The trucking industry has changed quite dramatically in the last ten years and all indicators are that in the next ten years, it is going to be more intense. Heavy competition has made stakeholders think out of the box and that has helped the industry transform itself.Over the last decade, the trucking industry has transformed itself on different fronts. If in the 1980s there were only 2-axle trucks available and the maximum GVW was 16 tonnes, today, we have moved on to multi-axle and tractor trailers and have reached a level where all manufacturers are providing 49- tonne GVW tractor trailers. If an air- conditioned cab for the driver was never thought of, in today’s highly competitive scenario, almost all the major players have made it a standard feature in their product offerings. Could you have imagined a dress code for a driver in the trucking industry? Even that has happened here in the Indian market.The number of players in the market today, too, has gone up; five years ago, it was below half-a-dozen. Moreover, the range including the application-oriented trucks being offered is mind-boggling. The very fact that the range spans from one tonne to 16 tonne and is moving towards 49 tonne, itself shows the evolutionary trajectory the industry has gone through. In the current scenario, almost all the major global brands are present in the country, be it American, Russian, Swedish, Japanese, Korean. As per reports, major Chinese truck manufacturers like Sinotruk International, Shandong Shifeng and Beiqi Foton Motors are on the point of entry, too.In the current scenario, if we talk about the transformation in tonnage basis, we are stuck with 49 tonne. The question is simple: how can we improve the efficiency of the transport model? That’s where the leaders come in. So the only way to improve the efficiency of the transport model in India is to increase the kilometres travelled per day. It is a fact that the average kilometre covered by an Indian truck in India is just 400 a day, whereas the European and American average is 750-900 km. For instance, if a 49-tonner travelling 400 km a day can somehow double its record, that is going to change the dynamics of the entire industry. Fortunately, that is what is happening. The transformation on tonne has already happened, and the transformation on the kilometre travelled a day is under way.“It’s true that the competition space has changed in the last ten years quite dramatically and believe me, in the next ten years, it is going to be more intense. Our mandate is very clear. We have a dominant market position in the Indian commercial vehicle industry, more so in medium and heavy trucks, where we have a 68 per cent market share. Our objective is crystal clear: it’s not just to retain the market leadership position but to grow it further,” says Vinod K Sahay, Head – Sales & Marketing, Medium and Heavy Trucks, Tata Motors. He adds, “We have seen people getting one hundred per cent additional productivity. There are customers who are using Prima range and covering 800 kilometers per day in tractor application where earlier, they were not completing even 400 kilometres a day. So just imagine the increase in productivity. Even if he is paying 50 per cent more for Prima, the customer is getting a doubled revenue increase and his operating margin has hugely improved.”The heavy competition in the trucking industry has made stakeholders think out of the box. For example, in the construction industry three years ago, Tata Motors had one product in multi-axle tippers which was hugely successful, dominating the Indian multi-axle tipper segment. But the company stopped production so as to make way for a new product. Says Vinod, “On our conventional platform, all the variants are upgraded - instead of 2516, we upgraded it to 2518 with normal suspension; we have the same 2518 available with bogie suspension, we have a third vehicle which is available with bogie suspension and 9-speed, we have another vehicle on the current range which is available with 230 horsepower. And now we have the Prima range where we have 280 horsepower in 25 tonne as well as 31 tonne. We have introduced a 380 horsepower vehicle in the Prima range. So the point is we are always going to be ahead of all the competition put together, in terms of our product bandwidth. For any application, for any horsepower point, for any gearbox or transmission or engine horsepower, we will have a product.”Vinod further adds, “We have consolidated more, especially in the heavy truck industry. If you look closely, you can see that the share of FTUs (First Time Users) is just going down and the industry is increasingly concentrated where there are big players and large fleet operators. That is the trend we had predicted and that is the way it is happening.”Talking about the changing patterns in the construction and mining segments, Vinod had this to say. “If you take a closer view of the construction and mining sectors, the shift is more towards a very professional way of deciding which product can give more productivity. In construction and mining applications, tippers constitute only 15-20 per cent of the overall capital expenditure which the customer is making. So if I can give him a tipper with a higher ratio which is more reliable and able to give a more productive output, then the efficiency of other assets also improves and he understands that very well. And another influencing factor is that contracts are awarded with both incentive and penalising clauses. From that point of view, the customers are willing to pay a higher premium and go for a product which is more reliable, which can do better productive job by having a higher ratio in the same hours allotted.”Recently, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV), the Indian subsidiary of the world’s leading truck manufacturer Daimler AG, unveiled a new range of trucks under its brand BharatBenz. A full range of models between 9 and 49 tonne was showcased to media, financiers, dealers and future customers in an exclusive premiere in Hyderabad. Seventeen models will be launched subsequently over 20 months to cater to the needs of Indian customers in the modern domestic volume segment. With an overall investment of Rs 4,400 crore, it is one of the biggest greenfield investments outside Europe that Daimler have ever made.“Our trucks are based on two of the most successful platforms proven across the globe, the Fuso Canter and the Mercedes-Benz Axor. But for that, we have literally taken every part, re-developed and re-designed it for Indian conditions like overloading, rugged terrain and poor roads. This re-engineering has been the key for the development of a new generation of products, which are 85 per cent localised right from the beginning, to perfectly fit to the Indian customers’ requirements,” said Aydogan Cakmaz, Vice President, Product Engineering, BharatBenz. He added, “Our BharatBenz trucks have been benchmarked and tested for over 4.5 million kilometres on our specially designed test track. We don’t test our products on the customer. When a customer buys our product, he gets a hundred per cent tested and reliable product, one that powers him ahead.”VRV Sriprasad, Vice President, Marketing & Sales, BharatBenz, said: “We believe that our trucks will contribute to our customers’ success. This is why we have priced them competitively in the volume segment. Importantly, we have focused on offering value-for-money features, which includes significant fuel efficiency advantages, best in class reliability with parts engineered for long lifespan and longer service intervals, which will reduce the operational cost and keep the trucks running.” In the first phase, BharatBenz trucks will be sold and serviced over a network of 70 dealerships. This will be extended to more than hundred dealerships by 2014.Caterpillar has recently brought new variants to the Indian market, the new Cat® 770G and Cat® 772G off-highway trucks. The new CatÒ 770G off-highway truck is a 40- tonne class model designed and built for demanding construction, quarry and mining applications. The 770G features an efficient Cat engine and drive train configured to deliver high production and low cost-per-tonne of material hauled. An extensive list of options enables customers to configure their trucks to match their applications and their business objectives. The 770G builds on the proven performance of the 770, which was introduced in 2006 and accumulated hundreds of thousands of hours moving materials. The 770G expands that legacy with manufacturing availability from India, allowing Caterpillar to better serve customers in China, India and Asia. The 770G incorporates many features to enhance performance and safety and reduce lifecycle costs. At the heart of the new truck is the Cat C15 ACERT™ engine, which produces 365 kW (489 hp) and is available with two different emissions control strategies to suit the customer’s needs.According to Philip Pollock Global Construction & Infrastructure Marketing Manager, Caterpillar Asia Pacific, “The 770G and 772G off-highway trucks will be manufactured in India and marketed to customers around the globe. With the 770G, our customers will have access to a CAT C15 engine with Tier-2 or Tier-3 options, with advanced features such as TCS, VIMS, TKPH Monitor, Advisor and Electronic Transmission controls. Additionally, the truck’s fuel efficient engine with higher payload offering provides lowest cost per tonne to the customers.”Susumu Myokan, Director & Vice President, Hino Motor India, says, “We have a very ambitious plan for India and shall do everything required to fulfill the ever-growing demand of Indian customers. Currently, the trucks are imported from its global facilities but Hino is actively working on developing a vendor network in India. Keeping in view the quality of products manufactured by Indian vendors which meet international standards, we intend to source the components for other countries also from India, in order to economise on procurement and further fine-tune our product pricing.”According to Dinesh Chandra Upadhyay, General Manager - Marketing & Sales, Hino Motor India, Hino has tried to identify specific applications which have been hitherto not sufficiently addressed by other manufacturers. Upadhyay says, “We have seeded our trucks in the Indian market for specific applications, where we felt that customers have a lot of pain points in the existing products. Some of these applications are tippers used in iron ore mining and trucks used in the cold chain transportation segment. Our products have been performing extremely well and have been able to successfully address all the pain points. We are now flooded with active enquiries from not only these segments but from other segments as well.” Hino has sold over 300 trucks in India till date, 200 of which are tipper trucks and the balance used for other applications.Another major player eyeing a considerable chunk of the Indian pie is Kamaz which is all set to enter serial production and establish its presence in the Indian market. For Kamaz, the market leader in Russia with decades of experience in manufacturing on high tonnage trucks, India is one of its most important markets for growth and expansion. The company has a manufacturing facility in Hosur and has been testing its trucks on the Indian roads since two years. The plant has a capacity of rolling out 5,000 trucks annually. The company has identified a gap between the low-cost and high-cost vehicles in India and is looking to position its products in that intermediate segment.Kamaz products would be priced slightly higher than the low-cost segment but would come with better working capacity and characteristics, providing more comfort for the drive. Kamazís product range will have trucks from 30T and above. The company is also considering different tonnage capabilities for the future and working on expanding its product offering to cater to the growing needs of the market. Kamaz vehicles come with a powerful engine in the range of 280-360 hp which would enable installation of large tipper bodies on the vehicle. The standard vehicles would come with a 9-speed transmission with a 16-speed option available if required by the customer.