The use of electric vehicles for distribution will come through quite quickly, according to UD Trucks Southern Africa.
Marketing director Rory Schultz said on Tuesday that the UD Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Volvo Group, already has ongoing trials with electric vehicles for distribution.
“It’s going to be exciting to watch how electric vehicles start coming into play in product planning,” he said.
Schultz said UD Trucks needs to look to the future and highlighted the acceleration in the pace of transformation and change.
He said UD Trucks has a roadmap for the company that involves a concept called ACE (automation, connectivity and electromobility).
Schultz said UD Trucks started producing some vehicles in 2018 where it could demonstrate certain new technologies that supported ACE, and did some trials last year. Some of these vehicles with the new technology will go into operation in Japan this year.
He said UD Trucks will be looking at commercialising these new technologies between 2020 and 2030.
Schultz said there are four steps to automation:
- Taking away the use of your feet because they are not as skilful as your hands
- Reducing the use of your hands
- Taking away the reliance on sight, and
- Introducing artificial intelligence to achieve this.
Schultz said the truck industry is already on this journey, adding that automated transmissions mean you can drive a truck using only your right foot because your left foot is no longer required for the clutch.
He said UD Trucks has active safety features on its new Quon, including automated braking or emergency electronic braking systems, which means that if the driver does not pay attention and a vehicle in front of them slows down, the truck slows down accordingly, even stopping itself if necessary.
Schultz said some artificial intelligence is already being used. It has taken over some of the work traditionally done by a driver’s hands and feet, with cameras now helping to do the work of their eyes.
He added that connectivity has become very important and allows the vehicle to let the company know when something is wrong.
He said UD Trucks product support includes features such as vehicle health monitoring, preventative maintenance planning, remote customer assistance, fuel utilisation reporting, fuel alerts, driver behaviour and geofencing.
Geofencing is a virtual perimeter of a real-world geographic area that is created using GPS and other technologies.
Schultz said this is all very exciting and that these technologies are “coming thick and fast” and in a South African context UD Trucks is “definitely going for it in the future”.
“That is the message from us. We are pushing forward and going for it and we are going to be here with this combination of technology to make sure we look after and support the economy in South Africa and the transport industry as best as we can from a UD Trucks perspective,” he said.
Schultz said 2019 was a tough and erratic year but despite the underlying economic pressures and socio-political influences, the truck market in South Africa had been “pretty resilient”.
He said the truck market grew by about 2.1% last year, with between 8% and 10% of this growth coming from the medium commercial vehicle market and about 2% from the extra heavy truck market while the heavy commercial vehicle market declined by about 6%.
He said the growth of the medium commercial vehicle market and decline in the heavy commercial vehicle market is an indication of some economic pressure and customers possibly thinking about buying a bigger and more expensive truck but actually buying down.
Schultz said a total of about 27 000 trucks were sold in South Africa last year, which represents about 72% of the record sales of about 37 000 units in 2007.
“Under the circumstances, it’s a very solid performance by the industry,” he said.
Schultz anticipates total truck sales this year to be similar to last year.
Giant truck group in the making
UD Trucks SA is entering a new era with the appointment of Filip van den Heede as MD. He replaces Gert Swanepoel, who is retiring after 32 years with the company.
In December it was announced that the Volvo Group and Isuzu Motors had signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the intent to form a strategic alliance within commercial vehicles to capture the opportunities presented by the ongoing transformation of the industry.
In a first step, the intention is to establish a global technology partnership and to create a stronger combined heavy-duty truck business for Isuzu Motors and UD Trucks in Japan and across international markets.
This will entail transferring ownership of the complete UD Trucks business globally from the Volvo Group to Isuzu Motors to accelerate growth by leveraging greater volumes and complementary capabilities.
Van den Heede said a due diligence process with Isuzu should come to a close by the middle of this year, and a whole process of regulatory approvals will then need to happen in different countries. “It’s still a year to go in this journey,” he said.
Van den Heede said one of the pillars of the alliance is to create one heavy duty Japanese entity that will be one of the biggest globally.
“If you put Isuzu and UD Trucks together, in many countries it will be by far the biggest by volume,” he said.
He added that it is clear that UD Trucks is in a year of transition, but that in South Africa the two brands will continue to exist and will be separate entities in the market space.