Prime Mover Magazine

Brisbane Truck Show jumpstarts innovation drive

Brisbane Truck Show jumpstarts innovation drive

Leading up to the Brisbane Truck Show, Prime Mover predicted the event could mark a turning point for Australia’s struggling commercial vehicle industry. And judging by the amount of innovation on show, it has hit the mark.

Much has changed since Prime Mover’s April edition tried to evaluate what the 2015 Brisbane Truck Show may hold. In Cat-sibling International, a whole new truck brand has arrived on our shore to compete in the heavy-duty segment; and with PacLease and Penske Leasing going head to head, there is ample movement in the finance market as well. Not to mention Western Star’s foray into the medium-duty bracket or Mercedes-Benz’ much celebrated unveiling of the all-new Actros.

The one thing that has not seen any notable change just yet is business confidence, however. According to the Truck Industry Council (TIC), the traditional End Of Financial Year growth spurt has failed to materialise, with growth hovering around the one per cent mark in June. What’s more, the slight growth overall was led mainly by the light and medium-duty segment, with the heavy-duty market continuing to show negative results – heavy-duty sales for the first six months were down 9.8 per cent year-to-date, with only Mercedes-Benz and Volvo scoring against the trend.

In light of such data, the 2015 Brisbane Truck Show may have been more important a stage than ever before to demonstrate continued optimism in Australian trucking – and it delivered. If there is one take-away from Queensland’s largest trucking event, it’s that Australia’s trucking industry still is one of the most innovative in the world, with an almost unbelievable ‘innovation to market size ratio’, as a truck executive put it during the official launch.

A case in point was equipment powerhouse Jost. With a whole suite of new products on display, the company’s bright green booth didn’t leave any room for pessimism. Front and centre at the stand was the Velocity Drive, Jost’s response to the growing landing leg automation trend that originated here in Australia. “The Velocity Drive has certainly lived up to expectations at the Show. It has garnered a lot of well deserved attention and will no doubt change the face of landing leg technology going forward,” comments Ed Crowther, Managing Director of Jost Australia. A Velocity-branded tarp system was also on display – with a release slated for later this year – while a new pneumatic tow coupling that is connected to a dashboard sensor for added safety also caught their eye.

Jost rival SAF-Holland also bucked the trend by forging ahead on the innovation front, most notably by updating its two main lines of trailer suspension systems for the 2015-16 season: The lightweight Intra range received a new disc brake calliper that brought the total weight down to just 372 kg – making for a potential 50kg advantage on a B-double. The Modul range, meanwhile, was made even more flexible – with ride heights ranging from 200 and 550mm, a variation of different springs suitable for use across the complete 9-12 tonne range and a choice of three hanger bracket heights and two types of air bags for added variability. Also on show were a variety of landing legs, couplings and kingpins to demonstrate SAF-Holland’s growing importance in the Australian market as a full service company, accompanied by ample optimism that the current slump is more of a cyclical phenomenon than a fundamental issue for the market at large.

But the Brisbane event didn’t just serve as a product showcase alone. For Fuwa K-Hitch, for example, market presence was equally important – maybe even more so than in more upbeat times. It’s for that very reason that the global company displayed a wide array of products on its stand – ranging from its world-renowned MBS suspension and a selection of tried and trusted ballraces, kingpins, axles and fifth wheels through to the innovative eLeg, which made headlines late last year when it was featured at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Germany. “We were pleased with the quality of visitors that kept us on our toes throughout the four days – enabling us to gauge what equipment truck and trailer builders are using and how they rate our products,” says Jayson Federico, Sales Manager at Fuwa K-Hitch Queensland. “That’s a good outcome and strong foundation for the new FY.”

On the tyre front, Michelin made the most of this year’s Brisbane Truck Show by launching four new sizes within the X Multi Z range, together with the debut of the company’s new BFGoodrich truck tyres brand – proving that a strong commitment to innovation will pay off in any business climate. “We experienced a constant flow of new and existing customers on all four days,” says Colin Brown, Truck Marketing Manager, Michelin Australia, adding that the commercial transport community is always open to new ideas to become more productive and increase safety – regardless of the short-term image sales data may paint.

“Our new Michelin 305/70R22.5 X Multi Z tyre, for example, generated a lot of interest with the public and it was great to see some of our customers at the show that tested the product in Australia before its launch.”

Bridgestone Australia’s Managing Director, Andrew Moffatt, who presented the brand’s new, fuel-saving Ecopia range in Brisbane, left the show equally bullish – saying he was impressed with the diverse visitor turnout and the resulting opportunities that could arise from it. “We met with a number of potential new customers, as well as many existing clients and are very happy with the progression of our new products to market,” he says.

“A variety of people visited our stand – from CEOs of large fleets to medium-size fleet owners and owner drivers – all seeking information on how a more superior product can benefit their businesses. Bridgestone’s goals were to ensure consumers like them were made aware of our long wear life, fuel saving and retread products, and … we definitely feel we achieved that.”

Another example of an equipment company pushing ahead despite economic headwinds could be found in a brightly lit corner of the main hall, where Hella displayed a wide range of truck and trailer lighting products, including its new generation LED marker lamps and signal lamps, as well as LED Safety Day Lights, LED Bar Hawk driving light bars, LED emergency beacons and handy LED inspection lamps. “Our products are about safety and increasing performance while reducing downtime – specifically designed, developed and manufactured for local commercial road transport applications,” says Tomas Plessinger, Head of Marketing at Hella Australia. “That’s something that’s always important for us, and an agenda we will keep pushing.”

Jost, SAF-Holland, Fuwa, Bridgestone, Michelin and Hella are only some businesses that used the Brisbane event to prove that putting an end to the slump is not just a question of waiting and seeing. Just like the ever-innovative oil fraternity or the burgeoning telematics industry, they showed that by focusing on what’s important to transport businesses and delivering real value, growth in the transport equipment market will persist.

Even though the Brisbane event didn’t mark the turning point in terms of sales volume, it brought a certain level of optimism back to the industry that was much needed in a time where ambition and reality sometimes don’t match up.

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