Q.What has surprised you most about the Australian market?
A. The biggest surprise was how hard it is for the industry to recruit skilled people. There is an industry-wide shortage of skilled people and technicians, but at the same time Scania is growing in volume and we need to secure resources and competence. People are not staying that long in companies either in Australia; there’s a bit of turnover. Industry needs to work together with the government and to change the perception of the industry and promote the potential careers.
Q. What does Scania do to attract and keep employees?
A. Scania is a really great business to work for, with a lot of growth potential for its employees, as it is a large organisation. We have a lot of people with immense pride in their work and have been with Scania for a long time. We have New Generation evaluation vehicles being tested in Australia, and have painted the names of some of the longest serving employees on the trucks to show appreciation.
Q. How are the trials of the New Generation Vehicles going?
A. We have seven New Generation R620 V8s and six-cylinder G500s running as 60-tonne B-doubles, as well as six-cylinder G450s in 45-tonne semi-trailer configurations under evaluation for a few more months, and they’re going really well so far. They are in an Australian specification with locally supplied chrome bullbars and are running side-by-side comparisons with current generation R and G model trucks in order to minimise the variables affecting the data.
Q. When can we expect sales of the New Generation P, G, R and S models to start in Australia?
A. We expect to roll out the new models of the entire new range throughout 2018. Our focus initially is on P G and R, and then the totally new cab of the S-series. The launch has been going very well in Europe, and we are getting great feedback including winning the International Truck of the Year at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Germany. Normally, a company wouldn’t enter the competition with a new truck in the first year, but we decided to go in. And we won. It was stressful at the time, but the tests were running that well, so I’m very pleased we entered.
Q. How do the different front axle weight limits in Australia and Europe affect the development of the New Generation?
A. The bullbars aren’t helping (laughs). We need to be careful with specifications and it’s different between states in some cases, but it does provide us with some very important and critical issues to deal with. We’d like to see a more liberalised view of the axle weights and more global harmonisation would make it easier and cheaper for customer if there were more standardised regulations. But I don’t think we’ll see any change to the front axle weight rules, no one is going to change the rules for us. On front axles, the rules are the rules and we have to work within them, but it’s the same for every OEM.
The industry is creative in coming up with ways to work in the regulations, and Performance-Based Standards is a good example of that. One of the differences in Europeis that the trailer sits very close behind the cab for good aerodynamics. In Australia, we move the pin as far back as possible to take the balance of the weight off the front axle. When I first saw this I was surprised because it affects aerodynamics and therefore fuel consumption and emissions, but sustainability isn’t really on the agenda here. That’s something close to my heart and something Scania would like to push. It will come and we are prepared.
Q. Where will the push for sustainability come from?
A. Scania had a sustainable transport forum in Paris last August where a number of speakers from across the industry agreed that there are three motivators to change: business, state government and local council. State governments have been very slow, councils are quicker, but business can lead.
In business, the push comes from both ways: from the demands of our customers’ customers and from us with product. In that sense, we are very well prepared to lead in this race, but we need it to make sense for businesses. If a business isn’t sustainable then there’s no business. We can push as much as we can, but we need to have the other stakeholders going in the right direction, too.
Q. Is this where the government plays a part?
A. Yes. I fully believe that local government in the cities will push it. Look at London, Paris and others pushing to be emission free cities with electric and hybrid vehicles. The challenge with electric vehicles is the batteries, but it’s getting better. We’re testing with buses running in the big cities. Big cities are the heart of human population, so logically they’re the places where governments want to start.
If you think of the typical life of a truck, they start on interstate linehaul but when it gets older, it is retired to do shorter journeys. So, the last mile in the cities has a lot of older trucks running, but that’s not the right approach for emissions. Instead, upgrading to new vehicles will not only lower emissions, but a younger fleet will also lead to a safer, more reliable and more comfortable vehicle for drivers. There’s a whole range of areas where it would be advantageous for state, federal and city governments and councils to make our cities cleaner, it just takes political will and budget.
I feel the discussion is going in the right direction, which is why Scania sales are growing, because we have the most sustainable vehicles. Big customers are seeing the advantages and running a much younger fleet with the latest technology.
Q. Why is sustainability such a priority for Scania?
A. For Scania, sustainability has a broader definition than just emissions. It’s about business sustainability. Doing the right things, taking care of your staff and being a good citizen. That’s all a part of what we call sustainability, efficient business practices that help sustain the business and help sustain the staff.
Q. What do you mean by sustaining the staff?
A. The older drivers get, the more they ache. A Scania does more work for you, the new ones are like driving a luxury car. The driver doesn’t have to change gears there’s easy steps for constant getting in and out. We have the high level of driver assistance programs in the vehicle. It’s important to develop the support functions so the drivers can focus on the main role of driving. The level of fatigue is greatly reduced, which leads to better safety for everyone in the community. They can go home to their families and not be exhausted – it’s another form of sustainability, but for the drivers. It’s not autonomous driving, but it’s a helper that it will make for more convenient and comfortable driving.
Q. Speaking of autonomous driving, is that on the agenda here?
A. The development of technology is ongoing, and it’s coming quickly. The technology that is being developed for autonomous cars is going to benefit trucking as well. We’ve already shown a lot of concept technology. We have been selling advanced automatic braking for two years and it is only going to get better. The problem is that the adoption of technology is non-uniform across the market. We’re going to need skilful drivers in the near future in Australia, the distances are huge and the road infrastructure is primitive compared with Europe from an intelligent road management perspective. In terms of testing, we will be running our first autonomous trucks in Australia during 2018 within a controlled environment in order to understand the performance parameters and benefits to operators.
Q. How do else does Australia differ to your home market in Sweden?
A. In Europe truck driving is appealing to young people and young women, but here we struggle with it. Also in Australia, we have a lot of customers doing long distances across a lot of nothing and no one wants to break down 400km from services. Every minute a truck is broken down costs money, and then they have to pay to be towed. It’s a mechanical device so at some stage if a truck is not looked after properly, things can happen. For this reason we’re seeing a lot of uptake in our Service and Maintenance packages, and we are collecting data to better understand how to offer flexible maintenance and change to preventative maintenance.
Q. What is the main priority for your Australian customers?
A. Total Operating Economy is the priority, looking at the business a whole. Safety is something that is very important here and I like that, and the big, more advanced companies are looking at how to run a more efficient operation. Safety, efficiency and sustainability – we have those three things together, and that’s what makes Scania strong.
The New Generation R, G, P and S model prime movers will begin to be rolled out in Australia in 2018, according to Scania Australia Managing Director, Mikael Jansson.