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Truck Show NEC 2011

Date: 19.04.2011


The commercial vehicle show was on in Birmingham NEC last week. A group of us went over to have a look around and see what new developments have occurred in the last 12 months.
The first thing that was apparent this year was that the show is quite small, only about 2 halls were used , whereas in times past the full 4 halls could be seen to be full of exhibitor’s. The mood among many of the English trade exhibitors was a little glum. The footfall was a little lower than was hoped for.
What was of most interest to me was the commercial vehicle distributor stands. The spread of these stands was quite different to years past. The French manufacturers like Citroen and Renault had massive pitches which displayed a huge range of LGV vehicles and some 3.5 tonne chassis sporting boxes, curtain sides and tippers. To my eye, there is not much to distinguish between much of the European vans, they share the same basic platform, just with a different trim and front grille in some cases.  The LGV van sector seems to be undergoing a renaissance. There seems to be a number of drivers of this resurgence. Firstly the flexibility of the manufacturer platforms gives rise to a huge variety of wheelbases and engine options that were just not practical 10 years ago. The panel van has also become a lot bigger, some manufacturers can offer load volume up to 16 cubic metres. On the rigid side there seemed to be quite a few custom manufactured lightweight bodies that could give large payload levels. However, I do thing some of the bodies are less than practical as durability could be a big concern.

The Mitsubishi Fuso Truck stand was graced by a single canter tipper. That was pretty much it. It was red and there is a video here. I was hoping for a better distributor presence for the Canter Trucks.

There was a nice display of Doe Test equipment from MAHA and a couple of other manufacturers that I had not heard of before. There did not seem to be too many Irish garage owners or truck operators around in comparison to years past. One English truck tester was talking to be about the legislative changes that the truck testing has undergone in the UK and the testing facility standards required. This will also be borne out over here in the near future. Simply put 148 light Doe test stations are not needed. To reduce the number of testing centres, all that is needed is increased barriers to entry. This can be done through legislation, equipment standards and licence fees.
What I really noticed a lack of was large rigid trucks. The 7.5 tonne to 18 tonne GVW sector was barely represented at all. This confirms what seems to be a general trend in the Truck Sales business; customers are either scaling up or scaling down. The increased admin involved in running C1 class trucks can be a bit of a headache for a company with only one or two trucks. So truck operators are either moving away from C1 rigid trucks into full tractor and trailer combinations or outsourcing the work altogether. This consolidation in the truck market was well reflected in the NEC last week. Even large distributors like Mercedes and MAN were pushing high powered tractor units over rigid trucks.
The Commercial Vehicle show at the NEC gave us a lot to thing about concerning the future of Truck distribution in the future. Generally the UK is 3-4 years ahead of Ireland when it comes to truck trends. The Decline of the mid-sized rigid seems set to continue.
John Murphy
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Mitsubishi Canter Truck
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