— the lat­est gear, rigs and test drives

Trucks trav­el­ling in con­voy fash­ion are noth­ing new, but the Euro­peans have taken it to a new level in the form of pla­toon­ing. Rob McKay checks out Sca­nia’s money-sav­ing strat­egy

Owner Driver - - News -

WHILE AU­TO­MATED pla­toon­ing is the cause of wide­spread de­bate, a more hands-on ver­sion is al­ready un­der­way in north­ern Europe and pay­ing div­i­dends.

An ex­am­ple of how it can work was pre­sented re­cently by Sca­nia Trans­port Lab­o­ra­tory (STL) at its head­quar­ters in Södertälje, Swe­den, to a del­e­ga­tion of Aus­tralian jour­nal­ists, along with then New South Wales freight min­is­ter Dun­can Gay and his en­tourage.

Gay, who was on a world­wide north­ern hemi­sphere tour of the US and Europe to gauge tech­no­log­i­cal and reg­u­la­tory de­vel­op­ments in trans­port, heard that STL uses pla­toon­ing to test on-board sys­tems and save fuel.

The con­cept made headlines in March and April 2016 dur­ing the Euro­pean Truck Pla­toon­ing Chal­lenge, a demon­stra­tion by Euro­pean man­u­fac­tur­ers aimed at grab­bing po­lit­i­cal at­ten­tion on po­ten­tial ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity ad­vances. Pla­toon­ing gen­er­ally is part of STL’s func­tion to test Sca­nia’s ve­hi­cles in real trans­port sce­nar­ios, its in­ter­nal sys­tems, and to aid its in­ter­nal sup­ply chain lo­gis­tics needs.


STL – prop­erly named Sca­nia Trans­port-lab­o­ra­to­rium – runs up to four of its trucks with gaps as nar­row as six to seven me­tres us­ing ac­tive cruise con­trol at 80km/h.

“That’s the clos­est gap you could have with the safety features that are on the trucks,” STL ve­hi­cles man­ager Cem Kizilkaya says.

He ad­mits driv­ers ini­tially viewed it as too close, but soon got used to it, to the alarm of project man­agers early on.

There are pos­si­ble fuel sav­ings of about 7 per cent to be had even for the lead truck due to back­draft, though not as much as those be­hind, with an av­er­age of up to 11 per cent for them.

At the time of the visit, SCL had lifted its per­cent­age of women driv­ers from 18 per cent to 20 per cent.

One of the more in­sight­ful hands is An­dreá Ped­er­sen, who went from school to truck cab al­most seam­lessly.

Ped­er­sen is a fan of pla­toon­ing as a fuel-sav­ing tech­nique.

Her fo­cus is on the truck in front, and she stays alert this way to gauge how the other driver is do­ing, as well as lis­ten­ing to mu­sic and au­dio­books.

“We al­ways keep in touch to keep the pla­toon go­ing,” she says of us­ing mo­bile phones through the truck’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem to check how other driv­ers are bear­ing up.

The hard thing is to get non-STL driv­ers in­ter­ested in join­ing the file, she reck­ons.

On SCL’s ex­pe­ri­ence of pla­toon driv­ing, Kizilkaya says driv­ers are urged to be flex­i­ble with other ve­hi­cles on the road.

It has had no com­plaints in the three years, “not from the po­lice, not from peo­ple around us writ­ing emails, noth­ing like that”.

He adds that some pla­toon­ing is un­der­way in Ger­many, at the Euro­pean limit of 90km/h and will less space be­tween ve­hi­cles than SCL al­lows.

Ped­er­sen says the slower Sca­nia pla­toon is a source of mi­nor frus­tra­tion to other Euro­pean driv­ers. Log­i­cally, SCL sees pla­toon­ing’s fu­ture as be­ing to­ward re­duc­ing the space be­tween trucks and com­mu­ni­ca­tions and un­der­stand­ing with other trans­port com­pa­nies be­ing such that im­promptu pla­toon­ing can oc­cur at any time based on com­mon power and weight.


The STL op­er­a­tional test­ing con­cept be­gan in 2008 when the re­search and de­vel­op­ment brains trust de­cided “di­rect feed­back” and con­trol of new con­cepts were needed to keep ini­tia­tives and new ideas grounded, STL man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Jan Björk­lund says.

Orig­i­nally, the thought was to have as pure an ex­pe­ri­ence as pos­si­ble and buy its own truck­ing op­er­a­tion but that was scotched due to cus­tomer con­cern in and around Södertälje, where Sca­nia’s global head­quar­ters is based.

Horns were pulled in and STL has only one cus­tomer – the group. It runs two freight trans­porta­tion ser­vices us­ing 37 trucks and 120 Krone trail­ers from Ger­many.

In­ter­na­tional long-haul be­tween Södertälje and Zwolle in the

Nether­lands is on the road 24/7 – with 112 weekly load­ings of axles, gear­boxes and en­gines go­ing south, and other parts such as air de­flec­tors and pal­leted goods on re­turn.

There are 48 driv­ers at 3.5 driv­ers per truck for the 14 trucks and 90 trail­ers cov­er­ing 400,000km a year at 80km/ h max­i­mum and 74km/ h on av­er­age.

Be­tween Södertälje and Malmö in south­ern Swe­den, they use B-dou­ble equiv­a­lents and semis in Den­mark, Ger­many and the Nether­lands.

Lo­cal dis­tri­bu­tion test­ing is pickup and de­liv­ery cov­er­ing 30,000km a year with 30 driv­ers at 1.5 driv­ers per semi trav­el­ling at 80km/h max­i­mum and 28km/h on av­er­age.

Test track op­er­a­tion tests fa­tigue, soft­ware val­i­da­tion sur­veys and in­ter­nal op­er­a­tional test­ing us­ing 30 driv­ers.

These two di­vi­sions have one ‘op­er­a­tive co­or­di­na­tor’ for ev­ery 10 driv­ers, and some­one is avail­able 24/7 to sup­port them when needed.

With 630km or 10-11 hours driv­ing time be­tween Södertälje and Copen­hagen, and about the same be­tween Copen­hagen and Zwolle – but only nine hours a day al­lowed in the Euro­pean Union – STL keeps an ea­gle eye on fa­tigue, with driver pools at each ma­jor stop and driver swaps in be­tween.


On-board IT has shown that, car­ry­ing 34 gross weight tonnes for the long-haul task, Sca­nia’s av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion for 410-580hp (306-433kW) us­ing 10 trucks over 4 mil­lion kilo­me­tres was 26L/100km.

With an op­ti­mised spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the 410hp en­gine, this fell to 24 litres over 1.2 mil­lion kilo­me­tres us­ing three trucks.

The best 10 per cent of driv­ers,

“We al­ways keep in touch to keep the pla­toon go­ing”

in three trucks over 500,000km, man­age 22 litres, and oth­ers over 1.6 mil­lion kilo­me­tres in four trucks man­age 27 litres.

SCL be­lieves the Euro­pean av­er­age is around 30 litres but its best trips – tak­ing into ac­count weather, driver, truck and trailer vari­a­tions – can go as low as 20 litres. How­ever, due to a lack of a sec­ond floor in the trail­ers, en­gines tak­ing up most of the floor space means trail­ers run­ning at as lit­tle as 16 tonnes.

While Aus­tralian in­dus­try still ar­gues about low­er­ing speed 10km from the 100km/h max­i­mum, the divi­sion in­sists rais­ing it from 80km/h to 90km/h ul­ti­mately means – at a cost of 10 per cent less fuel – 1 per cent more time is taken for the task, re­pair and main­te­nance costs are higher, and the risk of deadly ac­ci­dents rises 40 per cent.

In­ter­est­ingly, SCL’s driv­ers also have fork­lift li­cences and load their own trucks.

As with other Euro­pean Union driv­ers, Ped­er­sen has credit card­sized elec­tronic diary that slots into her truck’s dash to record her per­for­mance through the tacho­graph.

It must be down­loaded ev­ery 21 days and, along with com­pany data, it acts as proof to reg­u­la­tors that she is keep­ing to her hours.


Sca­nia gets to test the value of its telem­at­ics on driver be­hav­iour reg­u­larly, though Kizilkaya in­di­cates it is used to in­form and val­i­date per­sonal dis­cus­sions with driv­ers.

As an ex­am­ple, man­agers found that their com­pet­i­tive na­ture al­lows low-cost driv­ing skills, such as keep­ing to lower speeds, to rub off on col­leagues, as they pre­fer to drive with the bet­ter per­form­ers where pos­si­ble. And this is mea­sur­able. In re­turn and, as a pay­ing cus­tomer, SCL gets to use all that Sca­nia of­fers – trucks, trail­ers, fi­nance, in­sur­ance, re­pair and main­te­nance, ser­vice plan­ning, Sca­nia As­sis­tance, fleet man­age­ment, driver train­ing and driver coach­ing – and be de­mand­ing and give feed­back.

For in­stance, parts-car­ry­ing trucks have a three-hour win­dow in the just-in-time sched­ule be­fore ve­hi­cle pro­duc­tion is im­pacted. And main­te­nance ser­vices look to have spe­cific work done on a needs ba­sis in a two-hour pe­riod, with only the par­tic­u­late fil­ter tak­ing slightly longer than that to re­place, an as­pect that will be un­der de­sign re­view as that is viewed as tak­ing too long.

It also gets to test other makes of truck, in­clud­ing a Mercedes-Benz, a MAN, and one from lo­cal ri­val Volvo – the lat­ter two be­ing the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of their Euro 6s.

Com­par­a­tive per­for­mance is mea­sured for the truck as well as the com­peti­tors’ own ser­vices.

The op­er­a­tion’s costs breakdown has 33.4 per cent due to driv­ers’ gen­er­ous Swedish wages. Fuel is at 18.5 per cent, but Björk­lund says the Euro­pean av­er­age is closer to 30 per cent. Ve­hi­cle fixed cost is at 5.3 per cent for in­sur­ance and leas­ing, while 4.1 per cent goes on re­pair and main­te­nance, and trailer fixed cost is 4.3 per cent.

A bio-ethanol test truck

Sca­nia says pla­toon­ing can cut fuel costs by up to 11 per cent STL ve­hi­cles man­ager Cem Kizilkaya Trucks in the yard out­side STL’s of­fices

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