New gates may open up for LHVs

EMS International_3 EMS International_2 EMS International_1

Long heavy vehicles, as part of the European Modular System may find more takers.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (EU) brought out a directive (EU) 2015/719 amending the Council Directive 96/53/EC laying down for certain road vehicles circulating within the community. The maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic of these vehicles, including the provision for derogations from the maximum authorised weights and dimensions of vehicles and vehicle combinations laid down in Directive 96/53/EC, was amended. Claimed to involve Long Heavy Vehicles (LHVs), the amendment, would enable EU Member States to restrict, for reasons related to road safety or infrastructure characteristics, the circulation of certain vehicles (LHVs) in specific parts of their road network. LHVs in Europe are also referred to as the European Modular Systems (EMS), and trace their roots to the 25: 25 (25, 25 m.) concept that came into being in Scandinavia a little over a decade ago. In Sweden and Finland to be precise. Allowing combinations of existing loading units (modules) into longer and sometime heavier vehicle combinations to be used on some parts of the road network with an intention to improve road transport efficiency and reduce the environmental impact, EMS is finding more takers among the Member States. The Directive may mention about aerodynamic devices, new cab profiles to improve safety by reducing blind spots, alternative powertrains and an extra weight allowance for their heavier powertrains, it is the mention of LHVs, and the EMS therefore, which had drawn the attention of most.

Defined in Directive 96/53 EC, Article 4, § 4 (b), as the Member State which permits transport operations to be carried out in its territory by vehicles or vehicle combinations with dimensions deviating from those laid down in Annex I to be used in such combinations as to achieve at least the loading length authorised in that Member State, so that every operator may benefit from equal condition of competition (modular concept), LHVs appeared in the 1980s for environmental and competitive reasons. Claimed to be a reason for Sweden and Finland to display reluctance in applying EU rules on weights and dimensions, having allowed for long, the operation of longer and heavier vehicles on their roads, the amendment directive by the EU is said to be the result of a compromise reached for allowing longer and heavier trucks with a condition that the existing standardised EU modules were used. Standardised EU modules is nothing but EMS.

Interestingly, when the EMS was first introduced, and found mention in the Directive 96/53, it did not delve upon the 25, 25 m length, nor did it delve upon the 60-tonne weight factor. Those have been the national rules applying to Sweden and Finland only. Each EU Member State thus has been free to allow different combinations of the existing standardised EU modules. A study conducted in Denmark and Germany according to the specifications issued by the European Parliament in 2012, calling for views of stakeholders with emphasis on five EU Member States where LHVs are already permitted or are undergoing trials, concluded that EMS would lead to lower operating costs for road freight. It also concluded that greenhouse gas emission per tonne-km of goods transported will be less as lesser number of vehicles will be needed to transport the same amount of goods. Operating costs would however increase as the heavier vehicles will consume more. On the cautious side, the study highlighted the risk of a modal shift, which could lead to an increase in greenhouses gases. Preference to transport by road could mark a shift away from other modes of transport, thus offsetting any advantages derived by the EMS.

By re-arranging the existing loading units (modules) of trucks into longer and sometimes heavier vehicles – depending on the volume to be transported and roads to be travelled, EMS promises optimised road transport capacity. According to the European Express-Carriers leaflet, the benefits also include satisfying the growing transport demand, reduce fuel consumption as two EMS can substitute three regular road train trucks owing to significant energy savings, lower emissions and lower operator transport costs. Also mentioned in the leaflet is that the EMS Forum supports cross-border use of European Modular Systems between neighbouring and consenting Member States; subsidiarity should be respected, and that the Member States are best placed to decide on transport solutions fit for their road transport network, and that the impact assessments and on-the-road-experience have demonstrated the benefits of EMS and how they can help meet key policy objectives, such as the reduction of emissions and congestion. Apart from the European Express-Carriers, EMS is finding many takers. These include European Shippers Council, EuroCommerce, DTL, TLN, TNT, CLECAT, Michelin, Cepi, Sveriges Akeriforetag, Danske Speditorer, O.T.M, Auft, ACEA, FEBETRA, BWVL, Pacton, Tracon, Eye Octopus b.v., Rockwool, Burg, Anibal Blanco, Imperial Logistics, FNTR, Vos Logistics, van der Wal, Middelbas, G Snel Belgium Group, TLF, European Transport Board, Belgian Courier Association, D-TEC, International Transport Denmark, Ecocombi, Groenewegen, Verhoeven, Flora Holland, VDT, Wabco, High Tech Automotive Systems, IRU, DPD, Transport & Logistiek Vlaanderen, K. Overerest Transport bv, FVG, BIL Sweden, Truck & Milieu, Finnish Transport and Logistics, UniLine, Nordic Logistics Association, and Kuypers Neer among others.

As the number of takers for EMS increases, there are those who are not in favour of such vehicles. They claim that LHVs compromise safety of all road users and damages the environment because they would lead to more truck journeys. They also claim that LHVs will cost taxpayers billions of Euros because Europe’s roads were not designed for such monsters. Citing LHVs as a hindrance to traffic, and difficult to overtake on the road, critics also draw attention to the modal shift EMS may lead up to. With Member States like Netherlands climbing the EMS bandwagon, LHVs, in operation in Sweden and Finland for more than a decade may find more takers. They have already found a number of takers in the two Scandinavian countries. This would not have been the case if the advantages of a LHV would have outweighed the disadvantages. The need is to carefully deliberate upon the nature of EMS that may work in certain parts of Europe better. Over certain roads and regions, and as a part of the hub and spoke transportation structure. Precautions should be taken to ensure that the advantages an EMS can deliver are sustainable and do not lead to a modal shift. Trepidations surrounding the issues of safety and hindrance should be addressed as well. An EMS that is safe and advantageous would make a fit case for takers, and the EU amendment directive looks like a step in the right direction.

Airless tyres for commercial vehicles

airlessAn airless tyre developed by Michelin could push pneumatic tyres down the road to extinction. Not as early as many would think, the journey of pneumatic tyres will also depend on how successful products like the ‘tweel’ are. An airless tyre developed by Michelin, ‘tweel’, according to Pete Selleck, president of Michelin North America, is an airless tyre and wheel combination. Michelin recently commissioned a plant to produce airless tyres in South Carolina, USA. First plant in the history of tyre making, that is dedicated to the production of airless radial tyres according to Selleck, the ‘tweel’ will be marketed as a replacement for conventional tyres on lawn movers and off-road industrial vehicles. Aimed at commercial vehicles thus, and those that are more prone to punctures than automobile tyres, ‘tweel’ was born out of the an idea first conceived by Michelin research engineers in the USA.

michelinChanging the configuration of a conventional tyre, bringing together the tyre and the wheel assembly into one solid unit, the ‘tweel’ comprises of a rigid hub connected to a shear beam by means of flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes, all functioning as a single unit. It has no air, thereby solving what had seemed to be the unavoidable challenge of chronic flat tyres that plagues the landscape, construction, contracting, refuse and recycling and agricultural industries. Highlighting Michelin’s long-standing commitment to breakthrough innovation according to Selleck, the ‘tweel’ was born at Michelin Americas Research Company in Greenville, South Carolina, which is one of Michelin’s three global technology centers, as a concept. The same site was also chosen for its manufacture in order to satisfy a growing commercial market. The new plant at the site gives Michelin the ability to boost output of its award-winning Michelin X Tweel SSL skid-steer tyres and begin production of the new Michelin X Tweel Turf as original equipment for John Deere to equip its Ztrak 900 Series line-up of zero-turn commercial mowers.

Originally introduced as a concept at the 2005 North American International Auto Show, the X Tweel makes Michelin’s highly advanced airless radial tyre and is claimed to be the only commercial product available to offer the advantages of no maintenance, no compromise and no downtime. With the capability to perform with traditional radial tyre technology, which requires no air, thereby eliminating the risk of a ‘flat’, the ‘tweel’, said Ralph Dimenna, head of Michelin Tweel Technologies, “Enables Michelin to enter new markets and expand its reach in existing business segments within the low-speed application category. The industry is hungry for solutions contributing to productivity, safety and bottom lines. Serving our customers is at the center of our strategy for success.”

Technology Safety through design

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Story by : Bhushan Mhapralkar

Safety beyond ABS and ESP could begin at the design stage, and has the potential to be more effective in eliminating issues like blind spots.

Trucks with a snout is the thing of the past. The Tata 1210L is long history, and so is the Hindustan Bedford J Series. Also, some of the trucks with a bonnet that came out of Ashok Leyland. Except for the Tata SE, most trucks in India, like the ones in Europe, are of the forward control variety. Buses too. If this is a reminder of the fact that British truck makers at one time actively promoted the ‘farsighted-ness’ of the cabs their trucks and buses were fitted with, and to an extent where Atkinson, at the 1966 CV Motor Show in UK unveiled the ultimate ‘all-seeing’ cab, the subject of how well the driver can see has been a subject of much scrutiny throughout the commercial vehicle history the world over.

Aligned with the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety (CLOCS) programme in UK, truck manufacturers DAF, MAN, Mercedes-Benz and Scania showcased new vehicles that are better able to protect other road users. Emphasising improvement in safety through design, and thinking beyond the UNECE R29.02 cab strength regulations that involve two cab tests – front impact and static roof strength test and an optional impact test on the cab’s rear wall, European commercial vehicle manufacturers are looking far ahead. Beyond the regulations that are known to be the most stringent, they are striving to improve safety through design.

 

Improvement in safety through design

Improvement in safety through design is made more complex by the fact that many roads in the older parts of Europe were not designed to support the kind of trucks that find their way there today. It is an example that would fit the situation in India too. With footpaths in cities and towns of India either non-existent or encroached upon, the contact between people and vehicles has risen to dangerous levels. Made more complex by a certain lack of road design and maintenance among other factors, even highways and expressways are putting safety at stake. India, in 2013, registered the highest number of road accident related deaths in the world, at 1.38 lakh. Beyond the mandatory fitment of ABS in new trucks above 12-tonne GVW, and buses above 5-tonnes, there is a need to find new ways to improve safety through design. A slimmer A-pillar for example.

Thicker A-pillars, flatter windscreens and large mirror clusters in M&HCVs are known to induce lateral blind spots. It was the demand for ever-stronger cabs that is said to have led to such a situation. The revised ECE R29.03 regulation that will come into effect in Europe from January 31, 2017, is claimed to call for even thicker A-pillars. If the sheer physical size and higher cab position made it essential to engineer thicker A-posts, the longer and heavier doors with ever increasing mirror sizes also meant that the A-pillars were thick and strong. The demand for new generation of long-nose trucks that could appear on the European roads by 2022 has added another element of debate, and at the core is the fact that there is a need to improve safety through design by ensuring elemination of blind spots.

 

Blind spot elimination

In an urban and semi-urban context, many accidents are caused by the driver of a commercial vehicle (trucks especially) failing to see or notice another road user. The inability to detect another road user is born out of a limited field of vision. When Volvo began work on the new FH truck, drastic design changes were made. The A-pillars of the new FH are thus upright and slimmer. The rear view mirrors are slimmer; the mirror housing turns rather than just the glass inside the casing. Even if it is not offered in India as yet, the FH, in Europe, could be had with a small but significant icon just besides the rear-view mirrors on the passenger side. Fitted into the A-pillar, when the icon lights up, it indicates that ‘Lane Changing Support’ has spotted something in the blind spot area, and the driver should refrain from changing lane until it’s clear. Daimler in Europe has also introduced a blind spot detection technology last year. According to Daimler India Commercial Vehicle spokesperson, the technology warns drivers of the presence of other road users when the truck is turning. While the elimination of blind spots would help to reduce accidents, in countries like India where road conditions are crowded, the challenge is the cost involved. These modern technologies would be extremely costly for implementation in mass market applications, both in terms of development cost as well as the product cost, she averred. She further expressed, that there is a need to develop innovative solutions that are suitable for mass market application in India, which cost less.

 

Cost and mass market appeal

Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle manufacturer, Asia Motor Works (AMW) Ltd. is offering two technologies towards the elimination of blind spots. One is mirror-based and the other is camera-based. Shamprasad Ponkshe, Executive Vice President – R&D, AMW, stated that there is a need to develop a (blind spot detection) technology that addresses the requirements and limitations of the respective market rather than adapt a costly technology. The price of mirror-based blind spot detection technology is a few hundred-rupees to a few thousand-rupees. That of the camera-based system is between Rs. 5000 to Rs. 25000 according to Ponkshe. Ponkshe stated that AMW is working with some camera manufacturers to develop a low cost solution, and a technology that will greatly help to eliminate the blind spots and provide considerable relief to drivers. He explained, “It is very crucial that the operators have a range of technology options, that cater to their requirements, based on individual application needs.” Drawing attention to the various categories of mirrors that have been defined in the Central Motor Vehicles Rules (CMVR), Dr. A K Jindal, Head- ERC, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, opined, “For enhanced safety there have been many research studies to further enhance the vision around vehicles through various indirect means. At Tata Motors, we are evaluating various technologies for detecting blind spots around vehicles.”

 

Individual application needs

The need to address individual application needs is of paramount importance. It may call for an amount of modularity to be engineered into the safety system. There’s also the need for a solution or a system to stand up to the Indian operating conditions. Mere adaption will not do. There is no doubt, that Indian customers would welcome an advanced technology like remotely operated 360-degree blind spot camera, but not at the current price, which is prohibitive. “A price tag of around Rs. 3000 to Rs. 8000 could be palatable. Providing such a cost effective solution that withstands harsh environment like stone hits, dusty environment, vibrations and temperature is a challenge for automotive manufacturers,” expressed Ponkshe. While Dr. Jindal stressed upon the importance of such technologies in trucks and buses, there’s also the need for such technologies to be incorporated at the design stage. Especially in the Indian context where the level of human-machine contact is dangerously high.

Many odds are stacked against a commercial vehicle driver. Compared to the design change in terms of rear-view mirrors, the advanced blind spot detection technologies that European CV makers like Volvo have introduced on their trucks, none have found their way into India. If and when they do, they may not be attractive enough for a buyer because of the cost. The need therefore is to offer solutions that may have been inspired by technologies that have evolved in other parts of the world, but are priced at a level where an average Indian trucker will find them affordable as well as usable.

Daimler Trucks drives first autonomous truck on public roads

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Daimler Trucks became the world´s first manufacturer to be granted a road license for an autonomous heavy-duty truck. The first journey in the so-called Freightliner Inspiration Truck, which took place on US highway 15 in Las Vegas, was made by Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada, and Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard. The truck is equipped with the intelligent Highway Pilot system for autonomous driving. The state of Nevada licensed two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for regular operation on public roads. Daimler Trucks is the global leading truck manufacturer and, with the Freightliner brand, also the biggest producer in the U.S.
“Our Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the world´s first autonomous commercial vehicle to be licensed for road use. Our achievement here underlines yet again our role as a technological pioneer and demonstrates our consistent dedication to develop the technology for autonomous long-distance driving to series production standard. I am proud of this extra-ordinary achievement by the Daimler Trucks team,” stated Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler AG board member responsible for Trucks and Buses.
Highway Pilot system to be developed to series production standard
Transport in the future must be even safer, more efficient and more networked – this is the aspiration that Daimler Trucks has expressed in the new Freightliner Inspiration Truck. In July of last year, Daimler Trucks provided the world´s first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg. Now, the first appearance of the Inspiration Truck on a public road in the U.S. marks the logical next step on the journey to series production. In the last few months the technology has been tested over many thousands of kilometers and configured for use in U.S. highway traffic.
“We are in a unique position among manufacturers that we are able to implement technologies across all business units and brands. We have transferred our Highway Pilot system to our U.S. Freightliner brand within a very short time frame and developed it for the world´s first autonomous truck to be licensed for road use,” reports Dr. Bernhard.
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The world premiere of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck took place near Las Vegas, in front of representatives of the media, government as well as business and finance. Trucks are by far the most important means of transport in the U.S. In 2012, trucks transported around 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the United States. This way, a total of 9.4 billion tons of freight were moved by trucks. Globally, the road freight transport is expected to even triple between now and 2050. Autonomous trucks provide the opportunity to cope with this growth in a manner that harmonizes economic and environmental needs.
“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck. The application of this innovative technology to one of America’s most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the New Nevada economy,” said Gov. Sandoval. “The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA’s safety, testing and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”

Mercedes-Benz unveils Concept V-ision e plug-in hybrid

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Launched at the 2015 Geneva show, the plug-in hybrid concept van, Concept V-ision is aimed at luxury travel. It is also aimed at business travellers. Flaunting designo titanium alubeam paint and a sporty-aerodynamic styling, the van concept is based on the V-Class, and features executive seats in the rear that can recline to a lying position inclination of up to 49 degrees at a push of a button. They include integrated calf supports, separate footrests, additional pillows, a three-stage heating and ventilation system apart from a massage feature. The executive seats can be combined with standard individual seats or optional seat benches as well. Two foldable 35 x 35 cm tables and two iPad holders are integrated into the driver and front-passenger seat backrests. These may bring the concept van up to speed in areas of comfort and convenience, it is the plug-in hybrid tech that makes it stand out. Promising powerful propulsion, the plug-in hybrid system, consisting of a 210 hp four-cylinder gasoline engine that develops a maximum torque of 350 Nm, and an electric motor that does 90 kW and 340 Nm of torque, has a total power output of 333 hp and a torque of 600 Nm. Guaranteeing a power packed performance, the concept van has a rated fuel consumption of less than 3.0 litres per 100 km, and can travel up to 50 km in an all-electric mode.

Demonstrating the potential a Mercedes-Benz van will offer in the future when it comes to accommodating the customers wishes and market demands according to Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, the Concept V-ision sprints from 0 to 100 kmph in 6.1 seconds. This makes this hybrid quicker than the current V 250 BlueTEC top engine variant. With a top speed of 206 kmph, the NEDC fuel consumption of 3.0 litres per 100 km corresponds to CO2 emissions of 71 g per km. Capable of travelling up to 50 km in an all-electric mode if driven at a maximum speed of 80 kmph, offering short emission free trips, the energy for the electric motor is stored in a high-voltage lithium-ion battery with a total capacity of 13.5 kWh. The battery can be recharged using an external power source. An intelligent drive-system management program automatically selects the ideal combination of combustion engine and an electric motor. The range of options includes a nearly silent electrical start (silent start), use of the electric motor to support the gasoline engine during acceleration (boost), and energy recovery (recuperation) during braking and when the vehicle is coasting. All recovered energy is stored in the battery which can be used for electric driving or the boost function. Drivers can also manage hybrid interaction manually and choose from different modes like hybrid, e-mode, e-save and charge. “Our pioneering Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrid technology has enabled us to increase the output of the most powerful V-Class at the moment by 105 kW. And, while we have lowered fuel consumption to the level of a compact,” concludes Mornhinweg.

Daimler Trucks drives first autonomous truck on public roads

 

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Daimler Trucks became the world´s first manufacturer to be granted a road license for an autonomous heavy-duty truck. The first journey in the so-called Freightliner Inspiration Truck, which took place on US highway 15 in Las Vegas, was made by Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada, and Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard. The truck is equipped with the intelligent Highway Pilot system for autonomous driving. The state of Nevada licensed two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for regular operation on public roads. Daimler Trucks is the global leading truck manufacturer and, with the Freightliner brand, also the biggest producer in the U.S.
“Our Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the world´s first autonomous commercial vehicle to be licensed for road use. Our achievement here underlines yet again our role as a technological pioneer and demonstrates our consistent dedication to develop the technology for autonomous long-distance driving to series production standard. I am proud of this extra-ordinary achievement by the Daimler Trucks team,” stated Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler AG board member responsible for Trucks and Buses.
Highway Pilot system to be developed to series production standard
Transport in the future must be even safer, more efficient and more networked – this is the aspiration that Daimler Trucks has expressed in the new Freightliner Inspiration Truck. In July of last year, Daimler Trucks provided the world´s first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg. Now, the first appearance of the Inspiration Truck on a public road in the U.S. marks the logical next step on the journey to series production. In the last few months the technology has been tested over many thousands of kilometers and configured for use in U.S. highway traffic.
“We are in a unique position among manufacturers that we are able to implement technologies across all business units and brands. We have transferred our Highway Pilot system to our U.S. Freightliner brand within a very short time frame and developed it for the world´s first autonomous truck to be licensed for road use,” reports Dr. Bernhard.
Spectacular world premiere near Las Vegas
The world premiere of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck took place near Las Vegas, in front of representatives of the media, government as well as business and finance. Trucks are by far the most important means of transport in the U.S. In 2012, trucks transported around 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the United States. This way, a total of 9.4 billion tons of freight were moved by trucks. Globally, the road freight transport is expected to even triple between now and 2050. Autonomous trucks provide the opportunity to cope with this growth in a manner that harmonizes economic and environmental needs.
“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck. The application of this innovative technology to one of America’s most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the New Nevada economy,” said Gov. Sandoval. “The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA’s safety, testing and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”

Freightliner Inspiration Truck: Revolutionary technology will be tested on public roads
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is based on the series-produced US Freightliner Cascadia Evolution model, but with the addition of the Highway Pilot technology. The latter comprises a front radar and a stereo camera plus tried-and-tested assistance systems such as the Adaptive Cruise Control+, as seen in the Mercedes-Benz Actros. For licensing on public roads in Nevada, the technology was further developed and the excellent interaction of components extensively tested. As part of the truck´s so-called Marathon Run, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck covered over 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometers) on a test circuit in Germany.
“The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is all about more sustainable transport, for the benefit of the economy, society and consumers alike. It remains our goal to be in a position to offer the Highway Pilot in series-produced vehicles from the middle of the coming decade. With licensing for road use in the USA we have reached an important milestone in autonomous truck driving,” emphasizes Martin Daum, President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).
“Daimler Trucks is actively urging dialogue with politicians, authorities and all other parties involved. Our next goal is to test the Highway Pilot technology on public roads in Germany too. Preparations are already under way”, Dr. Bernhard adds.
Initial research findings of Daimler Trucks clearly show autonomous driving relieves the strain of truck drivers
The Highway Pilot technology from Daimler Trucks demonstrably leads to more concentrated and thus more efficient long-haul truck drivers. This is a result of studies conducted on a cordoned-off test route during the pilot stage of the technology. Measurements of the probands´ brain currents (EEG) demonstrated that driver drowsiness decreases by about 25% when the truck is being operated in autonomous mode, and the driver all the while pursuing other meaningful operations. The studies also prove a high acceptance of the Highway Pilot technology and a rapid adaption phase of the probands. Relieving strains of the driver through autonomous truck driving leads to more road safety.

Arctic monsters

Working under arduous conditions, 9-axle 76-tonne truck-trailer combinations are turning out be popular in Finland.

In Finland, 9-axle, 76-tonne GCW longer truck-trailer combinations are becoming more and more popular since 2013, when the Government approved this new weight limit on the basis of a proposal of the Ministry of Transportation. This is the story of two such monster trucks: a Volvo FH 16 750 timber truck and a Sisu Polar gravel dump truck. The FH 16 combination is made up of a 4-axle truck, powered by a 16.1-litre D 16 K, 750 hp and 3.550 Nm peak torque engine, and a 5-axle trailer. According to Finnish regulation, the 76-tonne GCW is allowed for (at least) a 9-axle combination, provided that, at least, 65 per cent of the mass of the trailer is on axles fitted with twin tyres. The FH 16 750 is thus fitted with several specific technical features for a timber truck. First of all, it’s a full pneumatic suspension (8×4 rigid), with 2nd lift axle. There are also other geometries, say with 4th lift axle instead of the 2nd. The full pneumatic solution, that is gaining more and more success among Volvo timber trucks, now accounts for 85 per cent of Volvo timber truck sale volumes in Finland (where Volvo commands about 50 per cent of the total market share). Five years ago, the percentage of full-pneumatic suspension was no more than five per cent. The full-pneumatic solution allows the driver to lift an axle to increase the grip of driven axles. In addition, the driver can dump air from pneumatic suspension of one of the driven axles to increase the grip of the other axle.

In Finland, the total market for timber trucks ranges between 150 and 250 new trucks, per year. On an average, these trucks are changed every five years, and reach a total mileage of 1,50,000 to 2,50,000 km per year. Other technical features of the FH 16-750 timber truck include a special software for Volvo I-shift automated transmission to cope with extremely demanding conditions of timber transport along narrow and sometimes inadequate forest road. Moreover, the truck is fitted with a Hill-holder system, differential lock, sand splitter device (to increase the grip of driven axles) and a timber crane. Another key feature of the FH 16 750 timber truck is the so-called Volvo dynamic steering. An electronically controlled electric motor is attached to the steering shaft. The electric motor, which works together with the traditional hydraulic power steering, is regulated thousands of times per second by the Electronic Control Unit (ECU). In this way the irregularities of road surfaces, such as compacted snow or ice slabs, are automatically dampened by the system. This, in turn, decreases the driver’s workload, because he does not have to compensate for such irregularities by minor and continuous adjustment of the steering wheel. Along public roads and narrow forest roads, the dynamic steering really makes a difference. Despite the longer dimension (24 m long) and higher center of gravity (4.4 m high), the 9-axle truck-trailer combination proved to be easy to drive and stable.

The 5-axle, twin-tyre trailer followed the truck smoothly, without any problem. In Finland, we experienced a standard working day of a timber truck from Kontio – a world market leader – loghouse production headquarters in Pudasjärvi – 700 km north of Helsinki – to an Arctic pine forest and back. Climate conditions were pretty good, because of the sun and a relatively mild temperature by Finnish winter standards, say -17°C. According to experienced timber truck drivers, the most demanding conditions occur on icy and slippery surfaces when the temperature is around zero, or in deep-frozen conditions when the temperature drops to -35 or even -40°C. In the latter circumstances, the natural rubber of Scandinavian winter tyres becomes hard and friction on slippery surfaces becomes more problematic.

During the empty trip from Kontio headquarters to the Arctic pine forest we got stuck in the soft snow of a narrow forest road. We tried – without any result – to lift an axle; to increase the grip of the driven axles of our 8×4 timber truck. Then, we tried to clear the snow from driven axles using a shovel. We also tried to re-position the trailer, using the timber crane fitted on the truck. Since we got no result, we asked for help. A snowplough finally helped to free us. Loading cut-to-length tree trunks – prepared by an harvester – takes about 30 minutes in standard operating conditions. Roundwoods trucks are typically owned by family enterprises situated in countryside, where the entrepreneur participates actively in production work. According to 2010 statistics, there are about 900 timber trucking entrepreneurs, employing 2,600 truck drivers, with a fleet of 1,700 trucks. The average number of trucks per enterprise is less than two. Roundwood logistics in Finland is controlled by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems – owned by wood procurement companies. In general, each company has its own ICT system. ICT systems like LogForce, developed by software house Fifth Element, covers all the planning and vehicle software of the haulage contractor to include transport orders, scheduling, stock management, messaging and map functionality.

Sisu Polar Euro 6 range

The second 76-tonne, 9-axle combination tested in Finland was a 21,89 m long Sisu Polar rock gravel truck-trailer. The 10×4 truck was fitted with a Mercedes-Benz Euro 6, 6-in-line OM 473 15.6-litre engine (with high-performance engine brake), rated at 625 hp (3,000 Nm peak torque). Engine power is transmitted to rear axles by Mercedes-Benz Powershift 3, 16-speed automated transmission – as in the vehicle under test – or by Eaton Fuller RTLO22198B 18-speed unsynchronized manual gearbox (optional). Sisu Polar line-up includes Sisu Rock dump trucks, Sisu Works road maintenance trucks, Sisu Timber (timber truck version), Sisu Roll, demountable trucks and Sisu Carrier, machine transport trucks. In addition to these models, Sisu Work plus is now available, which features a combination of road maintenance and demountable applications. Cab, engine, transmission and core electrical/electronic systems of Sisu Polar are based on Mercedes-Benz Arocs technology. Sisu Polar 10×4 proved to be easy to maneouver, thanks to three steering axles. The first axle can be steered by 30°, the second by 16°, while the fifth can be counter-steered by 13°.

In this configuration, the turning radius of the entire 21.89 m combination is 12.5 m. On uneven surfaces, such as compacted snow, ice slabs, or during tight maneouvers with 76-tonne GCW, the Servotwin steering system with electronic steering power assistance makes a difference in terms of comfort for the driver (because less corrections of the steering wheel are needed) and vehicle handling. OM 473 engine brake, with a maximum braking power of 475 kW, can substitute foundation brakes in 90 per cent of the operating conditions. Despite the full-mechanical suspension system, the driving comfort during on-road applications proved to be quite high. Sisu Polar features two different frame heights: 300 mm U-profile with inner reinforcement, and 460 mm C-profile for heavy duty tasks.


Heavier combinations in Finland

The 76-tonne, 9-axle combinations are not the heaviest ones in Finland. Five special permits regarding 33 m, 80-tonne truck-combinations have been granted so far to ‘Speed to run’ on six different road channels, and one 31 m, 94-tonne to Orpe. Some 10 to 15 more applications by three different companies have been handed to the road safety authority Trafi and to the Ministry of Transport.

Orpe is the only transport company with one permit to run with a 31 m (application was for 102-tonne according to axle weights of 12 axle) 94-tonne, 12 axle timber truck on very specified conditions for a trial period till 31 December, 2019. Only specially trained drivers are accepted, to run on roads and routes accepted by the Ministry. All brakes have to be electric EBS. Transports are forbidden when weather conditions or forecasts by the Meteorological Institute are declared “very bad or very bad road conditions.”

The behaviour of the whole vehicle combination has to be continuously controlled by cameras on the vehicle. A report of the routes driven, vehicle behaviour and road conditions have to be delivered every month to the Trafi. The entire vehicle combination has to be passed on to the authorities for testing for no longer than three days whenever Trafi or the Ministry gives notice.

Speed has five 33 m long, 80-tonne truck combinations running from Helsinki and Kotka harbours, to cities to the north and to the east, on five special routes covering some 120 to 200 km of length accepted by the Trafi and the Ministry of Transport. These trucks will carry two 40 ft ‘Jumbo’ containers or four 20 ft containers.

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