When all about you are losing their heads... 04 February 2014

With Euro 5 now a thing of the past, truck OEMs are celebrating confirmed 2013 sales way beyond their wildest dreams. Operators, too, are either grinning over last-minute vehicle deals or staring in disbelief at punitive Euro 6 prices.

SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) figures for last year's truck and van registrations, driven by that lapsed deadline, make astonishing reading . But with previous sales records roundly broken – including in terms of sheer numbers registered in a single day – everyone accepts there must be implications for this year.

Why? Because nothing stands still in transport. So, while some operators may be casting anxiously around the dealer networks for the few remaining derogated Euro 5 vehicles, others will be boxing just as clever, seeking out deals either on newly-traded used trucks or slow-moving Euro 6 models – at least for the next few months. Others again, however, may be worrying rather more about what happens this autumn.

For the next big industry issue is European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval, which finally comes into force for 'multi-stage' (chassis cab plus third-party body) N2 and N3 heavy-duty vehicles on 29 October (page 10). Operators' concerns: will this spell the end of the road for that bespoke vehicle specification they've been happy with for years? Or will it mean even higher prices and longer lead times? And potentially also poorer residuals, especially if the bodybuilder's preferred type approval route is either IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) or NSS (National Small Series)? Either way, we're in for yet another period of significant change.

And there's more. Braking system legislation also goes further this year, with most new trucks having to be fitted with ESC (electronic stability control) by 1 November. The exceptions are N2 vehicles fitted with hydraulic or air-over-hydraulic brakes, in which case ESC is required by July 2015 or 2016 respectively (page 14). Next up will be AEB (autonomous or advanced emergency braking) systems. Safety, taking advantage of new technology, marches relentlessly on.

All of this spells yet more complexity for fleet managers needing to specify vehicles, as well as for workshop technicians charged with keeping them running safely, legally and efficiently. But it also puts further pressure on DVSA's (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) vehicle inspectors and enforcement examiners, whose job is effectively to police the industry.

So while it is doubtless coincidental, it is nevertheless encouraging that DVSA has decided to go for a new training and assessment programme, leading to irtec qualifications for all its front line people. It's also salutary. As VOSA chief operating officer Alex Fiddes says: "My vision is that our vehicle inspectors will set the industry benchmark for staff doing periodic inspections and preparation for the annual test – and that we will encourage the transport industry to follow our example." That's quite a vote of confidence in the IRTE's technician licensing scheme.

Of course, DVSA cannot openly endorse irtec. Fiddes puts it thus: "People managing technicians carrying out periodic inspections need to be assured that they are well trained, competent and up to date. How they do that is up to them. But I commend schemes like irtec."

Author
Brian Tinham BSc CEng MInstMC FSOE FIPlantE FIRTE

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Related Companies
Department for Transport
Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
SMMT Industry Forum
Society of Operations Engineers

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