The idle musings of a wheels man without all the detailed stuff that can be found in better depth in the press.
After a lifetime in the truck and construction industry a visit to a trade exhibition brings all manner of memories and opinions flooding back. To see stands for products that were once a personal responsibility has its emotional side but those products are now different, the people are different and the bigwigs now are barely recognisable as the reps and marketing assistants that were remembered 10/20/30 years ago. It is always a pleasure to be recognised and invited to sit and take tea and chat awhile. Frequently the deference still appears in a small way but those were the old days. The trick is to get off the stand quickly whilst the pleasure of being greeted lasts but not forgetting appropriate compliments on the stand layout, the exhibits and, of course, to the individual that has greeted and entertained one and his/her achievements in their career. I always felt proud to see people that I had picked for lower jobs achieve greater things later in life. Proves I got some things right! Have a wander through the 2014 Truck Show and see who was there www.cvshow.com
Now for the other side of the coin. The major companies, certainly in the truck world, have been through all manner of amalgamations and developments with many marques sadly no more. Is this good for development? It might be commercially sound but to look at vehicle marques and particularly major components that are “shared” between many models it has somewhat taken the individuality or quirkiness out of things. I am sure that fuel saving developments, the reduced cost of engineering by increasing the volume base of vehicles/components is sound economics but where is the quantum leap going to come from? With new technologies and designs, sometimes inhibited by current legislation, aimed at supporting high volume and its consequent high investment in production facilities. For example, where is the DS19 of panel vans? Where is the van that halves fuel consumption that doubles for a van, chassis with body, has extended vehicle life, adequate performance and is completely emissions free? Only legislation will make it happen now. Not some brilliant engineer on a mission. Quality products are certainly engineered and made but could we go further. Some of the best products are still shared – www.mercedes-benz.co.uk/vans
Which brings me on to the bodywork, accessories, services all sold to vehicle operators. The accessories hall, for want of a word, is always of more interest to anyone with an engineering bent. Commercial vehicles carry loads that sometimes require sophisticated packing and restraining on vehicles. The bodywork is already governed by a plethora of European legislation but sometimes the little extras to cover ease and safety of loading and load restraint are left to unqualified individuals driven by price more than legal requirement or exposure to subsequent risk. With the evolution of VOSA into the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency DVSA (www.gov.uk/VOSA) in April this year that aspect of life might be tightened up in the future but it is still a minefield that suffers from conflicting interpretations. Consistency of legislation, good design and good training must become a mainstay in this industry.
What really surprised me, brilliant as they are, is the current emphasis on security from vehicle tracking systems to camera systems designed to protect drivers and operators from spurious claims in accidents (see www.garmin.com/uk/solutions) and all that paraphernalia designed to turn the driver into an automaton to save .01 % of fuel or to take him to task for a missed gear change (if that is possible in a modern auto box). Once again it all helps the bottom line (see www.renault-trucks.co.uk and its Optifuel and Optifleet programs) However, I do admit to feeling a little sorry for modern day drivers whose thoughts are less on the road but more on their load drop ratios and driving performance.
Until another day.