Thanks, as always to the good folk at the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Tachoblog can bring you a roundup of Commercial Vehicle news…

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October registrations: van rise continues, trucks rebound

Last week’s UK van and truck registration data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed van and truck numbers at 21,305 in October and up 8.7% to 247,637 for the rolling year..  Within that total, there were 18,147 vans registered in the month, taking the rolling year figure up 14.3% to 215,902.  October’s impressive 3,158 truck registrations still left the rolling year down 18.8% at a total of 31,735.  “The sustained increase in commercial vehicle registrations provides confirmation that the economy is continuing to recover,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.  “Vans continue to lead the recovery, with volumes up for the ninth successive month.  We expect next year will be tough but with slow, steady growth improving confidence and demand.”

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Midi-buses recover, but overall October volumes weak

Last week’s UK bus and coach registration data showed overall bus and coach volumes down 38.2% in October and down 12..9% for the year to date.  At the same time, 8.5 to 16t midi-bus registrations rose by 19.3% in the month.  Coach numbers dropped 5.9% in October, but were up 21.3% over the year to date.  “Overall bus and coach registrations fell for a seventh straight month in October.  They dropped for all but one month since April 2008.  But it is not all bad,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.  “Coach figures stayed firm over the first ten months of the year, up by a fifth.  It was also good to see midi-bus numbers up almost 20% in the month.  Some manufacturers still benefit from the Green Bus Fund and some sectors of the market may continue to improve.  Changes to concessionary travel from 2011, to the Bus Scheme Operators Grant in 2012 and cuts in Local Authority spending will make for a tough year ahead..”

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Success for Euro Bus Expo

Its organisers say the Euro Bus Expo bus and coach show last week at the NEC was a success.  Encouragingly, exhibitors reported improving order books for vehicles and their supporting products and services.  The show ran from 2 to 4 November and had 260 exhibitors showing more than 100 buses and coaches and a wide range of supporting products and services.  Firsts included Volvo’s new tri-axle B13 and Setra’s S431 double-deck coach.  Wrightbus had its new StreetLite midi-bus there and Alexander Dennis showed its Enviro200.  Optare showed a 9.7 metre Versa hybrid mid-ibus for Greater Manchester.  The bus is one of a 32-strong order and uses a Siemens hybrid system with a Mercedes-Benz engine.

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Low-cost hybrid bus trial

Torotrack, Optare, Allison and Ricardo used Euro Bus Expo to show a low-cost, high-efficiency hybrid “Flybus” project..  The Optare Solo midi-bus will use a prototype flywheel-based system to capture braking energy and release up to 100Kw to help the vehicle accelerate, cutting fuel use and emissions by some 20% in stop-start operation.  “The technology offers easier installation than battery-electric systems,” said Richard Stone, Torotrak’s engineering director, who is leading the project. Compared to a typical battery-based hybrid, the system offers “comparable gains in fuel economy” at a “fraction” of the size, weight and cost.  Stone expects that it will be possible to convert existing fleets without cutting passenger capacity.  The flywheel-hybrid bolts directly onto the standard automatic transmission with Torotrak’s CVT managing the energy flow to and from Ricardo’s 60,000rpm “Kinergy” flywheel.  The trial will deliver results next year.

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New boss for RHA Midlands and Western

Nick Payne will be the new regional director for the Road Haulage Association’s Midlands and Western area.  He has been with the RHA for five years, starting as advertisement manager for Roadway Magazine.  He moved to general sales manager, based at Peterborough and will take over from the present director, Mike Farmer, when he retires at the end of the year.

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Carrier system cuts fuel by 3%

Kings-Lynn-based 3 Distribution Ltd says Carrier Transicold’s Foretrack fleet management and tracking system is paying for itself.  Earlier this year the firm fitted Foretrack across its 26 trucks running with Carrier refrigeration units.  “It is refreshing to find a system that integrates into our existing technology and delivers on its promises,” said Patrick Finch, director of 3 Distribution.  “We now have real-time visibility of the entire temperature controlled fleet and the additional bonus of monitoring the performance of all refrigeration units instantaneously.”  Finch says the firm calculated that a 1% cut in fuel use would pay for the system.  So far the saving is 3%, “just as Carrier suggested.”

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Optare optimistic

Jim Sumner, chief executive at Optare is optimistic about the company’s ability to weather “very uncertain times.”  He says the firm has stuck to its plans to cut cost and debt in a changing market and he is confident of the firm’s ability to offer a wider range of “more affordable” solutions to cash-strapped operators.  New advanced technology will help here and Sumner is proud of the firm’s record; “We backed four horses and I think we picked four winners.”  Optare won the first big contract for hybrid buses, with Manchester, it has the first electric bus running, in Durham; it won a CILT award for its Eco Dash and now it is working to help develop a line or retrofit, low-cost mechanical hybrid: The Fly Bus project should start tests early in the new year.  On top of this he expects great things from the partnership with Ashok Leyland.  And “last November our order book stood at about £7.5m, now it is over £35m and should hit £40m by the end of the month.”

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Show success for new wheelchair safety systems

Q’Straint successfully launched two new products at Eurobus Expo last week – the QM3 wheelchair securing system and the new Flex-i-Trans flooring system.  The QM3 allows operators to safely secure wheelchairs on low-floor city buses, trams and trains.  Flex-i-Trans flooring offers “maximum internal layout versatility” for accessible vehicles.  The firm says it can be fitted to many vans including variants from the Ford Transit, Volkswagen Crafter and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter ranges. “We were extremely busy for all three days of the show,” said Phil Stratton, UK and Ireland sales manager.  “We have already taken orders for both systems.”  He is confident that both will become ‘first choice’ for specifiers.

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Ashok-Optare deal looks good

“We are very pleased with our partnership with Optare,” said Dr V Sumantran, executive vice chairman of India’s Hinduja Automotive, parent company to Ashok Leyland.  He sees big opportunities for both partners in the global trend toward urbanisation and the parallel, growing demands for mass transit systems and inevitably growing restrictions on private cars.  He expects Ashok and Optare to develop as integrated transport solution providers rather than simply bus and coach builders.  The deal with Optare should “leverage” both sides of the equation, for instance with Optare able to take advantage of Ashok’s proven natural gas engine technology – it has over 15,000  and Ashok using the UK firm’s integral bus and coach building expertise.  Sumantran says his company has been continuously profitable for 63 straight years.

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CNG bus from MAN

MAN showed a CNG powered and left hand control version of its successful Lion’s City bus at last week’s Euro Bus Expo 2010 at the NEC.  The firm used the opportunity to gauge UK market interest in its natural gas powered bus technology.  It says sufficient interest could see right hand control models for the UK.  “We have had tremendous interest in CNG vehicles from operators”,” said Tony Griffiths, bus operations manager at MAN Truck & Bus UK.  The firm has sold more than 7,000 CNG buses on the European mainland.  It will judge the level of local interest and decide if and when to add the CNG bus in right-hand drive format to its UK range.”

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Coventry sorted for City Link

Express delivery firm City Link says it has opened its first post sorting centre in Coventry, bringing around 50 new jobs to the city, which is the centre of its UK operations.  The centre, in Cyan Park, will run 24 hours a day and, at peak periods, seven days a week.  It can handle up to 500,000 letters and packets a day from across the country.

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Ryder to spend £1.8m on infrastructure

Ryder Europe says it will spend £1.8m on a “comprehensive range” of improvements to its rental depots, maintenance workshops and accounting centre in the UK.  The work will include reception and car parking facilities for customers as the firm launches a “pay as you go” retail maintenance service for commercial vehicles in the UK.

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CNG bus from MAN

MAN showed a CNG powered and left hand control version of its successful Lion’s City bus at last week’s Euro Bus Expo 2010 at the NEC.  The firm used the opportunity to gauge UK market interest in its natural gas powered bus technology.  It says sufficient interest could see right hand control models for the UK.  “We have had tremendous interest in CNG vehicles from operators”,” said Tony Griffiths, bus operations manager at MAN Truck & Bus UK.  The firm has sold more than 7,000 CNG buses on the European mainland.  It will judge the level of local interest and decide if and when to add the CNG bus in right-hand drive format to its UK range.”

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New industry speaker service

ProSpeke International is new, free-to-use speaker service.  This provides expert business speakers who can deliver “much more” than simple motivational talks or celebrity gossip.  “Our people entertain, educate, inspire and add value for the audiences they address,” said Dale Howarth, who runs the service.  “It is simple to use and free, with no agency fees or commissions to pay to ProSpeke.”  People using the web-based service at have full, direct access to speakers and can negotiate their own terms and fees directly.”  This saves time and money and makes it easier to adapt the content to better suit a specific audience or event.

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Van values stabilise in October

Manheim Remarketing’s latest monthly Market Analysis for Vans shows that at £4,092, average wholesale used van values fell by just 0.8% or £34 following an increase of 3.2% or £127 in September.  It says this levelling off follows an increase in average age to 52 months plus an increase in average mileage to 75,065.  “The underlying strength of the market is demonstrated further by the fact that average values are 14.0% or £502 higher than the same period last year. In tougher economic times a used van offers better value and a lower financial outlay for an SME operator than a new van,” said James Davis, general manager, commercial vehicles at Manheim Remarketing.

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EU fails to understand vans again

The EU Council Presidency wants to limit van CO2 emission to 140g CO2/km in 2020.  Its “compromise proposal” sets this as target for the average emissions for new vans.  The plans is to use this figure as the basis for bargaining and reach an agreement on the final performance figure for vans.  The Commission aims to extend the ideas it used to set car CO2 emissions to vans and other light commercial vehicles and the Belgian Presidency wants for a deal by the end of the year.  Parliament will vote in late November.  Many industry observers worry about bureaucrats and politicians who so clearly showing their complete failure to understand the differences between the way private people use cars and business use commercial vehicles.

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New Ingimex dropside meets new standards.

Ingimex has launched the third version of its one stop dropside.  The new model could be the first European light truck dropside to be designed and tested to meet the requirements of EN12642, EN12640 and DIN75410 standards.  These govern the structural strength of the body and its ability to retain loads.  “These standards are quoted on some CV components, but we suspect that we are the first to have tested the complete body structure and load restraint points as a final assembly,” said Jeremy Gallen, engineering director.  Incorporating these standards early in the design phase meant a very modest cost increase but “during testing, we discovered that our design exceeded the requirements of the “XL” rating in EN12642 at 4.6T GVW”.

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More H2 buses for London

€5.67m from the EU means Transport for London can afford three more hydrogen hybrid fuel cell buses.  This means TfL can use H2 to run an entire London bus route, helping improve local air quality.  The deal is part of the EU’s Cleaner Hydrogen in Cities plan.  The three extra buses will join five others due to start running on route RV1 later this year.  All eight should be working by the end of 2011 and the extra cash means the trial can run for four rather than three years.  Wrightbus will supply the buses, ISE Corporation will maintain them with Ballard supplying the fuel cells and Air Products the H2

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FTA dismayed

The Freight Transport Association says it is “dismayed” at the government’s failure to establish Operator Licensing in Northern Ireland.  The necessary bill, the long-awaited Goods Vehicle (Operator Licensing) Bill got its Royal Assent in January this year.  “The momentum that we saw earlier in the year seems to have been lost,” according to Tom Wilson, the FTA’s head of policy for Northern Ireland.  “When it comes to improving the safety of our roads and applying the same standards that operators face in the rest of the UK, there is no room for complacency and there really ought to be a greater sense of urgency from government.”

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Don’t lose your nuts

HGV Direct says that Department for Transport data show that up to 400 wheels come off trucks and trailers each year, causing, on average 134 accidents, 27 injuries and seven deaths.  The firm says loose wheel nuts are the main cause and so it has done a deal with Sweden’s Nord Lock to supply its patented locking wheel nuts.  It says the move could help cut the number of wheel loses and accidents.  “These nuts are more effective and 30% cheaper than any other nut security system on the market,” says Chris Knowles, operations director.  He is so confident that he’ll give a free set of ‘Checkpoint’ nut indicators to any customer ordering a set of Nord Lock locking nuts.

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CV Show bookings blossom

“Over 15,000 square metres of stand space is now covered by exhibitors who have now signed up for next year’s UK Commercial Vehicle Show,” says CV Show organiser, Bob Sockl.  “We’ve bookings from many of the industry’s major players and we’re talking to dozens of others.”  The CV Show and its Workshop counterpart will run from Tuesday 12 to Thursday 14 April at the National Exhibition Centre, near Birmingham.  Sockl is quietly confident about the Show, which he says will provide an “unrivalled” shop window for firms keen to market their way out the recession. A current floor plan is available by calling 01634 261262 or email

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Mind the Mexican scam

CV Show and ATS organisers say that exhibitors are being hit by an online exhibitions and events directory called Expo Guide, based in Mexico.  Typically Expo Guide faxes a misleading form that looks like an organiser’s free catalogue listing service.  This invites them to sign up for an entry in an on-line directory.  “If you fall for it, you’ll find yourself locked into what looks like an irrevocable three year contract that costs €1,181 a year,” says Bob Sockl of Crystal Communications, organiser for the CV Show.  “All you seem to get for you money is a list giving your firm’s contact details and logo, but no stand number or list of exhibits.”  Check Expo Guide on Google and you’ll find lots of advice on this and similar scams.  Most suggest that if you get caught you should ignore all the letters and threats.  Also check the Association of Exhibition Organisers which has been successfully scam busting for years.  “Do check, it could save a lot of grief,” says Sockl.

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And finally

My colleague Bob Davis, who amongst his many talents is also the SMMT’s bus man, saw the following recently in Coach and Bus Week; it is a part of a quote from a Stagecoach manager:  “…during winter weather, Chipping Norton is located at the highest geographical point in the county.”  Bob wants to know where Chipping Norton goes in summer?

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