Tata Motors looks up to an exciting future

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Post the transition to BSIV, Tata Motors is eyeing strong growth.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

Like many other commercial vehicle manufacturers, demonetisation affected Tata Motors too. The end of FY2016-17 marked not just the end of a tumultuous period, it also marked green shoots. For example, buses did exceedingly well. For Tata Motors, they posted a growth of 22 per cent against an industry growth rate of 10 per cent. This led the company to grab the lead in the Indian bus market. LCVs also performed well for Tata Motors. Looking at a new period that does not come often, and will perhaps never come again, Tata Motors is looking up to an exciting future. According to Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director – Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, the CV maker is confident of infrastructure revival helping it to grow. It is also looking at growth coming from the push for electric and alternate fuel vehicles. With teams in place, and post the significant structural changes to assume a leaner form, the company is exerting a good deal of thrust on exports as well.

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The Ultra, according to Pisharody, is in the sweet spot. It is helping the company, along with the Prima, to drive exports. Export volume accounts for 17 to 18 per cent of the total volume, and is expected to go up to 25 per cent. Keen to offer the lowest cost of ownership, Tata Motors, in FY2016-17, saw the M&HCV segment shake and rattle. A segment where its new age products, Signa and Prima, enjoy a considerable clout. The months of April and May brought good growth to M&HCVs whereas the months of June, July and August proved to be weak. The reason, said Pisharody, could be attributed to GST. “GST started doing the rounds, and the PMO and the finance minister began talking about its implementation from April 2017. This seems to have led to lacklustre performance of M&HCVs in June, July and August last fiscal on the back of uncertainty, as CV buyers, hoping that prices will fall, decided to postpone their purchase. The talk of a tax structure of 18 per cent would entail a drop in prices by 8 to 10 per cent,” he expressed. The M&HCV segment started gaining velocity in September, and because of the good monsoon. In October 2016, and at the start of the festive season, the M&HCV segment recorded the highest growth in FY2016-17.

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Demonetisation

In November 2016, the effect of demonetisation was most felt in north and west, the markets where Tata Motors enjoyed the most exposure. “For a few days, the CV industry was literally stranded on the road,” opined Pisharody. Pointing at the way the transport industry works, Pisharody said, “A truck driver carries an amount of cash, which the driver and owner figure out as necessary.” The industry declined over the next two months. Tata Motors’ sales declined 30 per cent in comparison to October, and 15 per cent in comparison to the corresponding month of the previous financial year. The same situation prevailed in December 2016. In January 2017, the effect had vanned.

Despite the Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for Delhi & NCR (EPCA) exerting its stance, it was expected that February, March and April 2017 would witness pre buying. An amount of pre-buying did take place. Tata Motors however, took a balanced approach according to Pisharody. This ensured that the CV maker did not carry much inventory into March 2017. “We looked at precedence, when vehicle manufacturers were allowed to sell their existing stock, and not manufacture it after the cut-off date. The Supreme Court judgement was surprising,” expressed Pisharody. He said further, “Our strategy works around dealers carrying a stock of 30,000, all segments included, at the end of March. It amounts to one month of stock, and something which the dealer is able to carry into the next month. In this case, into April.” Production of BSIII CVs was immediately cut down on March 29, 2017, by Tata Motors. More impetus was laid on BSIV vehicle production, which the company was already ramping-up. Attention was also paid to help dealers to liquidate their stock.

What made it important to help the dealers liquidate their stock was the sales tax component already paid. Taking back dealer stock would have meant losing the paid tax component. “We were largely successful in liquidating the dealer stock,” stated Pisharody. Over a off-take and retail of 30,000 in February 2017, the March 2017 off-take was only 36,000. Tata Motors did not push inventory, and the figure the company settled for in March 2017 was lower than March 2016. In March 2017, the company witnessed solid retails of between 51,000 and 52,000. Dealer stock of BSIII vehicles according to Pisharody was very low as a result. It was between 3000 and 4000. Big trucks amounted to less than 500. At the plant level, the company incurred a stock of 15000 CVs.

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Getting rid of the inventory

To get rid of 15000 BSIII CVs, Tata Motors is looking at export markets. It is also looking at aggregates to be sold as spares. Putting the company at a disadvantage when it comes to market share in March, Tata Motors reported a wholesale volume of 14000 as compared to a retail volume of 22,000-23,000. Out of the 15000 BSIII CVs left with Tata Motors, the number of M&HCVs, according to Pisharody, is 4000 units. He informed that discussions are on to seek a legal remedy, and that the government is supportive. Upon analysing, Tata Motors found out that 8000-8500 units (out of the 15000 BSIII vehicles) could be exported to markets like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh as they are. Considering a monthly export of 5000 to 5500, it would take the company four to six months to get rid of the BSIII stock opined Pisharody. Of the remaining vehicles (that are not exported), Tata Motors plans to convert to BSIV. An ICV like the Tata 1109, explained Pisharody, can be converted to BSIV with a nominal cost of five per cent. Conversion of such vehicles has already begun. In case of vehicles that would pose a conversion challenge in terms of efforts and expense, Tata Motors is moving slowly. While hoping that a legal remedy is available to dispose them, the company is also looking at cannibalising high value items like gearbox, tyres, etc. This would help it to fulfill its long-term service obligations.

Beginning of a new period

Tata Motors is looking at FY2017-18 as a completely new period. The product performance equation in comparison to the competition will change according to Pisharody. The price positioning as well as customer eligibility will also change, said Pisharody. Terming the company as a CV market leader, and futuristic in its approach, Pisharody averred, “We will cater to price conscious as well as performance conscious customers.” The company will bank on a dual strategy as the new period reveals itself. For lower powered engine of up to 160 and 180 hp, the company is looking at EGR. With an overlap between 160 hp and 180 hp, Tata Motors is looking at deploying SCR technology on higher powered CVs. “All Tata engines have EGR,” informed Pisharody. He said, “Look at the 497 engine for example, and it is equipped with an EGR. The new three and five-litre engines that power the Ultra will deploy EGR. Two-axle trucks and lower powered buses will be equipped with EGR technology. For muti-axle heavier trucks, SCR technology will be deployed.”

If the stress on SCR technology hints at an attention to BSVI emission norms, Tata Motors is making a big jump in technology. It is doing so with an intention to achieve benefits like fuel economy, reliability and lower maintenance costs. Pisharody may expect higher resale value to come in once the migration to new (BSIV) technology takes place, and on the back of fuel, which will be different from what was available until now, the fact is, the next quarter looks lacklustre. It is something that Pisharody is well aware of. Especially on the back of some pre-buying in February and March. With GST scheduled for July 01, 2017, an amount of uncertainty is expected. Uncertainty is expected go down in the second quarter of FY2017-18 according to Pisharody. He opined that bus and SCV sales in July and August are expected to be much better than they were during the corresponding period last fiscal. Buses, he quipped, are already on SCR. As 13 Indian cities moved up to BSIV emission norms in 2010, Tata Motors equipped buses and urban application CVs like garbage compactors (on 1621 platform) with SCR technology. SCR technology for Tata Motors is therefore not newfound.

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EGR vs SCR

Ramping up production of BSIV CVs, the company has limited the deployment of SCR tech to Tata Cummins engines. The four-cylinder engines that Tata makes, will continue to be equipped with EGR. With Cummins, said Pisharody, Tata Motors is enjoying access to the latest and the most modern technology. Apart from SCR equipped engines, Tata Motors will also source EGR equipped engines from Tata Cummins in the 150 to 200 hp power range. Confident of the GST elevating the efficiency of the logistics industry (by doing away with border checks), Pisharody opined, “The strategy is to equip a certain range of engines with EGR, and a certain range of engines with SCR.” Girish Wagh, Head – Project Planning & Programme Management, M&HCV, Tata Motors, explained that they have acquired good global and local experience from the use of EGR and SCR technology. “For light-duty applications of up to 150 and 160 hp, EGR can do the job, and would entail lower costs,” he mentioned. SCR technology, according to Girish, makes sense for engines that are powerful as it will provide better fuel economy. “Beyond 180 hp, liquid economy of SCR is better than EGR”. With the use of SCR engines, Tata Motors is eyeing the twin advantage of lowest cost of operation and longer engine life. Well aware that the move to BSVI emission norms will make SCR essential, BSIV trucks with SCR techlogy according to Pisharody will command good resale value.

With the engine governed electronically, Tata Motors has had an opportunity to add value. It thus developed vehicle acceleration management system that filters driver input to ensure optimum efficiency and longer aggregate life. Tata Motors has also developed fuel economy switch, the mode of which the driver can select depending upon the duty cycle and usage condition. A host of technologies have been developed by Tata Motors to increase aggregate life. Efforts to improve ride and comfort were undertaken on the basis of the feedback received. The company has developed a modular chassis frame, which aligns with multiple applications. A new 6.5-tonne front axle has been developed to facilitate higher load carrying capability. Revealed Girish that 14000 common-rail trucks are already plying in India for the last seven years, and have provided a good learning opportunity. The company, averred Girish, is deploying 1800-2000 bar pressure common-rail systems and DOC for EGR application. The price differential between BSIII and BSIV Tata CVs is in the region of 10 per cent. For the higher amount paid, the operator is getting much better value mentioned Pisharody. He said, “We are offering better AMC for SCR equipped vehicles.” Keen to ensure that Tata CV operators enjoy lower total cost of ownership, the company will market AdBlue solution as a Tata brand through 3000 outlets and fuel stations.

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Confident of infra revival, and the rising demand for electric vehicles (a tender for 100 electric-buses has been floated at Pune, and for at least six buses in Himachal Pradesh), Tata Motors, expressed Pisharody, is expecting new regulations like AC, advanced crash norms and CAFE to call for attention in the next two years. “Powertrain and vehicle teams at Tata Motors are in place for BSVI regulations that are due to come in force by 2020,” Pisharody signed off.

VECV: Meeting BSIV with EGR and SCR

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Meeting BSIV emission norms with EGR and SCR technology, VE Commercial Vehicles has launched the Pro 5000 Series.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

Eicher Trucks & Buses, a part of VE Commercial Vehicles Limited, has employed Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet the BSIV emission norms. The SCR technology has found its way into the heavier Pro 6000 Series and Pro 8000 Series trucks. The Pro 5000 Series trucks that the company recently launched in Mumbai employs EGR technology in combination with Volvo’s EMS 3.0 electronic governing architecture. Filling the gap, and turning VE Commercial Vehicles into a full range player according to Vinod Aggarwal, Managing Director & CEO, the Pro 5000 Series trucks range from 16-tonne to 49-tonnes. Found in 4×2 tipper and rigid haulage guise; 8×4 haulage guise, and in 4×2 tractor guise among others, the Pro 5000 Series, is powered by a common-rail 5.7-litre six-cylinder (E694) engine that produces between 170 hp and 192 hp depending on the application type.

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Sporting the Pegasus business grille and twin round head lamp design, which marks a departure from the single unit clear-lens assembly design found on other Pro Series trucks, the Pro 5000 Series is claimed to offer unmatched reliability and optimised operational cost. Expressed Aggarwal, “With the introduction of Pro 5000 Series, we have come to offer the widest range of heavy-duty trucks. The Pro 5000 is available at different price points, and is equipped with intelligent features like fuel coaching and cruise control.” Stressing upon competitive acquisition cost of the Pro 5000 Series trucks, Aggarwal mentioned that they recorded good growth last fiscal. It were more than the industry average.

Faster growth

In FY2016-17, VE Commercial Vehicles performed well. Despite being a challenging year, the company recorded a 12.6 per cent growth against the industry growth of four per cent. Tight planning on inventory, said Aggarwal, helped minimise the impact of the Apex Court’s order to stop the sale of BSIII vehicles from April 01, 2017. VE Commercial Vehicles produced only 2500 units after demonetisation. It was left with 1000 BSIII units in the plant and some 400 to 500 units with the dealers when the court order was issued. A decision to export or convert the BSIII vehicles has been taken, averred Aggarwal. Posting 50 per cent growth in HCVs, 33 per cent growth in MCVs, and 17.5 per cent growth in buses, the company exported 8,500 vehicles last fiscal, an increase of 25 per cent. Informing that the company has introduced a 180 hp bus powered by the E694 engine also found on Pro 5000 Series trucks, Aggarwal opined, “The market feedback we have received is that our bus gives higher fuel efficiency.” It has been sometime now that VE Commercial Vehicles has been increasing its STU exposure. It has supplied buses to KSRTC, BMTC, MSRTC, and Gujarat and Telangana transport undertakings according to Aggarwal. If the captive bus body building plant at Pithampur is proving to be advantageous, access to Volvo technology is also proving to be of much help. The VE Commercial Vehicles joint venture between Eicher and Volvo will turn nine on July 2017, and the EMS 3.0 governing system found on the Pro 5000 Series trucks is a reflection of Volvo technology percolating into VE Commercial Vehicles.

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Powering the heavier Pro 6000 and Pro 8000 Series Eicher trucks are 5-litre and 8-litre engines that are produced by VE PowerTrain (VEPT), a joint venture company between Eicher and Volvo with a plant at Pithampur. The plant replicates the production systems that are in place at the Skovde engine plant of Volvo in Sweden. The engines produced at VEPT plant are also supplied to Volvo locations the world over, and in a form that makes them Euro6 compliant. The engines made at VEPT also find their way into Volvo’s other group entities like Volvo Penta.

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Volvo tech for superior performance

If the EMS 3.0 governing system in the Pro 5000 Series trucks is reflective of Volvo technology percolating into VE Commercial Vehicles, the technology is also helping the CV maker deliver products that promise best in class efficiency. Expressed Aggarwal, “Technologies like EMS 3.0 present the company with a big advantage.” Quipped Gill, that they were the first to introduce cruise control in 2014. When VE Commercial Vehicles was established nine years ago, the Eicher product range that was transferred from Eicher Ltd. to the joint venture company were essentially CVs that employed Mitsubishi technology. With the participation of Volvo, these legacy products were upgraded and turned around to offer a superior experience, reliability, efficiency and low cost of operation. The E694 engine interestingly employs a bit of legacy technology, a bit of UD technology and a bit of Volvo technology claimed sources close to the company. If that provides an interesting insight into the ways of working at VE Commercial Vehicles, it is easier to understand the claim made by Gill that technology and emission norms are not new to them. “We looked at trucks running more, and earning more. As technology leaders, we have installed Eurodip paint tech and robotic welding line for the manufacture of cabins at Pithampur,” mentioned Gill, The Pro 5000 Series of trucks are available with a fully built cabin (long-haul trucks like the Pro 5031 come with a sleeper cabin), and a rolling chassis (cowl). Telematics is optional, and also the M-Booster technology, which is claimed to further enhance fuel efficiency according to Gill.

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Increasing efficiency and performance

VE Commercial Vehicles overhauled the parts distribution network to up efficiency and performance even as it continues to launch new products with the view of addressing the exacting needs of the market. Said Gill, “Over 97 per cent of the parts are shipped the same day. Over 98 per cent of our trucks have delivered on the fuel efficiency promise.” “Our vehicles offer 97 per cent uptime,” he stressed upon. Offering features like fuel coaching and cruise control, which are claimed to reduce driver fatigue and inform the driver and the operator about fuel efficiency, the Pro 5000 Series, it is clear, is a step forward by VE Commercial Vehicles to increase medium and heavy commercial vehicle market penetration. With GST expected to roll out in July, and if delayed, by September 2017, the year ahead looks challenging for the CV industry. VE Commercial Vehicles continues to be confident of growing faster than the industry. To achieve greater market reach, the company, said Gill, has invested in 250 GPS connected breakdown repair vans, and a dial-a-part call centre. The company has 151 3S dealers, 13 2S facilities, and 23 SPD and 160 EGP facilities as part of its network to support its clients.

With BSIV CVs expected to call for better dealer support, what with OBD systems on board, VE Commercial Vehicles is looking at addressing the exacting needs of the CV market. In the wake of rapid changes the market is experiencing, customer expectations are changing. As a full range player, for VE Commercial Vehicles, AMCs and re-built engines, and gearboxes, will matter as the need for up-time rises. The Pro 5000 Series trucks reflect not just upon VE Commercial Vehicles’ capabilities, and its journey into the future, they also reflect upon how the Indian CV industry is changing.

Ashok Leyland: Meeting BSIV with iEGR

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Ashok Leyland has developed iEGR for its CVs to comply with BSIV emission regulations.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

Ashok Leyland achieved the feat of complying with BSIII emission regulations when they were enforced in 2010 with an in-line mechanical fuel pump. The fuel governing system of the engine was suitably tweaked. To meet the BSIV emission norms that came into force pan-India from April 01, 2017, the commercial vehicle manufacturer has taken the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) route. It has developed what it would like to term as intelligent Engine Gas Recirculation (iEGR). Rather than adapt a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system, the company chose to tweak the engine combustion management system and EGR of both its engine families – H and N, that range between 130 hp and 400 hp. Announced Vinod K. Dasari, Managing Director and CEO, Ashok Leyland, that the technology was developed over four years, and with the view of eliminating challenges pertaining to SCR system in terms of weight and operational costs. Claiming that his were the only company in the world to comply with BSIII emission norms using a mechanical pump, Dasari mentioned, “Better fuel efficiency (of up to 10 per cent), and reliability from the absence of SCR associated electronics are the two outcomes of the iEGR endeavour.” With the elimination of POC, and additional sensors, the BSIV trucks, the company offers, promise to deliver higher payload because of the weight saved. Stating that they have been offering SCR since 2010, and came to conclude that it is useful in long runs at constant speeds, Dasari averred, “India is a value conscious market.” What makes iEGR interesting is the low acquisition cost of the vehicle as compared to the one that is equipped with a SCR system.

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Impact of SC order

Like other Indian automakers, Ashok Leyland was also affected by the Apex Court’s order to stop selling BSIII vehicles beginning April 01, 2017. Not the one to push inventory on to its dealers, the company, according to Dasari, was left with 10,664 BSIII CVs. “It was panic”. “The successful development of iEGR over the last four years helped us to retain our confidence,” said Dasari. A decision to swap the BSIII engines in BSIII CVs was taken. The engines taken out will be sold in the aftermarket, mentioned Dasari. He claimed that no major financial impact was had, and even though the development was painful. “It is a pain, not fun, but we will get over it,” averred Dasari. Till date, 220 BSIII CVs have been converted to BSIV. The cost of swapping the engine per vehicle is roughly Rs.20,000. The BSIII engine costs Rs.1.4 lakh according to Dasari. In the aftermarket, it is expected to fetch a price of Rs.2.2 lakh. Ashok Leyland vehicles, expressed Dasari, are virtually sold on cash and carry basis.

Risk aversion

An endeavour to invade new markets overseas has proved to be of much use to Ashok Leyland in its effort to averse risk. With the Indian market showing signs of much cyclicity off late, the company, which according to Dasari, is the ninth largest truck maker and fourth largest bus maker in the world, is looking at increasing its export thrust. Said Rajive Saharia, President – Global Sales and Distribution, that the company is keen to export one CV for every two CVs sold in the domestic market. Expressed T Venkataraman, Senior Vice President – Global Bus, that the domestic and export sales ratio as far as buses are concerned is 58:42. Buses are exported, he averred, to the Middle East, SAARC, and African markets. Stressing upon the next quarter looking tough, Venkataraman expressed, “We are supplying Euro 5 vehicles to Ukraine, and are going to Latin America.” Quipped Saharia, that more trucks were sold overseas last year than buses. “ Close to 60 per cent of export sales was through trucks,” announced Saharia. The company is looking forward to export LCVs. When it does, the exercise would help it to inch closer to the target of exporting one CV for every two CVs sold in India. Apart from the Middle East, SAARC and African markets, Ashok Leyland is looking at Russia and Ukraine too. In an effort to arrive at streamlined manufacturing processes and higher efficiency, Ashok Leyland has replicated the Ras Al Khaimah plant at Bangladesh. A 200 to 300 unit market will make an attractive export market (in Bangladesh) according to Saharia.

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If Bangladesh is the largest truck export market for Ashok Leyland, the company has began exporting the Boss to Russia. Said Saharia, “Supply of bus kits to Ukraine is on, and local converters are building bodies on them.” Ashok Leyland’s strategy to averse risk and grow faster than the industry reflects from its decision to exit some of the STU businesses. This, for a leading bus player in the country was not an easy task. Said Dasari, “We exited some STU businesses for low profitability.” In its quest to put the Dollar where the returns are, Ashok Leyland made it a point to concentrate on innovative products. The result of this is the introduction of Captain, Guru, Circuit electric bus, Sunshine school bus with roll-over protection, and the Oyster (safest) school bus in the Gulf. Due to its growth potential, Ashok Leyland paid attention to the coal tipper and construction truck market.

Tapping growth

Selling over 200 Guru ICVs till date, Ashok Leyland witnessed good uptake in 10×2 and 8×2 mining tippers and construction trucks. It sold over 1500 units according to Dasari. The share of Ashok Leyland’s mining tipper and construction truck market, claimed Dasari, grew by 50 per cent over the industry average of 30 per cent. From the time it was launched, the company has sold over 3000 Sunshine school buses. There is a waiting list of 500 vehicles. Despite a single product (Dost), Ashok Leyland’s LCV portfolio, said Dasari, witnessed a growth of 4 per cent. Expressed Nitin Seth, President, LCV and Defence, “We are now looking at running faster. We will launch the passenger version of Dost followed by the bigger version of Dost called the Dost+. An eight-metre long bus on the Mitr platform will be introduced. We will also address the demand for 32-seater school bus and a CNG vehicle. These would be developed in left-hand drive variants as well by keeping in mind the export markets.” Ashok Leyland is keen to tap world’s 80 per cent LCV market that is left-hand drive oriented. To cater to the market for smaller buses, the left-hand drive Mitr will be Ashok Leyland’s ace card.

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Apart from expanding the three LCV platforms the company currently has, the plan, according to Seth, is to develop new LCV platforms by 2019-2020. Well aware of the domestic LCV market turning eight-per cent positive for the first time this year, Seth is looking at hitting a six-lakh volume by 2021. Seth is also hoping the LCV to be a bigger player with the coming of GST. In the export markets, Seth is keen to leverage the fact that Nissan LCVs are marketed in many markets making them a familiar sight. With stress on filling up the gaps in the LCV product portfolio by developing new platforms, Ashok Leyland is looking at quadrupling the sale of LCVs with the Nissan joint venture behind it. Keen to sell one LCV for every two LCVs sold in the Indian market, the company is banking on Dost+, which offers a 1400 kg capacity and rides on 15-inch dia. wheels to further increase its LCV market share in the near future. The Dost+ comes equipped with six leaf spring suspension at the rear, and a four-leaf spring suspension at the front.

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Defence business

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Providing further impetus to its defence strategy, the supply of Stallion vehicle kits grew 7.4 per cent, from 3076 numbers to 3304 numbers. With an ambition to cater to 25 per cent of the defence budget, the company has invested in a new defence vehicle facility at its Ennore plant. Special focus is on catering to defence vehicle market. Close to 95 per cent of the UN peace keeping forces in Africa, informed Dasari, use Ashok Leyland vehicles. The company has received 4×4 mine protected vehicle order from the Indian Army, he revealed.

Investing in the right solutions

Happy with the genset volume growth of six per cent on the back of new product variants, Ashok Leyland has begun selling automotive engines. It has received first customer order from USA. Said Gopal Mahadevan, Chief Financial Officer, Ashok Leyland, “We have been doing away with all those inside processes, which do not add value to a shareholder, vendor, customer or a large investor. We are automating a lot of them, eliminating, and streamlining them. With limited resources, we have been judiciously investing employee cost in product development and marketing. Much focus is being paid to achieve a high rate of success.” Claiming that Ashok Leyland is one of the few companies in the world to possess sub-BSIII capabilities since it caters to such markets, Mahadevan averred, “We have BSIII in-line and common-rail tech, and we have BSIV EGR and SCR.”

Owning German SCR specialist Albonair, which supplies Euro6 SCR systems to Volvo, Ashok Leyland, it is surprising, chose to develop iegr rather than to deploy SCR. Said Dasari that stress was laid on offering what would best suit the Indian market. He gave an example of trucks being washed by the river-side with buckets of water. Expressed Mahadevan, “We are attributing growth to addressing the exacting needs of the market. We are the only manufacturer to increase the price of our products in January 2017 by four per cent. We are the only one to gain maximum market share in March 2017.” Averred Dasari that the company’s market share grew from 24 per cent to 32 per cent. Of the view that they have seen good growth despite hiking product prices, Gopal averred, the solutions we offer are about total cost of ownership. Working on multiple channels, Ashok Leyland, to tap growth, worked on increasing the points of presence. “50 to 1,600 is a disruptive force,” said Mahadevan. Putting money on channel expansion rather than discounts, the company concentrated on efficient breakdown services, he added. This, mentioned Gopal, was necessary because the vehicles sold by them are often misused, and are therefore prone to a breakdown.

Apart from investing in the channel, Ashok Leyland has also invested in new products. The Boss, Captain, Partner, Janbus, Mitr, Guru, and others are a point in case. The company leveraged technology to address the requirements of the customers at any given time. This helped the company to secure an order from USA. Claiming that dealers appreciated company’s policy to not push inventory, Gopal opined that a clear focus is on return on investment at Ashok Leyland when it comes to technology. He explained, “As far as technology is concerned, ours is the only electric bus that climbed the Rohtang pass without a breakdown.” Ashok Leyland is building its capabilities in parallel. It is digitising. Mentioned Rajive Saharia, that Ashok Leyland is banking on digital initiatives for growth.

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Digitisation

Digitisation for Ashok Leyland, apart from common-rail engines, means telematics and a slew of ‘support’ technologies. Mentioned Dasari, “We developed a new way of providing telematics in the form of a single device that works on any Ashok Leyland vehicle, and without any kind of engine or associated architecture. It provides driver information, diagnostics, etc., and is found on BSIV CVs.” Ashok Leyland has developed a scan tool for onboard diagnostics for a fraction of a cost, and sans the need for a laptop. The company has also developed Ley Assist, which according to Dasari is a Bluetooth operated phone based tool to diagnose error without any physical connection. Looking at autonomous vehicles and vehicle platooning technologies as the future, the folks at Ashok Leyland are working in that direction, albeit with limited resources. Expressed Mahadevan, “I have limited Dollars, and I am spending them efficiently.” “Our net price realisation in March was better than in February, and it is something that is hard to believe but true,” he added. Ashok Leyland is paying attention on logistics and supply chain. It is also paying attention to improve the capabilities of tier 2 suppliers. Revealed Mahadevan that stress is on pertinent technology; technology that will sell. “We are thus keen to build an engine portfolio, and turn it into a separate line of business. A lot of our engines are used for marine applications besides gensets,” he signed off.

JCBL charges ahead

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With bus body code regulations in place, JCBL is looking at setting the pace.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Chandigarh-based JCBL was established in 1989, with a mission to design and manufacture high quality buses and load carriers that are stylish, well engineered, and have high standards of reliability. Serving the commercial vehicle industry for the last 25 years, the company has built luxury buses, integral coaches, school buses, special application vans, medical vans, motor homes, armoured vehicles, agricultural implements, tippers and tip-trailers, cargo carriers, refrigerated vans, and heavy haulage tippers. Specialising in the manufacture of bus bodies especially, JCBL, with the AIS (052) revised bus body code in place, is looking at setting the pace. From January 01, 2017, buses, under the bus body code, will need to be classified into specific types as per the guidelines of the Central Motor Vehicle Rule (CMVR). They will need to be built as per the set specifications, and should have the necessary approvals from the respective transport authority. According to Rishi Aggarwal, Managing Director, JCBL Ltd., with AIS 052 bus body code in place, the government is stressing upon improved safety in CVs. “Looking at the rising pollution levels, and the demand for safety and comfort in India, the implementation of stringent norms like the bus body code and BSIV emission norms is the need of the hour,” he adds. Sanjeev Babbar, Chief Operating Officer, JCBL Ltd., opines, “The bus body code will be implemented in two parts. Broad specifications will need to be met in terms of dimensions. In 2018, the second phase of bus body code will be implemented, and will call for specific structural rigidity and structure FEA requirements.” “Specifications will also call for window retention, seat testing, anchorage, headlight and windshield swipe tests,” he adds.

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OEM support

Over the 25 years of its journey, JCBL has come to work closely with almost all the CV OEMs in India. It has thus experienced, first hand, the industry ups and downs. Witness to the current turbulent times with pan-India BSIV emission regulations to be enforced on April 01, 2017, followed the announcement of GST in July, JCBL is confident of achieving strong growth despite the challenges. With the sleeper coach code expected to be announced soon, the company, despite the near future of the CV industry looking more or less unpredictable, continues to be bullish about growth. Undeterred by the low double digit growth registered last year by the bus industry, JCBL is optimistic about a bright future. Says Agarwal, “JCBL has been a strong support partner for Ashok Leyland and SML Isuzu for their pan-India bus business for many years.” “Close to 50 per cent of the business carried out by JCBL comes from these two OEMs,” he adds. Out of its four manufacturing lines, JCBL has developed two lines for Ashok Leyland and SML Isuzu each. The company would build school and staff buses for both these OEMs. The third line, JCBL has specifically developed for Ashok Leyland ambulances. The fourth line caters to private businesses, including those that demand bullet proof and armoured vehicles.

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JCBL body built 170 mini buses for SML Isuzu last year as part of an order received from the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking. JCBL recently completed an order of over 170 life-saving ambulances to Ashok Leyland. These ambulances were supplied by Ashok Leyland to African markets. The company has bagged an order for 1,000 ambulances from an OEM. These would be supplied to defence forces, and are specifically tailored for defence applications. To reduce the time it takes to build a bus body, JCBL has developed a mechanism where a fully fabricated body is ready. This is being practiced for SML Isuzu. A fully fabricated body is married to the bus chassis before the paint process. “Much time is saved,” avers Babbar. “Not only does this cut down the manufacturing time to seven days, down from 20 days taken for an LCV, it also allows us to work on lean inventories. Two more days of body building can be reduced if the body-chassis marriage can take place after the body shell is painted,” he adds.

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Container bodies

JCBL supplies truck container bodies measuring between 22 ft. and 40 ft. to Ashok Leyland ICVs and MCVs that range between 10 and 16-tonnes. JCBL is executing an order of 500 32 ft. containers for Ashok Leyland medium and heavy-duty trucks against an order for 1200 trucks placed by logistics start-up Rivigo. With the truck body code on its way, load body trucks, LCVs especially, are already being built by OEMs. Opines Babbar, “Cargo transportation hereafter will be safer. It will be done in a box. The market would thus graduate to container transportation model of business.” “The progress in truck code has already started with the cabin _ with AC fitted cabins. For load bodies too there will be compliance necessary. OEMs are working with various body manufacturers on this,” states Babbar. Strategically located to cater to the needs of SML Isuzu plant at Ropar, and Ashok Leyland plant at Pantnagar, JCBL is increasingly looked upon as an application builder that can address the requirements of OEMs as far as the North Indian markets are concerned. “We are working with Mahindra for the design and development of their new platforms,” reveals Babbar. He adds, “For Tata Motors, we are doing Light Armoured Troop Carriers (LATC) and special application vehicles related to defence applications like ambulances and bomb disposal squad vans.” JCBL has approvals from Ashok Leyland and SML Isuzu for their LCVs and ICVs. This, says Babbar, will be a significant growth area for JCBL in the coming times. JCBL is also gearing up for medium-duty vehicles in the next quarter. The company recently supplied two election campaigning vans to Samajvadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav apart from a few other chief ministers. These vehicles highlight the company’s abilities to build motor homes, mobile offices, and bullet proof vehicles.

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Adapting to changes

The ability to adapt to market changes has seen JCBL in good stead. JCBL has honed itself to quickly respond to changes as well as anticipate them. Says Babbar, “The peak season for bus sales starts from January and extends all the way to July. It is during this period that JCBL has to raise production to as much as 600 buses per month. The paint shop has to be run in three shifts, and the plant has to operate in extended shifts. The rest of the year witnesses drop in sales. We have to quickly adapt to such market changes, and more.” A labour intensive business according to Babbar, JCBL has to do much planning. It has to anticipate. “Optimisation of capacity and maintenance of business cycle is necessary. One achieves good results in an year if an order for additional 150 to 200 units per month is bagged,” avers Babbar. Adhering to yearly targets is necessary, and beyond that, that is where the growth lies. In case of an overlap, old orders can affect the performance of the company in the next season. To drive growth, clearing old orders expeditiously, if any, and concentrating on current business is a challenge that the team under Babbar is managing well.

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Gearing up for the future

The last seven months have been a busy period for JCBL. The company facilities are being upgraded to comply with the AIS 052 standards. “Whether it is a bus for an OEM, or for the private sector, approvals are necessary. This makes it necessary to have a common base structure and platform. It enables faster approvals as tests are necessary even when you integrate body with the chassis,” explains Babbar. Once the design structure for a particular payload capacity is ready, structural FEA clearance becomes necessary. Clearance is also necessary for components and aggregates like seats, anchorage, window retention, placement of headlights, windshield wipers, etc. “Any change in aesthetics is fine; any change in the structural design needs approval,” mentions Babbar. According to him, once the chassis is up to a specific operation, the body has to be designed as per the requirement. It has to match the placement of the engine (rear or front), floor height, air-conditioner, etc. The nature of application has be taken into consideration as well. “With the bus body code in place, road side bus body building will be redundant. This will lead to an increase in the business of established players,” opines Babbar.

An estimated 40,000 chassis are sold in a year. This is set to change. With the emergence of various codes, stress on fully built vehicles is expected to rise. The same is already happening, says Babbar. Manufacturers are under pressure to achieve good numbers. “Those players that do 35 to 40 bus bodies per month are pumping investments despite demonetisation to comply with the new standards. This is not easy. The good part is, safety will be elevated,” avers Agarwal. JCBL has a capacity to manufacture 5000 buses and 8000 load bodies per year out of its two plants. A mid-size AC bus takes up to 20 days to manufacture. A medium-duty commercial vehicle takes up to 35 days to build. JCBL has invested in a full fledged R&D centre at its Lalru plant. It spends up to four per cent of its annual revenues on research and development. Says Babbar, “It is not that every time we look at numbers only. We use revenues by changing the product mix, or by increasing the unit sales, or by doing both. There has to be an optimum value addition that one is able to generate at the end of the day.”

Comfortable ride

To keep up with the changing needs of the market, JCBL has tied up with Eberspacher Sutrak and Spheros Motherson for the supply of bus ACs. Drawing attention to the rising demand for AC buses, Babbar says, “Aggregates like ACs, roof hatches, air curtains, and electronic gadgets are playing an increasingly important role in the building of bus bodies. Demand for comfort is rising. It is to address this demand that we have tied up with respective suppliers.” Aware of the growing electronic content in CVs, Babbar points at the rising use of LED lighting systems, including LED head lamps. He expresses, “OEMs are already working towards the approval of LED lights in bus body manufacture. Cost is not a hindrance. To get into an arrangement with manufacturers of such specialised components is important.” Emphasising upon his company offering support to their customers, Babbar opines that an arrangement with manufacturers of such specialised components will help us further. Their channel could be leveraged to provide service to our customers, he adds. The idea is to provide a comfortable ride to the customers as well as those who ride JCBL built buses.

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Of the opinion that rear-engine buses are growing in numbers, Babbar avers that by addressing the changing needs of the market, the opportunities to grow for companies like JCBL will only increase. He points at the sleeper bus specification draft, and opines that ‘legal’ sleeper coaches are not far. “As night-travel by buses increases, it is becoming increasingly necessary for OEMs to look at a capable partner that will help them to tap the trend. Quantum jump in technology is necessary for a better tomorrow. There will be challenges, but the need to upgrade will be there. Consider the example of deployment of CNG buses in Delhi,” mentions Babbar. In its effort to support its clients, JCBL has opened offices and service centres at Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai. The company is also closely working with OEMs; it is allowing access to their dealer network. Apart from local teams that provide service support, JCBL has mobile teams at the plant, which help in the delivery of orders as well.

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Alternate propulsion mediums

JCBL is working with OEMs for their CNG buses to cater to the North Indian market. OEMs stand to benefit from offering fully-built buses. With the regulation already in place in markets like Delhi NCR, the objective is to make available an alternate fuel product to achieve that extra market reach. “Almost 80 per cent of the market in Delhi-NCR is chassis driven. A fully built CNG bus is seeing demand where there is a tender, says Babbar. Distribution and availability of CNG is an issue, and in many areas , hybrid and electric buses are being looked upon as an alternative. It will be a value game, opines Babbar. He quips, “Depending upon the area of operation, the one that offers better value for money will be the game changer as far as alternate fuel vehicles are concerned.”

After identifying an opportunity, JCBL tied up with bus components manufacturers in Europe. The intention was to control the balance of supply with costs. “We started with seats, then we got into bus components and then FRP components under MSL brand.” says Babbar. To cater to the captive requirements, the company developed in-house FRP shop for its bus body building needs. Though Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene material (ABS) is also in the usage based on the customer requirements along with PVC coated sheets and pre-coated sheets, the demand for FRP is rising. JCBL, over the last few years, has been maintaining a CAGR of 20 per cent. It has clocked Rs.125 crore revenue in FY2015-16. Close to 50 per cent of this was generated from OEM business. Close to ten per cent came from defence applications. The rest was generated from private business. “We expect to earn Rs.150 crore in the current financial year,” says Babbar. JCBL is experiencing good demand in school and staff buses. With GST coming in, JCBL expects things to simplify. Hoping to source chassis from a chassis manufacturer directly, JCBL, it is clear, is keen to turn into a bus manufacturer. It is aiming to become a bus manufacturer rather than remain a mere bus body builder. Concludes Babbar, “GST will be beneficial in cutting down time taken to transport. It will simplify and cut down taxes. All this will mean considerable cost savings for us.”

DICV: Meeting BSIV with SCR

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Daimler India Commercial Vehicles has developed SCR technology for its CVs to comply with the BSIV emission regulations, sans a price hike.

Story & Photos by:

Ashish Bhatia

The words ‘Profit Technology’ are doing the rounds at Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV). They concern the move up to BSIV commercial vehicles – trucks, which the company unveiled recently at Chennai. Also termed as HDTs, the trucks claim to deliver best-in-class productivity, efficiency and safety. Promising low cost of ownership, what the BSIV BharatBenz HDTs best offer perhaps is the lack of price differential between them and their BSIII breathrens. There’s been no price increase with the move to BSIV. Expected to provide DICV a solid advantage, the BSIV HDTs hint at a technological leap that reflects upon Daimler’s long standing experience in building trucks the world over, and the frugal engineering abilities that India has come to be known for. Flaunting a local content of upto 85 per cent, and supported by over 400 suppliers, the BSIV BharatBenz HDTs point at a distinct ‘value proposition’. Announced Erich Nesselhauf, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, that the company planned much before the BSIV mandate was enforced. Left with 200 BSIII CVs, the company is confident of gaining an edge.

SCR for BSIV compliance

Even as the 31-tonne GVW 3123 8×2 rigid haulage truck took the centre stage at Chennai, Nesselhauf drew attention to having sold more than 1000 BSIV trucks since August 2015; much before the enforcement of pan-India BSIV emission norms on April 01, 2017. Out of the range of HDTs, from 16- to 49-tonne, the 3123 flaunted a 60-litre AdBlue tank as part of its BSIV hardware. Powered by the 235 hp, 6372 cc, six-cylinder engine, the truck came fitted with a SCR exhaust gas after-treatment. The SCR has NOx sensors at the core of it apart from the AdBlue injector nozzle. The system is controlled by an ECU, and the AdBlue solution – made of Urea, is sprayed into the exhaust gas stream, with the NOx sensors sensing the amount of reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions as per the prescribed BSIV emission norms. What comes out of the tail pipe is harmless nitrogen and water. The BSIV trucks that DICV is offering, are claimed to have been tried and tested internationally. They are robust according to Nesselhauf. Drawing attention to the NOx sensors, which are indicative of the higher electronic content the BSIV trucks have come to carry, Nesselhauf explained, “Harnesses, sensors, electronic bits and software were added.”

Promising significant increase in fuel-efficiency, the BSIV BharatBenz trucks were subjected to weight shaving of upto 400 kg to compensate for the weight of the BSIV hardware. Claimed to weigh as much as the BSIII CVs did, the BSIV HDTs, according to Nesselhauf, are set to transform the commercial vehicle segment.

Operational support

Other than the 3123, the BSIV BharatBenz HDTs the company is offering, include the 1617, 2528 and 4023. Their AdBlue reservoirs (as part of the SCR system) will need to be topped-up at long intervals. For this, the company has made requisite arrangements at its dealers. It has also tied up with petrol pumps. Supply of quality Adblue solution is essential. Any compromise in quality may lead to the truck going into a limp mode, affecting operational efficiency as well as performance and emissions. It is this very aspect that links the reliability and performance of BSIV trucks rather closely with that of the dealers. With considerable uptake in electronics, DICV, it is not surprising, has invested in time and resources to bring its dealer network up to speed. Averred Nesselhauf, “We urged our dealers to look at areas of gain.” DICV also undertook upon itself to educate and address the concerns of its customers, both existing as well as new. Said Nesselhauf, “With fuel saving of 10 per cent, a fleet owner stands to save 1000 litres annually on each truck that he operates for 18,00,000 kms. In terms of pure carbon savings per litre of diesel, BSIV engines result in carbon emission reduction of 2.5 kg per litre. Significant savings are also achieved in the case of NOx emissions.” He opined, “It is the inefficient engines, which are a cause of global warming among others. Special focus was laid on optimising engines while moving to BSIV.”

Face-lift

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DICV has utilised the opportunity to treat its trucks to a face-lift as part of the move upto BSIV. The trucks now feature a bold new face. The grille has got bigger and wider; there are LED DRLs built into the head lamp assembly. The bumper is body coloured on higher spec models. DICV has also added a host of new features to turn its trucks into a better value proposition. With ABS standard on BharatBenz trucks since 2012, new features like auxiliaries have found their way into the truck. Aerodynamic improvements have been carried out, and also efforts to reduce friction. In an effort to reduce driver fatigue, the trucks come with ‘cruise-control’. The head lamp design with built in LED DRLs is claimed to offer better visibility. The higher spec models come with a reverse camera. Advocating the deployment of AC in truck cabins, the BharatBenz BSIV trucks come with AC as optional. A brief drive revealed the difference in how the BSIV truck feels over the BSIII version. If an improvement in NVH is noticeable, the 2528 construction truck felt as capable and pro-efficient as its BSIII brethren. A differential lock buzzer in the cab indicated the engagement of active differential lock as the truck drove on an earthern path with hurdles. An interesting feature the BSIV BharatBenz trucks come with is the fuel-theft protection device.

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Digitisation

To go with the higher electronic content on the BSIV BharatBenz trucks, DICV is working to streamline processes. Seeking feedback from owners, operators and drivers to improve products and services, the company has devised a mobile application, ProServ. The ProServ app. enables customers to analyse vehicle data or access maintenance instructions. Sales and customer service representatives across the brand’s network have access to all relevant information as well. This equips them to provide effective consultation and support to customers. Averred Nesselhauf, “We have trained our dealers to deal with BSIV vehicles.” Apart from training, the dealer staff is supported by an online technical information platform called Ascent (After Sales Central). It is a multilingual, animated system to facilitate information access at all DICV service centres. In addition, mobile service workshops, claimed DICV sources, are equipped to reach out in case of an emergency (in four hours flat). Customers can reach out to the company network through a 24×7 helpline number.

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Future ready

With attention to the future, DICV is keen to double its market share in HDTs. Said Nesselhauf, “We are future ready.” He is of the opinion that the implementation of GST in July will eliminate inefficiencies in the transport industry. In the wake of the global headwinds and the slowing down of many markets in the world, India, it is not surprising, is assuming greater importance in the scheme of things at Daimler. A big chunk of CVs made at DICV’s Chennai plant are exported to over 14 markets under the Fuso brand. It is the DICV built HDTs that have led to a change in Fuso’s perception. Fuso is now being increasingly looked at as a heavy-duty truck brand. As a matter of fact, averred Nesselhauf, that they are confident of the new range boosting volumes. A big draw is the price, which has not increased despite the additional BSIV hardware that has been incorporated. In 2016, DICV sold 13,100 trucks as compared to 13,997 numbers in 2015. To further strengthen its position and market reach, the company could soon launch a sub-nine tonne (seven-tonne) truck for the export market. The Indian market launch is expected to happen sometime later.

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Shaving weight to compensate for BSIV hardware

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To enhance the performance and comply with BSIV emission norms, DICV, to fit an exhaust gas after-treatment (SCR), resorted to light weighting. The engineering team went through the entire truck; analysed every nut and bolt to achieve weight reduction of upto 400 kg. The team turned to value analysis. Functions of different parts were analysed. Material analysis was carried out. The exercise, expected to shave up to 300 kgs on lighter trucks, led the team to choose materials that would balance cost and weight. Material and design changes played a crucial role, and also the non-load bearing members. The grade of material was improved to facilitate a reduction in thickness, and in-turn weight. Without sacrificing performance or reliability, weight reduction was achieved through the use of superior grade material. In many application areas, the use of ‘Domex 650’ high strength steel was resorted to. This steel grade is used by many body builders to build containers in North India, and leads to substantial weight saving. The Domex cold forming steel the company is claimed to have used, is thermo-mechanically rolled. Its heating, rolling and cooling processes are carefully controlled.

To increase fuel efficiency, DICV compartmentalised the function of engine and the after-treatment system. SCR was chosen since it reduces the engine effort to meet tighter emission norms. With the chemical process limited to the after-treatment system, the SCR is often looked upon as an advanced active emissions control technology system that injects AdBlue into the exhaust gas stream while the engine is operating. Reducing (Nitrogen Oxide) NOx emission primarily, the SCR helps to achieve better fuel efficiency by putting hardly any burden on the engine. Engine performance is thus not compromised. Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) flows into the SCR system for reduction reactions to take place in an oxidising atmosphere. SCR reduces the level of NOx using ammonia as a reducing agent within a catalyst system. For the chemical reaction Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is used as a reducing agent that reacts with NOx to convert the pollutants into nitrogen, water and less amount of CO2. DEF also enables the engine to use less EGR and higher oxygen levels for better combustion. With the use of SCR, NOx can be reduced by up to 90 per cent. The system, it is clear, seeks a balance between fuel efficiency and emissions.

_ Bhargav TS

Indian CVs: The road ahead

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After a tumultuous last year, the CV industry is looking at a rare new period.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

Supreme Court’s judgement to stop the sale of BSIII emission compliant vehicles on April 01, 2017, led to an unprecedented situation. CV manufacturers and dealers were left with an estimated inventory of 96,700 (and 40,048 three-wheelers) BSIII emission compliant CVs as on March 30, 2017, amounting to a sum of Rs.2500 crore approximately. With the Supreme Court order clearly stating that on and from April 01, 2017, such vehicles that are not BSIV compliant shall not be sold in India by any manufacturer or dealer, led CV industry stakeholders to look at quick ways of off-loading as many BSIII emission compliant CVs as they could in a short span of three-to-four days; from the time the Supreme Court gave the order and from the time BSIV emission norms came into force on April 01, 2017. The scope of the Supreme Court judgement can be had from the fact that it ordered all the vehicle-registration authorities under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, to not register such vehicles on and from April 01, 2017, that do not meet BSIV emission standards, except on proof that such a vehicle has already been sold on or before March 31, 2017. It was no secret that BSIV emission norms will come into force from April 01, 2017. The CV industry knew it. What the CV industry did not know, claimed an industry source, was if they should discontinue manufacturing BSIII vehicles such that there will not lie a single unit with them or their dealers on April 01, 2017. He drew attention to the fact that manufacturers were entitled to manufacture BSIII emission compliant vehicles till March 31, 2017. He also drew attention to the Centre’s response on pleas filed by Bajaj Auto and Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) in the Supreme Court, that the sale and registration of BSIII vehicles can continue after March 31, 2017, and the cut-off applies to manufacturing only. During the March 24, 2017, hearing, claimed an industry source, the court had considered allowing registration of BSIII vehicles by imposing a compensatory cess. The Centre’s response is said to have been based on two earlier instances of upgrading to BSII and BSIII emission norms respectively. Then, the sale of existing stock was allowed.

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Bone of contention

Mentioning in its order that the health of the people of India is of greater importance than the losses the auto industry would suffer (sic), the Supreme Court was not impressed by the argument that manufacturers be allowed to sale BSIII vehicles even after the BSIV regulation was implemented.

Claimed an industry source that the ministry of transport issued a notification on August 19, 2015, to switch to BSIV emission compliant vehicles on April 01, 2017. It did not however clarify whether production of BSIII vehicles would have to be stopped, or also their sale. Interestingly, the Supreme Court did not fail to observe the fact that an expenditure of Rs.30,000 crore was incurred by refineries to produce BSIV grade of fuel. The Court in its order stated that manufacturers failed to take pro-active steps despite being aware of the timelines. Much confusion prevailed until the Supreme Court issued an order on March 28, 2017, to stop the sale of BSIII vehicles on March 31, 2017.

Dealing with the impact

Left with no choice, CV industry stakeholders came up with the prospect of fire-sale. With the Court order coming out three-to-four days before April 01, 2017, the auto industry, and not just the CV industry saw fire-sale as a promising prospect, which is not surprising. Many two wheeler manufacturers too resorted to fire-sale of their BSIII vehicles as well.

Expressed Vinod K. Dasari, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Ashok Leyland, and President, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), that they are looking at exporting the leftover (BSIII vehicles) inventory to emerging markets, currently complying with BSIII norms. Claimed an industry source that those (vehicles) that are left behind will be dismantled. Some of the aggregates could be rescued. Alternatively, the vehicles could be upgraded to BSIV if possible. A statement issued by Mahindra & Mahindra announced that the Group is ramping up BSIV vehicle production. The OEM, the statement read, is also exploring options within the framework to minimise the impact. The brisk discount sales and incentives CV makers offered to off-load BSIII vehicles in the three-to-four days costed them in the region of Rs.2500 crore, claimed an industry source. According to a report by research firm Crisil, companies sold a little over half of their BSIII inventory by March 31, and have lost Rs 1,200 crore on discounts and incentives. They are expected to lose another Rs.1,300 crore to dispose off the unsold inventory.

Mentioned a Tata Motors source that the ban would have a material impact on all the CV industry stakeholders. They are, he mentioned, assessing unsold inventory that lies with the company and the dealerships. According to the Tata Motors spokesperson, the decision to ban the sale of BSIII vehicles was unprecedented and unexpected. Erich Nesselhauf, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV), expressed that they planned a year in advance to meet the BSIV deadline. The company, he added, has sold its 1000th BSIV truck in the state of Kerala recently. Kerala migrated to BSIV emission norms in November 2016, much before the pan-India BSIV regulation came into force last month. Despite prior planning, DICV has come to have an unsold inventory of 200 BSIII CVs, said Nesselhauf on the sidelines of the launch of BSIV BharatBenz HDTs at Chennai. DICV had its CVs shed 400 kgs to accommodate BSIV apparatus. The company has adapted SCR technology to meet BSIV emission norms unlike Ashok Leyland, which has adapted intelligent EGR technology to meet BSIV emission norms. DICV is supplying AdBlue solution to its dealers (and to petrol pumps) to ensure quality and reliability. The price of BharatBenz BSIV CVs is the same as the price of the

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BSIII CVs.

Dealer impact

The impact on CV dealerships was considerable. Dealers came under immense pressure to off-load BSIII CVs. If slow moving inventory made for a higher impact, dealers panicked at least in the beginning. Averred Piyush Jain of A V Motors, a SML Isuzu dealer, that the ruling is hard hitting, and has rendered dealers helpless. Jain compared the development with that of demonetisation. Demonetisation too hit us hard in the third quarter of FY2016-17, he said. “A strong (and clear) judgment should have been passed about discontinuing the manufacture of BSIII vehicles in 2016 itself,” opined Jain. “Had such a ruling been passed in 2016, it would have not resulted in the quantum of losses that we are staring at today,” he added.

Jain also touched upon the fear of electronics among CV buyers and operators. “The customer here is far from being accustomed with the high level of sophistication (electronic engine) BSIV emission regulation will call for,” said Piyush. He informed that he had an inventory of 20 BSIII vehicles. Apprehensive of the volumes in the first quarter of FY2017-18, Tej Ghatge of Chetan Motors, a Tata SCV dealer from Kolhapur said that he held an inventory of 55 vehicles as on March 31, 2017. Of these, he managed to fire-sale 20 vehicles. Huge discounts were offered. Discounts of Rs.50,000 on a Tata Ace was offered. Vimal Gujral of Cargo Motors, a Gandhidham-based Tata CV dealer, expressed that the development was shocking. He held an inventory of 500 vehicles as on March 31, 2017. If his regional centres would be accounted for, the count would go up to 700 vehicles. Not a happy prospect for certain, opined Gujral. With unsold inventory accounting mainly for Small Commercial Vehicles (SCVs) and pick-up trucks, Gujral revealed that they have hiked the discounts considerably.

Stating that the higher price differential between BSIII and BSIV emission compliant CVs is yet to result in a clear picture as far as the demand in CV industry goes, Gurjral said, “We are yet to witness demand for BSIV CVs.” Mentioned a prominent CV dealer, that they have been advised by their principal to register (BSIII) vehicles in their name. “There is a limit to the number of vehicles we can register in our name,” he said. Suresh Jain of Veerprabhu Marketing, a CV dealer from Jodhpur, expressed that inventory levels are usually higher at the end of the financial year. This is done to realise depreciation benefits by billing the inventory over the financial year end. With customers expecting unrealistic discounts, and at times below the cost of goods sold, it is not a happy prospect since the dealer has already been billed for local transportation, local taxation and sales tax among other charges, averred Jain. Jain’s dealership held an inventory of 200 vehicles as on March 31, 2017.

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As a desperate measure CV dealers are known to give an extended credit of up to 30 days to some of their large fleet operator clients to off-load BSIII inventory. Said a dealer on the condition of anonymity, that the impact of Supreme Court’s order and the slow demand for BSIV CVs will reflect in the sales statistics for the first quarter of FY2017-18. The CV industry, he averred, will perform worst than when it was impacted by demonetisation.

Expert analysis

With the Crisil report pegging the CV industry loss at Rs.2,500 crore, the total impact of the Supreme Court order is claimed to be 2.5 per cent of the annual revenues of listed CV manufacturers. According to the Crisil report, an expense of another Rs.1,300 crore will be incurred to dispose off unsold inventory of BSIII CVs. The effect of this development, claimed an industry source, will be spread across FY2017-18. The discounts offered during the fire-sale of BSIII vehicles is also expected to negatively impact EBITDA margins by 100 bps (one per cent) in FY2017-18. Expressed Rakesh Batra, Partner and automotive sector leader at Ernst and Young Services, that it is necessary to consider that the CV industry works globally on 20 to 30 days of inventory. This is within the distribution channel, and should have been accounted for as part of the plan to transition from BSIII to BSIV emission norms. An ICRA report pegged unsold inventory of BSIII CVs to between Rs.4600 and Rs.5800 crore approximately. Despite being caught off-guard by the SC ruling, SIAM’s latest report states the overall commercial vehicle segment to have registered a 4.16 per cent growth in FY2016-17. Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicles (M&HCVs) grew by 0.04 per cent over the same period last year. Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) witnessed a 7.41 per cent growth while CV exports registered a 4.99 per cent growth.

Looking for clarity

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The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking a meeting, claimed an industry source. The letter, he mentioned, speaks about the auto industry wanting to thrive in an environment where there is policy clarity and certainty. Especially, due to the long gestation period involved. Claimed a source on the condition of anonymity that the recent Supreme Court ruling contradicts the 2015 notification by the transport ministry. He mentioned that this has been mentioned by SIAM in the letter it wrote to the Prime Minister. The  fact is, the die has been cast. BSIII CVs are history. The road ahead lies on the frame work of tightening regulations starting with BSIV. With the crash regulations said to come into force from next fiscal, the road ahead for the Indian CV industry is going to be as challenging as it has been for sometime now. With GST round the corner, the CV industry, it is looking like, is already anticipating big changes. In 2020, the bridge to BSVI emission norms will have to be crossed too.

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.