The case of driver upliftment

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Commercial vehicle drivers are a valuable lot; they are scarce and crucial to the smooth operation of fleets.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

A panel discussion leading up to the fifth edition of the Mahindra Transport Excellence Awards at Delhi put the spotlight on commercial vehicle drivers. Panelists comprised of NGO representatives, academia, CV industry and government bodies. The event was supported by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and recognised the good work put up by transporters, logistics companies, truck fleet owners, commercial vehicle financiers, dealers and other stakeholders of the road transport ecosystem in India. Scrutiny was based on stringent parameters. Unlike the earlier editions, the fifth edition comprised of some innovative categories of awards including special focus on haulage fleet operators, drivers (based on their knowledge), tipper segment and emerging transport businesses.

Delivering life-saving oxygen cylinders to hospitals on time, truck driver Ramcharan Yadav, won the ‘Super Outperformer Driver of the Year’ award. He was presented with a new Mahindra Blazo 25 truck. Encouragement like this will work wonders. It has given Yadav the opportunity to turn into an entrepreneur. The plight of others is however not hidden. A report by research firm Crisil has highlighted that the number of skilled truck drivers has gone down from 778 per thousand trucks in FY2010 to 682 in FY2016. The number of truck drivers is expected to dip to 480 by FY2022. Progressing towards higher tonnage vehicles that are modern, the trucking industry is coming to realise that the truck driver is an important asset to the fleet business. Chairing the panel, Abhay Damle, Joint Secretary, MoRTH, drew attention to the harassment meted out to the driver while issuing of the licence at the road transport offices, which may often involve a wait of up to one year time for issuance of licence. “It is due to such delays the drivers often migrate towards other jobs. And even if they initiate, sustainability of drivers has gradually become a serious issue that needs quick look,” he mentioned.

Important to upgrade driver skills

Representing academia, Prof. G Raghuram, Dean of Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad, underlined the fact that driver should have a sound understanding of the vehicle he will drive, the nature of goods he will ferry, and if the load is within the permissible limit. “It is factors like these that snowball into driver harassment. It is the driver who has to face the wrath of the authorities during the transit of goods. Driver quantities are already dwindling with low salaries prevailing in the sector and stress related to prolonged driving without rest,” expressed Raghuram. He stated that there was a need to properly channelise the money invested on road development by the government and regulators. The two should play a pivotal role in minimising the harassment, said Raghuram. Pointing at the manufacturers, Raghuram averred that they are doing their job by developing better vehicles, it is the government that needs to re-look into road engineering quickly as both the factors together have significant consequences.

Important factors like upgradation of skills of the drivers and reducing the stress were also discussed. It is estimated that over the next three years, said a panelist, there will be a rise of 54 per cent in freight. Most of this would be by road, and the current shortage of drivers stands close to eight lakh in M&HCV segment, he exclaimed. He stated that the overall increase in freight transport by road will amount to 63 per cent of the total freight in the country, accounting to a CAGR growth of 13.5 per cent till 2020, led primarily by the manufacturing sector, FMCG, eCommerce and retail. Rajan Wadhera, President – Truck and Power Train Division and Head – Mahindra Research Valley and Member – Group Executive Board, expressed that they have been increasing the pace of development of new vehicles by upgrading from 25-tonne to 31-tonne, and from 31-tonne to 37-tonne trucks. Stressing on the need to upgrade driver skills as trucks with higher carrying capacity are made available, Wadhera said, “such trucks will significantly reduce the requirement of another driver.” He opined that drivers need to evolve faster to harness the real benefits of technology. Claiming that the idling time for commercial vehicles is higher, Wadhera quipped that the training of drivers and upgradation of their skill set through recognised institutes should be combined with improved infrastructure to increase the distance travelled per day.

Curbing external factors

Out of the six million labour force in the country, only 2.5 per cent make truck drivers. Citing a report, a panelist claimed that a whopping Rs.24,000 crores was paid by truck drivers as bribe in 2013. The practice of giving a bribe continues to grow at an enormous rate, he added. Panelist Patanjali Nayar, Regional Advisor to the World Health Organisation said, none of the truck drivers want their next generation to follow in their footsteps due to the harassment they are meted out. Rising harrasment levels are a growing concern for the industry. High level of discomfort related to health, mental, physical and sexual health are playing a vital role in stopping people from taking truck driving as a profession, explained Nayar. Stressing the fact that road fatalities are among the highest in India, and truck drivers who are persistently on road, are either victims or turn out to be spectators, Nayar called the installation of social security measures. “While on the job if someone from the driver’s family falls sick, the law does not support the kind of requirement a person in an office gets. Driver fraternity is an highly unorganised sector, and the risks are high, said Gaurav Agarwal, amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court of India. Agarwal called for support from various aggregators like insurance companies and NGOs to come forward and make the life of drivers safe.

Possible solutions

The Supreme Court of India recently passed a rule to protect good Samaritans that help road accident victims. Piyush Tiwari, CEO of Savelife Foundation said that it would amount to contempt of court if the states do not comply with the law, which actually makes such guidelines reliable. Asking for support from the aggregators, Tiwari mentioned, “Fleet management polices should be solicited. It should be clearly understood at all levels in the company how drivers should be dealt with and what polices have been drafted to safeguard their interests. The interest of the drivers should be clearly understood.” The panel unanimously arrived at a conclusion that there should be a central database for the drivers to simplify their lives irrespective of their changing the job. Even though the road transport authorities are state dependent, the central government should push for the necessary and overdue reformation of RTOs. Equally important is to increase their social standards and encourage them to become entrepreneurs. Not all of them can be the heroes of the highways.

Setco ‘casts’ all the clutch components right

SetcoA joint venture between Setco Automotive Ltd. (Setco) and Spainbased Lingotes Especiales SA, Lava Cast Pvt. Ltd. will supply world-class CV clutch parts to Setco.

Story by: Rajesh Rajgor

It is early afternoon and I have completed the tour of Lava Cast’s sprawling facility at Kalol, some 50 kms from Vadodara, Gujarat. Adjacent to Setco’s clutch manufacturing plant, the Lava Cast facility has just begun manufacturing cast parts for Setco’s consumption. As production picks up and teething issues are resolved, the facility will produce castings, machined fully, and in ready to assemble form for consumption by Setco in the manufacture of its CV clutch systems. It would have been six months after the Lava Cast facility began production. A foundry, the installed capacity of Lava Cast facility according to R.K Ghosh, the managing director, is 2000-tonnes per month. Of the 2000-tonnes, 800-tonnes will be consumed by Setco. Producing clutch components in grey iron and ductile iron like pressure plates, covers, intermediate plates, adapter rings and gear rings, the dimensions of the castings vary from 170 mm diameter to 430 mm diameter. To make raw cast parts ready for fitment, a machine shop carries out the finishing operations. “The machine shop carries out the finishing and balancing operations as per the design and drawings provided by Setco,” mentions Ghosh.

With 800-tonnes worth of cast parts pledged for Setco, the company is looking at pledging the remaining capacity to supply cast parts to other automotive customers. Ghosh avers, “We will scout for customers in the automotive industry who require quality machined castings for manufacturing various automotive components.” The state of Gujarat has some automotive OEMs and tier suppliers, which could ensure business. With the Ford plant at Sanand gaining stream, other automotive OEMs that have invested or are in the process of investing include Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors and AMW. For Setco, the need to set up a foundry was necessitated by the lack of good quality and adequate quantity of machined casting. The foundry was actually set-up last year. The industry then was facing a low period. As production picks up, the talk of setting up a second foundry is already on. “We haven’t decided whether the new foundry would be similar to this, or have a vertical moulding line or a horizontal moulding line. The output of casting is always high in a vertical foundry and involves a flask, whereas a horizontal moulding line can be with or without a flask,” Ghosh informs. One thing that Ghosh is certain about is that the new foundry will be state-of-the-art too, and just like the current line. The current line is equipped with DISA machines along with the best furnaces and auto pour machines from Inductotherm.

Explains Ghosh that a typical casting process involves melting, moulding, pouring and finishing. The charge mix is usually of CRC scrap, pig iron, foundry returns (rejected pieces) and alloys. All this is poured together into the melting furnace and a sample coin is extracted and sent to Spectro lab for quality analysis. Pouring temperature, magnesium, copper and the quality of mould is measured. If cleared it is sent for moulding and finishing. Post the finished product, the casting is machined as per the description provided, and then supplied to the Setco assembly lines.

Making of a CV clutch assembly
The Setco clutch plant adjacent to the Lava Cast facility is a modern unit. The pressure plate and the cover assembly comes to the line as a ‘balanced’ entity. The cover assembly could be of either type – cast or pressed sheet metal. Pressure plates are made of cast iron, and are strong and sturdy. The clutch lever is assembled on to the pressure plate, and the assembly is mounted on a rig. Springs are mounted on the pressure plate at different locations and tested for run-out and lift according to the specs. They are subjected to balancing. If they are found to be out of balance, additional mass is removed by drilling. If there is a need to add mass, weights are added. To ensure that there is no undesired vibration, which could lead to subsequent failure or premature wear of a clutch system or a related component, a clutch assembly has to be dynamically balanced. Clutch cover is attached and the pressure plate assembly checked for balance. After balancing, the pressure plate assembly is sent for final inspection. The inspection results are entered into a log book. On the driven plate (DP) assembly line, for the manufacture of an organic clutch plate, first a disc ring is fitted and then riveted with organic facing. In the case of ceramic clutch plates, the disc plate is ‘surface’ prepared and rivetted with ceramic buttons. The returning plate is fitted, and covers the hub and has springs fitted in it. These springs carry out the task of balancing and negating the risk of ‘run-out’. The clutch plate is subjected to balancing, run-out tests among others.

Leading supplier of clutch systems for CVs
The setting up of Lava Cast adjacent to its clutch system manufacturing plant at Kalol marks a logical extension of capabilities for Setco. More so because Setco’s major manufacturing set-up is at this location despite having a fairly balanced global footprint with another manufacturing facility at Sitarganj, Uttarakhand, and at UK and USA each. At Kalol, Setco has also invested in an R&D center. While the emergence of radical change in clutch technology may not be expected anytime soon, Setco, incorporated in 1982, as a leading manufacturer of clutch systems for commercial vehicles is set to derive advantage from the arrival of new transmission technologies like the automated manual transmission many Indian commercial vehicles are coming to employ. Employing over 1200 people, the company, marketing its products under the brand name of Lipe, caters to the requirements of OEMs like Tata Motors, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, Ashok Leyland, MAN India, Mahindra, Volvo Eicher and Asia Motor Works. The processes of the company are TS 16949, ISO 14001, OSHAS 18001 and VDA 6.3 certified.

Catering to an estimated 85 per cent of M&HCV clutch demand in India, Setco has invested in a R&D center at UK too. It has also associated itself with automotive sporting events like the Tata Prima T1 racing championship. With an annual turnover of over Rs. 500 crore, the company also manufactures clutches for hydraulic products for the construction equipment industry and precision engineering components like complex and deep drawn pressings, forgings and castings that are machined and heat treated. With Lava Cast set to support Setco in the production of world-class clutch parts, it is only a matter of time before the leading clutch manufacturer strengthens its bottomline, and taps new markets as well as new segments. In Setco’s future endeavours, Lava Cast is set to play an important role.

Trans Acnr banks upon the growing bus market

ANCR_JAN2016Anticipating growth from the rising bus market, Trans Acnr is gearing up its production facility in Rajasthan.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

Trans Acnr had a modest beginning in 2003. A team of young entrepreneurs set up the company at Delhi with a handful of orders. Over the years, the company has grown to have a turnover of Rs. 600 million. It has sold over 7500 units in the Indian market for application in commercial vehicles.

Anticipating growth from the rising bus market, Trans Acnr is ramping up the production of air-conditioners at its plant at Shahjahanpur, near Alwar in Rajasthan. “We will be starting work on two new assembly lines at our facility early next year. By July 2016, one line will roll out air conditioners for lighter commercial vehicles of capacity up to 12kW. The other line will roll out products up to 44kW to serve a major part of the CV industry,” announced Shatrughan Kumar, Managing Director, Trans Acnr. He mentioned that his company has signed an agreement with Daimler India Commercial Vehicles for its 9-metre buses to supply 24kW air conditioners. The Shahjahanpur plant, according to Kumar, is currently operating at 75 per cent of the overall capacity. The facility produces close to 300 air-con units per month. The ramping up of the facility is expected to double the number of units produced per month. Only about six to seven per cent of the buses in India are fitted with air-conditioners as of current. The demand for air-conditioned buses is on the rise. According to Kumar, vehicle manufacturers are gradually realising the value of installing an air conditioner in buses. They are also realising the value of designing a bus with an ability to include an air conditioner, Kumar pointed out. In response to a query on the use of slave engines to drive air conditioners, Kumar explained they source them from Mahindra, Avtec and Yanmar. These engines range betwee 25 kW and 40 kW according to Kumar, and support air conditioner for a diverse range of buses including staff buses, school buses and inter-city buses. Catering to the demand of the commercial vehicle air conditioner market, and prominently that of the buses, Trans Acnr rolls out three new models every year. It will be soon introducing a 25 kW air conditioner for aftermarket application. Supplies, said Kumar, have already begun from last month.

Addressing changing market requirements
Well aware of the changing requirements of the market, and the issues faced by the existing users, Trans Acnr has developed SL series of air conditioners. These employ aluminium coils and are aimed at addressing the concern about weight. The weight of air-conditioners has been growing. According to Kumar, the SL series products could reduce the weight by up to 10 per cent in an air conditioner unit that weighs 200 kg. The 10 per cent weight reduction has been achieved through structural engineering and developing an air conditioner which does not have a bottom on the condenser. Not very happy with the use of aluminium coils as it compromises on the quality of the product, Trans Acnr developed two different series of products. These are offered under Astro and SL series. The former has copper tubes and aluminium fins and the latter has aluminium coils. Both are made in India, and at the company’s Rajasthan plant. With the demand for city buses expected to rise multi-fold under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme, Trans Acnr is fully geared up to deploy other models under A & E series which are being directly imported from China. As a part of its export portfolio, Trans Acnr is already expanding its base beyond Indian markets, and has come to gain over 80 per cent market share in the Nepal AC bus market. “We are now working with Lanka Leyland for LYNKS mini bus chassis, and already have orders for 20 units for our 15 kW and 20 kW models. We will be also focusing on Gulf countries and the SAARC market,” said Kumar

Catering to varying needs through import and manufacture of ACs
In India, Trans Acnr represents Jingyi Automobile Air Conditioners of China and Hwa Sung Thermo of Korea. Jingyi air conditioners are offered to the bus market. Hwa Sung air conditioners are offered to the truck market. Commencing operations in 2003 for truck refrigeration, and in April 2004 for bus air conditioners, Trans Acnr, said Kumar, addressed its first order for a 18 kW and a 24 kW AC by sourcing them from Jingyi. More orders started finding their way to the company, and in 2010, the company touched a milestone of 1000 unit sales. At this point, it was decided by the management to enter local manufacture and customisation. A client called PKN was the source of inspiration. Trans Acnr developed 10-12 kW ACs for customised Traveller vans out of its base in IMT Manesar. The need for expansion drove the company to invest Rs 6 crore in a facility at Shahjahanpur in 2013. This would enable the company to offer a complete portfolio of air conditioners ranging from 5 kW to 44 kW.

Future ready
For special application like buses plying in North India, where temperature variation is high during the year, Trans Acnr has developed Astro 438 and Astro 543 air conditioners with heaters for 10.5 m and 12 m buses. In the case of city and school buses, heat load is an issue that needs to be addressed with care. Pointed out Kumar, that the high heat load in city and school buses due to frequent door openings calls for air conditioners of higher capacity. “The capacity for air conditioners has gone up by at least 15-20 per cent for city buses,” he added. It is such developments that are posing a need for Trans Acnr to be future ready. To anticipate the changes.

A simple strategy, according to Kumar, is to offer products that meet the expectations. “Sometimes you face unavoidable regulations like removing of the film and curtains. It is necessary to keep a capacity margin such that even without the use of sun films and curtains, the cooling capacity is good,” Kumar explained. Drawing attention to the completion of an order to supply 80 21 kW air conditioners to SML Isuzu for semi-low floor midi buses aimed at Chandigarh Transport Understaking, Kumar adds, “Trans Acnr has always been in the race, and gets preference from respective engineering departments of vehicle manufacturers. “Margins can be however tight, which coupled with stringent service norms can make projects gasp for breath,” he remarked.

Despite the challenges, Trans Acnr continues to grow. It is growing at a CAGR of 30 per cent. The company posted a revenue earning of Rs.60 crores in FY15 with a good deal of business primarily contributed by the aftermarket. The aftermarket business is expected to touch Rs.100 crore this fiscal with the sale of over 1700 units. Apart from offices at Mumbai, Hyderabad and Ranchi, Trans Acnr has five service centres. There is one at Delhi, one at Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Chennai and Cochin each. “We will add five more service centres across India in FY 2016. To expand our reach, we have resident engineers who provide service at the customer’s site in cities like Jaipur, Jalandhar, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Patna and Hyderabad,” Kumar explained. To ensure the availability of trained manpower, Trans Acnr organises training workshops twice a year at its regional offices. Aware that the acceptance of Chinese products even if they are of good quality is a big possibility, Trans Acnr is banking on transporter connectivity. “We offer them our reference lists. Word of mouth publicity also plays a crucial role,” averred Kumar.