduction target set by the FAME scheme of the Government of India towards encouraging electric vehicles. “ The need of the hour is to achieve a sustainable hub and spoke public transportation model for new technology mediums to find a place and grow,” signed off Dr. Jindal.

The art of designing

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In what could be a rare occasion, Tata Motors provided an opportunity to peep into its design studio at Pune. It is the nerve centre, which brings a CV to life. A visual rendering undergoes several reiterations in a bid to refine the final layout of the vehicle before going into production. The entire process of the development of Starbus Hybrid was shown at the studio in steps that revealed the journey from the drawing board to a production model. Step one showed how the primary sketch of the bus was turned into a more definitive form. In consultation with different verticals at the OEM, it was further refined. The bis turned two dimensional. The next step saw the two dimensional form being shared with the three dimensional modelers to achieve a full scale three dimension model. This process, includes consulting the engineering team to work on areas like manufacturing, production and other. It is at this step that the creative team and the technical team come together. The rendered form begins acquiring details. Step three involves building a dummy model, which is handed over to the clay modelers. The clay modelers refine the surface. Stage four involves the task of transforming the clay model into data using a laser beam and camera based equipment. Refined surfaces are accurately captured. Controlling the hardware is Pollyworks’ software. Scans are transferred to a Complex Adaptive System (CAS) modeller. It is then sent to a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine to replicate the image of the model. The design process further evolves with the help of a Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM). CAD is three-dimensional in a bid to bring more details on to the ideated sketch. Designers are encouraged to carry out an in-depth field research on public transportation in the country before they ideate a new concept. Designers also ensure that the new elements merge seamlessly with the standard design elements. This ensures that the result is in sync with the brand identity.

Volvo’s hybrid drive


Volvo Buses India is offering the 8400 low-floor hybrid city bus to help cities fight the menace of pollution.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

It is drizzling for the last one hour. Any chance of it stopping looks slim. The Vardah cyclone that devastated Chennai is showing its after effect at Bangalore. The drive to Hosakote on the outskirts of Bangalore is uneventful with tiny droplets colliding against the car windows. As the wipers work to keep the unseasonal rain from obscuring the vision of the driver, an impression is had that urbanisation is fast overtaking any attempts by the local inhabitants to carry out farming. The lure of big money from the sale of fertile parcels of land is too precious to be ignored. Described as the IT capital of India, Bangalore is perhaps the best example of how urbanisation is spreading its tentacles in every direction, bringing with it the need for efficient modes of transport. One of the modern, if not the most efficient means of transport at Bangalore are the Volvo buses. They are found the moment one steps out of the Kempegowda International Airport. The plant that manufactures these buses is where I am going. I will be spending time with the new hybrid city bus the Swedish bus major has launched. Two 12 m hybrid low-floor city buses have already been supplied to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport against an order of five. The third bus will soon leave Hosakote for Navi Mumbai. It is currently undergoing trials and validation. Reflecting upon Volvo’s experience in producing hybrid and electrical buses (the first hybrid bus Volvo produce is claimed to be the 2008 B5LH low-floor city bus), the low-floor hybrid city bus that I will spend time with, is a diesel-electric. It adds to the count of 6000 hybrid and electric buses Volvo has produced till date. A parallel hybrid, the bus, in terms of appearance, looks no different than the diesel powered 8400 12 m long, low-floor city bus. The Volvo 8400 diesel bus is found in over 30 cities in India.

Smart proposition

Smart the 8400 low-floor diesel city bus looks. The 8400 hybrid bus mirrors the 8400 diesel bus in appearance. The body structure is 100 per cent local, and flaunts good fit and finish levels. The use of materials, paint, and build standards hint at world-class construction. They also hint at the need the company felt in investing in a captive body building plant at Hosakote in 2008.

Based on the Volvo B5RLE platform, the 8400 hybrid city bus adds to the premise, which VRV Sriprasad, Managing Director, Volvo Buses India, describes as instrumental in persuading people to leave their vehicles behind and take to public transport. The 8400 hybrid bus seats 32 people apart from the driver. Its low-floor height makes it easier to enter and exit. There are two pneumatically operated doors on the left side of the vehicle for the purpose. With 2×2 seating arrangement, the hybrid bus, says Sriprasad, has much of its content coming from Sweden as far as the chassis is concerned. “Since the 8400 qualifies as a strong hybrid, the customer,” adds Sriprasad, “is entitled to a subsidy of Rs.61 lakhs for the bus that costs Rs.2.3 crore.”

Building on the experience of deploying hybrid buses in Australia and Singapore, Volvo in India, launched the 8400 hybrid city bus after the central government formally announced the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) scheme in April 2015. The 8400 hybrid bus, it is clear, is not, about numbers. It is about providing a sustainable solution to cities battling with the issue of pollution. Claim Volvo sources, that the 8400 hybrid bus requires no supporting infrastructure. The parallel hybrid nature of the bus, they add, makes for a smart proposition. In the case of an electrical failure, the bus can still run, albeit on the diesel engine.

Smart tech

At the core of the 8400 hybrid bus is a 215 hp 5-litre Volvo D5 four-cylinder diesel engine (installed longitudinally at the rear), and a 160 hp electric motor. The engine and the motor produce a peak torque of 800 Nm each. The electric motor serves both, as a propulsion motor and as a generator. When the brakes are applied, their retardation effect is harnessed to recharge the batteries. This energy would have been wasted otherwise in the form of heat. Repeated braking, which is typical of a city-bus operation as it stops and starts, proves to be of operational benefit thus. Due to its considerable torque, the compact electric motor offers good performance at low speeds. It is at low speeds, and when the bus moves away from stand still, that the diesel engine is most taxed. It is then that it pollutes the most. Supplementing the diesel engine’s superior properties at higher speeds by producing maximum torque right from the start, the electric motor provides excellent starting characteristics and driveability. Electric power is also used when the vehicle is standing still. When the bus stops to pick up commuters or at the traffic light, the diesel engine switches off automatically. The bus, as a result, does not produce exhaust gases, and makes for a silent operation.

The motor of the 8400 hybrid bus is actually an integrated starter alternator motor (permanent magnet motor that also works as a generator and diesel engine starter motor) that runs on alternating current. The clutch and the 12-speed automatic transmission are an integral part of the driveline. The electric (electronic) unit is said to feature an energy converter for direct or alternating current and the batteries. The brain of the hybrid system is an electronic control module, which regulates the engagement and disengagement of electric and diesel power as per the need. The module also influences gear changes and battery recharging. On the 8400 hybrid bus, the power steering pump, air compressor and cooling fan are powered by separate electric motors. Each electric motor operates only when it needs to. This saves energy.

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Behind the wheel

Like the diesel powered 8400 city bus, the driving position of the 8400 hybrid bus is low, and with a good view of what lies ahead. The driver cockpit is simple and functional. It is ergonomically well sorted, and has the instrument console at the centre. The console is made up of a large speedometer and tachometer dials. To the right are the air brake pressure dials. The other dials include the turbo boost pressure gauge, temperature gauge, fuel gauge and an engine oil pressure gauge. A portion of the console is occupied by an LCD readout. To the right, and adjoining the console is the parking brake switch. To the left is the AC control. Below is what could be described as a ‘pad’. It contains the transmission buttons. There are three of them. One is the ‘Drive’ button. The other two are the ‘Neutral’ and ‘Reverse’ buttons. Next to the transmission buttons is a round exterior light switch. A round blue lamp at the end of the pad indicates that this bus is hybrid by nature. It has ‘HYB’ written on it.


Turn the key, and the diesel engine wakes up to a distant growl. The management system gets down to conducting various checks. Once it is done, the diesel engine shuts down. Silence prevails. The only noise is the whine of a motor. It is indicative of an utility running. With the parking brake disengaged, all that is needed is to press the accelerator. The bus moves away, with the only indication, the rising speedo needle. It is exactly at 24 kmph that the diesel engine cuts in (the next time it cut in at 20 kmph). The tell tale indicators are a distant whine of the engine and the rising tacho needle. The motor propels the bus, and highly capably. It does so at a time when the diesel engine could be most relied upon in a diesel bus.

Speeds in the region of 50 kmph are easily achieved. The bus exhibiting good stability and a pliant ride in the process. While the air suspension is made up of sturdy air bellows, the steering provides good feedback. The auto transmission shifts cogs smoothly. No jerks are noticed as the 12-speed auto-box does its duty. The suspended driver’s seat and a fully adjustable steering position make for a comfortable driving position. The large mirrors offer a good view of what is around, and at the rear. Noise levels inside the cabin, even with the diesel engine running are low. When it is time to slow down and stop, the brakes provide a strong bite. The feel is linear and progressive. The electronically controlled disc brakes of the bus are ABS equipped. The moment the bus halts, the diesel engine goes to sleep. The muted whine of the utility motor is audible once again.

Smart, comfortable and eco-friendly

Smart the 8400 hybrid low-floor city bus is. It is modern and comfortable. It is efficient and environment friendly. Volvo sources claim that the 8400 hybrid bus offers fuel savings of up to 30 per cent higher than a diesel bus. Speeds of up to 24 kmph are attained without the diesel engine waking up. The top speed of the bus, limited to 80 kmph, presents the 8400 hybrid low-floor city bus with a good opportunity to deliver an efficient and comfortable ride. Claim Volvo sources, that the advantage a parallel hybrid bus offers over a series hybrid bus is the use of battery pack. The battery pack is not subjected to heavy use, and lasts long, they add. They also draw attention to the bus’ ability to run on diesel in case the electric (electronic) section develops a fault. It has been five months that the two hybrid buses at Navi Mumbai have been operating. The learnings will take some time coming. The buses will have to clock many more kilometers. With lower exhaust emissions during travel and zero emission when stationary, the 8400 hybrid bus makes an interesting reflection of how technology in buses is progressing.

It is afternoon by the time I depart from Hosakote. The rains have stopped. The weather has turned pleasant. The sun is out. It feels fresh. Quite unlike Mumbai where smog is often mistaken for fog, and where the room for a bus like this is only growing.