Thanks 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 for this week…

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Allison opens factory in India

Allison Transmission says it just opened a 203,000ft2 (18.859m2) factory and regional HQ on the outskirts on Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  The firm says the move will help it “expand its global footprint as well as its presence in India.”  There is a broad range of Allison products in City transit bus and off-highway construction trucks working in India and the firm says demand for its fully automatic transmissions is growing steadily.

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Optare scoops £13million Greater Manchester bus order

In a £13m deal Optare plc has won 100% of Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority’s order for up to 66 hybrid buses.  In what is the largest single order for hybrid buses so far placed with help from the Government’s Green Bus Fund, GMITA will take Optare Solo, Solo SR, Versa and Tempo models.  All will use Optare’s Eco Drive diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system, which encourages efficient driving behaviour and the latest telematics technology combining passenger counting, real time information, CCTV and vehicle diagnostics in a single integrated system.  Jim Sumner, Optare CEO said: “This order emphasises our significant lead in the design and production of low and zero emission buses.  As well as our unique Eco Drive range of hybrids, Optare remains the only manufacturer to offer a fully electric-drive model, the Solo EV, as well as the only manufacturer of dual-fuel bio-methane buses.”

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Buses still weak, coaches improve slightly in April

April’s UK bus and coach registration data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that big buses fell 43%, while big coaches rose 78% and smaller coaches rose 7.4%.  “With recent orders well down, such developments are to be expected and the outlook for the big bus sector will be weak, particularly for firms dependent on UK demand,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.  “By contrast, spring has seen a seasonal and welcome rise in big coach registrations, though from a very low base.  As our new government establishes itself, the priority must be to sustain and strengthen the economic recovery with particular focus on encouraging the availability of more and better priced finance.”

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Service history records available free

Daf has developed its own in house web-based system for recording the inspection and service history of trucks and it has made it available free-of-charge to operators.  Called Dafcheck, it will handle will handle service data for other truck brands and any fleet size, “making it ideal for mixed fleet operators who want to use only one system.”  The firm says that because it is web-based and can be accessed from anywhere at any time, Dafcheck is well-suited for use where a fleet runs from number of depots.  The system meets Vosa’s “Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness” criteria.  “With the Operators Compliance Risk Score system used by Vosa now even more important and affecting Operator Licences, recording and retrieving vehicle maintenance records is vital for truck operators,” says Daf.

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Contrasts in April’s van and truck registrations

April van and truck registration data from the SMMT show 17,387 registrations in the month and a 23.3% drop to 225,799 for the rolling year.  Trucks, at 2,496 in April were down 35.9% to 31,951 for the rolling year.  Vans, down 18.2% to 193,848 for the rolling year saw 14,891 registrations in April, up 6.7%, the fourth monthly rise of the year.  “UK van registrations rose in April, continuing the welcome growth over the first quarter of 2010,” said Paul Everitt, chief executive at the SMMT.  “Demand for trucks is still running well below pre-recession levels and continues to reflect weak demand and a lack of business confidence.”  For these sectors too the SMMT says the new government must also work to rebuild the economy and improve business access to cash.

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Van values strengthen in April, says Manheim

Manheim Remarketing’s latest monthly Market Analysis for Vans reports that at £4,416, average wholesale used van prices increased in April by 4.2% (£179) compared with the previous month.  They are now nearly 15% higher than in January 2010.  Average prices have now risen in all but two of the last fifteen months, “showing just how severely values were affected during recession, as well highlighting the strength of their recovery,” said James Davis, general manager, commercial vehicles for Manheim.  “Average van values in the wholesale van market are nearly 50% higher year on year, fuelled by a wholesale supply shortage.”

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Operators need to push forward

With the country’s political future uncertain, Glass’s Guide says it is time for operators to ìpush forwardî with positive business decisions.  “There comes a point when a recessional mindset must give way to a more entrepreneurial outlook and that time is now upon us,” warns George Alexander, chief commercial vehicle editor at Glass’s.  “Businesses will not want to make the wrong financial decisions, but it is important to decide to move forwards.”  He worries that operators may underestimate the risks of running vehicles “well past” their sell-by dates and thinks the economy “sufficiently stable to justify action now.”  He implies that with used vehicles now making better prices, operators should act to start replacing their older vehicles or risk missing an opportunity.

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Renualt wins big Unipart van deal

Renault says it is delivering the first of an order for 750 Kangoo vans to Unipart Automotive.  The firm is the UK’s largest supplier of car parts, serving some of the best-known brands across the country, as well as independent garages.  Martyn Rees, fleet manager for Unipart says the firm checked a range of points when choosing new vans. “Of these, the most important was whole life costs and Renault offered the most compelling combination of competitive running costs and fuel economy.”

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Pirelli wins Malcolm Group deal

Pirelli UK says it and partner Vaculug have won a new and re-tread tyre deal with the Malcolm Group.  WH Malcolm runs over 450 trucks, 1,000 trailers and 120 items of heavy plant.  “Tenders can be difficult situations,” said Graham Hutchison, UK truck director for Pirelli.  “But Pirelli’s range of new “01″ tyres and Vaculug’s retreads proved the best.”  Dave Alsop, Vaculug sales director added:  “This is a firm stamp of approval for the Vaculug Pirelli partnership.  We look forward to a strong, professional relationship where we add to Malcolm’s success story.”

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100 Berlingo Multispace taxis

Citroën says that the Paisley-based Taxi Centre is taking its first 100 Citroën Berlingo Multispace MPVs.  These will help the firm meet the “growing demand” from the taxi trade for versatile and economical vehicles.  The new Berlingos come complete with The Taxi Centre specialist finance and insurance, as well as customer-specified and taxi-specific modifications for operators across the UK.

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Truck cycle safety from Reversing Made Easy Ltd

Reversing Made Easy says London-bound truck drivers will need to stay alert as Mayor Boris Johnsonís latest cycle hire scheme takes effect:  “The city’s bike population is set to rise by a staggering 400% by the end of 2010 alone.”  To mark the introduction of the cycle hire scheme, Reversing Made Easy Ltd is offering all truck fleet managers a free trial and fitment of StepProtect – a simple warning device alerting drivers to cyclists, pedestrians and obstacles on the nearside front.  “In the face of these latest cycling figures, we believe that fitting StepProtect to cover the hazardous blind-spot area is a responsible approach.  It should help cut vehicle damage, personal injury, death and potentially costly lawsuits,” says Steve Ransom, the firm’s director.

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SMMT webinar – electric vehicles in the UK

The next 30-minute webinar in the SMMT series will look at electric vehicles, their potential in the UK and what the SMMT is doing to help this emerging market.  The event starts at 10:30 on Thursday 20 May.  Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive will chair the event and talk about industry developments and Catherine Hutt, the Society’s electric vehicle business development manager will talk about UK activity and what the SMMT is doing to support the industry.  “We’ll end with a question and answer session and you can join in from the comfort of your own office,” said Hutt.  “Email us and weíll send you joining instructions.”

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New faces

We now know the UK’s new coalition government Cabinet and key ministers.  Liberal Democrats have five Cabinet posts and a further 15 ministerial posts.  For the transport industry, probably the most important are: Dr Vince Cable MP, the new business secretary and Philip Hammond MP, secretary of state for transport.  George Osborne MP, who moves into the Treasury as chancellor with Liberal Democrat David Laws MP as chief secretary to the Treasury.  Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne MP is the new energy and climate change secretary, with Caroline Spelman MP secretary of state for the environment.  Conservative Mark Prisk MP is now a business minister, a role he shadowed in opposition.  Former shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers MP is a minister at the Department for Transport.

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Renault takes over Irish dealer

Renault Trucks just took over Coulter Truck & Van Ltd, at Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland.  The business now trades as Renault Trucks NI, a branch of Renault Trucks UK Ltd.  It continues to work from its Mallusk address, offering the full Renault Trucks’ range of new and used vans and trucks and services.  Renault says that Ballyvesey Holdings, Coulterís parent firm decided to concentrate its truck dealer business in England.  “The Northern Ireland market is important to us,” said Laurent Farman, UK managing director for Renault Trucks.  “We have a strong customer base there.”  Although the local economy is still depressed, he sees potential for growth, hence the decision to take over the business.

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Pallet truck lock to cut costs

“Many trucks need to carry a pallet truck to handle goods on customers’ premises,” says Matthew Burke at Aide Automotive.  “But operators worry that the pallet truck may move around in transit and damage the load or the vehicle’s curtains.”  His firm’s Lee Lock is designed to lock the pallet truck in place cutting the risk of it “slamming into” other pallets or damaging curtain sides.  “And as the pallet truck slots into the lock there’s no chance of any back injury from lifting.”  He says the Lee Lock tackles a widespread problem simply and cuts the cost of damage for modest price.

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1925 petrol-electric hybrid bus on show

The British Commercial Vehicle Museum now has a single-deck petrol-electric bus on show.  Built by Tilling-Stevens in 1925 it has been beautifully restored to A1 condition.  Powered by a 40hp petrol engine driving a generator to produce 400V/300A, the bus ran on Route 109 between Bromley & Penge, operated by Thomas Tilling.  The museum in Leyland town centre covers the history of road transport from earliest of steam waggons to the super-sleek TX450 technology demonstrator, built at the Leyland Trucks Technical Centre the mid 1980s.

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Hillhead debut for Volvo FMX

Volvo says its FMX construction truck will make its public debut at the Hillhead Show, Buxton.  The event runs from 22 to 24 June.  The firm will show a bodied 8×4 left-hand control tipper as part of its plan to hike its sales to the construction industry.  The company shares a stand with sister firm Volvo Construction Equipment.  Also on show are an FM 8×4 tipper for WH Malcolm and a flagship FH16-700 tractor unit, as well as Volvo’s new MW500 milling machine, a paver and other related machinery.

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Keltruck director for parliament

Chris Kelly, non-executive director at Scania dealer Keltruck is the new Tory MP for Dudley South.  A swing of 9.5% gave Kelly a majority of nearly 4,000 over former Labour minister Ian Pearson.  “I’m delighted that my son Chris is now the MP for Dudley South,” said Chris Kelly senior, Keltruck’s founder and chairman.

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Cartwright buys F1 technology for future trailers

Manchester-based body and trailer maker the Cartwright Group says it has turned to computational fluid dynamics to take trailer making to the next level.  The firm will use the technology to improve the aerodynamics of its products and as the “secret weapon” in the development of its new Cheetah Fastback trailer, due for launch soon.  Cartwright is working with Manchester Metropolitan University to develop low-carbon trailers using CFD through a Knowledge Transport Scheme.  The new Cheetah Fastback trailer uses variable-height air suspension to adjust ride height and cut aerodynamic drag.  The first two 4m high Cheetah Fastback trailers will work for TNT in Germany and the Netherlands.

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Agreement on Intelligent Transport Systems

European national governments and members of the European Parliament have agreed laws covering the use of Intelligent Transport Systems.  The aim is to “accelerate and coordinate deployment of interoperable ITS in road transport.”

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Cartwright’s continental aims

Speaking about his firm’s new Cheetah Fastback low-drag trailers, Steven Cartwright, director said, “We believe there is tremendous potential for a trailer maker of our experience, size and innovative style.”  The firm has just confirmed the sale of its first two of its new trailers to TNT for work in Germany and the Netherlands.  “We believe that the Cheetah Fastback will help to open new markets in Europe in the future”

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Megabus and Tesco do cheap coach travel deal

In a deal that they say will offer cheap coach travel for 15m Tesco Clubcsard holders, Stagecoach Group’s will work with Tesco.  The supermarket’s loyalty card holders will get the chance to redeem their money-off vouchers for cheap coach travel by booking at from 24 May.  The coach travel brand already links nearly 60 places across the UK, offering travel from £1.50, comprising a £1.00 fare and a standard 50 pence booking fee. already carries more than two million passengers a year in the UK alone.

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New bus box from Allison

Allison says its new fully automatic Torqmatic transmission models ,T390 and T390R are designed for bus use and will deliver lower fuel use, better gear shifts and longer life.  The firm says its Shift Energy Management system means a higher input torque capacity with no increase in gearbox size or weight.

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Another Volvo for Perryman

Berwick-upon-Tweed-based Perryman’s Buses has new Volvo B7RLE single deck bus with 45-seat Wrightbus Eclipse Gemini 2 bodywork.  Each seat has a three-point safety belt and there are eight CCTV cameras, linked to an integrated 17 inch surveillance monitor.  The new bus joins a 35 strong bus and coach fleet and works on scheduled routes and school contracts.

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More stops for Stagecoach

Stagecoach says that from 24 May its budget coach travel service will run seven more services across the UK as it expands its inter-city network.  This will include the Scottish Borders and South Devon and new links to Birmingham Airport.  The expansion means that megabus,com now serves almost 60 locations across the UK.

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Do you know a Foxy Lady Driver?

Do you know someone who could be a Foxy Lady Driver of the Month?  “The aim is to showcase impressive women who have done well in a man’s world, whether behind the wheel or in a senior management capacity in the transport industry,” says Steph Savill, a founder member of the Foxy Lady Drivers Club.  “We’ll give successful nominees an honorary membership of the club, a special feature at the Club’s website and a commemorative certificate to record the occasion.”  The first Foxy Lady Driver of the Month was Scottish racing driver Carol Brown in April 2010.  “It would be a shame to leave out women van, coach, bus and truck drivers when their driving experience is bound to be of considerable interest to our members.”

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Optare Solo hits 550 at Stagecoach

Recent Solo bus deliveries to Stagecoach mean the firm now has 550 in its fleet.  They work in all the firm’s operating areas, on high frequency town circular services or on more rural routes.  “The Solos have proved popular with our customers and we have introduced them successfully across the country in different operating environments,” said Les Warneford, managing director of Stagecoach UK Bus.  Chris Wise, Key Accounts Director at Optare, added:  “We are very pleased to have Stagecoach as a long-standing customer and to have reached this significant figure of delivering 550 Solos to them.”

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Ryder updates Bevan’s aftercare fleet

Halesowen-based van and truck body-builder Bevan Group just got 13-strong fleet of Mercedes Sprinter vans for its aftercare and on-site repairs division.  “We are actively promoting our bodywork, tail-lift and hydraulics repair and maintenance services,” says Roy Shelton, Bevan’s aftercare manager.  “We have a nationwide team of 20 service engineers and their numbers are growing all the time.”  The new vans are on contract hire from Ryder.  “Ryder is one of our biggest customers, both for new truck bodies, tail-lift repairs and maintenance for existing vehicles,” Shelton continued.

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And finally

New Scientist magazine’s Feedback column reports that a colleague, trying to reach an engineer in an aerospace company, only managed to get through to voicemail.  It told him, not so helpfully, that the person he called “is out of the office and won’t be checking messages.  When you hear the tone, please leave a message.”

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