Volvo dump trucks for higher productivity, more gains

Article by: ASHISH BHATIA
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Two new 10×4 dump trucks from Volvo on the FMX platform reflect technology and innovation for higher productivity and more gains.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

 

Volvo Trucks entered the Indian market in 1996. It zeroed in on a site on the outskirts of Bangalore to build modern trucks. Two decades later almost, it has launched two dump trucks that threaten to blur the boundary between a 100-tonne dump truck and a 31-tonne premium heavy duty tipper. Addressing the demand for higher productivity and more gains, these dump trucks are based on the tried and tested FMX premium heavy duty tipper platform. According to a Volvo Trucks India official, they were developed to address a need for an efficient machine that was not as big or as demanding as a dump truck, nor was it as small or less accommodating as a heavy duty tipper. Born out of the Volvo’s ability and experience, on a rigid tipper chassis with five axles and a payload capacity of 60-tonne, the dump trucks are called FMX 520 and FMX 480 respectively.

 

Big and burly

The FMX 520 and FMX 480 are powered by a 520 hp, 13-litre six-cylinder Volvo D13 engine mated to a 14-speed fully synchronised splitter-range manual transmission with an oil cooler. This engine also powers the Volvo FH 520 puller, and puts out a torque of 2400 Nm @ 1050-1400 rpm. The 10×4 configuration means that out of the five axles, two axles are driven. The first two and the fifth axle are steerable on the FMX 520. On the FMX 480, the first three axles are steerable. Measuring 10,105 mm in length and 4,130 mm in height, the two heavy duty front steerable axles (three on FMX 480) help with not just high ground clearance but a high load carrying capability with their I-beam design. The steerable fifth axle on the FMX 520 is also referred to as a pusher axle with electronically programmable pneumatic suspension which ensures right load distribution across the vehicle under the given gross weight. Additional protective cover on the air suspension bellows make them more reliable to use in the mining conditions. A straight I-beam design, the pusher axle is steered through electronic actuation and hydraulic assistance. The rear tandem drive axle ensures optimum traction and pulling ability. The reduction at the hubs takes place via four planetary gears, and results in an uniform load distribution.

 

Made for a hard life in mines

The chassis of FMX 520 and FMX 480 is made up of a robust C-channel section side members made of high strength steel. There’s full length inner reinforcement, the thickness of which is 5 mm. The front section of the chassis is bent outwards to accommodate the cab and engine, and has the same thickness of 8 mm in the web and the flanges. The front closing member with a central heavy duty towing device can sustain a lateral pull or push of up to 32-tonnes. The cab, engine, transmission and chassis cross member provide extra ruggedness to the chassis for tough off-road applications.

The superstructure on the 10×4 FMX 520 measures 26.1 cu. m., and that of the 10×4 FMX 480 measures 24 cu. m. Claimed to be capable of enhancing the productivity in line with the increasing demands of coal production, the FMX 520 offers 33 per cent higher capacity compared to the 8×4 solutions available in the market. The FMX 480 offers 28 per cent higher capacity. Developed with an eye on the government’s plans to double the coal production to one-billion tonnes by 2020, unique about both the dump trucks is the cab mounting and the engine mounting. The four-point engine mounting is optimised to reduce vibrations and improve road handling. Neither of the dump trucks are expected to ply on the road; they do not conform to the 49-tonne ceiling on trucks set by the Indian government, limiting their use in mines only. The four-point cab mounting includes the use of coil springs and shock absorbers.

Also unique about the suspension is the design of the front axle. The leaves lie flush with the each other only in the middle and at the ends. These ensure that the friction between leaves is less, providing a smooth and comfortable ride. The springs leaves are made from special steel. Their dimensions ensure that the load is evenly distributed over each cross section of the leaf. Riding on 12-24 cross ply mining tyres, the FMX dump trucks, according to Pierre Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo Group Trucks India, are a result of significant investments in bringing in new products keeping in mind the growth in coal mining. Vinod Aggarwal, CEO, VE Commercial Vehicles, said, “We believe in creating and delivering value to our customers with our comprehensive offering to help them improve upon their productivity and profitability. The comprehensive offering also includes Volvo’s aftermarket on-site support with more than 130 touch points. Aggarwal drew attention to Volvo Financial Services, which aims to meet the customer financing requirements.

 

While the tipping gear on the FMX 520 is from Mithra Kyokuto, the one found on the FMX 480 is from Hyva. It is a 5-stage hydraulic tipping cylinder provided with knock off valve limiting the tipping angle to 45 degrees. This is claimed to create less hydraulic pressure in the system. Aimed at overburden application, the two FMX dump trucks are equipped with a Volvo patented Volvo Engine Compression brakes (VEB+) for safer driving. Safer driving is also taken care of with a cabin that is spacious and comfortable for putting in long working hours. The availability to Volvo’s unique Dynafleet telematics system adds to safety. It also adds to efficiency and security by enabling the driver to improve upon his fuel saving skills and for the fleet company to manage the fleet in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Pro 8000 marks Eicher’s quantum leap

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

Despite being an Eicher, the Pro 8000 feels quite unlike one. There-in lies the quantum leap.

It does not take long to notice. There’s something different about this truck. The height, the appearance, and the visual presence the truck seeks is quite unlike an Eicher truck ever. It flaunts an Eicher logo allright. Walk closer and the ‘L’-shaped head lamps draw attention. They are a far cry from the round or square twin beam head lamps an Eicher truck or a bus is known to possess. So, is this some kind of an illusion? It takes a while before an answer is found. To begin with, the tall cabin of the truck beckons. It marks a distinct departure from the lower height cabins of Eicher trucks. The wing-shaped grille looks like the only connection. The other bits seem to refuse to add up to the image. Ladies and gentlemen, the Eicher Pro 8000 that you see here is the company’s new flagship. Marking a high point in the journey that began with the Volvo Group and Eicher Ltd inking a joint venture in 2008, the Pro 8000 looks beyond Eicher’s dominance in the 9- to 16-tonne category and Volvo’s presence in the premium category. A result of Volvo bringing technology to the table and Eicher bringing frugal engineering, the Pro 8000 is the result of a pro philosophy according to Siddharth Kirtane, Head – Marketing, Volvo Eicher (VE) Commercial Vehicles. “It is about professional processes and abilities, higher payload and efficiency, superior uptime, and better profitability,” mentions Siddharth.

Mid-premium approach

Walking closer to the two Pro 8000 tippers – one with a rock body and the other with a box body, reveals that these are solidly built machines. Called the Pro 8031T, they are equipped with a Hyva superstructure. Part of the Pro 8000 series, which includes a 25-tonne 6×4 tipper, 49-tonne 6×4 and 6×2 tractors, and a 250 hp 31-tonne 8×2 rigid truck, the Pro 8031T is a heavy duty tipper that aims at an emerging mid-premium segment. This segment calls for higher power and torque combination apart a higher degree of refinement and sophistication. Reflecting upon the fact, that it has been made to last long, the ‘L’-shaped lamps ironically remind those of the UD Quester. Found in Thailand and a few other South Asian markets prominently, the Quester is a new age truck to come from UD, which is also a Volvo Group brand. UD was born out of the acquisition of Nissan Diesel by Volvo.

Placed at either corner of a deep bumper finished in a shade of black, the ‘L’-shaped lamps lend a distinctive appearance to the truck. The upper portion of the cabin is painted in a bright shade of yellow or red, leading to a nice contrast. Measuring 3770mm in height, the plastic bits indicate a mid-premium positioning. The Pro 8031T looks a notch above what has been coming out of Pithampur. It gets fairly close to what has been coming out of Hoskote, indicating a quantum leap for Eicher. Modern and distinctly upmarket in its appearance, worth noting is the stubby turn indicator on the door. It goes well with the look. Quite unlike what has come out of Eicher till date, the Pro 8000 is a sea change. Siddharth mentions, “This product was conceived on the basis of low operating cost, more revenues and higher profitability.

Volvo’s Asia truck platform

Having a 50 per cent local content as of now, the Pro 800 is the first Eicher truck to be made at Hoskote. It is made using Volvo’s manufacturing technology and processes. Based on Volvo’s Asia truck platform, which is also referred to as the Volvo Group value truck platform, the cabin of Pro 8000 is sourced from Thailand. The rear axles are from Fuwa, and include hub reduction for tipper application. The 9-speed manual transmission (ST1199) is from Fast Gear, China. With a transmission oil cooler as an option, the Pro 8000 according to company sources sports the biggest chassis dimensions. Built to European standards, the cab complies with ECR929 strength test. Power comes from a 280 hp, 8-litre six-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine (with four-valves per cyl.) sourced from Volvo Eicher Powertrain Limited. Structured over a wheelbase of 4600mm (longer wheelbase versions are available on demand), the C-section long member aligns with Volvo’s specs, and is 300 mm tall. For tippers a reinforced member runs throughout the length of the chassis. Some of the advanced features the Pro 8000 comes with, include cruise control, advanced telematics (with driver times and fuel coaching). An audio system and an air-conditioning are standard.

Climb aboard, and a modern interior draws attention. The driver’s seat is suspended and 6-way adjustable. The cab is 4-point suspended. The sprawling dash looks modern, and has a two-tone finish. The centre console stands out with its different texture and colour. It contains an audio system, HVAC controls and a bank of switches. While a sense of space prevails, the cabin, with moulded roof, comfortable seats, carpeted floor and a sleeper bunk (even on a day cabin for the driver to rest during breaks), is modern. Look up and at the top center there is a storage cubicle. Below, the steering is adjustable and aids to arrive at a commanding driving position quickly. Ergonomics has been paid good attention. Also, comfort. Not much noise filters into the cabin; not the vibes either. The cab is well insulated. It is also carpeted. The clutch action is light and the gear shifter located within easy reach. Shift quality may not be car-like short and precise, it is not as stubborn or energy sapping either. A gate between 4th and 5th gear calls for the lever to be rocked to the extreme right when moving into a higher set of the gears, and to the left when changing to a lower set of gears.

Power prevails

A sense of power prevails. Good ability to pull is evident in each cog. A distinct character reflects from the way this truck drives. It feels robust and capable. The cruise control, like that of a car, has the tipper sticking to the set speed. Apply the brake, and it disengages. For an 8×4 rock body tipper that can achieve a maximum speed of 82 kmph, and has a payload capacity of 31-tonne, the braking action is highly progressive; overwhelming almost. A mere touch of the pedal is enough to shed speed in a hurry. Pick up speed out of a turn, and the truck accelerates smartly. The turbo whistle, evident. Keep the needle in the green band, and the tipper will provide good fuel efficiency. Engage the exhaust brake going downhill, and a retarding action will accompany a ‘whoosh’ sound. Clearly this one’s not about speed, but about carrying capacity, and the ease of doing it. Apart from a sense of solidity, this truck also presents a spacious and comfortable driving environment. The plying conditions may not be anywhere close to what a mine has to offer, the Pro 8031 nevertheless feels tough and modern. It feels like a tipper that will support a profitable business equation. Once again, the prospect of a quantum leap is brought to the fore. The Pro 8031T is so much unlike an Eicher truck I have known until now!

States Siddharth, that a tipper like this, which is used to carry overburden, will have a life span of five years. During these five years, fuel management assumes much importance. “The fuel coaching feature of the advanced telematics, which is integrated with the truck’s ECU”, explains Siddharth, “records the amount of time a driver is spending in the sweet spot (the green zone on the tacho). Apart from offering real-time driver guidance, unique is the uptime services the advanced telematics offers. It helps to achieve higher uptime.”

Mid-premium pricing

Priced in a region of Rs.45 lakh, the Pro 8031T does not take time to convey the fact that it packages Volvo’s engineering prowess and Eicher’s frugal engineering capabilities. It comes across as a truck that will take the Eicher brand to the next level. Work, it is clear, is cut out for the Pro 8031T and the men associated with it. The premium tipper market has been growing for some time. It has reached close to 50 per cent of what it was during the peak period. It is about time the other tipper categories start moving. Amidst the growing crowd of tippers, the Pro 8000 marks a quantum leap. From the way it looks, and from the way it is packaged and equipped. The way the Pro 8031T feels like to drive and operate.

Mahindra Truxo 37 for unorthodox trucking

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

The engineering prowess of Mahindra Truxo 37 lies in its ability to support unorthodox trucking.

Let’s face it: Unorthodox means unconventional. Unorthodox also means unusual. It does not long to recognise the unusual, nay unorthodox, looks of the Mahindra Truxo. It is them that makes the Truxo 37 stand out of the crowd. Even as the truck fades out of sight it takes an amount of time to lose the memory of how the Truxo really looks. The large imposing grille finished in a shade of matt black is the culprit perhaps. It makes an impression. The extension of matt black look to the bumper makes for a ‘mono’ grille look, which is in no way less distinctive. It grabs attention, period. It also presents imposing looks to the truck.

The twin beam head lamps set into the bumper hint at a modern construction. Also, does the big, glued windshield with a black surround. The fact that the windshield is glued also speaks about a modern manufacturing process involved in the making of this truck. If the lack of sharp edges stop the Truxo’s cabin from looking absolutely boxy, a closer evaluation will reveal that this truck flaunts good fit, finish standards. According to Shyam Ozarkar, General Manager – M&HCV, Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturers, “Quality gates built at every stage of the manufacturing process ensure a quality build and superior fit, finish.” It is over an ‘U’-shaped assembly line at Chakan, Pune, that the Truxo 37 is manufactured. To watch a Truxo 37 take shape is quite interesting to say the least.

Taking shape

Work begins with the bolting of the long and short cross members. To facilitate easier assembly the chassis is kept inverted. The necessary components and aggregates are fed across the line at regular intervals. The supply is well regulated as it is not just the Truxo that is made here. It does not take long to notice that the work force is young and energetic. They are the outcome of an extensive training imparted by an in-house ‘school’ called Gurukul. Recruits are subjected to work benches that simulate the working conditions on the line at various stages. They are also trained to work on a moving line to be able to adhere to the takt time. “Extensive class room and dexterity training is imparted,” explains Ozarkar. As the chassis rolls down the line, various brackets are bolted to it; suspension and other aggregates are attached. With the help of a band hoist, the chassis is turned around at one point in the process. This facilitates the fitting of the drivetrain, which is sourced from an assembly operation a few feet away from the final assembly shop. Apart from trucks, the youngest and biggest Mahindra plant (3.5 times of the size of the Kandivali and Nashik plant combined), and spread over 2.8 million sq. m., manufactures a variety of products including the Maxximo mini-truck. The new TUV300 compact SUV is also made here, though in a different shop. The diverse range of products made here highlight a sharing of common utilities like the press shop, body shop and the paint shop.

Progressing to the fitting of electricals and electronics (engine harness, etc.), braking system and various other bits including the wheels (the spare wheel is also attached at this stage), it is after the U-turn that the fully-built cabin is lowered on to the chassis and carefully attached. Since the cabin is fully suspended, it calls for careful anchoring of the four-way damper elements. A sub-assembly line in the vicinity assembles cabins as they are received from the paint shop. Of the two paint shops, the one that caters to the truck cabin is bigger according to Ozarkar. It can execute 12 jobs per hour. The cabin, starting its journey ath the press shop and the body shop, has its skin pannels handled carefully to ensure optimum fit, finish standards. A ‘Ro-dip’ CED process protects against corrosion over longer periods. Engineered to execute nine jobs per hour, the final assembly has fluid filling stations and testing stations at the end. The last two stations conduct wheel alignment and shower test.

Well-built

A walk around the Truxo 37 reveals that it is well built. Hinting at a modern composition, this truck’s market positioning is
mid-premium. Aiming at those who are looking for higher payload solutions, on either side of the cabin, and closer to the rear are cubicles. They can store the jack and other tools used to change the wheel. They can also store the driver’s belongings as well. A latch inside, and near the door provides access. Climb inside, and a modern interior reveals itself.

The large sweeping dashboard looks modern. The surface texture may not be as plush, it is not deviating from a modern approach either. Modern and inspiring the dash looks. An eye sore are the blanks where the HVAC system should have been. The glovebox can hold a fair deal of stuff. For more, there are cubicles at the top. Look up, and apart from the storage rack, two ceiling fans come into view. According to GVS Prasad, DGM – Product Planning, Truck & Bus Division, a survey carried out, indicated that the drivers liked a fan over a blower assembly. HVAC with air-con is available as an option. The moulded roof and a sleeper bunk behind the seats contribute towards the modern construction of the truck. They also hint at the attention paid to comfort and ergonomics. The driver’s seat is suspended, and the steering is adjustable. The instrument console is made up of two large dials, two smaller dials (one of which indicates the air pressure), a bank of warning lamps and a LCD readout.

On the move

Crank the 170 hp, 7.2-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and not much vibration or noise filters into the cabin. Prasad points out, “The cabin floor has been effectively insulated.” Shift into first, turn off the parking brake, and move out of the bay. The shift quality of the 6-speed manual gearbox may not be in the same league as that of a car, it is way ahead of the transmissions found on some of the older generation trucks. Clutch action is light and the driving position is commanding. Moving out of the narrow bay does not pose any difficulty. The power assisted steering helps manoeuvre. States Prasad, “When the Truxo 37 was engineered over the Truxo 31, we concentrated upon the ability to carry more load. The bay at the Reliance plant at Hazira for example, is ‘tight’, and drivers find the Truxo easy to manoeuvre over some of the other 37-tonne trucks”. The front two steerable axles help as well. What is also proving to be of advantage is the powerful nature of this truck. In a category where the engines range between 5 and 6-litres, this is perhaps the only truck that offers a 7.2-litre engine.” It does not take long to notice that the Truxo 37 is a powerful truck; has a better pulling ability. The truck accelerates well even in higher gears. If the mirrors provide a good view of the surrounding, the large windshield offers a good view of what is at the front.

Even when accelerating there’s no vibration or noise that intrudes; clearly not at a level where conversing with Prasad who is accompanying me is an issue. Not only are we able to converse easily, a sense of ease prevails. Enough to provide an idea of how drivers will appreciate the level of comfort and convenience on offer. If these indicate the trappings of a modern truck, the equation of power and performance add to it. What adds as well, is the equation of fuel efficiency. Claims Prasad, “In the tests that we carried out, it was found that the Truxo 37 is 8 to 10 per cent fuel efficient than the competitors,” Ozarkar reasons, “Fuel efficiency ranks at the top of the requirement list of the buyers in this segment, followed by issues like tyre wear and higher uptime.” The rear tag axle presents the opportunity to achieve better fuel efficiency when carrying less load. A hardy machine the Truxo 37 is. There is no doubt that it is engineered to satisfy the many growing needs of the operator. The Navistar joint venture may be history, the trappings of a world-class truck are not lost. While it is surprising to note that some of the manufacturing culture from the (defunct) Renault joint venture has also found its way into the manufacturing culture at Chakan, and is ensuring significant quality and process improvements, the Truxo 37, there is no doubt, is well-built and capable. As the trucking culture decouples itself from the tendency to overload, and move up to accommodate modern trucks with world-class technology, the Truxo 37’s ability to carry more, legally, frugally and quickly, is put into perspective by Atin Moulick, Senior Manager – Marketing, Truck & Bus Division. He remarks that over 350 Truxo 37s have been sold till date.

Tata Ace grows up; turns Mega

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

Tata Ace has grown up in more ways than one. It’s called the Ace Mega.

Tata Ace has grown up. It is now called the Ace Mega. Inching closer to the SuperAce, Ace Mega aims at those who want to carry more, avail better fuel efficiency, and have the ability to turnaround quickly. Coming across as a bit of a cultural shock, after watching the Ace grow from strength to strength for over a decade, the Ace Mega is set to add a new dimension to the Ace family. Both, in terms of performance, and payload carrying capacity. Also part of the equation are qualities like an upmarket stance and a robust build.

Mega appeal

Painted in an attractive shade of metallic Azure blue, the Ace Mega retains the appeal of the Ace. It looks as cute or toy-like. Just that it feels like it has grown up in all directions almost. In a way, it has. Walk closer, and the cabin looks bigger than that of the Ace. It actually is not. Walk to the rear, and the cargo tray looks longer and wider than that of the Ace where upon it is not longer or wider. A sense prevails that the Ace has grown up, helping to understand the fact that the Ace Mega can carry 1-tonne over Ace’s 800kgs. Connection with the Ace is kept alive by the leaf spring suspension all-round. Like the SuperAce however, the Ace Mega is equipped with 165 R14 radial tyres. If this explains the 175 mm ground clearance and a gradeability of 30 per cent, the leaf spring suspension presents the Ace Mega with an ability to handle the rough with the smooth. If the SuperAce is about speed and comfort, the Ace Mega is about the ability to carry more than the Ace; at higher speeds, economically and over less than ideal surfaces. A closer look at the chassis provides a fair idea of the efforts that went into making the Ace Mega robust. Company sources claim that the chassis has been reinforced to account for the higher payload carrying capacity. The cabin has been reinforced as well.

Unlike the Ace where one can easily slid into the driver’s seat, in the Ace Mega one may need to climb into the seat almost. If this provides a reason to think that the Ace has grown up, the cabin feels roomier. The hump between the seats may rob the cabin of some space, it also indicates that below it is the engine. Over the Ace’s 16 hp, 800cc two-cylinder in-direct injection diesel engine, the Mega Ace gets a 40 hp, 800cc two-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine. Longitudinally arranged, the lightweight aluminum engine is BS III (BS IV will arrive in January 2016) emissions compliant. Power is routed to the rear wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission. One more cog (over the Ace’s 4-speed gearbox), apart from extracting better fuel efficiency, also aids to achieve higher operating speeds. The Ace Mega is capable of a top speed of 90 kmph over the 60 kmph top speed an Ace can achieve. Fuel efficiency is claimed to be in the region of 18.5 kmpl. Under real-world operating conditions, it is expected to be in the region of 15-16 kmpl. To account for a higher top speed and load carrying capability, the brake system is equipped with discs at the front and (254 mm dia.) drums at the rear. The braking system is servoed, and includes a 7-inch vacuum booster. To address the growing needs of a typical driver-operator in the category, the Ace Mega gets an ergonomically located driver console, lockable glovebox, provision for a music system, mobile charging port and a digital clock.

Comfortable and easy to drive

The large front windshield makes it easy to even spot a rat running across! Apart from the large front windshield, credit for a commanding driving position should also go to the ergonomics. Ergonomically well engineered, the engine cover between the seats does tend to rob the cabin of some space, it does not quite succeed in presenting a sense that this cabin is bigger than that of the Ace and roomier. Seating position is comfortable, and accompanied by good amount of legroom, shoulder room and head room. If the fabric seats help with an upmarket look, the dash is simple and a bit utilitarian. The instrument cluster is at the centre, and below it, is the digital clock, charging port and head lamp leveller switch located. In what looks like a mini centre console, there’s a provision for the music system too.

Waking up to an amount of noise, the engine tends to be a bit noisy. Its typical of an aluminium unit. While the noise is not as intrusive on the move, the need for more sound insulation is felt nevertheless time and again. A thick foam pad on the floor works towards isolating vibrations. They are ably kept out. Not so much about noise however. Taking off away smartly in the first gear, it does not take long to understand that the first and second gear is about the ability to pull. They are taller than the rest. Quite responsive in comparison to the Ace, despite the absence of a tacho, it is aparent that this vehicle generates good amount of torque (94 Nm @ 2000-2500 rpm) at lower revs. The engine is not exactly rev happy, it is instead quite responsive. Push the ‘drive-by-wire’ pedal, and the Ace Mega gathers speed fairly quickly than the Ace is capable of. On a rough stretch, a sense of robustness is had.Manoeuvring is easy but the need for a power steering is felt. The ride, not as plush as that of the SuperAce, has a firm edge to it. A sense of strength and robust built emenates through. For certain, the Ace Mega feels like a grown up Ace.

‘Proper’ pick-up?

Aiming at those who want more than what the Ace can deliver, the Ace Mega, like the SuperAce treads into the pick-up category. According to R. Ramakrishnan, Senior Vice President, Product Strategy & Planning, and Customer Value Creation — Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, the Ace Mega is in many ways a ‘proper’ pick-up. An addition to the Ace family, which commands an estimated 70-80 per cent of the small commercial vehicle market, the Ace Mega may find the going smooth. Even though it is aiming at a market that is going through a dull period, the name, the Ace has earned for itself, it can be assumed, will work in favour of the Ace Mega. Addressing the changing needs of small commercial vehicle operators who apart from a dull environment also continue to face funding hurdles, the Ace Mega, priced 10 to 11 per cent more, reflects an ability to help achieve better profitability. In line with R. Ramakrishnan’s opinion that migration is happening from SCVs to more feature laden and capable pick-ups, the Ace Mega elevates the reach of the Ace family. Indicating a shift in the last mile transportation model, the Ace Mega adds a new dimension to what is claimed to be the most voluminous CV brand in the world. Not to overlook the tendency of operators to overload, the Ace Mega, as a robust mini-truck, presents the operator the ability to achieve more. At Rs.4.31 lakh,
ex-showroom, Thane, the Ace Mega indicates that its maker is well aware of the changing dynamics of the market.

 

Renault takes the wraps off the Alaskan pick-up

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

About playing hard and working hard, the Alaskan reflects Renault’s aspirations to be a top global LCV player.

The name Alaskan is long associated with a sturdy dog breed, Alaskan Malamute. With a formidable nature and structure, Alaskan Malamute was originally bred for hauling freight because of its strength and endurance ability, often as a sled dog. Over the years of its existence, Alaskan Malamute has also come to be trained for recreational pursuits. The dual role the Alaskan Malamute has come to play is what is expected of the Renault Alaskan too; about playing hard and working hard. Unveiled in the form of a show car (which is very close to the production model) at Paris in front of 150 motoring journalists from 25 countries including India, the Alaskan reflects Renault’s Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) business aspirations. With production set to commence in mid-2016 at Barcelona, Mexico and Cordoba, the Alaskan marks Renault’s second pick-up after the Duster Oroch, which was unveiled in Buenos Aries in June 2015. The Duster Oroch is a 1/2-tonne pick-up and the Alaskan is a 1-tonne pick-up. Drawing from the extensive pick-up truck knowhow of alliance partner brand Nissan, the Alaskan is heavily based on the new Nissan NP300 Navara pick-up that debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. It is also claimed that the same platform would form the basis of a Mercedes-Benz pick-up due in 2017. Highlighting Renault’s need to enter into partnerships to be a top global player in the LCV business, the Alaskan is set to play an important role when it arrives mid next year. According to Ashwani Gupta, Vice President & Global Head of Renault’s Light Commercial Vehicles Business, Renault wants to be a top global player in the LCV business from being a top regional player. “We are now equipped to take our global growth plan forward and fulfill the aspirations of business users and individual LCV customers across the world, thanks to an enhanced product line-up, new services and an upgraded customer experience,” he said.

The Alaskan

What draws attention foremost is the Alaskan’s imposing front grille with the big Renault logo at the centre. The grille is in line with the business looks many new Renault models are coming to flaunt, including the Kwid compact SUV. LED head lamp clusters, integrated on either side of the grille, are encased by sweeping C-shaped daytime running lights. Contributing to the muscular and what looks like a visually heavy and robust build, the Alaskan sports vast 21-inch dia. wheels. Placed within their gently bulging wheel arches, they provide some mini monster truck excitement. In a twin cab guise, the ‘show’ pick-up has intricate LED tail lamps on either side of the load bay gate. Apart from the detailing of the wheels, the production vehicle may lose out on the door mirrors fitted with cameras and front fog lights with integrated towing hooks.

The dci 190 written on chrome indents built into the flanks indicate a 190 bhp four-cylinder version of a twin turbo diesel engine that is already being used in the Renault CV range. Equipped with a switchable 4WD, the Alaskan is a monocoque construction. Sticking to the rules of the segment, including impressive dimensions and a visual sense of power and robustness according to Laurens Van Den Acker, SVP – Corporate Design, the pick-up also carries specific Renault cues in the form of front-end design. Expressed Laurens, “It is quite robust even though it is a mono body design.” Looking at its pick-ups to provide a good amount of thrust, Renault is well aware that the pick-up market accounted for over five million sales in 2014. It is also aware that it is the expanding pick-up market, which has been the primary contributor to the growth of global LCV market. Made up of three categories — a 1/2-tonne pick-up, 1-tonne pick-up and a full-size pick-up, t he ½-tonne pick-ups command 3 per cent market share. The 1-tonne pick-ups command 17 per cent market share, and the full-size pick-ups command 18 per cent market share. In US and Canada, the full-size pick-ups command 90 per cent of the market.

LCV strategy

Adding a formidable edge to Renault’s aspiration of becoming a top global (LCV) player is its leadership status in vans. It is a leader in Europe since 1998. It is number one in North Africa since 2010. It ranks among the top three in South America since 2008. Present in 112 countries, Renault’s van operations are supported by 400 certified convertors (body builders). These convertors are spread across Europe, South America and Australia, and help Renault buyers build a van structure that most suits their business needs. Typical applications across the range include a panel van, double cab, platform cab, passenger version, crew cab, chassis cab, box van, tipper, chassis cab dropside, master combi, bus (that seats up to 17 people), maxi van, etc. The platforms on which the structures are build, include the Kangoo (Kangoo Z.E zero emissions is sold in 45 countries), Trafic and Master. Of the three the Master is perhaps the most diverse, and is available in different wheelbase, dimensions, drive orientation (front, rear and 4×4), etc. Unusual among the Renault LCVs is the single-seater Twizy Cargo. It is a zero emissions LCV, which aims to address last mile connectivity.

Associating with Daimler, GM Europe, Renault Truck and Fiat, the French automobile major, at its Sandouville plant in France will start building a Trafic-based Fiat LCV from mid-2016. Banking on an assertive product and market offensives while building solid partnerships and enhancing customer experience, the company, aware of the fact that over 14 million LCVs were sold in 2014, reconfigured its LCV business as Renault Pro+. With 80 per cent of the world’s population expected to be online, Renault, said Gupta, is also offering a new digital experience. Fabien Goulmy, LCV Expert – Brand General Manager, Renault Pro+, reasoned that they are stressing upon tailor made, ingenious innovation and easy experience. “We will use the Renault Pro+ as an expert brand to meet the needs of our LCV customers. The customer experience we offer will be enhanced by our bespoke knowhow, and by strengthening our offer in terms of products and services,” averred Goulmy.

In case of Asia, Renault is closely monitoring the developments. It is evaluating if the Duster Oroch ½-tonne pick-up will succeed. Gupta is well aware of the proliferation of micro and mini trucks in India. He is also aware of the changing needs and aspirations of the Indian LCV buyers. He is confident that a transformation will take place, and enough to suit products like the Alaskan. Apart from pick-ups, Renault is also monitoring the Indian market for its vans. Until the Indian market is ready to accept such Renault offerings, the French auto major has work cut out for itself. To concentrate on pick-up intensive Asian markets like Thailand and Indonesia. To convince more people in Europe to buy pick-ups.

 

Ashwani Gupta, Vice President & Global Head of Light Commercial Vehicles Business, Renault.

Now that you have unveiled your second pick-up, what are your LCV plans for India?

I will not be able to share today what are our LCV plans for India. What I can say precisely is that the products offered by the LCV business are highly professional centric. They originate out of customer usage, which comes from three things – payload, cargo volume and total cost of ownership. The day we realise these three things are evolving in any environment, we are ready to enter. This is about our vans. We have just launched the first pick-up (Duster Oroch) and will be launching the second pick-up (Alaskan) soon. We will evaluate market by market. Some markets play hard, some markets work hard. I don’t think we have the kind of adaptability needed to address the Indian market. We are however aware that a market does not take much time to evolve. Today, US is following the European vans; China is also following the European vans. There are two reasons – urbanisation of logistics and evolution. As urbanisation of logistiscs evolves further, more and more people will opt for panel vans. In case of a pick-up, it will depend on whether it is for material usage or people usage, or both. In South America, the usage is more of material. In Europe, it is more of people and less of material. That is exactly why we decided not to launch the 1/2-tonne pick-up in Europe. We launched it in South America. We are closely monitoring the Indian LCV market.

What role would Asia play for Renault, and within Asia, what role would India play?

Pick-ups are almost global when we talk about 1-tonne. I think Asia-Pacific is going to drive our busines on pick-up. Talk about Australia for instance. We have a great brand, and pick-ups are highly aspired by the Australians. The 1-tonne pick-up market is great in Thailand. We are looking market by market therefore. I am a bit cautious when it comes to vans. Taste about vans differs from country to country. It was therefore challenging for us to go global with just panel vans. It is because of this that we have the Master localised in Brazil. We have all the three products localised in France, which are European in taste. We wanted to have global products over a regional product like Duster Oroch, which can go into these markets. What is missing from our range as a full fledged LCV player are the micro trucks and micro buses. Micro trucks and micro buses are the solutions if one wants to enter into some Asian markets. Korea, for example, is an European van based market. We have a global picture, and we know which country and which region is evolving, and how far. India for certain will evolve with the logistisc challenge. We have seen evolution. We have seen Twizy Cargos parked in front of shops in Paris. India will certainly evolve, and the main driver will be the professional customer. They will start understanding the total cost of ownership. And we have seen it in heavy duty vehicles. Ten years down the line, drivers are having a say in what they want to drive. More and more the economy grows, the purchasing intention also grows. The driver or the professional customer gets to influence the buying decision of the vehicle while going from big fleets to smaller ones, most of which are owner driven. In case of small owner fleets, total cost of ownership gains importance. This will lead to a change.

What do you find are the constraining factors for market evolution of LCVs and pick-ups in particular?

The average cost of a passenger car in India is higher than an average cost of a car in Europe. The average cost of an LCV in India is lower than the average cost of an LCV in Europe. The day this gap is filled, European products will find a place in India.

Could India not serve as an export base for Renault to serve the Asean region, and considering the Oradagam plant?

Yes, India could serve as an export base for the Asean region. We are open to all kinds of study. I believe that India is not prepared for products like these (Alaskan), but that does not mean it will never be prepared. We therefore have to be careful when we look at the export solutions. These are not really answering all the customer needs. The best business case to look at is the heavy duty trucks. They have really answered the customer needs. The buses are now called by their brand. That’s what is needed.

Does it make a business case for Duster Oroch given the high reputation Duster has gained in India?

We will for certain consider such a development. The main challenge in India was to build the brand. We have achieved it, and we can now introduce products. We are in fact introducing the products.

Tata Motors’ Winger is based on an earlier Renault van platform. Tata is said to be testing a newer van platform, which is also a Renault van platform. Given your strategy for partnerships, how do you look at this?

It’s open. We are open to partnering with Tata Motors. You could check with them.

 

Laurens Van Den Acker, SVP – Corporate Design, Renault.

Over the Duster Oroch, the Alaskan looks much futuristic. Does that indicate a definitive change in design strategy?

In case of the Alaskan, we had a little bit of liberty. We could start with a white sheet of paper for the whole front-end. So, it was exactly what we wanted.

Does the Alaskan share its platform with any other vehicle?

It is an alliance platform that Nissan uses as well for their 1-tonne pick-up. This makes good business sense.

What does it take to amalgamate the mechanicals with the intended form?

Even before we start designing, we spend a year with the product planners and the engineers to define what the needs of their customers are. What kind of architecture platform could potentially fufill these needs. And, this creates a brief; a blue print of where the engine needs to be, where the cabin needs to be. Thus, we do not start to design in space. We have a white sheet, but we have some points to extract. It is the same in this case (Alaskan). We know that we are not artists; a design needs to work, it needs to fit in. We have many requirements to fulfill of which design in an important part but not the only one.

How do you use the inputs you get to turn out a design that will meet diverse taste?

Designing a vehicle is a highly collaborative process. To create a design it is not that we wait until the engineers have done their bit, then we do our bit and pass it through to the marketing department. I think good cars happen because designers worked very closely with the engineers. We (designers) were able to influence; we were able to say a little bit more to the left or to the right. When we worked with product planners, we were able to negotiate. Best cars, I think, are of those companies that make the best trade-offs between different competencies. In a really good car, engineering has won, design has won, product planning has won, and the commercial guys at the end of the line will win as well.

How do you design products that cater to emerging markets?

A pick-up truck is a real tool-kit. It is a Swiss Army knife in a sense. It’s a vehicle that is tailor-made. That is why we tailor-made our brand for Renault LCV. It is a vehicle that adapts itself to the kind of needs of the customers. What is really interesting in a pick-up truck is that it goes from a life-style vehicle (that is prestigious, a flag ship and social strata enhancing) to a basic tool to get from A to B without breaking down and falling apart. What we are showing here is a ‘show’ concept. We want it to create a desire. We have therefore shown the highest end of the execution. We will however also give an honest tool that the market needs. We will be able to follow the needs of our customers.

So, what variants could we expect, depending on the client needs?

With this truck we will give every region and every customer what he needs. The truck is capable of going up or going down; becoming tough or prestigious. I think we will be able to satisfy our future clients. We went from having no pick-up truck to having two pick-up trucks next year. We went from having no SUVs to having nearly a full range. We try to be where the market is. Sometimes we try to be ahead of the market. You can see that with the Espace or the Kwid. With the Kwid we tried to be innovative in a segment where there has not been a lot of movement. We are hoping for the Kwid to receive a positive welcome. The truth lies with the customers, and we hope that they will like the vehicle.

How flexible is the Kwid in terms of derivatives?

We will do a Renault and Nissan version. The Kwid platform is thus quite flexible. If Kwid is successful as we hope, then it opens many doors to do many other vehicles. Kwid is a light and strong platform. It is a safe and modern platform. It is well under the 4 m length, which is important for India. There are not many vehicles under 4 m that are enormously attractive. When a car is born, and has genetically the right proportions; the wheels are in the right place, then a lot can be done about it. I hope we can do more (with the platform) than just the Kwid.

So, could the Alaskan pick-up platform turn out an SUV?

Yes. No platform today is created to make just one type of vehicle. It does not mean that we make all the derivatives. Because we depend on the success of the first ones to see if we can do more with a platform, no company develops a platform for just one variation. We have no SUV plans to be completely clear.

How do you connect Renault’s long tradition of making commercial vehicles with the future through your designs?

It is nice that we can start from a position of strength, and even though it is about utilitarian vehicles or commercial vehicles. We did not cover all the segments, but it is easier to go to a segment like a pick-up truck while being strong in commercial vehicles as opposed to having to start from scratch. We benefit from the experience and the legitimacy of our partner, Nissan. It is for us a new market, new segment and new region (with the Alaskan). It’s going to be tough. We will need to prove ourselves. We however don’t come to the table without guns. We have a proven platform. We have an existing infrastructure. The design challenge is fun. A pick-up truck is such fun that I did not have any problems in motivating my team.

What role do the design centers at Mumbai and Chennai play?

Alaskan was designed by a Japanese designer based at Paris. The Indian design team is occupied with the Kwid at the moment, and not just with the car but also the accessories. The design centers in India are working on India-based products. When we start a new competition, any body from any of our six studios around the world can contribute. The world is becoming small. Fifty years ago, Renault made French cars for France, which they exported. The situation has changed. Renault now makes cars for the whole world. Design talent, at the other end could come from anywhere. We have some very talented designers from India. We also have a designer from Mongolia, Hong Kong, Columbia, and Venezuela.

In which areas do you think Indian designers excel in?

The Indian design team has an extremely good sense for business. It seems that every Indian designer knows what works in the market, knows how we sell the car, knows about why people buy cars, why the parents are involved. I learn everytime I meet them. In terms of pure design skills, they lack a little bit. It is perhaps because the automotive culture is lacking. Growing up in Europe would account for exposure to premium brands; would entail seeing many generations of vehicles. Automotive culture in India is growing. A lot of Indian designers come to Paris for an amount of time. When they go back, they take with them the richness of experience. I am really impressed by the R&D and the engineers.

How big is your design team?

My design team is 500 people the world over. Of these 150 are designers. Most studios are in Paris.

SUVs were criticised some years ago for not being environment friendly and as fuel guzzlers. How do you look at the evolution of SUVs into ‘green’ automobiles?

 

SUVs were traditionally based on pick-up trucks. They were genetically heavy. What has changed their image is that SUVs and pick-ups have become mono body. They don’t have a ladder frame with the box on top. Huge progress has been made in terms of engine technology. They are much more frugal, economical and lighter. We are starting to see an evolution in US. The Ford pick-up F150, for instance, uses extensive aluminium. They have to reduce the weight. The challenge with the pick-up is that it has to be strong. It is therefore one of the last vehicles that is going to be ultra light weight. The Alaskan pick-up is more robust than a monocoque is known to be.

Going green

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The focus on emission control technologies is growing, especially in the case of commercial vehicles.

A 54-year old truck operator, Satpal Singh is a worried man. Operating a 11-year old Tata 1618 truck to ferry goods from Delhi to Mumbai and back, Satpal Singh’s only source of livelihood looks like is in danger. The National Green Tribunal recently issued orders to ban diesel vehicles aged over 10 years from plying in Delhi citing their ability to pollute. Satpal Singh is one of the many truckers who are suddenly finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. Their means of livelihood seems to be caught in the cross currents of the polluted air that is claimed to induce many ailments respiratory or otherwise in the Delhi population. In its report released last year, WHO named Delhi as one of the most polluted cities in the world. The advantage derived by the conversion of all public transport vehicles, an estimated 1,00,000, to CNG following an Apex court order in 1998 seems to have been lost. The suspended particulate matter in Delhi region is claimed to be nearing the 1995 levels, which led to the first generation emission reforms steered by the judiciary.

Judiciary driven reforms are welcome, as are also those enforced by the executive. The need to go green cannot be refuted. However, it needs to be backed by a long-term plan that is all inclusive and an outcome of a deep understanding of the technologies that are instrumental in helping to build sustainable, environment friendly automobiles. Speaking at an event in Mumbai in February 2015, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping said, “Pollution is a big problem for all Indian cities. Second, we are importing petroleum products, coal and gas, and are spending a lot in doing so. Our government is working closely on assessing the reach of biofuels and other sustainable fuels. The first bus using ethanol has been plying in Nagpur for the past three months, and it has been a success till now. We are also in the process of experimenting with biodiesel and bio-CNG. It is that time for the economy and country, when we should give the highest priority to alternative and sustainable fuels. In all this, we also want to promote our ‘Make in India’ campaign and utilise the home-grown technical know how to meet our demands.”

The ethanol powered bus from Scania has been plying in Gadkari’s constituency, Nagpur, since November 2014. Another 55 such buses are claimed to have been ordered by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation. A modern, air-conditioned low-floor design, the ethanol bus is Euro-V emission regulations compliant. Bharat Stage (BS) emission standards are closely modelled on the European (Euro) emission standards, the difference limited to some test cycles. Until the implementation of BS III, Indian emission standards followed the Euro standards fairly closely. That was until April 2010. However, since then the gap has been widening. Euro-VI emission norms rolled out in Europe in September 2014. In India, BS IV emission standards were rolled out in 13 cities including the National Capital Region (NCR) at around the same time. The nationwide roll out of BS IV emission standards is yet to take place. This is claimed to have happened because the state owned refineries were finding it difficult to supply the required quality of fuel to regions other than the 13 cities. At an event organised by CV magazine in Mumbai in January 2015, Vinod K Dasari, MD, Ashok Leyland Ltd, said, “It is not the (auto) industry that is lacking in terms of technology, the need is for quicker implementation from the government.” He added,“Nobody is saying no to change. In the next two-to-three years, the regulatory changes will start. We have been supplying BS-IV compliant vehicles in 13 cities, so it is more about the nationwide availability of BS-IV fuel. This will cost the government a capex of Rs.50,000 crores.” Explained a Society of India Automotive Manufacturers (SIAM) official, that even though India is all set to witness nationwide BS-IV emission norms implementation, automakers have been asking for the roll out of BS V emission norms by 2019. The timeline slated for BS V roll-out was earlier 2020.

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Industry is keen

Ambuj Sharma, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises is known to have said that the government is gearing up to hold discussions with all stakeholders to decide on BS-VI emission standards roll out. Industry leaders seem keen. The industry will however need to make the necessary investment, upgrade their facilities and reach out. Stated Friedrich Boecking, Regional President, Diesel Systems, Bosch, that enough time for development is required if the industry needs to move from BS-V to BS-VI norms. It will take some time for vehicle and engine manufacturers to develop technology specific to Indian roads and driving patterns. This concerns vehicles – commercial vehicles especially, that run on diesel fuel. The Euro V emission compliant Scania city bus in Nagpur runs on ED 95 grade of Ethanol. The BYD city bus at Bangalore runs on electricity; is a zero emissions vehicle. It was during the Commonwealth Games at Delhi in 2010, that Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland supplied six and two CNG hybrid buses respectively. Ashok Leyland is planning to launch the Versa electric bus in India as part of its Optare product portfolio.

The right time

Industry experts are of the opinion that now is the right time to move to a higher emission standards. Oil prices are at a lower level than they were last year. Crude oil prices are still hovering around the USD 60 per barrel mark. When the fuel prices bounce back, it will prove to be beneficial, they claim further. Despite the auto industry willing to roll out vehicles with appropriate technology quickly, the challenge is likely to be at the refinery stage, where large investments may be needed to turn out fuel with an even lower content of Sulphur. Sulphur content in BS V is 10 ppm. In BS IV fuel it is 50 ppm, and in BS IV+ fuel it is 40 ppm. To curb pollution there is a need to move up to BS V emission standard swiftly. Also, since India has been following the Euro emission standards with a time lag, adapting or application engineering products that are already available in the European markets may be useful, without investing heavily, and in a manner that is time consuming. In fact, OEMs and their suppliers are keeping a close eye on the possible developments. Expressed James Verrier, President and CEO, BorgWarner, “Technologies that have been successfully applied in Europe will find their way to India. In the next couple of years, BorgWarner will launch derivatives of such products, which will undergo application engineering, testing and validation at the local level.” Averred Oerlikon chief executive officer of drive systems, Dr. Bernd Matthes, “Frugal engineering will be a part of our approach for expansion in India. Moving forward we will also open our engineering centre in India to ensure that we tailor our products for specific requirements of the market and customise them.”

In pursuit of clean air

If the successful conversion of Delhi’s city buses to CNG, and also those that run in Mumbai is an indication, it is not the dearth of technology or its application that is stalling the move to more stringent emission standards in a pursuit for cleaner air. It is also not that the auto industry is not willing. In fact, the Indian auto industry is more than willing. It will however have to be taken into confidence before the decision to move up is taken. Remarked Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director, CVBU, Tata Motors, “Our Jamshedpur plant is currently manufacturing vehicles complying to BS IV emission standards. It can be fully geared up to manufacture vehicles complying with BS V and BS VI emission standards when required in the future.” A big change to BS V and BS VI emission standards will mark a move to SCR systems, and bring into play additional componentry and associated costs. Not a deterrent for Indian OEMs in any way; many of them are exporting Euro V and Euro VI emission compliant commercial vehicles. At the 2014 Hannover show, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles displayed a Euro V FUSO FJ 2528 R truck that is made at its Chennai plant. Opined Erich Nesselhauf, CEO and MD, DICV, “We are capable of manufacturing Euro IV to Euro VI emission compliant vehicles in India. The question is, what do we want? Since India has more engineers, it is time that some innovative technologies come out of India rather than merely following the developed markets.” Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, expressed the need to replace old commercial vehicles with new, more cleaner and efficient vehicles to curb rising pollution levels.

Special application CVs

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar
Commercial vehicles find favour with special applications that make the fire brigades, airports, armed forces function smoothly and efficiently.

Mumbai Fire Brigade has added a 90 m fire ladder to its fleet of special application trucks, which include fire tenders and crane trucks among others. The new fire ladder, procured from Finland-based Bronto Skylift Oy Ab, has six-axles out of which two are powered and four are steered. Based on a Mercedes-Benz (6260) truck chassis, the fire ladder (watch out for an exclusive story in October 2015 anniversary issue of CV) weighs well over the 49.2-tonne limit prescribed in the Motor Vehicle Act. Special permission was therefore sought from the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to operate it. The 90 m platform ladder includes electric and diesel operated pumps. A battery operated pump acts as a back-up. Capable of reaching up to 30 floors of a high rise, the 90 m fire ladder was procured at a price of Rs 15 crore. Ironically, this fire ladder is not the first to make it to India. Two similar fire ladders were procured by DLF at Delhi, and have been pressed into service at the DLF properties in the NCR region.

Fire tenders

Playing an important role as special application CVs are fire tenders too. According to Dinesh Waghmare of Pune-based Hi-Tech Services, which specialises in the manufacture of special application trucks, fire tenders have to adhere to high standards of protection and reliable performance. Only if the vehicle subscribes to the guidelines laid down by the government organisation will they be approved by the regional transport authorities. While an important part of Waghmare’s work involves understanding the client’s requirements, fire-tenders, he adds, are based upon operational risk profiling, interoperability and specific user needs across fire and rescue authorities. “Each product has to conform to the National Fire Protection Association safety standards. Water and foam tenders, water bowsers, dry chemical powder tenders and emergency rescue tenders are some of the fire tender types,” he states.

Airport CVs

Over the fire tenders found at various fire stations in the country, the ones at the airport look far different. These include the Rosenbauer Panther 6×6 airport fire tender. Manufactured by Rosenbauer International AG of Austria, it is a common site at the Delhi and Bangalore airports. Powered by a 705hp engine, it can quickly access any part of the airfield while responding to emergencies. The one at Delhi, to combat the winter conditions, is fitted with a ‘Low Visibility Enhanced Vision’ system, guided by a Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) camera mounted on the cabin roof. The camera provides vision even in a smoky, foggy, or a dark environment up to a distance of 450 m. Built using advanced composite materials, the vehicle has a water capacity of 12,500 litres apart from 1,500 litres of fire retardant foam and 500kg of dry chemicals to fight fire. The vehicle is equipped with a remote controlled roof mounted nozzle which can discharge 6,000 litres per minute in just over two minutes. Industry sources claim that in August 2015, two Panther 6×6 airfield crash fire tenders, built fully on RBI chassis and fitted with Volvo TAD-1662VE six-cylinder engine, were procured. They also claim that in March 2015, an Iveco Magirus turntable ladder for township frame was also procured. Both make typical special application commercial vehicles for use under specific conditions.

Also found at the Delhi airport is a Mercedes-Benz Atego. On it is mounted a turntable ladder bucket crane. Says Raghunandan Jagdish of Nandan Ground Support Equipment Ltd, “We understand the customer needs and provide a solution.” Specialising in the manufacture of aerial lift platforms (bucket lifts) and other special application trucks, Nandan Ground Support Equipment Ltd. pioneered the concept of mobile advertisement platforms. “From an outdoor advertising platform truck, scissor lift mounted sky chef to a scissor lift mounted platform that is used to service or replace ventilation equipment, bulbs, etc., in a tunnel, we make a variety of special application trucks. Most are based on a 16-tonne to 25-tonne chassis,” adds Raghunandan. Truck chassis is procured, and as per the requirements, the trucks may be fitted with an automatic transmission or such other special equipment. “For safety of operation, auto transmission is a mandated standard globally,” states Raghunandan while describing ‘airport’ trucks. Raghunandan adds, “We have known of our scissor lifts being in use for 30 years. It were removed from the old chassis and fitted to a new, less emitting chassis.” Nandan GSE Pvt. Ltd., which is also headed by Raghunandan Jagdish, unveiled the world’s largest hi-lift under order from the Ambassador’s Sky Chef for their operations in Delhi recently. Christened as Catering Titan, it is built on a design under license from Byron Aviation, Australia, on an Eicher 30.25 chassis. The hi-lift has been retrofitted with Allison Automatic Transmission and the rear body is cooled using Carrier Supra refrigeration unit that gets the temperature down to zero-degrees under 15 minutes to maintain the strictest HACCP standards for hygiene. The unit can be used to a platform height of 8300 mm and the entire van body can traverse forward up to 4000 mm. There is a uniquely designed platform that helps open up to 3500 mm from 2500 mm.

One of the important commercial vehicles that ply at the airport is a refuelling truck. Most are built on a Ashok Leyland, Tata, Eicher or Volvo chassis. Engineered to get the right balance between vehicle capacity, flow rate, and fuelling unit configuration, the longer ones are termed as tank trailers. According to the Volvo Eicher spokesperson, special application trucks such as petroleum, oil or lubricant platforms are fitted with aggregates such as ABS, bi-polar electrical wiring harness, battery-cut off switch to enhance operational and on-road safety. Depending on the applications, trucks are required to adhere to mining, CMVR. CCoE regulations, he adds. To ensure safety and avoid any untoward incident, hydrant dispensers play a vital role too. They are designed for airports, and have a hydrant system mounted on a truck (Tata 907 for example). Purpose built by a specialist like Titan Antony, such applications have high flow rates of up to 250 cubic metre per hour.

Those distinct looking buses at many airports in the country are the low-floor Cobus 3000 airport transfer coaches. Wiesbaden-based Contrac Cobus manufactures them. Capable of accommodating up to 112 people, Cobus 3000 is aluminum bodied and based on a Mercedes-Benz BF 30 platform. Powered by a Mercedes-Benz OM 904 LA engine and an Allison automatic transmission, Cobus 3000 is equipped with pneumatic ‘kneeling’ system. The bus measures 14 m in length, and has 14 seats. The rest of the space is earmarked for standees.

Construction & Mining application CV

Move over to the hardy world of construction and infrastructure project sites, and mines, and special application trucks like mining tippers and coal tippers come to mind. The Fuso FJ2528C 6×4 concrete mixer truck for example. Built by Daimler India Commercial Vehicles at Chennai, some 450 trucks were exported to Thailand with a Schwing Stetter concrete mixer as part of the company’s ambitious plan to export world-class trucks from India. The Fuso FJ2528C concrete mixer is finding use in Thailand’s construction equipment industry. While the BharatBenz 3143 deep mining tipper will replace the imported Actros deep mining tipper in the Indian market, the 3143 platform has also sprung a coal tipper with a 32 cubic m. coal body. The 8×4 coal tipper has a 6105 mm wheelbase and is powered by the OM457 315 kW 12-litre engine and a G330 AMT transmission. Having a full length sub-frame that is fixed to the chassis to provide flexibility in the front and extra rigidity at the rear, the 3143 coal tipper is not the only one of its kind. AMW too offers a coal tipper in the form of 3118. Worth mentioning is yet another special application truck from AMW – the 2516 transit mixer. It is a common site at most construction projects in India. May it be the highest tower that is coming up in Mumbai or a highway project, the 2516 is present. A common site is the MAN CLA 8 cubic m. transit mixer too. Not to leave out the Tata LPT 2516, Ashok Leyland 2516 and Mahindra Torro 25 transit mixers. According to the Volvo Eicher spokesperson, tippers, concrete mixers contributed 15 to 20 per cent to the company’s truck volumes for this YTD.

Delving upon special application CVs, Volvo Eicher spokesperson stressed upon user and segment requirements, road and load conditions, etc. These are unique and require special design, development and regulatory approvals, he says. Coal, construction and mining tippers tippers, transit mixers are required to handle rough terrains apart from having to deliver superior mileage and clock maximum uptime. Urbanisation, changing demographics, upcoming economic reforms, infra development projects in the form of smart cities, industrial corridors, modernisation of ports and initiatives like ‘Bharat Nirman’ are expected to provide significant impetus to special application trucks. Mentioned Volvo Eicher spokesperson, that ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government will push the level of indigenisation in defence vehicles higher. It will also provide the needed thrust for local manufacture of defence vehicles.

Defence application

Tata Motors has bagged an order for 1239 6×6 trucks for ‘material handling cranes’, which are used for the loading, unloading and transportation of ammunition pallets, spares and other operational equipment. Beginning with a government policy in 2006, which aimed at cutting down the purchase of imported defence equipment from 65 per cent to 30 per cent, coupled with the need for the defence forces to modernise their equipment, Indian commercial vehicle manufacturers are expected to find new opportunities in the area of defence. Says Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director – Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, “Make in India is really applicable in defence vehicles.” He adds that his company wants to export more defence vehicles.” An interesting arrangement in case of addressing some of the defence sector needs is the pact CV makers like Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland have with the Vehicle Factory, Jabalpur (JVF). Tata Motors is supplying 2,500 kits per year to the VFJ to build the LPTA715 4×4. The Ashok Leyland Stallion is also assembled by the VFJ under the aegis of Ordinance Factories Board. Ashok Leyland is known to supply the kit for these trucks.

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Other application areas

Apart from the various special application areas mentioned above, commercial vehicles also find use as refuse trucks with various governing bodies and municipalities. Special application vehicles on bus or van platforms also include ambulances as special application vehicles. Built for the purpose by companies like Force Motors among others in India, ambulances are often fitted with an array of specialised equipment to transport the critically ill or injured to the hospital safely and securely. When it comes to money, special application vehicles on LCV platforms like the Tata 407, Tata 207 and Tata Xenon are specially built to facilitate the carriage of cash to banks and ATMs apart from accommodating armed personnel. Some of these are also partially armoured or fitted with bullet-proof glass apart from highly secure safes. Also built on LCV chassis are police vehicles that include those that transport prisoners and police officials. Riot control vehicles used by the Police are built on truck chassis (16-tonne to 25-tonne) with an amount of armour. They are also fitted with water cannons. Delhi-based Shri Ganesh Fire Equipments (P) Limited, Vijay Fire Vehicles & Pumps Limited and Brijbasi Hi-Tech Udyog Ltd. are known to build water cannons based on truck chassis of various commercial vehicle manufacturers. Ludhiana-based Pyara Singh & Sons specialises in the building of sweeper machines. It has built sweepers on a truck chassis. Such vehicles find application with municipal bodies as well.

Last but not the least, special
application vehicles also include refrigerated containerised trucks catering to the cold chain industry – Pharma, Dairy, Meat, QSRs (Quick service restaurants), etc. Many companies like Randhawa and HLM India specialise in the manufacture of such vehicles. These companies build refrigerated bodies on truck chassis as diverse as a Tata Ace platform to a 49-tonne tractor trailer. Each area involving special application vehicles is estimated to be worth Rs 6 to Rs 8 crore according to an industry expert. Application areas are numerous, and it is therefore tough to estimate the total special application industry worth. Industry sources are of the opinion that special application vehicle industry is worth a few thousand crores but highly fragmented. It is a mix of locally sourced and imported solutions, which makes it hard to estimate in terms of the overall value. Especially when some applications are repetitive in nature, and some are highly customised. Like the 90 m fire ladder the Mumbai Fire Brigade has just procured.