Brisbane Truck Show 2017: Top 5 trends
With commercial vehicle sales stabilising and innovative technology causing healthy competition in the OEM arena, the 2017 edition of the Brisbane Truck Show could be an important gauge for the health of Australian trucking at large
As the Brisbane Truck Show is preparing to celebrate half a century of providing a key knowledge-sharing platform for Australia’s vast commercial road transport community, some key trends are emerging that will likely dominate the discussion around the 2017 event. Prime Mover collated the top five.
Trend 1: Real-world testing
It’s been a trend for a while now, but the 2017 Brisbane Truck Show will finally bring it to the big stage – no truck is launched in Australia anymore without extensive real-world testing having taken place prior to the official launch. The local audience is well aware that just because a certain truck was successful in Europe or North America, or even Japan, it doesn’t mean it can cut the mustard in Australia – and the market listened. Simply selecting a set-up that could theoretically work in the tough Australian climate is now a thing of the past, as Kenworth and Mercedes-Benz have proven with the launch of the new T610 and Actros models, respectively. Thousands of hours of R&D have been invested into the design of each truck, and both will use Brisbane as a stage to engage in the first big showdown since they were launched in late 2016.
Mercedes-Benz has announced it will launch a rigid version of the new Actros in Brisbane, and has already indicated that the show vehicle, too, was subjected to extensive testing to ensure it is up to the job and the Daimler executives can confidently talk up the reliability of the product at the Show.
Speaking of hype, Scania will be bringing an example of the ‘New Generation’ S series to Brisbane that will be representative of the specification likely to be offered in Australia once the new model is ready to be launched domestically.
Similar to Mercedes-Benz, Scania is in no hurry to launch the production model to the Australian market, though: Sources say it will be at least two years before local dealers will be able to accept orders and deposits for the brand’s new flagship model, which is why it will be shipped straight back to Europe after the Show.
Trend 2: Transmission automation
Transmissions continue to evolve and, while the manual is far from dead, when OEMs such as Hino say they expect at least 60 per cent of future sales to be delivered in a two-pedal set-up, the rise of the auto must be acknowledged as a trend that is here to stay.
The much talked-about New Generation Scania is a case in point. In anticipation of soaring auto sales, the Swedish OEM has completely re-engineered the famous Opticruise automated transmission to complement the new engine selection: An air-operated lay shaft brake now synchronises the gears to the extent that gear changing can now be effected in 0.4 of a second. It will be especially interesting to see if that version of the transmission will be made available in the existing Australian heavy-duty range prior to the full truck going on sale.
Scania’s focus on fine-tuning the transmission/engine pairing is not new, though. Volvo called off the horsepower race a few years ago and has since focused on matching the right transmission with the application at hand – most notably signified by the addition of an optional crawler gear package to the automated I-shift transmission – a solution we are likely to see again in Brisbane. The move added to the unit’s versatility by providing deep reduction for high payloads while still delivering maximum fuel economy.
In line with the trend, Eaton has continually perfected the Ultra Shift automated manual – so much so that at the launch of the Kenworth T610 late last year only one of the nine trucks offered for evaluation was a manual – unless Paccar was unsure about the gear-changing abilities of the assembled media.
Eaton rival Allison will also reaffirm the trend in Brisbane, with various models of the brand’s Allison fully automatic, torque convertor-equipped transmissions used across a range of OEMs and applications, especially in the medium-duty segment (see our Hino test drive on page 54).
Trend 3: Warranty extension
Back in the 1990s, extended warranty periods were a significant selling point for Asian passenger car brands trying to break into the Australian market, with the dual intention of easing customers’ minds about product reliability and providing a point of difference from the establishment’s then-standard 12/20 offering. Since then, much has changed. Asian passenger cars now dominate the sales ranking, and standard factory warranties have become much longer across the board.
The same development is true for the truck market, too, where extended warranty packages can either be purchased or come as standard. Only released last month, the upgraded Fuso Canter range, for example, now has a five-year warranty attached to it.
In line with the new trend, factory-servicing agreements are becoming increasingly common as operators drill down on expenses and manufacturers look to provide mechanisms to keep trucks returning to their dealerships.
Trend 4: Safety technology
As electronics develop and the costs of components decrease, what were only recently considered leading edge innovations – think lane departure warning systems – are now becoming more and more prevalent. Iveco’s seven-tonne Daily van is the latest vehicle to have the high-tech system on board, which is also an essential function for future autonomous vehicles. While European prime movers have long pioneered the system, American-style trucks like the Kenworth T610 now have it as an option as well.
One reason for the boom in safety technology – from high technology down to improved seating, entry and egress – is the ongoing driver shortage in Australia. To make drivers feel as safe and comfortable as possible, many transport businesses gear up on the equipment front and invest in additional functionality.
Trend 5: Future talk
With truck sales on the rise again and the political climate in Canberra stabilising, now could be the time to get serious about discussing future technology. An important question to be asked in Brisbane is when will Australia put in place a new Australian Design Rule (ADR) that encompasses the long-established Euro VI emission standards? Even critics say it can now only be a few short years away, prompting both European and Japanese manufacturers to make Euro VI-ready equipment available locally. More and more transport businesses are embracing the opportunity and are now starting to familiarise themselves with the technology before it will be mandated.
Autonomous driving will likely be an afterthought at the biannual Brisbane gathering, but the debate will no doubt touch on it, too. After all, it’s been two years since Freightliner launched the autonomous Inspiration Truck in the US, and ongoing research and development has since brought the technology a lot closer to real-life functionality.
Even here in Australia, authorities are already quite advanced in preparing the legal framework for the technology, so Brisbane could provide the right forum to start a more constructive discussion around the topic and prepare for what may lie ahead.