Trucks and heavy tractors for cargo haulage and transportation of aggregate materials, coal, overburden from mines, iron ore and other bulk materials, are riding the curve of exponential growth.
All truck majors are witnessing double-digit growth for the past 18 months, quarter-on-quarter, report all market analysts. Nearly 228,000 trucks were sold during FY15, reinforcing the huge potential generated as a result of the upwardly driven economic landscape in the country, thanks to the numerous fund-backed initiatives by the government. The on-ground impact of this high growth has extended to the furthest regions of India, spread across many segments. Transportation and logistics, whether for cargo haulage, bulk material movements, project execution, mining, or last mile delivery, involve the use of trucks having operation-centric specifications. Out of the same, tippers and trailers have a lion´s share, wherein the dump body manufacturers also join in the growth story, along with other auxiliary and subsystem suppliers.
Era of product strategy
Complimenting the high growth of the mining sector, predicted in double digits during the next decade, the On-Off Highway Trucks industry is adopting well thought through product strategies, to effectively position the best suited truck solutions for various customers, regional and application-centric requirements.
Rajesh Kaul, Business Head - Intermediate, Medium and Heavy Trucks, Tata Motors, elaborates, ¨Our Intermediate Commercial Vehicle (ICV) range starts at 9- and 11-tonne payload capacity trucks. In this, we have the 909 range and tipper range. Then we have the 11-tonne range, that varies from a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 11.9 to 12.99 tonne. We are likely to come up with many more offerings on this platform over the next few months. Anything to do with GVW below 16 tonne is an ICV. In the Auto Expo, we launched the 1518 Ultra, which is a close to 9.5 tonne payload vehicle, with a GVW of 15.5 tonne.¨
Kaul explains the range of vehicles further, ¨The next range is 16 tonne and above GVW, which we call as Medium Commercial Vehicles (MCVs). In this category, we have a 2-axle version with 16 tonne, a 3-axle version with 25 tonne, 4-axle version with 31 tonne (these are all rigid trucks) and 5-axle version with 37 tonne GVW. Moving on to Prime Movers, we have a 35, 40 and 49 tonne tractors for haulage.¨ He adds, ¨Looking at tippers, which we call as the ´Construct´ range of products, we have the 16 tonne LPK 1613 and 1618; in semi-forward tippers we have the SK1615. In the multi-axle range, we have LPK 2518, 2523 and 3118. Currently, we do not have any 5-axle truck in this range, but the same is possible within this platform. However, we have another range which figures in cargo trucks and tippers for Construct called Prima, a premium range that caters to a different segment comprising Prima and Prima LX, meant for performance-sensitive customers. In this space, the business model is very different. It is a revenue-driven model, where the vehicle should be always on the road and have very high throughput. We had launched this product during the Auto Expo along with our SIGNA range. In this range, we have already introduced 49 tonne GVW in Rajasthan and this range will now be introduced in other states with various power nodes, in various application segments.¨
GV Rao, Director, Product Strategy, Branding and Marketing, Volvo Trucks India, says, ¨Currently in India, we are addressing the high end of the heavy duty market, particularly select segments in mining and heavy haulage. We have our full range in these segments. Starting with mining, we have end-to-end solutions of dump trucks in the FMX range which caters to overburden removal and coal haulage. We have also introduced the FMX 10x4 dump truck last year, which is the largest capacity, multi-axle dump truck in the country, powered by a 520 HP engine. We also have the highest capacity coal haulage 33 cu m tipper, and in order to support mining, we have certain other models like water sprinkler. We are also planning to bring in some new specialised equipment-mounted vehicles like tree planters. In coal mining areas, a lot of trees are uprooted in a very traditional way, and mine operators are trying to plant trees elsewhere in the mines, but the survival rate is low. These specialised vehicles with minimum manpower requirement will complete the whole process in a scientific way.¨
He adds, ¨When it comes to heavy haulage trucks used in the infrastructure segment for over dimensional cargo (ODC) movements like heavy plant & machinery, including the heavy girders for flyovers etc., they are all moved on Volvo Prime movers with specialised hydraulic axle trailers.¨
Rao says that his company is participating in the growth story by focusing on select segments like mining, infrastructure and road construction. ¨In the mining segment, we are seeing growth in coming years because of the positive steps taken by the government and the scope generated from newly opened coal blocks. Coal India´s production target going up from a current level of 630 million tonnes to 1 billion tonnes by 2020 will provide growth opportunities. So we are gearing up for these segments of growth. As mentioned earlier, in the mining segment, we have about 440 HP trucks and have a very strong portfolio with our FMX 8x4 and 10x4 multi-axle dump trucks with two variants going up to 520 HP with 26 cu m body for overburden and 33 m3 body for coal haulage. We are trying to increase the overall coal production efficiency and bring down the cost per cu m,¨ he says.
Sominder Singh, Vice President, Domestic Sales, Product Management & Network, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) describes his offerings, ¨We have the right products in our BharatBenz´ HDT range to address these requirements with wide offerings from our stable. The BharatBenz 3143 CM, the latest BharatBenz product, is India´s first indigenised mining truck that bridges the gap in the current premium truck and underpowered truck market. Customers are looking towards efficient and productive machines with high reliability, and that is exactly what BharatBenz offers.¨ Singh gives further details, ¨The BharatBenz 3143CM comes with 430 HP and a 19.5 cu m scoop body with an option of 32 cu m coal carrier. All our heavy duty tippers come with a bogie suspension and a 9+1 or 12+4 speed gear box as standard for better durability and gradability. In addition, all our trucks have an option of AC cabins which help in better comfort and increased driver productivity.¨
He says that the key differentiator that BharatBenz offers in this segment is high payload along with better fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs. The high localisation of the parts also translates into a very high availability of spare parts. Singh explains, ¨All BharatBenz trucks and tippers offer the best total cost of ownership, this results in reducing the overall cost of running and maintenance of the trucks and allows the customer to focus on his business. A hallmark value position of BharatBenz trucks has helped us achieve a strong position not only in the marketplace, but also in the minds of the customers. Looking at the excellent response we have received for the 3143CM, we are confident of further developing our market position.¨
R C Mangal, Senior VP - Sales & Marketing, Truck and Bus Division, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, elaborates on the company´s range of trucks, ¨Currently we offer a wide range of tipping bodies and the customer has the option to choose the most optimum solution. On our 25T tipper platform, we offer tipping bodies which range from 12 cu m to 20 cu m box body. Apart from this, we also offer rock bodies which are most suitable for mining options. Wherever feasible, we try to offer the customer customised tipping bodies which suit their individual operations and excavation needs.¨
Sudhir Chaudhary, General Manager-Sales, Hyva (India) Pvt Ltd, presents a product overview from a supplier´s perspective, for various types of tipper bodies. He says, ¨We provide the whole gamut of solutions for the truck industry. Be it construction or mining, we provide the complete range of solutions to the OEMs, depending on which segment they cater to. We have different kinds of applications like rock bodies and exhaust bodies. These are specialised bodies for mining applications, for removal of overburden, transportation of minerals, etc. These bodies are made of special steels so that they are able to withstand very heavy, rough and extensive usage.¨ Chaudhary says that Hyva´s rock bodies are built with a sandwich platform, to withstand the impact of boulders falling from heights during truck loading. ¨This kind of sandwich platform increases the life of the tipper body substantially. We are quite successful in providing these solutions to our customers and they are completely happy with our products and solutions.¨
He adds, ¨In construction, we provide truck bodies of different cubic metre capacities on the 4x2, 6x4, and 8x4 chassis platforms. Here we have used steel specifically meant for tippers which has much higher yield strength than that of the steel used in the normal truck bodies. Customers are now demanding higher capacity truck bodies because they reduce fuel cost, number of drivers required, and the number of vehicles, thereby reducing the number of cycles and improving overall productivity. In short, a customer is looking at a machine that is more productive in nature. For this you require higher capacity trucks and truck bodies which can carry more material.¨
Synergy with user expectations
Rao emphasises that customers are expecting a very reliable product, very high vehicle uptime, more driver friendly features, best-in-class fuel efficiency, more productivity, and high standard quality aftermarket support. He says, ¨Our philosophy is bringing service to the doorstep of customers. In fact, there is a full network of such workshops in all the important locations of the country where our vehicles are running. When it comes to mining, we create a site support infrastructure at the respective sites for providing round-the-clock support. We also customise these workshops as required by working closely with our customers. This also helps the customers to understand their costs for quoting for new business. As such, it´s a great value addition by Volvo.¨
Kaul says, ¨Tata Motors has worked on a product range where there are variants of various tonnages and power nodes, which are most important for construction and mining, when it comes to total cost of ownership. For example, we offer Prima or Prima LX; we have our conventional range, and the soon-to-be-launched SIGNA range of tippers. This gives the customers an option of picking the most optimum fleet combination for their project. Our vehicles have an optimum blend of power and economy coupled with reliability, and I would say offer a winning combination. We see that driver comfort, safety and productivity will be essential elements, going forward.¨
Singh explains that there have been several improvements in material and related technologies which are going hand in hand with the evolving needs of customers and their operations. ¨Our focus is to support our customers in maximising their profits, e.g., through intelligent solutions to increase the share of fully loaded trips or to minimise unplanned downtimes. We believe there is a significant potential for efficiency improvements in the logistics industry by reducing waste and improving the utilisation of assets, and that it belongs to our business to help our customers leverage those efficiencies also with new technologies,¨ he adds.
Mangal says that Mahindra & Mahindra currently offers a wide range of tipping bodies, and the customer has the option to choose the most optimum solution. He says, ¨On our 25T tipper platform, we offer tipping bodies which range from 12 cu m to 20 cu m box body. Apart from this, we also offer rock bodies which are most suitable for mining options. Wherever feasible, we try to offer the customer customised tipping bodies which suit their individual operations and excavation needs. The engines which are currently in operation are more tuned to strenuous operating conditions. Apart from offering higher HP, they also come with several customised features to suit off-road applications. Sensing this trend early on, we have introduced the æFUEL SMART´ technology, which offers our customers unique features of adjusting engine power & torque to suit On & Off Highway Trucks.¨
Innovations: The path to a bright future
Having recognised that innovation is the way to a sustainable future for their business, each major is developing not only products, but also solutions, enabling users to manage their equipment fleets and derive the benefits from actual and real time performance of their trucks.
Rao comments, ¨Volvo Trucks has always been in the forefront to bring innovations and new technologies to the Indian market. We have introduced AMT transmission called I-Shift in our trucks. We have a very advanced Automated Manual Transmission which significantly reduces driver fatigue, helping drivers focus on driving, manoeuvring and being more productive in different applications like mining, heavy haulage and 24/7 type of work. AMT will be made available progressively in the entire range of 440 to 520 HP trucks.¨
He adds, ¨On the Telematics front, Volvo has pioneered the concept of ´Dynafleet Online´ which improves the overall decision making by providing real time data on a continuous basis to customers, even at remote locations. As a result, customers can clearly understand the operational efficiency, utilisation of the truck, fuel efficiency, etc. The data which can be downloaded provides inputs on driver performance and other skill-related areas which effect efficiency and gets reflected in the additional training programmes for improving driving skills. Dynafleet is a standard offering for all our trucks including the hardware. We also have customised soft solutions for specific operations as we work very closely with our customers.¨
Singh explains, ¨Daimler has invested heavily in the R&D of products that bring to India a technological edge. We have established state-of-the-art R&D facilities, equipment, processes and systems that have supported our endeavour.¨
Singh says that BharatBenz trucks have been developed to meet the requirements of Indian customers, offering robustness and easy drivability, but at the same time featuring modern technology from the world´s biggest truck manufacturer. ¨Our mining tippers come with all the DGMS safety feature requirements as standard or optional features. Our trucks also offer best-in-class fuel efficiency, featuring for instance the intelligent-unitised fuel-injection system, CTV engine brake, variable green band, balance-type rear suspension, inter-wheel differential in the haulage trucks, inter-wheel/inter-axle differential locks in the construction trucks, and the unique ¨Engine-Brake¨ system, to name a few,¨ he says.
¨As the world´s leading CV manufacturer, Daimler is actively driving the exciting opportunities that can be leveraged by connecting commercial vehicles. Consequently in India, where DICV is proud to be the leader in bringing state-of-the-art technology to the domestic market, we are exploring various cutting-edge developments and solutions to further improve our offerings to our customers,¨ Singh adds.
Mangal authenticates the prognosis, ¨Our products, especially Off Highway Trucks, are well accepted in the market. In order to consolidate our position, we have recently launched our BLAZO series of tippers which are equipped with the Fuel Smart technology. This is a unique technology which offers our customers flexibility to shift the power requirements of tippers, depending upon the load and terrain. Apart from substantial improvement in fuel efficiency, the BLAZO series is backed with unique and first-of-its-kind service offerings.¨
Mangal says that the process of value addition is continuous. ¨We are in the process of meeting the latest emission norms. Apart from emissions, several other safety-related aspects which are mandatory in terms of ABS and speed limiter have already been implemented. The endeavour is to offer customers both the compliance-related features as well as value-added features which enhance productivity. On our BLAZO platform, we have already introduced an advanced dashboard which offers drivers all details at their fingertips,¨ he says.
He adds that efforts are on to offer more such features which add value to customer operations. Mangal says, ¨There was always an inherent need of truck operators to identify and locate the correct position of their truck in real time. GPS-based systems first tried to address this inherent need. Going forth, customers are seeking value-added features through this platform which will contribute in enhancing productivity and help in increasing savings. Currently being mainly used for track & trace, the level of adoption for this feature is encouraging.¨
Kaul describes Tata Motors´ futuristic approach, ¨Innovations would be on the materials used, types of load bodies, lighter machines, robust engineering to handle greater wear abuse, other critical areas like FleetMan (Tata´s Telematics solution), reverse sensors, lane changers, recording of driver habits, and a better vehicle management system. In fact, for certain vehicles, we have 100 per cent mandatory factory fitment of Telematics like Tractor 3518, 4018 or 4923. We are now educating our customers on the numerous benefits which can be derived by using these Telematics. Currently, our challenge is to reach the masses which we are doing through our channel partners and field teams.¨
The emissions challengeIndia´s decision to leapfrog emission norms is a non-negotiable one, and the industry is compliant-ready in most aspects.
Kaul says, ¨The year 2017 is the time for implementing BS IV. As of now, what has been stated by the government is that they would skip BS V. So from BS IV in 2017 we are going to a straight switchover to BS VI in 2020. To be very specific, this has not been an overnight change by the government. As regards BS IV, I would say that it is already prevailing in many states like in the Northern region up to Leh, while NCR has been on BS IV since October 2010. Starting April 2016, Karnataka, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha have also transitioned to this norm.¨
He says that Tata Motors is geared up to provide products which deliver to these norms. ¨Obviously, there would be changes on various power points to deliver those emissions. As said earlier, we do visualise a trend of changing from 2-axle to 3-axle trucks which also entails change in power nodes. For example, two years back on a 2-axle truck, we were at 130 HP, while on 3-axle trucks, we started at 180 HP. As we change emission norms, power nodes change, and consequently so does the powertrain, to match the performance with the power shift.¨
Though these changes would translate into some costs going up, Kaul says that Tata Motors has anticipated these changes and is fully geared up for the same. He says, ¨As a company, we are focused to meet such challenges. At the end of the day, a certain price increase is unavoidable, but customers would be willing to pay. As regards BS VI, it is in the development stage; we have robust engineering expertise and we have already started working on this issue. We have targets to meet the same well in advance.¨
Singh provides his company´s position on the subject, ¨As a part of Daimler AG, DICV has access to full technological expertise of its parent. That includes proven global technologies up to Euro VI. So whatever target the government will eventually set for the introduction of new standards, we will be there. Right now, we offer BS IV throughout the BharatBenz portfolio. We have already been exporting Euro V vehicles under the FUSO brand to selected markets for some time now.¨
Rao confidently says, ¨Starting from April 2017, BS IV is getting implemented. The roadmap for BS VI emission norm implementation is by 2020. Since we have global expertise and presence, we already have emission control solutions in place. With our experience, we will comply with these emission norms, in a very efficient way. As regards price, if you look at BS IV, of course there will be some price impact. However, I would say that it would be competitive. When we go to BS VI, it will be a different ballgame in terms of technology upgradation. I cannot comment on the price at this stage.¨
In Kaul´s words, ¨This is a very cyclical industry. We have big transporters in auto logistics, petroleum etc., where there are big tenders. The operators typically use these vehicles for four-five years. As such, every five years or so, the cycle again takes off. We are in that cycle because our transporters cannot manage a longer distance after a few years as there are costs involved (along with) lower uptime and commitment times. As such, they have to replace their fleets. Every time we have witnessed new peaks. Last year it was a new peak and this time we expect another owing to pre-buying before implementation of BS-IV norms. Therefore, this is a very dynamic and evolving industry and the technology will be there to meet the same.¨ Mangal joins in, ¨The market is certainly upbeat. We have seen substantial growth in volumes in On & Off Highway Trucks. With more road construction & mining projects going on stream, the demand trend is likely to continue and sustain.¨
In conclusion, there is absolutely no doubt that the Indian truck market is on a steep rise. However, unlike in the European market, where truck makers tried to form a price cartel and were subsequently fined billions of euros on being discovered, in India it is a scene of fierce, aggressive and cut-throat competition amongst the truck majors. Each player is endeavouring to identify high potential sectors in terms of application and region. Thereafter, these players deliver a variant in the related GVW class - in exact or nearly exact conformity to the user requirements - to manage and assure their growth.
- Shankar Srivastava