China in 2007: Be Afraid?

The future direction of the Chinese truck business is discussed in this article published by China Economic Net.It makes a number of seemingly valid points, which, when combined, suggest that 2006 was the year that the Chinese truck industry matured – from the perspectives both of the manufacturer and the buyer. Weights are increasing – witness the decline in quasi-heavy or medium duty products – and the corresponding rise in heavy duty.But the most interesting observation is, for us, that which concerns emissions. Essentially, he who has the lead in National Phase III Motor Vehicle Emission Standard will lead the market as a whole.Mention of western JV partners is not made. Not entirely true, Iveco, Cummins and Steyr all get through the censor, but of M-B, Volvo and the like, there is nothing. We suspect that this is further evidence that the indigenous Chinese OEMs have now had their technology transfer, and have no further need for Western input. If this is the case, 2007 may not just prove to be the year of the Pig, but also of the lifted leg.

Bird's flocks to EGR power

With the advent of Euro 4 emission law requirements, West Midlands-based Bird's Groupage Services has switched its German chassis allegiances from Mercedes-Benz to MAN largely, says director Andy Levett, because of the operational simplicity of EGR for NOx control.

The company has replaced 25 Actros tractors with the same number of two-axle TGA chassis. Levett says the deal was negotiated direct with MAN-ERF UK's Swindon headquarters.

Another 25 identical chassis are due for delivery by the end of the year. They are powered by the highest-rated, 430hp version of MAN's 10.5-litre D20 engine, driving through ZF AS-Tronic automated mechanical transmissions.

Levett says the Bird's fleet will now be based on EGR-equipped chassis, from Scania as well as MAN. Six new 470hp engined Scania R Series tractors were commissioned on January 1, and more are on order.

He adds that although the D20 engine is 10% smaller in capacity than the 11.7-litre Scania DT12, its torque is much closer, giving the two trucks very similar acceleration performance. Levett says early indications are that fuel consumption on the new EGR-equipped MANs and Scanias is on a par with the outgoing Euro 3 Mercedes.

Bird's expects to be among the first UK operators to take delivery, later this year, of a number of flagship 12.4-litre D26-powered TGA tractors. They will be included in the next MAN order, says Levett.

He adds that before specifying his first Euro 4 chassis he went into the SCR versus EGR question in some detail, eventually concluding that any requirement for an extra liquid consumable on the vehicles introduced a 'risk factor'. In particular, drivers away from base - typically on the Continent - could run the risk of AdBlue being put into the fuel tank, or vice versa.

All the new Euro 4 tractors are 4x2s. "They'll be operating for 90% of their time in mainland European countries with a 40 tonnes on five axles weight limit," says Levett, pointing out that the company uses 6x2s with 44-tonne potential on its separate domestic UK fleet.