With heavy-duty trucks occupying an important niche in the construction landscape, manufacturers are constantly investing in new technology and robust products as they commit to the region
The heavy-duty truck is vital to the construction landscape and, despite being less conspicuous than its more glamorous cousins on the job site, is perhaps the biggest driver of production on projects.
The Middle East market has a preference for the well-known European brands, with big names such as Mercedes, Volvo, Iveco, MAN, etc, all in the fray, jostling for a slice of a pie that they believe has promise to grow. And indeed, this promise of growth has also made relatively smaller and newer entrants to the market, such as Renault Trucks and Ford Trucks, eager to step up their game.
At Renault Trucks, part of the Volvo Group, the brand is starting to make inroads in the Middle East market with its latest C and K ranges of heavy duty trucks, and Gregoire Blaise, VP for the Greater Middle East, says: “When it comes to the Middle East, we are the underdog when you talk about market share but we feel we have the right products and the right partners.”
The manufacturer has used the transmission platform developed with its Swedish parent to create the Optidriver, a highly optimisable, robust system that shares most of its DNA with Volvo’s well-received iShift.
“The company has put a lot of money into development and at the end we have made two ranges – the C and K – at a very high level. From a customer point of view, we have a large range of options and solutions for every application,” Blaise says.
Over at Mercedes Benz trucks, the Actros has been such an intrinsic part of the oil & gas, construction and hauling sectors for so long in the region that it is surprising that it has only been here for two decades. Earlier this year, Mercedes Benz Trucks MENA and its Abu Dhabi distributor Emirates Motor Company (EMC) celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Actros in the region with the launch of a special commemorative edition, put together in a consultative collaboration.
“The launch of the 20 Years Actros Edition is yet another milestone in the success story of our iconic flagship truck in the MENA region,” says Roland Schneider, president and CEO of Daimler Commercial Vehicles MENA. “The model’s state-of-the-art safety features and the highly fuel-efficient drivetrain underline the technological leadership of Mercedes-Benz Trucks. The Actros provides the ideal product for customers seeking the highest safety and efficiency standards.”
The Actros’ success story in the region is underpinned on decades of offering quality and reliability, which has seen it put more than 44,000 units on Saudi roads alone.
Going neck and neck with Mercedes in popularity is another regional favourite, Volvo Trucks. A ubiquitous sight on GCC roads and job sites, the Swedish giant has a special focus on safety this year. The company presented its vision for safer and more economical fleets in the Middle East at a special media briefing in Dubai earlier this year, which saw company president Claes Nilsson and regional head Giovanni Bruno provide updates on its progress in the GCC and reveal major safety and efficiency features for the FM, FMX and FH ranges.
Saudi Arabia still ranks as a major Volvo export market, Nilsson said, with 1,277 vehicles shipped last year and Volvo enjoys a 37% share of the kingdom’s market.
Bruno revealed that Volvo is partnering with its Saudi distributor, Zahid Tractor, to launch what they describe as the “safest truck made in Saudi Arabia” – a version of the FH that features a driver airbag, lane change support, lane keeping support, electronic stability program, driver alert warning system and headway collision warning system with emergency brakes.
Volvo is the market leader in both Oman and the UAE, where its FMX range has the distinction, with its partner FAMCO, of playing stellar roles in demanding projects such as the Jebel Jais mountain road.
Speaking of FAMCO leads to the mention of another European truck giant – Iveco. The Italian powerhouse has its Trakker and Astra offerings in the heavy trucks segment. FAMCO represents Iveco in Saudi Arabia through Omatra, and has now taken the brand to Egypt this year, making 3S (sales, service and spare parts) facilities the cornerstone in its expansion.
Iveco’s true heavy truck offering, however, is the Astra, which is favoured at the region’s construction and job sites, especially in Oman, where Iveco’s partner Al Fairuz has put more than 1,000 of the heavy-duty trucks on the roads and job sites in the past five years.
At MAN Truck and Bus Middle East’s managing director, Franz von Redwitz says “We are totally focused on the Middle East market and direct investment in new facilities demonstrates our long-term commitment and expansion across the region.” The direct investment he alludes to is the opening of MAN’s new regional headquarters in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone earlier this year.
The last word, however, belongs to the newest entrant in the region’s heavy truck sector – Ford. Emrah Ercan Duman, regional head of Ford Trucks, says: “We developed our product based on the region’s weather conditions and environment, clocking over 300,000km in tests on Saudi roads.”
“Sales-wise we have seen momentum in 2016,” Duamn reveals. “In the UAE we will be achieving something in the region of 5% of the total market despite not yet having a 6×4 tractor, so we have been only playing in 60% of the market. If we don’t include it, then we have more than 10% of the market.”
If testimony was needed that the Middle East heavy truck market remains open for business, then this is it.
Iveco Astra: Robust is its middle name
Astra, the heavy off-road construction truck maker in the Iveco family, is associated with heavy and extreme on- and off-highway applications and fully off-highway quarry and construction work.
The heavy range represents Iveco’s core business in several Middle East markets and the brand operates across the area with 16 dealers through more than 29 sales points.
The HD9 is a popular Astra model in the region, especially in the 8×6 version. The 2.9m wide truck sports reinforced Kesler Mark 2.5 axles, giving it great load capacities. Torque and power are defined for heavy off-road utilisation in the Astra, and torque at low rpm is its forte.
It has a completely different chassis and frame in terms of dimensions, stiffness and materials, using very high-tensile strength steel with 530 megapascals of strength, along with structural components designed for rough, off-road use.
GVW: Up to 63t
Version: 8×6, 6×6
Max Power: 560hp
Ford Construction Series: Built Ford Tough
Late entrant Ford Trucks continues to improve its heavy haulage and construction offering in the region, carving a niche in the market. A 6×4 model is a strong, though relatively new, alternative to the more established names in this region.
Designed for the most demanding construction site environments, with best-in-class sequence and efficiency, a new feature in Ford Trucks’ new Construction Series is the automated transmission option. Off-road, rocking and economy modes assist drivers to keep their vehicle sure-footed on virtually any terrain.
Model Name: 3543
Gear Box: ZF16S 2230 Manual and ZF 12TX 2210 Automated
Volvo FMX: Proven and popular heavyweight
Ahead of its arrival in the Middle East, the FMX was extensively tested in the region to ensure that it can tackle some of the roughest, most demanding off-road conditions in the world.
The innovative gearbox is the first transmission of its kind which has been specifically designed for heavy long-haulage and construction applications. The truck has high ground clearance to operate in tough environments and a comfortable cabin for drivers.
For eight years, a fleet of 33 Volvo FMX trucks worked round-the-clock to carry more than 5.5 million cubic metres of rocks and aggregates to build the 36km Jebel Jais road in the UAE, braving extreme terrain and weather conditions without any major breakdowns or accidents.
The Volvo FMX is a perennial favourite in the Middle East’s heavy haulage and construction truck fleet. In 2016 it was relaunched with a crawler gear and several upgrades. The new Tandem Axle Lift function makes it possible to disengage and raise the second driven axle, giving better road grip and up to 4% lower fuel consumption when driven without a load.
Mercedes Benz Actros 20 Years Edition: Two decades of domination
The Actros has been an intrinsic part of the oil & gas, construction and hauling sectors in the region for two decades now, a fact that Mercedes Benz celebrated this year with the launch of the Actros 20 Years Edition.
The special edition Actros is the product of a partnership between Mercedes-Benz Trucks MENA and Emirates Motor Company (EMC), its Abu Dhabi distributor. The truck is powered by a fuel-efficient yet powerful six-cylinder engine (Euro 3). It has Mercedes’ spacious L-Cab and benefits from a reduced engine tunnel (170mm) and larger headroom (1460mm).
Power transfer to the two driven rear axles is via a twin-plate clutch, and the 16-speed Mercedes PowerShift automated gearbox enhance performance.
Safety systems include electronic Telligent braking with ABS, acceleration skid control and optional Active Brake Assist, whose three radar beams constantly scan up to 200m ahead, alerting drivers both visually and audibly when it detects a potential collision.
Axle config: 6×4