Next to demographic growth, climate change, resource scarcity and increasing skills competition, urbanisation is a key mega-trend affecting the commercial road transport community. In Australia, a nation traditionally reliant on coastal hubs with a high population density, the impact of urbanisation is especially pressing: According to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, more than 75 per cent of us live in Australia’s 20 largest cities, and six in ten reside in one of the five capital cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
The resulting logistical issues – such as road access, congestion, construction activity and regulatory reform pressure – are forcing both transport businesses and the truck making community to gradually rethink the concept of commercial vehicle design and make trucking more flexible and efficient. While the focus here is often on the light-duty sector, the medium-duty segment – often catering to the construction industry and civil services – will be equally challenged to adapt and evolve.
Italian OEM, Iveco, now responded to the call with the launch of the new, Euro VI-compliant Eurocargo model, which is meant to make modern safety and efficiency technology more widely accessible across the medium-duty end of the market. Launched in Europe in 2015, the Eurocargo won the 2016 International Truck of the Year Award and has since been fine-tuned to suit the changing local transport landscape. Available in three cabin options – day cab, sleeper and high-roof sleeper – it can be used across a wide range of applications, from local construction or crane work through to inter-city and intra-state haulage.
In spite of the widespread downsizing trend, Iveco’s Euro VI-friendly 6.7-litre Tector 7 engine has grown in size over the 5.9-litre one found in the Euro V version, and is now equipped with Iveco’s ‘HI-SCR’ system, which involves a single AdBlue after-treatment application combined with a passive no-maintenance Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).
The efficient selective catalytic reduction process is meant to have a number of advantages over exhaust gas recirculation, including obviating the need for a larger cooling system to handle the higher operating temperatures. As such, Iveco has been able to keep production costs low while also reducing the Eurocargo’s tare weight – especially over the front axle – adding the twin benefits of increased payload capacity and reduced fuel consumption.
The simple ‘HI-SCR’ system uses fewer components than EGR or EGR/SCR hybrid systems, and the DPF does not require any kind of driver-activated regeneration, which will likely reduce vehicle downtime and absolve the risk of falling into ‘limp home’ mode should the filter become blocked. Another benefit of getting away from EGR is the greatly extended oil change interval of up to 80,000km – depending upon the application – which can further reduce the Eurocargo’s Total Cost of Ownership.
The Tector 7 engine is currently available in two power ratings: In the ML120 model, it develops 250hp (185 kW) and 627 ft/lb (850 Nm), while the ML160 and ML180 models get 280hp (206 kW) and 738 ft.lb (1,000 Nm), respectively. A 320hp rating – backed by the AStronic 12-speed AMT from ZF – will be available later in 2017.
Driving the 280hp ML180 with 4.6 tonnes of ballast on board, the engine happily allows skip shifting of the nine-speed in traffic. Maximum torque is developed at 1,250rpm, and the engine will pull away easily with less than 1,000rpm on the tacho.
The manual transmission is easy enough to operate, even though we set off with less than 400km showing on the odometer, and the shifter function can be expected to loosen up a little more over time. Iveco has opted for a dual range ‘H over H’ configuration with a twist lever to select between high and low, with reverse and crawler speed accessible via lifting a collar on the gear lever. The advantage of such a system is that there is no possibility of gnashing teeth by pushing too far across the gate when changing down from fifth to fourth gear and touching reverse.
Also supporting the driver on the road is an extensive active safety package: All of the new Eurocargo variants feature front and rear disc brakes with ABS, Anti-Slip Regulator (ASR), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS). The new Eurocargo can also be optionally specified with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), as well as a Hill Holder function and Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs).
Another electronic feature of the Euro VI Eurocargo is the optional Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which automatically adjusts the truck’s speed to suit the traffic conditions and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Combined with the lane departure warning system, these electronic features should make the Eurocargo competitive in any application.
Along with the implementation of advanced electronics, Iveco has also addressed the basics and put some significant effort into achieving lower kerb weights in the hope to maximise payload for the kind of operations that consistently max out the Eurocargo’s weight rating. For businesses focusing on bulky rather than heavy cargo, the move will likely enhance fuel economy, too.
A low chassis height is also desirable to increase stability by lowering the centre of gravity, and permits body builders to achieve a low loading height – an increasingly sensitive topic for city and suburban applications. As a result, the ML120 and ML160 models boast an exceptionally low loading height of just 898mm, and even the 18-tonne ML180 has the top of its chassis rail just 937mm above ground level. To improve the Eurocargo’s aerodynamic performance once it has left the city behind, new cabin panels and revised air deflectors now channel air more effectively around the front corners of the cab, and an internal ‘sun filter’ is replacing the external sun visor.
At highway speeds, Iveco is promising a two per cent improvement in aerodynamics, which may equate to a one per cent reduction in fuel consumption. What’s more, the smoother look has resulted in a quite stylish and non-aggressive appearance for the cab. Iveco has also included a number of new, functional features inside the cabin, allowing operators to keep up with paperwork more easily and safely store items such as high visibility vests and wet weather gear. The centre console, for example, has a 20-litre space (available with the single passenger seat arrangement, ed.) that can comfortably accommodate a laptop or a tablet. The interior also features a reading light and is equipped with side storage pockets, a 12-volt power socket and two USB connectors to charge electronic devices.The driver’s seat is the industry standard Isri air suspension unit that is well known for its adjustability, which contributes to minimising fatigue by providing the perfect seating position for drivers of all sizes.
The power-steering, meanwhile, is not quite as easy to handle: On our pre-production test unit, it feels heavier than expected, especially taking into account the way the truck is loaded. Maybe the pressure of the hydraulic power assistance has to be adjusted? Other than that, the ML180 steers and rides well. The steering wheel is fitted with a driver’s airbag and all key controls for the audio system, including the Bluetooth phone connection. The analogue gauges on the dash are very easy to read under all light conditions, and complemented by an LCD information panel that that also serves as a trip computer and provides system diagnostics and a lighting system check. It also measures the AdBlue level, fuel consumption status and ambient temperature, and allows for programmable maintenance scheduling.
So, is the new Iveco Eurocargo the right choice to help Australian road transport connect and service our booming metropolitan hubs? After all, all statistics point to a fundamental shift in the requirements for medium-sized trucks in Australia to cater to an increasingly connected urban and suburban environment. Getting the job done is not enough anymore, but doing so more comfortably and more safely for the driver, while returning greater efficiency to the operator through reduced fuel consumption and Whole of Life costs.
Iveco’s latest solution certainly has the potential to deliver on both. With up to 14 pallets of payload on the day cab model, the Eurocargo can handle general and refrigerated freight just as well as tilt tray and crane work.
But we still have to wait for the production models to prove just how well Iveco has interpreted the signs of the times.