6- to 7-tonne GVW vans
7.5-tonne GVW trucks accounted for 28% of all new trucks over 3.5 tonnes GVW registered in the UK in 2000. That proportion had dwindled to just 12% by 2011. It seems that we have fallen out of love with 7.5-tonners. The removal of the ‘grandfather’s rights’ of car drivers who passed their driving test before 1997 has steadily whittled away the number of people able to drive 7.5-tonners without acquiring an LGV licence. These little trucks suffered another body blow a few years ago when new speed limiter legislation cut their maximum speed to 90km/h (56mph) and forced them out of the third lane of motorways.
But perhaps their real drawback is their lack of payload capacity. A typical 18 tonne GVW boxvan can take a net payload of around 9.7 tonnes, equating to 54% of its gross weight. A 12-tonner can handle a net payload of around 6.7 tonnes – about 56% of its GVW. But the average 7.5-tonne boxvan struggles to cope with much more than 3.0 tonnes, a mere 40% of its gross weight. Seen in that light, 7.5-tonners look inherently inefficient. They are the architect of their own downfall.
Most European 7.5-tonners share the majority of their key components with 10- and 12-tonne versions, so what comes together as a highly productive 12-tonner produces an unduly heavy 7.5-tonner. In short, you get too much truck and not enough payload. That scenario will soon become even worse, when Euro-6 exhaust emission limits are implemented at the end of 2013. The additional weight of the new emissions reduction kit, including the after-treatment catalysts and diesel particulate filter (DPF) will add another 200kg to a 7.5 tonner’s kerb weight, warns Iveco.
Perversely, the route to more payload may be to work at a lower gross weight. We look here at the big vans and light trucks that lie in the twilight area of 6-6.5-tonnes GVW to see if they provide a more efficient package than the traditional 7.5-tonner. Can they really cut the mustard in terms of payload, cube, functionality and costs?
If ever there was a niche market, this is it. Choice of 6.0-6.5 tonne GVW panel vans was never big and has shrunk even further in recent years after Renault pulled the plug on its 6.5-tonne GVW Mascott in the UK and Mercedes-Benz axed its 6.0 tonne Sprinter: the Sprinter range now stops at 5.0 tonnes GVW. This leaves Mercedes’ evergreen Vario and Iveco’s Daily as the only high-payload vans currently on offer.
Both Vario and Daily are available either as integral panel vans or as chassis cabs (each with a crew cab option). Vario is available at gross weights of 5,990kg and 7,490kg, while Iveco offers Daily models at 6,500kg and 7,000kg. In order to keep the comparisons as close as possible we focus here on the two smaller models, the 6-tonne Vario and the 6.5-tonne Daily, examining both panel van and chassis-cab versions of each.
With a gross weight of 6.2-tonnes Isuzu’s N62.150 chassis-cab falls fairly and squarely in the frame too, becoming our fifth contender. Last year we would have included a sixth as well, the 6.5 tonne Canter from the Fuso brand within Daimler’s stable. But the new 2012 TF Canter range has only 3.5 and 7.5 tonne GVW models so yet another contender drops out of the running. A 6.5-tonne GVW version of the new model is due in the third quarter of this year, but that will be a 4x4 only. Lastly, Hino also falls into this category with its 6.5 tonne 300 Series cab. However, the entire range of 4.3 to 8.5 tonne GVW models has yet to make the transition from Euro-4 engines to Euro-5 in the UK, and as such will not been included in our comparison.
These five lightweights are measured against our representative 7.5 tonner, Daf’s LF45. We are not proclaiming it as the lightest nor the best, but it would seem perverse to choose anything else as our benchmark. The LF45 has been the UK’s top-selling 7.5-tonner for the last seven years on the trot and in 2011 it outsold the second-placed Iveco Eurocargo by a ratio of two to one.
Helpfully, the LF45 is available as a complete truck with DAF’s own body added at the end of the assembly line in the Leyland Trucks plant. We have plumped for the 6.1m (20ft) GRP/ply dry freight body with a roller-shutter door. This body sits nicely on the 4.3m-long wheelbase model, in the middle of the eight wheelbase options for the 7.5-tonne LF45.
We have matched wheelbase options and body sizes of the five contenders as close as possible to this benchmark. When specifying equivalent GRP/ply box bodies for the three chassis-cabs we have tailored their length, width and height so that they are within their manufacturers’ recommendations and are in keeping with the size of the vehicle. Daily, Vario and Isuzu chassis cabs all have narrower cabs than the LF45, so we have slimmed down and reduced the overall height of the bodies so that these little trucks are not wallowing around with unduly wide or tall boxes on their backs.
The assumed body dimensions and weight of the box bodies for the four chassis cabs are set out below.
Iveco Daily 65C17 panel van
With a maximum payload of 3690kg, the Iveco Daily 65C17 is the vehicle capable of carrying the largest possible payload at 6.5-tonnes GVW.
This latest version of the Daily became available in the UK at the beginning of 2012. Although it looks much like any other integral panel van it is not a monocoque construction; it is built on a separate chassis with C-section pressed steel main longitudinals and tubular cross members. Key options at this 6.5 tonne GVW weight point are severely limited. There is only one power rating (168hp), one wheelbase (3,950mm) and no choice of roof height.
The engine is Iveco’s 3.0-litre common-rail, four-cylinder diesel. Developed by Fiat Powertrain, a variant of this engine is supplied to Daimler subsidiary Fuso for use in the 7.5 tonne Canter. In the Daily it is offered either as a Euro-5 engine, in which case it has a variable geometry turbocharger, or compliant with the more stringent EEV (enhanced environmentally friendly vehicle) emission standard, in which case it has two-stage turbocharging.
It drives through a six-speed gearbox with overdrive top gear: there is an automated option (‘Agile’) of the same gearbox with electrically powered actuators that shift gears and operate the clutch.
Iveco Daily 65C17 chassis-cab
The same driveline is used in the 6.5-tonne Daily chassis cab but the options open up because as well as freedom to choose your body specification you also get a choice of four wheelbase lengths - 3,450mm, 3,750mm, 4,350mm and 4,750mm. Our comparison is based on the 4,350mm because it is closest to the LF45’s 4,300mm.
Mercedes-Benz Vario 616D Long HR panel van
With a wheelbase of 4,250mm this is the longest of the three 6.0 tonne Vario panel vans. The others are 3,150mm and 3,700mm. Those are both available in two roof heights but this long wheelbase model Vario is available only with a high roof.
There are three ratings of its 4.3-litre, Euro-5 four-cylinder engine, all with unit injectors: 127hp, 154hp and 175hp. The one in the 616D is the middle of these three ratings, driving through a six-speed gearbox. Like the Daily, the Vario also has a separate ladder-type steel chassis rather than being of monocoque construction.
Mercedes-Benz Vario 616D chassis-cab
Our chassis-cab Vario has the same wheelbase (4,250mm) as the van version, but it is possible to go longer (4,800mm) or shorter (3,700mm). There are the same three engine power rating options as the Vario van. It is worth noting that this Euro-5 engine, the OM904LA, uses selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and so, like the DAF LF45, needs a supply of AdBlue. Both Daily models and the Isuzu use exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), thus side-stepping AdBlue.
Isuzu N62.150 chassis-cab
In terms of wheelbase, the 6.2 tonne Isuzu is the shortest of our contenders at just 3,845mm. The only option is a stubby 3,395mm, available with a day cab or seven-man crew cab. Apart from our benchmark LF45, the Isuzu is the only vehicle here with a tilt cab, offering good access to its engine. Its Euro-5, four-cylinder, 3.0-litre engine uses common-rail fuel-injection. There is a choice of manual or automated gearboxes.
Both are based on the same six-speed unit with overdrive top gear. The automated (‘Easyshift’) option adds just over £1,000 to the list price.
Selecting the specification for our benchmark 7.5-tonner highlights the extra choice available when buying what most people would regard as a ‘proper truck.’ There are eight wheelbase lengths, five power ratings and a choice of day cab or sleeper for the 7.5 tonne GVW LF. The base rating of the Paccar (née Cummins ISBe) four-cylinder, 4.5-litre, four-cylinder engine develops a modest 138hp but the other ratings range right up to 221hp for a frighteningly fast and furious 7.5 tonner.
The LF45.160 used here for comparison purposes has 158hp, a popular choice at this weight. The LF45 is the only one in the assembled line-up with a five-speed gearbox as standard. A six-speed manual is a £340 option; plumping for ZF’s automated AS Tronic six-speed transmission adds a hefty £1,750.
If weight is the number one concern….
Our comparison table below confirms our starting premise: the typical 7.5 tonner, as exemplified by the Daf, offers a relatively poor net payload potential. The Daf’s amounts to 2.95 tonnes, based on a kerbweight that includes a full tank of fuel, AdBlue and a 75kg driver (but no spare wheel or tools etc). Despite working at a gross weight one tonne lower than that of the DAF, the 6.5 tonne Daily van can carry 740kg more – 3.69 tonnes. At 56%, its payload as a proportion of its gross weight is streets ahead of the rest and proves the point that it certainly is possible to downshift the GVW but upshift the payload.
Mercedes’ 6 tonne Vario, both as a panel van and in chassis cab form, cannot pull off that trick. With a payload capacity equal to just 37% of their gross weight, neither of the two 6.0 tonne Varios has much appetite for weight. We suspect the blame, at least in part, rests with the Vario’s engine. This is a proper truck engine, found (with higher power ratings) in Atego chassis with gross weights of up to 16 tonnes. But in a 6.0 tonne Vario it becomes something of a handicap if payload is a prime concern.
The 6.5 tonne Daily chassis-cab plus box body combination carries 500kg less than the Daily van but can still handle 225kg more than our benchmark 7.5 tonner. The Isuzu can carry about 300kg less than the LF45: considering that it is working at a gross weight some 1.3-tonnes lower, that is no disgrace. But it is no rival to either of the Dailys and does not provide a radically better payload/gross weight ratio than the 7.5-tonne Daf.
It is only fair to point out that the real advantage of the 6.2 tonne Isuzu’s is its attraction to operators who need to tow trailers such as compressors that weigh more than 750kg. Providing the trailer’s plated weight does not exceed 2.0 tonnes and the vehicle’s plated gross train weight is not more than 8.25 tonnes, a driver who has only passed a car test (before 1997) may drive the combination. The Isuzu’s 6.2 tonne GVW makes the most of this 2.0 tonnes maximum trailer weight. A 7.5-tonner is restricted to trailers plated at no more than 750kg: beyond that, all drivers would need to pass a conventional LGV class C plus E test. Isuzu explains that its N62.150 is particularly popular with the likes of Network Rail and ultility companies that still have many drivers who passed their driving test before 1997.
The Daily’s real killer blow is that there are 7.0-tonne GVW versions of both the van and chassis-cab, with even more impressive payload credentials. Virtually all the extra 500kg of gross weight is available for the load because the differences between 6.5 and 7.0 tonne models are confined to tiny details such as suspension mountings and the load index of the tyres, allowing the axles to plated at higher weights. Iveco last year registered 749 Dailys in the 6.0 – 7.4 tonnes GVW weight sector, and most were 7 tonners rather than 6.5 tonne models. This is unsurprising: the difference in list price between the two versions of the new Daily is only £800. The 7.0 tonne chassis-cab challenges even the lightest 7.5 tonners for sheer payload; the 7 tonne van wipes the floor with them, handling loads of almost 4.2 tonnes.
If planning to load these light trucks and big vans to their limits is essential to check that the axle capacities are sufficient to tolerate either a poorly distributed load or handle the diminishing load scenario, whereby the load on the front axle increases as goods are unloaded from the rear. Long rear overhangs exacerbate this phenomenon, so pay particular attention to front axle capacity when opting for the longest body lengths on chassis-cabs. Panel van dimensions should be configured as standard to guard against it. The sum of the axle capacities on the 6.5 tonne Daily is 7.3 tonnes, leaving an 800kg tolerance. That equates to 12% of the gross weight, a fairly typical margin.
The cube route
If volume rather than weight is the over-riding concern, look no further than the 7.5 tonner. It offers more internal length, width and height than any others, producing 32.8m3, nearly 40% than the next most capacious rival, the Daily chassis-cab and body combination (23.6m3). Vario and Isuzu chassis-cabs are hampered by their limitations on body length. Offering just over 17m3, the two panel vans provide no more volume than the biggest 3.5 tonne GVW vans and so emerge as also-rans in this company. Of the two, the Vario provides more internal length and width; the Daily counters with extra height.
Many operators are unable to utilise all the internal height, so floor space matters more than cube. This is another win for the 7.5-tonner but its advantage over the Daily chassis-cab is cut to 22% (14.6m2 compared with 12.0m2). The two panel vans not only have smaller gross floor areas but lose a bit more because of the intrusion of their wheel-boxes. The Vario van offers more floor space than the Daily van (8.9 versus 7.8m2) because it is both longer and wider.
If handling pallets, the 7.5 tonner’s body is the only one that is wide enough – in theory – to accommodate two 1,000 x 1,200mm pallets with their 1,200mm dimension crossways. Our box bodies on the Daily, Vario and Isuzu chassis-cabs are 180mm narrower, forcing one of each pair of pallets to be loaded with 1,000mm dimension crossways.
Access all areas
Daily and Vario vans chalk up a victory here, thanks to their sliding side doors, available on both sides if required. They also have substantially lower floor heights, an important factor for drivers on multi-drop work. The Daily and the Vario ride on 16-inch diameter wheels; the Isuzu and Daf on 17.5-inch wheels. Daily, Vario and Isuzu chassis cabs are not quite so low as the two panel vans but they all sit around 150-250mm lower than the Daf LF45.
Operators taking the chassis-cab plus body route do not have to put with below-par load access. A thoughtful body specification will include a nearside pedestrian door or a fast-access sliding side curtain/door. Similarly, fold-down steps take the sting out of higher floor heights.
Multi-drop drivers will also appreciate easy access into the cab. It is particularly easy to get into the Vario and the Daily because in both cases the cab floor is behind the wheel arch rather than above it.
Measured in terms of their wall-to-wall turning circles, the agility of these vehicles throws up a few surprises vehicles. Those with the smaller footprints do not necessarily turn more tightly. The 7.5 tonne Daf’s claimed turning circle is the second smallest, beaten only by the substantially lighter Isuzu, which stands out as usefully nimble. The Daily chassis-cab looks positively unwieldy by comparison, a serious disadvantage for a vehicle that would be expected to excel in the urban environment. The Daily van is the narrowest of the bunch, some 500mm less than the widest (the Daf), so will have less trouble on home deliveries when threading its way through residential streets constricted by parked cars. The Vario van is around 200mm wider that the Daily. Our body on the Daily, Vario and Isuzu chassis-cabs is a sensible compromise, wider that either of the vans but almost 200mm narrower than the Daf’s.
Operators making deliveries in sensitive residential areas may want to consider how their vehicles will be perceived. Arguably, the Daily and Vario are likely to be regarded by the public as vans but the 7.5 tonne Daf is bound to be described as a lorry. The public’s perception of the Isuzu is hard to second guess.
The field splits in two here. The Daily and the Isuzu have 3.0 litre engines; the Vario and the Daf have much bigger hearts – 4.25 and 4.5 litres respectively. The Daily and the Vario have similar power to weight ratios (26hp/tonne of GVW), followed by the Isuzu (24hp/tonne) and the Daf (21hp/tonne).
However, the huge difference in the engines’ swept volumes makes becomes evident in their peak torque figures. Both the Cummins/Paccar engine in the Daf and the Mercedes engine are essentially light truck engines and major on torque – 600Nm for the former, 610Nm for the latter. The Daily’s 400Nm and the Isuzu’s 375Nm are no match for that. But they partially compensate for that deficit by the width of their torque plateau; fully 1,200rpm wide for the Daily and the Isuzu, compared with 600rpm for the Daf and just 400rpm for the Vario. This at least makes it easier to extract the most of the limited torque on offer from the Daily and Isuzu engines without constantly shifting gear. When CM tested the 70C17 version of the previous Daily model (18 August 2011) with the same power and torque rating (158hp/400Nm) we concluded that the engine was sufficient, even at 7.0 tonnes instead of 6.5 tonnes GVW.
The best way of summing up these disparate power and torque ratings is to compare how the engines work in real life, on the basis that the vehicle manufacturers have chosen gearing that makes the most of their engines’ characteristics. Assuming each vehicle is equipped with the standard or default rear-axle ratio and the standard tyres, at 80km/h (50mph) in top gear the Vario’s engine speed will be just 1,708rpm. The Daf’s engine speed will be 1,800rpm. The two 3.0 litre engines will be turning faster: 2,012rpm in the Daily and 2,083rpm in the Isuzu.
These engine speeds and swept volumes have implications for long-term durability, and one can expect the two larger engines to have an advantage in this respect. They are almost certainly designed to achieve a higher B10 life (the point to which 90% of them are expected to run without major overhaul) than the smaller engines and both are taking life easy at this weight. The number of ancient Vario-based ‘Hoppa’-type buses still plodding around UK streets is testimony to the ruggedness of the Mercedes engine in particular.
As mentioned earlier, the Daf is the only vehicle here with a five-speed gearbox as standard. Opting for the six-speed version actually shortens the top ratio by a tad but provides a deeper first gear for better “gradeability” when moving off. The other vehicles all have six-speed boxes as standard.
If used on intensive, urban multi-drop work automated gearboxes might well be worthy of consideration for all these vehicles, easing the driver’s day and providing driveline protection, notably through reduced clutch wear. ZF supplies automated versions of the six-speed manual gearboxes as options in the Daf and the Daily; Isuzu’s automated option is the six-speed Easyshift box. The odd one out here is the Vario, with an Allison 1000 series five-speed epicyclic torque converter fully automatic gearbox as the only (very expensive) alternative to manual shifting.
These vehicles are on the cusp between trucks and vans and arrive from opposite directions. The Daf is pure truck, with, for example, 24-volt electrics and a full air-brake system. The Daily comes up from the van world, bringing hydraulic brakes and 12-volt electrics. The Vario and the Isuzu are in between these two extremes. Both have 24-volt electrics; Vario has an air-over-hydraulic brake system while the 6.2 tonne Isuzu has hydraulic brakes.
Cost of ownership
As usual, the chassis prices quoted here are list prices and so must be taken with a large pinch of salt. Our estimated prices for the GRP/ply bodies on the chassis-cabs – just over £4,000- should be more realistic. Overall, we would expect to pay in the region of £35,000 for the complete Daf LF45.160 and body combination. We guess the Daily chassis-cab and body is likely to come in at a net price closer to £30,000, with the van version about £1,000-1,500 below that. Mercedes’ Vario list prices look high in comparison to the others, so we would hope for bigger discounts too. Conversely, Isuzu’s pricing policy is pretty transparent so one must expect to pay close to our figure of around £31,700 for the N62.150 and box body combo.
If those estimated net prices are indeed as close to the mark as we believe, the premium payable for the 7.5-tonner is reasonable, and the lighter trucks are no giveaway. They are unlikely to justify themselves on capital costs alone.
Our residual value figures, provided by CAP Monitor, show that the 7.5 tonner retains more of its value after three years than do the lighter models. The 7.5 tonner is well-recognised and accepted by the used truck market, whereas the others are more of an unknown quantity. And maybe the durability expected from the heavier vehicle is also a factor in this residual forecast.
Comparative and precise fuel consumption data for all these models is impossible to establish without running them back to back on similar duties. A look back at recent CM road tests of 7.5 tonners show that they usually record around 21mpg on our test circuit, a mixture of motorways and A-roads. That figure is strong, reflecting carefully prepared vehicles complete with comprehensive aerodynamic fairings. A 2011 road test of the Daily 70C17 (a chassis-cab with nicely-faired box body) recorded just under 20mpg. That was running half a tonne lighter in gross terms but carrying around 350kg more than mainstream 7.5 tonners like the Daf.
This suggests that the 6.5 tonne GVW Daily chassis-cab plus box body would be fairly close to our 7.5 tonner in terms of both fuel consumption and payload, assuming both have equally faired bodywork. It would be reasonable to assume that the smaller frontal area of the Daily panel van would benefit the fuel consumption, perhaps to the tune of one or two miles per gallon when compared with the box-bodied version. In 2010 (16 December) we tested an 816D Vario van – broadly the same driveline as the 616D – and recorded an average fuel consumption of 20.9mpg at 7.5 tonnes GVW. We have not tested an Isuzu with its current, Euro-5, engine.
Our comparison of published standard servicing costs and parts prices suggests that there is not a huge gulf between the scheduled maintenance costs. Unsurprisingly, the Daf’s parts costs are most expensive – particularly the clutch – reflecting the fact that they are generally bigger, meatier items. Across the piece, the Daily’s published parts and servicing costs are the lowest.
We should point out that these scheduled maintenance and repair costs fail to take account of the bodywork. The GRP/ply box-bodies on the chassis-cabs are simpler to repair than the steel bodywork of the two panel vans and, in theory, may be transferred to another chassis.
So yes, there are alternatives to the average 7.5 tonner, allowing you to carry heavier payloads at lower gross weight. But would you choose them?
The 6.0 tonne GVW Vario, both as a panel van and a chassis-cab, carries less weight than a 7.5 tonner and its payload-to-gross weight ratio is no better. Nor can it match the volumetric capacity of the 7.5 tonner. A long history plus countless midibuses and coachbuilt UPS parcel vans shows the Vario has undoubtedly qualities, not least its robustness, but the 6.0 tonne version cannot match the productivity of a 7.5-tonner. It is simply a smaller, lighter vehicle, boasting an unusually heavy-duty driveline.
Isuzu’s 6.2 tonne N62.150 offers a marginally better ratio of payload to gross weight than our 7.5 tonner. However, 1.3 tonnes is evidently too much to give away in terms of gross weight, so it is asking too much of it to match the absolute payload weight or volume of a 7.5 tonner. But a glance of our measure of payload/m2 of floor space shows that the Isuzu (with an appropriately sized box body) should be less prone to overloading than our benchmark 7.5 tonner. And not only is it compact, it is also the most agile of our contenders, aiding productivity where space is tight. The Isuzu’s price is keen too.
The two 6.5 tonne Dailys stand the best chance of persuading operators that there is a valid alternative to the usual 7.5 tonner. Taking the van first, it will shine on multi-drop work where streets are narrow. It offers good access for both the driver and his load. Performance is adequate thanks to good power and a wide torque band. In terms of its payload/cube relationship, the Daily panel van is the antithesis of the 7.5 tonner, providing immense weight capacity but spread across a meagre floor area and within a relatively small volume. The payload/m2 of floor space is much higher than anything else here, suitable for carrying 1000x12000mm pallets weighing just over half a tonne each, for example. Useful in the right circumstances, but we suspect this is not a mainstream requirement.
Moving onto the 65C17 Daily chassis-cab, this is likely to hit the spot for more operators. With an appropriately sized box-body its payload/volume ratio is closer better than the van’s. It handles a little more weight than the typical 7.5-tonner, albeit coupled with less deck space and volume. Wider than the van, it is usefully narrower than the 7.5 tonner.
The problem is that these smaller vehicles are not dramatically cheaper to buy than a 7.5 tonner and they suffer from poorer residual values. Their running costs may prove to be a little lower, but much depends on their durability. Lighter construction and a small engine turning more quickly is not a recipe for longevity. In short, these lighter vehicles probably need to make a business case for themselves over a shorter lifetime. Maybe that is through a combination of carrying a little extra weight, being niftier around town and perhaps costing a little less to buy and run.
The low-risk strategy, especially if the duty cycle is arduous or the annual distance is high, is to stay with tried and trusted 7.5-tonners. If wary of lighter Japanese models and preferring to stick with the European offerings one could address the payload issue with a carefully specified body constructed from lightweight materials. For example, a body built with Omnia thermoplastic sandwich panels saves 200-300kg without reducing robustness. But, to mutilate a metaphor or two, it is horses for courses and there is more than one way to skin the 7.5 tonne cat. The choice is yours.
‘The real benefits of a 7-tonne chassis is the size and the payload. Physically they are a lot smaller, and the difference from a 7.5-tonner is vast. At 3.5-tonnes we had a problem with overloading, but at 7-tonnes you can carry more than a small truck. Obviously urban driving fuel consumption is high anyway, but we have found that we are better off doing two trips with a 7-tonner than one with a truck.’
Trevor Purfield, national plant and transport manager- Colas