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Old 28th June 2018, 12:15   #1
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Default Niggling Issues in the Commercial Vehicle industry - An Insider's Perspective

The Commercial Vehicle (CV) industry is the behemoth that carries the rest of the country (and the world) on its gargantuan shoulders. At first glance, it seems to tower over everything. This is evident in many areas. Separate lanes for container traffic, motorists who scramble to make way for a heavier vehicle (purely in the interest of self-protection), and so many other manifestations.

However, there is another facet to the industry. I wouldn't go so far as to call it the darkside but there are a few niggling issues that make it extremely difficult for the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and their partners, operators and eventually everyone down the chain.

I have tried to list down and elaborate the seemingly minor issues so that one can enlighten oneself about the predicament of these stakeholders. There is a lot of material to read, so brace yourselves!
  • Overloading


    The biggest problem with today's trucks is overloading. All OEMs generally maintain a decent factor of safety ratio to hedge against overloading. A 49 ton rated tractor-trailer was once stopped by the TN police for overspeeding (~70 kmph). The police got a pleasant surprise when they weighed the truck at 110 tons.

    However, not all categories of trucks are designed to take this kind of abuse. It is not just the weight that matters but also the way it is distributed.

    An unloaded vehicle (just the chassis, cab and load body) itself is slightly skewed in terms of left-right weight distribution. With tippers, overload is generally well-managed because the load body is filled uniformly and there is a preset volume for loading. It can still be 50 - 100% over the rated limit but it will be loaded uniformly.

    Many of us would have seen the video of a truck driver who lost control of a small truck on a bridge and swerved violently before coming to a stop on one side. There's no way for us to conclude if that was because of overloading but skewed loading can do that to a truck! It makes the center of gravity (CG) shift upwards and towards one side (laterally) and the driver's mental reference of his vehicle's behavior is lost. He has to reorient and regain his bearings quickly and if that doesn't happen, the vehicle spins/rolls out of control.

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    Let's take a classic example of a CG shift - Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant (POL) tankers are often loaded to rated load only because of volume and safety constraints. So they are safe, are they not? Well, no. The effect of the moving fluid (called sloshing) inside the tanker causes a shift in CG and makes it very difficult for the driver to drive. The effect is slightly more pronounced in vehicles with suspended cabins as the secondary suspension reacts to these sloshing inputs and induces a motion of its own. So next time you see a tanker on the road, put yourself in his shoes and remember what he goes through.

    There is another category of haulage trucks - Scooter and Car carriers. Let us take this example to see how the CG height can change handling behavior even if the vehicle is uniformly loaded. These trucks typically have two or three decks that sometimes reach heights equivalent to the height of a flyover. The tall stance of the vehicle makes it difficult for the driver to counter the effects of high CG.

    Apart from being a safety hazard to the driver and the society, overloading also ruins the vehicle. The tyres wear out faster, springs break, the engine is stretched beyond limit and the truck starts to fall apart, figuratively.

    The definition of a customer in the CV industry is quite dynamic; there is an owner, there is an end customer, and there is a user as well. OEMs have to fulfill the requirements of each of these customers and in very different ways. When the truck is overloaded, the owner starts to feel the pinch when he has to replace a lot of parts. They launch a diatribe when they see the service/sales representative of the OEM and question the reliability of the truck. A vehicle's ability to withstand loads well above its limit has become a quality that is so passe these days.

    Stuctural members can always be designed to take a few extra tons but what about the engine auxiliary systems? The cooling system for instance is designed to operate within a specific temperature range for a given load. If it has to accommodate a great deal of variation in load, it won't be easy.

    What about the laws? Sure, there are laws that prohibit overloading. But it is very difficult to enforce this. The manufacturer can easily claim in the service manual that warranty claims will not be entertained on vehicles that show signs of overloading. However, when overloading is practised by almost all operators, how can the OEM deny all claims?

    I am also glad to report that some states have begun to move away from their laissez-faire approach to this and have begun to crack down seriously. Let's hope it spreads throughout the country.

    A side note:
    The Road Transport Ministry has now increased the permissible axle weight of all commercial vehicles by up to 25 percent. This means that a two axle truck will carry 19 tons instead of the earlier 16.2 tonnes. This also means that there is a big redesign challenge that awaits the OEMS. Don't worry, we always love challenges!


  • The driver and owner conundrum


    There exists an eternal struggle between the driver and the owner of a truck. What is often not realized is that this is an ecosystem that ceases to exist when even the smallest link in the chain fails. What do they quibble about?

    Well, the owner's focus is mostly on Total Cost of Operation (TCO) which includes a multitude of factors.
    The chief contributor to TCO is fuel and the emphasis on Fuel Economy (FE) is huge. The driver is taught to conserve fuel as much as possible.

    There's an anecdote that illustrates this point. The Namakkal/Sankagiri belt in TN has the highest number of trucks in South India. When they select drivers, there is apparently only one question in the interview. Only one criterion for selection - 'Can you drive when the vehicle is in neutral?' There are a lot of bridges and flyovers in their normal routes and they are taught to shift to neutral once they reach the zenith. Now everyone here at Team BHP knows that the neutral practice should be avoided like the plague. But age-old perceptions can't be changed easily and the owner cannot be blamed because his/her prime focus is on fuel economy.

    When the going is good, they patch up. But these truces are truly ephemeral. The smallest of sparks can re-ignite these feuds. When the owner asks a driver to take a truck on a terrain that is historically troublesome (bad roads, bandits, many police 'check-posts'), the driver expects a certain bonus in addition to his regular salary. From the owner's perspective, this appears unwarranted because this is just another route, there may not be any delays (so no extra days of travel) and hence there is no apparent drain on the driver's physical resources.

    However, the driver goes through so many impediments - physically and mentally, and frustration starts to set in.

    Let me give you another example. Trucks generally are not built for comfort (the situation now is different and ride is becoming better). The primary purpose of a truck is to carry load. A few trucks may go overboard and offer very stiff springs which do unspeakable acts of damage to a driver's spine. The driver expects to be compensated for this (wouldn't you?) but it doesn't happen.

    Now how does it affect the rest of the industry? It is human nature to channel inner rage on to other elements that are close by. The driver starts to question the efficiency and reliability of the truck in order to compensate for the 'loss' in his income. Whatever may be his/her relationship with the driver, the owner often relies on the driver community for inputs during the next big purchase. The OEM closest to the driver's angst bears the brunt.

    They then begin to drive in a rash manner to achieve their turnaround time (TAT) targets and the passengers/goods bear the brunt.

  • Cyclical Business

    Assume for a moment that your personal finances are mounting record highs in terms of expenses. Your income has either dwindled or remained constant for quite some time. You had planned to buy a few new appliances to replace the ones (in perfect working condition but slightly old) in your house. What would be the first item that you would cut off your list? Would it not be those appliance upgrades?

    Now assume that your financial status starts to improve slowly but steadily. Would you immediately jump in and buy those new appliances? Or would you rather wait to further increase your income before buying them? Many people would wait till the situation starts to stabilize and then embark on new purchases. That is exactly the position commercial vehicles find themselves in.

    A new truck is the first thing that fleet owners would strike off their lists in a downturn and the last thing they would buy immediately after a recovery. The CV industry is the first to get hit and the last to recover, always.

    Many companies have tried to de-risk their business by venturing into other sister areas like defence and exports. This strategy like any other is also fraught with risks and can improve the business situation only marginally.

  • Unforgiving Roads (and Monsoons)

    Over the last few years, rains across India have rarely been regular. The pattern has been quite erratic and the usual off-season for transporters has become increasingly difficult to predict. The road infrastructure has improved drastically from where it was a few years ago but many arterial roads are still difficult to drive on. Trucks often get stuck in long queues and the parking infrastructure is pathetic in many areas. The surface is not paved and the trucks wade through multiple layers of slush and grime before the driver can find a decent parking/resting spot.

    Many of the factors discussed here are closely interlinked. For instance, a truck stuck in the mud after heavy rains will only increase the driver's frustration, particularly when he has little assistance from the engine that has already given up on the overloaded vehicle!

  • Inordinate stops by law enforcers and movement restrictions

    Heavy vehicle movement is governed as much by law enforcers as it is by logistical demand and supply. This gets worse near major centers of trade like ports and harbors. A driver once told me that he was stopped 21 times on an 18 km stretch leading to the port in a southern state. This may seem like hearsay but when there was an informal investigation into the unusual build-up of traffic near the Chennai port, it was found that there were no real roadblocks other than the law enforcers themselves. The customer is charged for these excesses as well.

    Another implication that resonates even deeper? The cabin of the truck becomes their second home and everything they do is confined to those few square feet of sheet metal and wood. It becomes all the more important for OEMS to devote significant time and resources to the details inside the cabin. Ergonomics has moved into the driver's seat (quite literally) and guys from the passenger car industry are being recruited in large numbers for attributes such as this.

  • The Reliability Challenge

    Reliability is the new Fuel Efficiency. Or at the very least, its docile-yet-aggressive-when-challenged younger brother/sister. Given the wide range of operating conditions CVs work in, it is very difficult to tick all the boxes reliably. Consider the humble leaf spring, for instance. Apart from the excessive load that it supports, it also gets jolted and tossed around by the innumerable speed breakers and potholes that the driver chooses to ignore. However, it can only be designed to withstand a few million standard cycles that can in no way represent the real world conditions. It is a cost competitive market, after all.

    Tire wear is the single biggest reliability challenge OEMs face. How is it a big challenge if they have so much experience in the Indian market? Well, getting the steering and axle geometry right (in design) is only the first step. That itself involves a lot of trial-and-error attempts which are time consuming and expensive. Even when the design is finalized, it has to be set correctly during manufacturing. That, however is not the critical stage in the process. When the vehicle comes back to the workshop for wheel alignment after a few thousand kilometers, the geometry may not be set correctly everywhere. Wheel alignment machines are expensive and difficult to calibrate and maintain.

    Tire wear itself is of so many types and patterns and field failure investigations are usually drawn-out and tiresome affairs (costly as well). Reliability prediction has to be spot on every time because it is directly linked to the warranty cost incurred by the OEM. Unlike passenger cars, the monetary impact whenever a CV goes off-road is huge; it is also very difficult to deal with an irate customer who owns 200 other trucks and holds the key to the OEM's business in that region.

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    A few types of tyre wear (from Michelin and Goodrich)


  • Indian or European?

    The last few years have been quite exciting for the CV industry. Vilfredo Pareto would have been so proud to see his 80/20 rule apply perfectly (more or less) to the 2006-07 CV market scenario. 80% of the market share was garnered by just 2 companies (out of the 6 operating at that time), particularly in the 7 ton and above market. Today, while the combined share of the top two players hasn't changed much, there are many more players in the market.

    Now what does this tell us?

    Between 2006-07 and now, several European CV makers ventured into the Indian market - Volvo (they came in a bit earlier) and Scania from Scandinavia, MAN and Daimler from Germany, Mahindra & Mahindra, Eicher, AMW (in the M&HCV segment), Kamaz from Russia, Isuzu and a few others. There were others like Navistar and Nissan who tried their hand through joint ventures. Everybody invested significant capital and resources in India but where is everyone now?

    Why weren't they able to gain a foothold in the Indian market? There are several reasons. At first glance, it may seem that the new entrants (especially the ones from Europe) were evenly matched against the incumbents. On the one hand, Technology adoption in much stronger and faster in Europe than anywhere else in the world. They had products that were a couple of steps ahead of the Indian emission norms, they had deep pockets to support any new ventures, and they had the people to orchestrate major product changes.

    The Indian manufacturers, on the other hand had a much better understanding of the local markets, a good supplier base, decades of experience with the Indian customer and more importantly, a good rapport with the bureaucrats at various levels. What titled the balance in favor of the Indian manufacturers then? Well, the new OEMs didn't have the right kind of foot soldiers to execute their vision. The CV industry today requires OEMs to be very quick on the uptake. New products and improvements have to be churned out very quickly and these take a lot of time in general, with various validation and regulation requirements. Another big advantage the Indian OEMs held was their ability to value engineer their product and reduce costs.

    Today, massive cross-hiring has solved the foot soldier problem, to an extent. Some of them still struggle with the new work culture imposed on them by their foreign bosses. But let's assume that advantage has been neutralized.

    That leaves us with value engineering. The very definition of 'value' is different in different markets. In India, it is often associated with cost while European markets view it from a functional perspective. Either way, in the Indian market, cost is the major differentiator between OEMs today. The Indian manufacturers have been very good at giving more to the customer for less. This is a trait that's hard to replicate quickly. I would expect the field to eventually level out in a few years but for now, this is enough to tilt the scales in favor of the homegrown guys.

  • An under populated driver community

    There have been different studies and surveys conducted to ascertain the percentage of vehicles lying unused in the country. Almost all of them indicate a severe shortage of well-trained drivers. One such study says every fourth truck lies idle for want of a driver. The lack of dignity of labor aside, truck and bus drivers are often not paid as much as say, cab drivers. It is much more appealing to them to drive a cab in the city than to labor for hours in a sultry cabin on a broken road, waiting in line behind other fellow drivers for days on end outside a port.

    Another issue that niggles the drivers is one of safety. I happened to listen to the driver of a 31 ton petroleum tanker speak about the hazards that he faces on the road. Not surprisingly, he singled out two-wheelers as the single biggest source of his problem. Everyone should watch this video on blind spots in trucks and buses to know what those drivers can see and what they can't. I personally feel it is the responsibility of both parties to ensure their own safety but next time you think of driving past a big bus at close quarters, pause (your mind that is) and reconsider.



    Under-utilization is also a big concern. It is common at every stage of the industry because the market itself is quite volatile. Tier I and Tier II suppliers aren't able to quickly match the cycles of the OEM, whose forecasting team itself is forced to change its outlook every now and then. That said, we are right now in a period of ominous stability. This extends even to the smaller LCVs and you can find them occupying any large space even remotely resembling a parking yard for want of cargo. I hope the aggregator apps like Lynk can help them find good business.

Now I can't say that these are show-stoppers in the CV industry. Every business/industry has its own set of challenges. I just wanted to throw light on a few issues that are continually a thorn in the side of all stakeholders and I wonder if there are simple technological solutions as well.

On a closing note, I should let you know that this is the collective informal opinion of many people in the CV industry and across ALL OEMS. I would like to invite my colleagues from the industry and beyond to weigh in.

Last edited by harikrishna.te : 10th August 2018 at 12:13.
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Old 11th August 2018, 08:08   #2
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11th August 2018, 10:53   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harikrishna.te View Post
There's an anecdote that illustrates this point. The Namakkal/Sankagiri belt in TN has the highest number of trucks in South India. When they select drivers, there is apparently only one question in the interview. Only one criterion for selection - 'Can you drive when the vehicle is in neutral?' There are a lot of bridges and flyovers in their normal routes and they are taught to shift to neutral once they reach the zenith. Now everyone here at Team BHP knows that the neutral practice should be avoided like the plague. But age-old perceptions can't be changed easily and the owner cannot be blamed because his/her prime focus is on fuel economy.
First I need to thank you for bringing out the core issues of CV industry and fleet operators. Current situation is still worse. 'Can you drive when the vehicle is in neutral?' is asked to test if he has experience. Next one asked would be "How many kilometers can you give per liter of diesel"? because the owner knows the present state and he wants to know the future state. If the new driver says he could deliver more kilometers he is taken in and the same is expected from him. Diesel pilferage and trip accounts mishandling by drivers is rampant in this sector.
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Old 11th August 2018, 21:29   #4
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Very interesting topic, and nicely written up - it made for interesting and enlightening reading!

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Originally Posted by harikrishna.te View Post
Let's take a classic example of a CG shift - Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant (POL) tankers are often loaded to rated load only because of volume and safety constraints. So they are safe, are they not? Well, no. The effect of the moving fluid (called sloshing) inside the tanker causes a shift in CG and makes it very difficult for the driver to drive. The effect is slightly more pronounced in vehicles with suspended cabins as the secondary suspension reacts to these sloshing inputs and induces a motion of its own. So next time you see a tanker on the road, put yourself in his shoes and remember what he goes through.
Is the container just a single big tank? I'd always thought there are baffles present dividing them into interconnected sections, to minimize the effects of sloshing to the individual compartments, to avoid building up more powerful resonant waves. That's something definitely done in shipping & aircrafts, wherever liquids are present (fuel, bilges, storage compartments, etc.)

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Old 11th August 2018, 21:46   #5
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Is the container just a single big tank?
There are partitions and I guess old tankers used to have three separate tanks. The newer multiaxle ones have four separate ones I think.
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Old 11th August 2018, 23:04   #6
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Brilliant article. Thank you for putting it together. Rated 5 stars. I was a part of this industry in the 1980s. This article could apply equally to 1982 expect for availability of drivers which is a real issue today and wasn't back then. Then in a world (largely) without TV and completely without mobile devices a driver was not exposed to a different aspirational world beyond his reach. Alas no more. Delays by the cops is as bad now as it then. If one travels a few hours in a truck cabin it is easy to appreciate Nitin Gadkari's proposal to air-condition the cabin.
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Old 12th August 2018, 00:38   #7
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As an aside, after having watched the BEST buses move from manual transmission to automatic, I think having an air conditioned cabin, power steering and automatic gearbox should be made mandatory in the trucks.
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Old 12th August 2018, 03:00   #8
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What an article dude! Thank you so much for sharing. Got a few insights about the challenges that the CV industry, fleet owners and the drivers face today.

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Originally Posted by arunphilip View Post
I'd always thought there are baffles present dividing them into interconnected sections, to minimize the effects of sloshing
That's right. It's called the free surface effect. You may have come across this clip from Richard Hammond demonstrating it:



PS: 240p resolution alert!
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Old 12th August 2018, 08:00   #9
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There are partitions and I guess old tankers used to have three separate tanks. The newer multiaxle ones have four separate ones I think.
Even with multiple compartments, curves can be deadly for a tanker having partially filled compartments. The fluid goes to the outer side of the tanker and adds to its natural inclination to tilt to that side. Small water tankers (3 Ton) turning turtle in a roundabout used to be a fairly common occurrence in Oman.

The solution, of course, is to drain/fill each compartment as fully as possible and not have all of them partially filled. Unfortunately, tanker drivers in Oman didn't always follow this rule.
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Old 12th August 2018, 09:08   #10
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Why not have bottom channel baffles running along the length axis of the truck inside the tanks? This will prevent sudden shifts of liquid from side to side?

Had made a sketch but somehow the app crashes everytime I try to upload.

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Old 12th August 2018, 14:35   #11
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Thank you for the wonderful thread. My organization owns 7 Eicher 11.10 Trucks which we use exclusively for the delivery of the products we produce. The reason we have our own trucks is the perishable nature of our goods.

I can relate very well to the challenges the drivers and the owners face in this industry which you have elaborately pointed out. Firstly, I would like to say that the roads and the CV industry has improved drastically in the last decade not only in terms of technology but also in terms of the outlook of the industry. Secondly, the recent regulation of increasing the payload of all CVs by 25% is a welcome move as a minimum of 10-25% overloading was already commonplace in the industry and not something the vehicle's mechanicals can't handle.

My opinion on some of the topics mentioned in your post:

a. Driver - owner conundrum:

Since our logistics doesn't involve high GVW trucks and long distance hauling, short-haul in light-midsize trucks is generally considered to be an easier job for the drivers and the industry pays accordingly.

There is definitely an acute shortage of well-trained drivers and diesel pilferage is a constant menace many in the industry face.

b. Indian vs European:

With the introduction of new players in the market, the technology is now being value engineered to the Indian market where the perspective of the Indian customers are different like you mentioned. Many like BharatBenz seems to have already perfected this. Eicher's JV with Volvo is also paying off as the TCO of their vehicles today are very attractive.

The introduction of Vehicle service & maintenance contracts at the dealer level in the last decade has definitely made things easier and has lowered the TCO drastically as we have accurately compared to the TCO numbers of a vehicle being maintained without the maintenance contracts either at the ASC or other mechanics. The shift from looking at just the Initial capital cost of the vehicle to looking at the TCO of the vehicle by the industry and the manufacturers acknowledging the same is a welcome move.
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Old 12th August 2018, 15:42   #12
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Visit the 'transport nagar' of your town if you have not done so already.

Given that trucks transport the bulk of our goods (more than our creaky railways) the transport nagars or depots should be well laid out spaces with facility to load-unload, to turn around trucks, to refuel, with rest areas for the crew blah blah blah. They may not be as swanky as an airport but the functional amenities should all be there. But sadly these are slushy dirty unpaved areas where trucks trundle in churning wet earth or blowing dust depending on the season - there will be individual transport firms' office cum utility shacks - no toilet (what's that??) - no proper area for loading or unloading - I could go on. These 'transport nagars' have not changed a jot since I worked for a truck OEM in the 1980s.

Because the trucking industry is largely in the semi-organized or unorganized sector, because truck owners are not from sophisticated English literate segments of society (albeit rather well off very often), because the poor drivers are from the poorer strata of our society we as citizens and our worthy bureaucrats look down on the people who own and man the industry. We let our feudal instincts dictate and precious little investment has gone into the industry from the Govt in building the right infrastructure. Some of that is changing now thank fully with regard to roads but not for proper cargo transport depots. The worst factor still remains the delays and corruption of the police and other road authorities. I would not be surprised if our transportation costs are higher by 10% to 15% only due to our neighbour hood traffic cop.
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Old 12th August 2018, 22:19   #13
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Default Re: Niggling Issues in the Commercial Vehicle industry - An Insider's Perspective

Logistics sector is actually one of the hottest automobile sub-sectors in India. Lots of private equity funding flowing into new-age logistics companies. Examples:

www.rivigo.com
www.blackbuck.com
www.delhivery.com
www.lobb.in

Each of these tech enabled logistics startups have raised $100 to $200 million. There are 10 other startups that have raised anywhere between $10 to $100 million. Most of them are B2B marketplaces that connects customers with fleet owners, thereby increasing the efficiency of overall industry and increasing fleet owners' profitability. RIVIGO is a bit different because they actually own 3000 or 4000 trucks. The key focus is on using technology to solve problems and inefficiencies. Incredibly, this truck operator even has a coding challenge for young techies!
https://www.rivigo.com/rcc

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Except for the maamu problem, technology enabled logistics companies and B2B marketplaces are likely to reduce the problems in the sector significantly. And by the way, these new age tech logistics companies are increasing revenues exponentially:

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To give you an idea about how quickly these companies are growing, the well known Transport Corporation of India (or TCI) clocked revenues of just Rs. 2,000 crores - and that is for a 60 year old company

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Originally Posted by harikrishna.te View Post
With the introduction of new players in the market, the technology is now being value engineered to the Indian market where the perspective of the Indian customers are different like you mentioned. Many like BharatBenz seems to have already perfected this. Eicher's JV with Volvo is also paying off as the TCO of their vehicles today are very attractive.
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Originally Posted by sharc_biker View Post
My organization owns 7 Eicher 11.10 Trucks which we use exclusively for the delivery of the products we produce. The reason we have our own trucks is the perishable nature of our goods.
Volvo India CEO mentioned in an interview that even though their trucks are priced 2x of its Indian competitors, the total cost of ownership is lower than Indian competitors. Any truth in this? How do the numbers work out?

Last edited by smartcat : 12th August 2018 at 22:43.
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Old 13th August 2018, 04:30   #14
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Very interesting thread.

Truck industry is a sector in which a new entrant will struggle to enter due to the reasons you have already discussed. Maybe just a coincidence, MAN has already announced their exit from the Indian market. Similarly, Nissan and Navistar have also exited from their JVs.

I have developed high regards to the truck drivers after seeing them commuting from Mumbai to Pune. They are staying away from family for a long time and managing with poorly maintained trucks. Not to forget they have handout a good amount to all those cops hiding on the way.
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Old 13th August 2018, 11:56   #15
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Default Re: Niggling Issues in the Commercial Vehicle industry - An Insider's Perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by pranavGTI View Post
First I need to thank you for bringing out the core issues of CV industry and fleet operators. Current situation is still worse. 'Can you drive when the vehicle is in neutral?' is asked to test if he has experience. Next one asked would be "How many kilometers can you give per liter of diesel"? because the owner knows the present state and he wants to know the future state. If the new driver says he could deliver more kilometers he is taken in and the same is expected from him. Diesel pilferage and trip accounts mishandling by drivers is rampant in this sector.
Exactly! The issue of pilferage is something that is deftly handled by the fleet operators. The bigger ones have stringent rules and drivers often can't fleece the owners. They have a large personnel of drivers and the drivers know that they can be replaced very easily. However, the smaller fleet owners depend on the drivers as much as the drivers depend on them and a few liters here and there often goes 'unnoticed'. I have seen customers harangue the dealers and the company over fuel efficiency, only to discover later that their own drivers were the real reason.

Here's another anecdote. A customer once parked two vehicles in front of the dealership gates, asking the company to take the vehicles back because they were, in his own words, horribly fuel inefficient. He calculated that the kmpl was only 3.6 instead of the 7 promised by the company. The dealer and the company then had to fit fuel gauges (that could measure up to 1 ml of fuel) and show the customer that the problem did not lie with the vehicle.

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Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
Brilliant article. Thank you for putting it together. Rated 5 stars. I was a part of this industry in the 1980s. This article could apply equally to 1982 expect for availability of drivers which is a real issue today and wasn't back then. Then in a world (largely) without TV and completely without mobile devices a driver was not exposed to a different aspirational world beyond his reach. Alas no more. Delays by the cops is as bad now as it then. If one travels a few hours in a truck cabin it is easy to appreciate Nitin Gadkari's proposal to air-condition the cabin.
I don't know if I should be happy or appalled at the fact that most of these problems have persisted for more than 35 years sir! I definitely agree with you on the cabin comfort aspect. More than air-conditioning, a harsh ride is what ails the drivers today. Air flow in the cabin is not a problem because these trucks mostly travel on highways (except maybe in the hottest of areas). We all would definitely love to hear more from you on the state of this industry back then!

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Originally Posted by honeybee View Post
As an aside, after having watched the BEST buses move from manual transmission to automatic, I think having an air conditioned cabin, power steering and automatic gearbox should be made mandatory in the trucks.
Power steering today is common in almost all trucks and buses, except for the dirt cheap ones. The LCV market used to offer power steering as an advanced option but that too is slowly becoming a standard feature.

To conserve fuel, manufacturers and operators prefer an automated manual than a purely automatic transmission. The downside is that these AMTs are not refined and often have drive-ability issues like jerks and pitch.

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Originally Posted by Gannu_1 View Post
What an article dude! Thank you so much for sharing. Got a few insights about the challenges that the CV industry, fleet owners and the drivers face today.

That's right. It's called the free surface effect. You may have come across this clip from Richard Hammond demonstrating it:
Thank you for the informative clip!

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Originally Posted by benu9714 View Post
Even with multiple compartments, curves can be deadly for a tanker having partially filled compartments. The fluid goes to the outer side of the tanker and adds to its natural inclination to tilt to that side. Small water tankers (3 Ton) turning turtle in a roundabout used to be a fairly common occurrence in Oman.

The solution, of course, is to drain/fill each compartment as fully as possible and not have all of them partially filled. Unfortunately, tanker drivers in Oman didn't always follow this rule.
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Originally Posted by sudev View Post
Why not have bottom channel baffles running along the length axis of the truck inside the tanks? This will prevent sudden shifts of liquid from side to side?

Had made a sketch but somehow the app crashes everytime I try to upload.
These trucks do have baffles (up to 4 in 31 ton trucks) but these compartments may not be uniformly filled. It then becomes a tussle between four different centers of gravity and the net effect is something the driver can't predict easily.

As far as the bottom channel baffles are concerned, I have not seen such a design in my limited experience. For the POL industry, every liter is gold and anything that takes up extra volume is sacrilegious.

Also keep in mind the fact that these drivers drive around with tons/litres of inflammable liquid. They don't have enough information about the nature of these liquids and are not often educated on the best ways to drive them.

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Originally Posted by sharc_biker View Post
Thank you for the wonderful thread. My organization owns 7 Eicher 11.10 Trucks which we use exclusively for the delivery of the products we produce. The reason we have our own trucks is the perishable nature of our goods.

I can relate very well to the challenges the drivers and the owners face in this industry which you have elaborately pointed out. Firstly, I would like to say that the roads and the CV industry has improved drastically in the last decade not only in terms of technology but also in terms of the outlook of the industry. Secondly, the recent regulation of increasing the payload of all CVs by 25% is a welcome move as a minimum of 10-25% overloading was already commonplace in the industry and not something the vehicle's mechanicals can't handle.
While it is true that overloading is already commonplace in the industry, consider this. The whole industry now is in a state of befuddlement over this new regulation. Does this apply only to new vehicles or to vehicles already on the road as well?
If a 25 ton rated vehicle can be loaded up to 29 tons (legally), the operator will further load it by about 25% (on average) because his/her perception is that any vehicle can be overloaded by up to 25%. If this applies to vehicles already on the road, they would have to bear an additional load - 25 tons rated, approximately 35 tons (actual load).

Also, the issue is not so much with the mechanical systems as it is with the cooling system. Since the engine has to be kept running at an optimum temperature and this calibration is based on load, reliability will take a hit.

The new overloading rule isn't very clear and is the source of much confusion.

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My opinion on some of the topics mentioned in your post:

b. Indian vs European:

With the introduction of new players in the market, the technology is now being value engineered to the Indian market where the perspective of the Indian customers are different like you mentioned. Many like BharatBenz seems to have already perfected this. Eicher's JV with Volvo is also paying off as the TCO of their vehicles today are very attractive.

The introduction of Vehicle service & maintenance contracts at the dealer level in the last decade has definitely made things easier and has lowered the TCO drastically as we have accurately compared to the TCO numbers of a vehicle being maintained without the maintenance contracts either at the ASC or other mechanics. The shift from looking at just the Initial capital cost of the vehicle to looking at the TCO of the vehicle by the industry and the manufacturers acknowledging the same is a welcome move.
While your point about TCO of European vehicles may be true for a specific sector, there isn't much variation between manufacturers in a segment like tippers/long haul tractors. Fuel contributes to almost 70% of TCO (real case) and the maximum difference in fuel efficiency between manufacturers is only 10-15%. Tire wear is common to all trucks and there isn't much difference here as well. Therefore, TCO variations have to be inspected with a magnifying glass to zero in on the differentiating factor.

On the value engineering part, one has to concede that the European entry has provided a completely fresh perspective to the market and the product itself. Some of their standard practices are considered 'innovations' in the Indian market. Another example here. Most European manufacturers use the humble cable tie to make sure their wires and harnesses stay intact and look presentable. The Indian market views these cable ties as excesses that can be 'value-engineered'.

However, with no public information available on the profitability of the European trucks in India (the key word is India), it is difficult to qualify them as value engineered products. They may simply be shelling out more from their deep pockets just to capture the market - which is no bad practice, as the e-commerce industry would attest.

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Originally Posted by smartcat View Post
Logistics sector is actually one of the hottest automobile sub-sectors in India. Lots of private equity funding flowing into new-age logistics companies.
Examples:
RIVIGO is a bit different because they actually own 3000 or 4000 trucks. The key focus is on using technology to solve problems and inefficiencies.

Except for the maamu problem, technology enabled logistics companies and B2B marketplaces are likely to reduce the problems in the sector significantly. And by the way, these new age tech logistics companies are increasing revenues exponentially:
A very apt point!

Where is the innovation in the CV industry today? It is not just in the products, but in the whole logistics sector! Rivigo for example has a model hitherto unknown to the Indian logistics market (there are exceptions, of course). Almost all their vehicles are on the road 100% of the time. This poses a new reliability challenge as well. Some of these vehicles have clocked over 200000 km in just under a year, which is a first for the industry.

Technological solutions like geo-tagging, geo-fencing and driver assist will definitely help bring down the incidents of pilferage and also driver fatigue. A lot of companies from across the spectrum and and eminent academia are working towards such solutions today (more than you can imagine).

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Volvo India CEO mentioned in an interview that even though their trucks are priced 2x of its Indian competitors, the total cost of ownership is lower than Indian competitors. Any truth in this? How do the numbers work out?
Please read my reply(above) to sharc_biker's post on TCO. The concept itself is new to the industry and not many fleet owners have embraced it. To them, high initial cost itself is a inhibitor. If that were not the case, you would see a drastic shift in the market share today. TCO as a measure of profitability is still taking off.

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Originally Posted by MaxTorque View Post
Very interesting thread.

Truck industry is a sector in which a new entrant will struggle to enter due to the reasons you have already discussed. Maybe just a coincidence, MAN has already announced their exit from the Indian market. Similarly, Nissan and Navistar have also exited from their JVs.
Their exits are all attributed to the same reason - sustenance. Nissan's case is quite different. They sold their share of the LCV business to Ashok Leyland after getting a bit of know-how on low cost manufacturing from the latter. This is the usual course most JVs take after a few years. Sometimes the split is acrimonious but it usually works to the benefit of both (or more) parties.

Navistar couldn't really hit the ground running with M&M but I would be surprised if they too didn't pick up something useful.

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I have developed high regards to the truck drivers after seeing them commuting from Mumbai to Pune. They are staying away from family for a long time and managing with poorly maintained trucks. Not to forget they have handout a good amount to all those cops hiding on the way.
I would encourage more people to empathize with truck and bus drivers like you do! A friendly thumbs up when they notice you despite their blind spots and give way to you - it goes a long way. I am not for a moment suggesting that all of them are angels. But they all are united by the fact that life on the road in these vehicles is a bed of thorny roses.

And the cops aren't hiding anymore - they are in plain sight and demand and get what they want.


A word on the intercity and tourist bus drivers - it is not often that you see a well rested driver on your bus. Some of these guys moonlight as mechanics during the day and often don't get the requisite hours of sleep. Maybe an airline type rule would be prudent here. But how it will be enforced is another matter altogether.

Last edited by harikrishna.te : 13th August 2018 at 11:59.
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