At the Defexpo 2016 fair held at Goa, Czech manufacturer of heavy-duty and special application trucks introduced the Force 8×8.
Not many may be aware that the Indian Army operates more than 10,000 Tatra heavy vehicles. The Indian Army is historically one of the largest users of Tatra vehicles in the world and perhaps the largest outside of Czech Republic. The Czech manufacturer of heavy duty trucks, many of which are used for special applications including military usage, offered the Force 8×8 to the Indian Army at the Defexpo 2016 held in Goa in March 2016. The Force series of trucks stand out for their ability to tackle unprecedented terrain. Capable of fording up to 1500 mm depth, the Force series trucks are reliable and have an ability to drive in both extremely low and high outside temperature. Apart from ease of operation they also offer a long service cycle. The Force series marks an evolution in terms of Tatra all-wheel-drive vehicles currently operating in India, and ranging from 4×4 to 12×12 versions.
Force to reckon with
Tatra Force vehicle series was introduced in 2004. In those days vehicles were marked as T 817 and later as T 815-7. It was in response to the requirements of the defence forces, especially after September 11, 2001, towards ensuring a smooth and fast transport of rubber-tyre vehicles over long distances, that a simple low cabin was developed. This would also help to consider the need to transport heavy-duty trucks by standard aeroplanes of the NATO armies. Tatra, in 2004, successfully demonstrated its expertise in modern narrow cabins, including installation of the latest technical features and technologies, such as a uniform oil filling system for the engine, automatic transmission and converter (SFS – Single Fluid System) as it developed the T 815-7E0R89 LVSR vehicle (Logistics Vehicle System Replacement) under a contract for the USMC (US Marine Corps).
The five-axle chassis was designed to have the first and second axles mechanically steered using the “Tatravize 3000” (work of designer Dipl. Ing Antonín Bezděk) system. The fourth and fifth axles were designed to be hydraulically steered using a system that was jointly designed by experts from ZF. ZF experts were also instrumental in designing an all wheel drive system with selectable drive for the last axle. The design and development team also worked on a brand new model series in connection with the approval proceedings. If the Tatra medium-duty T 817 4×4 was powered by a Cummins engine and ZF transmission, the range was extended to include 8×8 and 6×6 versions in the next two years.
T 815-7 to Force series
Strong unification links between individual models are typical of the new range. The design allows for extensive variability of engines and driving mechanisms. Apart from the air-cooled Tatra engines (V8, supercharged with air intercooler, meeting Euro II and Euro III emission standards without the use of an electronically controlled injection system), the vehicles can also be had with liquid-cooled Cummins or Caterpillar engines. Both, mechanically controlled and automatic transmissions can be had as well.
The low structure of the cabin and the vehicle as such can be transported by a C-130 Hercules aircraft. The structure of the vehicle allows for additional armour plating of the cabin in various degrees of protection in accordance with STANAG 4569. In early 2015, Tatra 815-7 vehicles were rechristened as Tatra Force. An interesting part about the Force name is that it has been in use from 1999 through to 2014 for special vehicles (6×6, 8×8, 10×10 and 12×12) that use a cab and chassis from previous T 815-2 and power track, engine and transmission, from global producers such as Deutz, Cummins and Twin Disc. Vehicles that were original named as Force have been from the beginning marked as T 816 and T 815-6.
CKD sets for India
Between 2003 and 2012, 3925 assembly kits were delivered to India. The kits were built and coupled with different superstructures according to the needs and requirements of the Indian armed forces. Because of the problems associated with a former major Indian stakeholder of Tatra, all the deliveries from Kopřivnice to India were stopped. A major breakthrough in Tatra’s return to India took place after the change in ownership structure. In 2013, Tatra was bought by Czech shareholders. In February 2015, Tatra Trucks Company representatives signed a memorandum with an Indian state enterprise BEML Ltd. BEML Ltd., on behalf of the Indian armed forces, carries out the final assembly of the vehicles out of the CKD kits.
Under the new ownership and a new management, Tatra Trucks supplied 100 vehicles to India last year. Most of these in CKD form. Tatra Trucks, on its own, invested in India almost a decade ago. The Indian subsidiary is called Tatra India, and is mandated to develop aftersales services. Proven quality, customer satisfaction and exceptional properties as well as the universality of the use of vehicles in diverse Indian conditions, Tatra Trucks, it can be claimed has found good acceptance. Tatra Trucks, this year, is aiming at supplying no less than 250 vehicles to India. These would be in different states of readiness for final assembly.
CV has been appointed an associate member of the International Truck of the Year (ItoY). Being a part of this association gives the magazine exclusive articles, specially written for CV by IToY jury members.
Long heavy vehicles, as part of the European Modular System may find more takers.
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.
An 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.
Changing 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.”
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.