Manufacturers are moving away from manual transmission
Manual transmission has long been the norm on heavy commercial vehicles in the Middle East. However, manufacturers are now driving the push towards automated gearboxes, and the industry is gradually starting to see the advantages.
In line with this growing trend, Iveco recently unveiled the Trakker Eurotronic at a launch event at the Dubai Autodrome in Motor City, held in conjunction with its UAE dealer, Saeed Mohammed Al Ghandi & Sons (SMAG). It was attended by over 150 customers from across the emirates, representing municipalities, construction firms, quarries, transport operators and other operations.
A selection of Trakker variants was on display, and the star of the show, the Trakker Eurotronic, was accompanied by four Trakker AD380 models in different configurations: tipper, compactor, water tanker and mixer. Attendees were given the chance to test the Trakkers on the track and experience the vehicle’s performance for themselves.
Apart from the Trakker, other vehicles from Iveco’s line-up were present at the event, including the Eurocargo and the new Daily.
The introduction of the automated gearbox comes as the market grows more conscious of safety and total cost of ownership, explains Graham Turner, CEO at Al Ghandi Auto. “We’re now talking about a much more economical tractor to operate,” he says, pointing out that the automated gearbox is not only easier for the driver, but also entails less maintenance and clutch wear.
The UAE in general is moving towards increased standards of road safety in commercial vehicles, Turner says. “We’re seeing lots of government initiatives through testing stages, through safety programmes and so on, so it’s a chance for all the companies here to invest in the future.”
The shift towards automated gearboxes began about 10-15 years ago in the EMEA region, says Luca Sra, business director – Africa and Middle East at Iveco. “It has been a trend basically driven by northern European countries like the UK, Germany, France, which spread to the southern European states and now it’s coming here.”
“Concepts such as total cost of ownership, vehicle durability as well as the impact of a bad driving style on the driveline, braking system and fuel consumption are becoming more and more popular.”
Thus, the new Trakker Eurotronic will positively benefit the bottom line of Iveco’s customers in the region and in the UAE, he says.
With the introduction of the Eurotronic gear box, the Trakker range is wider than ever and includes the Cursor 13 engines and two cabins (Hi-Land and Hi-Track). Rigid truck versions are available in 4×2, 4×4, 6×4, 6×6, 8×4 and 8×8 configurations with power ratings from 380hp to 440hp. Tractor versions are available in 4×2, 4×4, 6×4 and 6×6 configurations with power ratings from 380hp to 440hp.
The EuroTronic automated gearbox can be used in full or semi-automatic mode. The automatic gearshift is calculated according to load conditions, road conditions and driving style, to optimise vehicle performance, fuel consumption and comfort.
Gear speeds are synchronised by electronic adaptation of the engine speed, which is much faster than synchronisation by friction. If the driver wishes to maintain the same ratio over a difficult stretch, he can switch over to semiautomatic mode to control the gear changes.
The Eurotronic gearbox has been engineered by ZF with Iveco, notes Sra. “Our trucks are produced with a co-design strategy and so we look for the best partners in order to supply us with the best solution. This is why ZF has been selected. It’s a state-of-the-art company and provider.”
The Trakker is Iveco’s star offering in the heavy-duty off-road segment, and is available with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) ranging from 18-41t and gross combination weight of up to 70t. In addition, the new Trakker offers a Stralis-based cabin that combines on-road level of comfort with off-road performance. Iveco has worked extensively on driver comfort in the cabin of the new Trakker, particularly in terms of suspension, seat comfort and dashboard ergonomics, Sra says.
Business in the wider Middle East and Africa region as well as in the Emirates has been growing, he and Turner note.
“The Africa and Middle East region is a big buyer of Trakkers,” Sra says, adding that the region is one of the biggest customer bases for Iveco Trakkers. “Into the region, we deliver on a yearly basis more or less 5,000 units.”
Despite its off-road suitability, the Trakker is also commonly deployed around the region, particularly in central African markets, in logistics. “In countries such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Angola, the typical application is a chassis cab with a fixed cargo body and a semi-trailer attached.”
In the UAE, there is rising demand from quarry applications, particularly as infrastructure projects kick off in the Emirates and Qatar. “Qatar is taking most of its raw material from Fujairah,” Turner says, noting that demand from Qatar kick-started a lot of the UAE’s heavy haulage industry a couple of years ago.
Upcoming projects like the Expo 2020 site in Dubai mean that the UAE is set to be a large customer over the next few years as well, he adds. “The market obviously can still be volatile, and the effects of 2009 haven’t totally worn off. But we’re now seeing a build-up towards 2020, so it’s a little bit of a roller coaster.”
“Hence, it’s important to us that we have a big range of products because we have everything from small vans all the way through to heavy trucks and we’re consistent with our service and our growth and training programmes.”
In anticipation of future growth, SMAG has new sites being developed in the Northern Emirates, to be closer to its customers. “In Fujairah, there’s going to be a growth in different types of quarries, a lot of freight movement and so on, so we’re moving towards where the customer’s going to be based.”
Emissions and alternative fuels
While the trucks being supplied are currently Euro 3, Iveco has been receiving more and more requests for Euro 5 trucks, says Marco Torta, area manager for Gulf region at Iveco. “The only concern is the quality of the diesel here in the UAE. But we have already started to introduce some Euro 5 units. In the future, we will have more and more Euro 5 vehicles, mainly for municipality use.”
Sra notes that the manufacturer has also been working with the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) on improving the quality of fuel supplied in the UAE. However, fuel quality is an issue impeding more widespread adoption of alternative fuel-powered vehicles in the UAE, Torta and Sra say.
Despite these reservations, the company has been observing increasing interest in alternative fuels, with Sra noting he has just received an enquiry for CNG-powered vehicles. “There is high attention being paid to alternative fuels, hybrids and CNG. We’re soon going to present some new alternative engines here in the UAE market.”
Iveco is well equipped to cater to demand for alternative engines, and offers alternative powertrains on its light and medium commercial vehicle range. “We introduced CNG engines more than 20 years ago, starting from the Daily range. We are ready with hybrid solutions and soon will be with electric as well. Moreover, we recently introduced an LNG vehicle,” Sra says.
“This is part of a specific strategy that was put in place years ago by the company in order to focus on alternative fuels.”
Training and total cost of ownership
It’s hard for any commercial vehicle manufacturer to expand in a market without a solid after-sales strategy in place. For Iveco and SMAG, a crucial part of the after-sales offering is dealer and customer training programmes.
SMAG opened its own centre a few years ago to provide different types of training, in parts, service and so on, Turner says, noting that Iveco uses the same facilities to carry out training for dealers, customers and mechanics around the GCC. “We have a classroom-style training room, a smaller, more intimate training room, and a workshop training area as well, so we can do all types of training ourselves. We decided to make that facility available to all our partners as well.”
“People are flying in from Saudi or Kuwait to be trained in our training centre. It’s really part of our contribution to our partnership but it has a long-term benefit as well. If a customer looks after our products, he’s going to come back and buy more.”
Training for customers and drivers is part of Iveco’s pre-sales strategy and helps the brand deliver a lower total cost of ownership, Sra notes.
“When we first started training drivers, the impact on fuel consumption that you can see before and after the training is significant. You can reach a difference in fuel consumption of between 5-15%. Owners could not believe it.”