Renault Trucks calls for action on “local lunacy”

UK government inaction in the face of the latest flurry of truck-related rules and regulations from local authorities, notably in London, on subjects such as ultra-low emission zones and “direct vision” truck cabs has been denounced by Renault Trucks.

Nigel Butler, Renault Trucks UK
Nigel Butler, commercial director of Renault Trucks UK

“When will the government wake up to the lunacy that is coming out of local government and stop it?” asks Nigel Butler, Renault Trucks UK commercial director. “Renault Trucks welcomes any initiative to improve road safety and the health of the nation. However, uncoordinated, city-specific and by definition UK-specific regulation must be stopped.

“More regulation from multiple sources is simply not fair and is not in the interests of people and businesses in the UK. With the logistics sector already having to work extremely cost-effectively to sustain just 3% return on sales, I am very concerned that piecemeal local legislation will seriously impact operator efficiency and therefore the cost of delivering goods in city centres.

“Surely the right way to resolve these issues is through national and international legislation. Government simply must get to grips with this issue before millions of pounds of investment is wasted and charged to operators.”

Butler’s comments follow publication last month of Leeds City Council plans for a “clean air zone” (CAZ) likely to come into force at the end of 2019. Four other cities in England are expected to publish their own separate plans for similar zones soon.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), meanwhile, last month said it was “outraged” at Transport for London’s (TfL) announcement that a central London ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) is now expected to come into force 17 months earlier than originally planned. This will mean heavy fines for trucks registered before 2014, according to RHA chief executive Richard Burnett. The latest separate TfL plans for a “safety permit scheme” for trucks entering the capital were published last November.

Renault Trucks in better shape than ever

Butler was speaking at a London press conference last month where he and other senior Volvo Group managers outlined why the group’s Renault Trucks division in the UK and the rest of Europe is now considered to be in better shape than ever.

Emmanuel Jupet, a highly-regarded Volvo Group executive who has been heading the Renault Trucks north-west Europe division (including the UK and Irish Republic) since last August, described 2017 as “a fantastic year for us globally.” Order intake throughout Europe was up 13% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2017, he said. One effect of this had been to increase the Renault Trucks share of the entire European truck market by 0.5%. This may not seem like anything to write home about, but Jupet is correct to point out that it is “quite unusual for any truck-maker to gain so much market share in such a short space of time.”

Up-to-date truck registration figures for the UK are no longer available from The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), but the most recent SMMT statistics for the nine months to the end of September show that the Renault Trucks share of the UK’s 6.0-tonnes-plus market remains at 5.0%, unchanged from the same period in 2016. “I have no doubt that we deserve a better position in the UK truck market,” says Jupet.

Butler singles out several achievements of 2017 and his plans for more in 2018. “When I think about our proven, simple and cost-effective solutions, I have known for some time that we are punching below our weight with Range D (the Renault Trucks “distribution” range of rigids, with gross weights from 7.5 to 26 tonnes),” he said. “So I’m pleased to see that a renewed focus is delivering real results for us, with 18-tonner sales volumes up 69% in a market sector that has shrunk by 8%.”

Butler reports “similar success in the medium-duty market”, with Renault Trucks sales volumes up 52% in a sector up by about 4%.

Production of the first right-hand-drive Range T tractive units fitted with the high-mounted, flat-floor cab (“T-High” in the sales jargon) is due to start in France this month he confirms. But already around 60 orders have been placed by UK operators.

Dealer network delivering improvements

Butler is in no doubt that recent intense emphasis on the quality of service delivered by the Renault Trucks UK dealer network (still a mix of privately-owned and Renault Trucks-owned sites) was beginning to pay off. He is demanding a redoubling of that effort from dealers this year.

“We will use our existing benchmarking of service and quality standards to target the sites that need support,” he said. “Once identified, these sites will feel the full force of our attention. Improvement and training plans will be agreed and implemented and progress continually monitored.”

A key element of the plan to step up Renault Trucks workshop service standards further in the UK this year is the introduction of a digital, online workshop and fleet management system from r2c, a Sheffield, South Yorkshire-based software company which supplies similar systems to a fast growing number of franchised, independent and in-house operator workshops.

r2c software for Renault Trucks
Custom software from Sheffield-based r2c is helping Renault Trucks and its customers

Custom fleet software benefiting both dealers and customers

The Renault Trucks version of the r2c system is called Optiplanner and has been custom-built to suit the company and its dealers, according to Renault Trucks UK customer service director Derek Leech. He expects Optiplanner to be up and running throughout the dealer network by the end of March.

“This is a game-changing platform that lets the dealer plan work more efficiently to ensure maximum uptime for the customer and allows the operator to pre-plan work and allocate resources accordingly,” he says. “It will also allow visibility to our dealer network for national Renault Trucks UK central contracts too.

“With the mileage inputted, the new system can look up the service criteria for individual vehicles, automatically calculating which service operations are needed and schedule the jobs with the workshops, ensuring the vehicle is maintained to the optimum Renault Trucks recommendations.”

Optiplanner is designed deliberately to mesh closely with the “earned recognition” scheme being piloted by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and expected to become fully operational within the next twelve months.

Butler’s forecast for the overall UK truck market in 2018 is that registrations will fall by about 5% compared with 2017, mainly as a result of “headwinds” such as Brexit uncertainty.

Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore is an award-winning automotive journalist and the former editor of our sister title, Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. He is also the UK representative on the panel of judges for the biennial, pan-European Trailer Innovation Award scheme.

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