Archive for month: June, 2012

Road Freight Association 2012

The Road Freight Association was established in 1975 to support its members who are in the main road freight service providers. It is a facilitating body which influences the state of the industry, rates, upkeep of the road infrastructure, road safety, freight security, driver interests, cross-border transport, development funding for emerging operators, education, health, the fuel price, law enforcement, labour relations and many other issues related to road freight transport.

The Association’s member companies include small and medium-sized trucking companies, including many family-owned businesses, owner operators, as well as most of the largest trucking companies in South Africa. RFA members come from all sectors of the trucking industry, including reward carriers and private carriers. The RFA’s membership also includes a significant number of “allied trades” – those companies providing goods and services to the trucking industry.

NAMPO 2012

Nampo 2012 started off on a great note with hoards of crowds flocking onto the TATA Commercial Vehicle stand, which was attributed to the all-new Prima 4028S and the new Novus 7548 truck/tractor, expected on SA shores soon. The public were drawn in by the signal red Prima among all the white TATA vehicles. On closer inspection they expressed their amazement and excitement that TATA was capable of manufacturing top notch quality to match all rivals in the market. TATA Motors has many surprises up its sleeve!

Nampo is a wonderful opportunity to meet existing and future clients, to be made aware of so many different needs and the challenges. Fulfilling these requirements is exhilarating.

Nampo and the public are magic!

TATA Attacks Bus Market

In South Africa’s bus market, which is dominated by bus bodies built onto truck chassis, TATA has now positioned itself by offering buses built on dedicated bus chassis.
In doing so, it has made three models available offering seating capacity for 25, 28 and 37 passengers (all excluding driver) with a 65-seater to be introduced later this year. “We do not target the tourism industry as our buses are best described as reliable and durable utility buses, or work horses. They were designed to function in the tough operating conditions found not only in India, but in South Africa and cross-border countries as well.”

LP 713: Indian Stunner?

TATA aims to capture a significant proportion of the commuter bus market with its LP 713 Marcopolo bus. But does it make the grade? VIC OLIVER gets behind the wheel…

When South African bus operators are in the market for a new vehicle, TATA is not typically top of mind.
Au contraire, the Germans have long dominated the South African market.
However, if this Indian vehicle builder has its way, that will soon change. It’s already changed in the manufacturer’s home country, where TATA has been producing buses for over 50 years. In fact, TATA produces a variety of premium buses and coaches that cater to the entire gamut of utility vehicles and applications, from luxurious inter-city travel options to safe transport choices for school children. It’s fully built buses come in a wide range (from 12 to 67 seaters), chassis options vary from 4 tonne GVM (5m length) to 17,9 tonne GVM (12m length). And it sells in such enormous volumes that the company now claims to be the second largest bus manufacturer in the world.

Bearing this in mind, I was keen to get behind the wheel of the TATA LP 713 Marcopolo bus, a 28-seater commuter bus that is fully imported from India. The chassis is built by TATA Motors and then sent to the Marcopolo bus factory in Dharwad, India, where the body is mounted to the chassis before being shipped to South Africa. This modern bus factory is a joint venture between the world-renowned Marcopolo bus building company and TATA Motors. To ensure that the body meets the strict quality standards set by Marcopolo, each bus that arrives in South Africa is sent to the local Marcopolo factory in Germiston for a pre-delivery check before it is delivered to the customer.

To test the fuel consumption and the ride quality we took the bus on a 242km trip to Witbank, returning to the TATA head offices on the N12 highway. The bus used 33,88 litres of fuel on the trip, recording a fuel consumption of 7,14km/l or 14 l/100km. In my opinion, this is a good figure, especially considering the large frontal area of the bus and the fact that we travelled at the maximum speed allowance of 100km/h whenever it was safe to do so. It must be noted that the test was done without passengers.

On the road the vehicle performed well. The powerful TATA 5,6 litre Euro-2 diesel engine, which produces 95kW and 416Nm of torque, enables the bus to maintain a high average speed and allows for safe overtaking of slower moving vehicles. Coupled to the engine is a driver-friendly synchromesh five-speed manual transmission, with a very smooth gear change. The solid rod gear selection linkage fitted on this model is superior to the cable gear selection linkage, which is often used on competitive models in this class of vehicle.

Being a dedicated bus chassis, the chassis is fitted with longer steel leaf springs than the TATA truck chassis in the same class, resulting in an acceptable ride quality. With the engine mounted over the front axle the interior noise levels are high and, in my opinion, this is an area that could be improved. The fitment of a good engine rev counter is another improvement which I believe is necessary to enhance good driving standards and optimise fuel consumption. Without an engine rev counter the driver is not able to use the green band driving technique, which ensures that the bus is driven in the most economical mode. The vehicle is fitted with a highly effective full air brake system and with automatic slack brake adjustors. Full air brake systems are normally only found on larger vehicles and therefore the TATA LP 713 bus has a clear advantage over most of its competitors in this class of vehicle.

Spring brake boosters are also fitted to the brake system and are used to activate the parking brake. The spring brake boosters will also stop the bus in the unlikely event of a loss of air pressure. The bus is fitted with a large front windscreen, allowing excellent driver vision. Replacement front windscreens are available locally at a reasonable price. Due to the large body structure support pillar next to the driver’s compartment and the sliding window frame, the right-hand outside driver’s mirror is not clearly visible. As the mirror is a safety critical item, the mirror fitment and position should be modified.

TATA Motors supports the bus with a standard warranty of one year or 100 000km. The company also offers an extended warranty of three years or 300 000km at an additional cost of R5 000. For complete peace of mind I would recommend that any potential buyer purchase the extended warranty. Parts and service back-up are available from a countrywide network of 34 dedicated TATA dealers situated throughout South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

The bus is not fitted with an air-conditioner, nor does it offer very much passenger luxury. However, at the present purchase price of R383 850 excluding VAT (which includes the extended warranty), the TATA LP 713 is good value for money if you are looking for a basic 28-seater commuter bus built for tough African operating conditions.

Starbus Is A Star Bus

Two giants of the global bus industry have joined forces to create a smarter choice for commuter transportation.

Here’s some interesting trivia: TATA Motors Ltd is the world’s second largest bus manufacturing company, Marcopolo is the world leader in body building for buses and coaches, and their joint venture – TATA Motors Marcopolo Ltd (TMML) – is the company that brings you the Starbus range. Together, these two industry giants have developed a world-class bus with features tailor-made for the South African market. This is the all new 65-seater TATA Starbus LPO 1823 Commuter. Also available in South Africa from this collaboration is the 28-seater TATA Starbus LP 713 Commuter.

The new Starbus is powered by a TATA Cummins engine, promising unmatched reliability, optimum performance and best in class fuel economy. This Euro-II 5,9-litre turbocharged and intercooled inline 6-cylinder engine produces a maximum power rating of 173kW (235 hp) at 2 500 r/min. Of more importance, though, is the peak torque of 800Nm at 1 500r/min, with a flat torque curve that allows better performance with fewer gearshifts resulting in good economy and a smoother ride. Gradability is 33 percent.

The transmission-mounted Hydrodynamic Voith Retarder has been fitted, giving superior braking performance, enhancing brake and tyre life and, above all, providing safety for passengers. In addition to this, ABS braking is offered for optional fitment to the full-air, dual-circuit S-CAM brake system. The vehicle is also fitted with a front anti-roll bar, fire extinguisher and roof hatches. The TATA Marcopolo body meets all compulsory standards relating to safety as set out by the SABS, including body structural strength in the case of a roll-over, seat strength, seat anchorage and emergency exit requirements.

Built on a specifically designed bus chassis, the LPO 1823 Starbus Commuter offers its passengers a comfort-oriented journey. Entering through the twin leaf pneumatic in-swing doors, one is greeted by an aesthetically-designed interior featuring a two millimetre anti-skid vinyl floor and dual tone seats. Set in a 3×2 configuration, the seats have a 750mm pitch. There is even a modular hat rack. The rear luggage compartment is specially designed to meet the baggage space requirements during hire of such a vehicle.
With an overall Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 17 900kg, and a front axle capacity of 7,5 tonnes, the LPO 1823 Starbus Commuter is all about greater load capacities and value for money. Its 350-litre fuel tank allows for long, hassle-free trips and saves on refuelling time.

Combining the TATA Cummins engine, Voith retarder and Marcopolo body, the LPO 1823 Starbus Commuter ensures low maintenance and longer life, saving on running costs and adding to profits. Now that’s an interesting piece of trivia!

A Sense Of Perspective

This month VIC OLIVER tests the TATA LPT 1518 EX 2 eight ton freight carrier chassis.
On arrival to collect the test vehicle I was impressed to find that this truck and all new TATA LPT 1518 EX 2 models are fitted with upgraded components to improve the durability of the vehicle. These continual product improvements confirm that TATA Motors is adhering to their company vision of supplying quality products to the market.

The 6-speed TATA model GBS 650 gearbox which has an input torque capacity of 650Nm has now been replaced with the TATA model G 750 gearbox which has torque capacity of 750Nm. This will result in longer gearbox life. The 352mm diameter pull type clutch has been replaced by a 380mm diameter push type clutch. The new clutch is self-adjusting which reduces the risk of early clutch failure due to incorrect adjustment and eliminates the need for continuous time consuming adjustment in the workshop.

The original flat type propshaft flanges have now been replaced with serrated-type flanges. This reduces the stress on the flange bolts and increases vehicle durability. The steering dragline arm has been replaced with a heavy-duty steering dragline arm adding longer life to this safety-critical component. To improve engine life and reduce the risk of early engine failure the vehicle has been fitted with a water-in-fuel indicator. A warning lamp indicator is fitted in the cab.

A further engine protection device has been fitted as standard on the vehicle, continuously monitoring:
• Coolant level
• Engine temperature
• Oil pressure
• Voltage supply

This engine protection system, known by TATA technicians as the ‘Black Box’, has a visual and audio warning system that will stop the vehicle within 38 seconds should a fault occur – thereby reducing the risk of complete engine failure. On the road the vehicle performed and handled well. The Cummins B 180 20 Euro 2 engine with matching power train proved to be adequate for the vehicle which was loaded with 5 000 kg of sand. I found the TATA 6-speed gearbox exceptionally easy to operate. The gear change is very smooth and better than any other 8 ton vehicle that we have tested. Thanks to the pneumatic assisted clutch booster the clutch pedal is light and driver friendly.

The inside cab noise is reasonable on the road, due to the viscous fan and low mounted turbocharger. The driver and passenger seat are adjustable, although the adjustment is limited due to the seat touching the back of the cab. The carpeted floor mat is not really practical in a working cab and I would have preferred to have seen heavy duty rubber floor matting fitted in the vehicle.

The dual circuit full S-cam air brake system works well. As standard equipment, twin trailer air line connections are fitted, complete with coupling at the rear of the chassis. Automatic brake slack adjusters are fitted, which eliminate the necessity to continuously reset brake lining clearances. This feature also ensures better vehicle safety.

An exhaust brake is coupled to the service brake. During the test run I found that the exhaust brake wasn’t that effective. I didn’t like the position of the emergency and handbrake control. The control is fitted low down between the driver’s seat and the door. When driving the driver cannot see the emergency and handbrake control.

During the test run I found that it was difficult to read all the dash instrumentation due to the position of the steering wheel and the dash. The 100km road test route was mainly on busy highways, from Elandsfontein to Pretoria on the R21 and returning on the N1 and N3. A fuel consumption of 19,5 litres per 100km was recorded which, in my opinion, is extremely good and proves that this vehicle is an economical workhorse.

Showing the Way

TATA Automobile Corporation SA is fast becoming one to watch in the South African market.
This was further illustrated by the company’s show of force at this year’s NAMPO Harvest Day in Bothaville.
TATA Automobile Corporation SA (TATA) is trucking, plain and simple. Yes, that is the company’s motto, but that’s also the core of its business. It is what shapes it and its products. Because of this approach, TATA is creating a reputation as one of the country’s top manufacturers.

That is not just faint praise, because TATA has now bought an assembly plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria, where it is beginning to manufacture vehicles for the local and SADC-region markets (vehicles are supplied CBU). Sudhir Babshet, executive director of TATA Automobile Corporation SA, is adamant that TATA would not introduce a vehicle if it were not totally satisfied. This means all models are put through rigorous tests before being released to market.

This includes complete testing at the Gerotek testing facility outside Pretoria, placing the vehicles, and especially the mechanical components, in extremes. Beyond that, individual vehicles are given to customers to conduct real-world testing; putting them through their paces in the unique environments and conditions they will be subject to. “When we launch, we launch a vehicle that has been rigorously tested to meet South Africa’s market conditions.”

TATA Tackles The Test

Putting two models forward for Truck Test 2012 shows you have confidence that your products are the right ones for the job – and TATA is set on proving this point.

TATA is ready to prove its “truckability.”