Pete Cochrane

A Different Point of View

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Road Transport

Telematics Stress – A Modern Problem.

Telematics Data
Telematics Data

With all the current media attention on mental health, I wonder if anyone has considered the mental health of truck drivers? We are under stress from bad driving by other road users, tight delivery schedules, constant fear of the Police and VOSA even when you always drive for a one hundred percent legal operation, safety, security and now to add to this little list of stressful sources, we suffer a constant barrage of telematics league tables and must try harder letters and comments.

This is an industry wide problem that has not been sufficiently scrutinised to understand the effects on a driver. In my experience telematics data is tolerated for a short while by drivers before they lose interest because no matter what they do, they can’t get to the top of the league table. I have arrived at this conclusion after listening to drivers I work with and also many other drivers from numerous companies during conversations while tipping or loading at places.

Maybe a more productive way of gaining acceptance for telematics data and any subsequent improvements would be to incorporate a module in an annual CPC training event covering the various headings within telematics and how each of them affect a drivers score. Furthermore, instead of using league tables as a means of measurement, encourage drivers to use individual telematics data as a tool for personal improvement.

Personally, the league tables mean nothing to me as the results depend on the load weight, trailer size, weather and route at the very least. The person I want to drive better than the most is ME! For years I have recorded my trip data every day. This includes the trailer number and type, weather conditions, load, time taken, speed, MPG, fuel used and route. If you build up a consistent record over a period of time, a pattern emerges and anomalies such as if the truck is sick or the trailer doesn’t run as freely as another does becomes clearer. I consider that as a professional driver it is my duty to improve wherever I can. I learn every day even after nearly forty years as a truck driver, and will continue to do so, as it is a vital part of gaining and building on experience. Failures are only failures if you don’t learn from mistakes, and we all make mistakes no matter how much experience we have. That is why challenging yourself by keeping a record of your performance is so valuable and something all drivers should be encouraged to do.

The industry is a wash with training and often results unintentionally in most cases, of putting unnecessary pressure or stress upon drivers to perform based upon telematics data, but another aspect to consider is whether your data has a close relationship with exactly what your vehicle is doing. If it isn’t set up correctly, its possible you are being unnecessarily hard on a driver or drivers. It’s worth remembering that your truck has cost you a lot of money and drivers are your businesses most valuable asset as they are entrusted with your truck and also the people that come face to face with your customers. A vital reason to try and keep them happy.

The human race is made up of intensely competitive beings and no matter how many drivers say they are not interested in telematics data, nearly all are to some degree. Usually the negativity to the data seems to be related to their position on a league table and I suspect from questions that I am asked, is because they don’t know how to improve their score.

If more emphasis was given to encouraging drivers to compete against their own scores and comprehensive training given to demonstrate how data changes depending on the driving style used, I believe a fleet wide improvement would be a result.

The modern phenomena of measuring everything to within an inch of its life, creates an unpleasant feeling of always being watched by big brother, and depending on the character or personality of the person policing a persons performance, can lead to resentment and a feeling of distrust to a driver by a company with a knock on effect of poorer performance than they are capable of.

It’s not difficult with the right motivation to improve fuel economy by one percent and in a lot of cases to improve even further than that. Imagine what you could save over a year by finding a way that motivates your drivers to improve without them feeling oppressed?

Maybe the only way is to measure the results!

Volvo FH04-500 Tractor Unit

The very impressive Volvo FH04-500
The Volvo FH04-500

Tested 08/04/2017-12/04/2017

I feel I have let this truck and Volvo down in my fuel values during this test, mainly because I drive an FH460 all the time and this truck is the same office but with a very different heart. I truly believe that had I driven it without having driven an FH before, my fuel would have been better. This is because it coasts forever and also because I do the same run every day and I am driving it to the same power off points as I would the 460 when in fact I could come off the power much sooner, in fact much, much sooner! As a result my brake count is way more than I should have done. The Volvo FH04 500 is doing exactly what I expected in comparison to the 460 version. The extra 40hp makes just that little difference when it’s on cruise control by having a bit more torque. You can see on the dash real time fuel data that it is more economical when it needs fuel. Places where you would see 1.9mpg you now see 2.5mpg as the low figures and a much better cruising fuel figure sooner.

The whole vehicle is less stressed at 500hp and does as I said run on forever, I believe this is due to the fact that it is on top of the power requirement instead of pulling the load up to the power requirement. A bit difficult to explain what I mean but would be easy to demonstrate. Power delivery is very smooth and as with all new heavy trucks its built to be on cruise control as much as possible, especially the higher horsepower trucks, and not just on motorways but whenever its safe to do so.

The cab is exactly the same as the 460 except this particular vehicle it had an electric sun blind and better seat coverings. Unfortunately I have the same little grumbles about it, namely the space in front of the passenger seat is very cramped compared to the Scania, and I can’t help thinking that if I was using this truck on long haul European work like I used to, then I would have been a bit uncomfortable if I was parked up for extended periods. Next is the fact that it is a dirty truck compared to either the new Next Generation Scania or its predecessor the Scania Streamline, and gets very dirty mirrors that really impact your rear viewing capabilities quite quickly in damp weather. On a positive note, the Volvo is a brilliant truck on smart motorways or average speed camera controlled roadworks compared to the Scania’s. This is because on the Volvo you can press the Eco button on the steering wheel and bring the speed down to 1mph instead of the default 3mph for economic operations, then set the cruise control at 49mph and let the truck get on with it. It will not exceed 50mph and it will not fall away speed wise either as the Scania’s seem’s to. The only thing you have to remember is to press the Eco button and set the value back to 3mph for the best economic running when the speed restriction ends.

Interpretation of the Dynafleet data needs to be correct as quite often while you are on cruise, the vehicle goes into coasting mode in exactly the same way as you would have done it by dropping it out of cruise. The difference is in the data on Dynafleet because as the coasting value seems to reflect coasting when you coast off cruise and is the total value of coasting above and below 89kph OFF CRUISE. If it coasts in cruise, the overspeed value increases but the coasting value doesn’t! If the Eco button is in the default 3mph setting, the truck shouldn’t exceed 59mph on cruise and the overspeed is referring to coasting between 56mph and 59mph. Therefore the true coasting value should be the total of the two values as long as the cruise control usage value is high. It took me a while to work that one out! There is something more to this observation that is important but escapes me at the moment, but I will add an addendum when I remember.

Overall in the five days of testing, I have had a double-deck fridge fully loaded, square and round edged fridges, extreme variations in traffic and weather including worsening high winds on some days and a routing cock up that added an hour and a half onto a normal runtime. So a consistent test as planned has not worked out. As usual I have recorded everything daily as I do with my regular truck and other demo units. Plus as is usual with a test truck a physical fuel fill test. Dash fuel figures range between 8.8mpg and 9.8mpg which is either better or consistent with my usual FH460 figures (This vehicle had only 16000 kms on it when I started testing, so is still not run in properly yet), Physical fuel on three of the days was 9.35mpg, 9.59 mpg and 9.38mpg respectively. From experience of other manufacturers test vehicles this is fairly good. Physical fuel checks confirm the accuracy of dash and telemetry data. Adblue use seems consistent with the FH460 values with this vehicle.

On the final day of testing the 500 really showed how good it is. Through no fault of the Volvo I was held up with a breakdown which resulted in me leaving my last drop quarter of an hour later than my due loading time three quarters of an hour away. Making progress while keeping to the national speed limits across country is no problem for the 500 and I arrived at my loading point bang on the time I had given them. With the high winds I had been experiencing all day and severe congestion on the Scottish road system, the Volvo was showing only 8.3mpg which to be fair was still better than the 460 would have achieved but not what I was happy with. Even worse was the fact I had no time to try and get the figure to improve, or so I thought. As soon as I was loaded with the cargo of 16 pallets of Milk, I left Bridge of Allan via Stirling to join the M80 at Stirling services before tackling a very congested M73 and even worse M74 at Raith. Wherever possible I had it on the limiter and it never broke stroke. Even better by the time I got back to Penrith, the fuel figure had improved to 9MPG, a figure that the 460 would never have done under the same conditions. Stunningly impressive is the only way I can describe it.

In conclusion, all I can tell you is that whenever I test a truck, I evaluate it as if I was buying it for myself and apply the same comparison techniques I used when I owned my own truck operation. The main things I am looking for in a truck are comfort, reliability and above all else a good balance of power and economy. I have never been a subscriber of just buying high power trucks other than unless the job requires them, and in my humble opinion 500 hp is about as much as you need pulling a fridge.
I can’t believe I am going to write this next bit, but here goes. I have tested a lot of the best trucks meeting our requirements including the superb Next Generation Scania R450, but if I was given the choice between the Next Generation Scania R450 and the Volvo FH04 500 I have just been testing, then I would have picked the Volvo. Anybody that knows me, also knows that I am a dyed in the wool Scania fan and would not say this lightly, but in the absence of not having tested the S500 Next Generation Scania, I would without doubt have picked the Volvo 500. It is a truly awesome truck and if you are buying one or just driving one, you will not be disappointed.

Scania R450 Next Generation Test

Tested 04/02/2017 – 07/02/2017

As a confirmed Scania fan, I have been looking forward to trying one of the ‘Next Generation’ models since the first spy shots and test vehicles appeared. The hype and PR for these vehicles has been exceptional and my expectations were high. The morning of the 4th of February was the first time I had even seen one close up, but I have read a considerable amount of documentation on them and since finding out that I would be trying one, I downloaded the ‘Next Gen’ app for my iPhone to learn as much as I could about it.

First external visual impression is that it has some interesting lines and needs creative graphics to enhance a plain colour. You can see the it is a quality product with close joints and well fitting doors that have a quality sound when closing.

First internal visual impression was a bit of a mixed bag really. I was impressed with the space on the passenger side of the vehicle compared to the Volvo, but the raised engine tunnel and cross cab access was a bit of a disappointment compared with the Volvo, although the centre console functionality was better than the Volvo. The ‘R’ cab still feels narrow and it doesn’t seem to be as high internally as the Volvo does. The driving position is nicer than the outgoing model and the visibility is excellent considering the size of the mirrors. The mirrors and for that matter the cab and chassis stay a lot cleaner than the Volvo does on the same run. When driving in spray you can see that the airflow around the vehicle is very efficient (The Streamline was good as well.) and seems to push it away from the cab and chassis, in contrast to the Volvo FH04 that is a very dirty cab with mirrors that get dirty very quickly.

Setting the vehicle up to drive was not as easy as the Volvo was initially and it will take a little while to get used to. Some of the functions and switches are either too complicated for the task or not as easy as they could be to find. However, by the end of the first day, it was becoming easier to negotiate the menu’s. One of the most annoying things is the hill hold defaulting to on when the ignition has been turned off. This cost me a significant penalty on the driver scoring system within the first mile until I realised what the problem was. A penalty that I didn’t fully recover from all day. I am a big fan of the driver scoring system ever since I used it on the previous generation of Scania trucks. I believe that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, the scoring system will help get rid of or at least highlight bad habits that we all acquire over time. It can be very frustrating when the slightest mistake when braking or the unexpected action of another road user affects otherwise very good scores though.

The first day of testing involved pulling a fully loaded double deck trailer to Cumbernauld and then on to Livingston before returning back to base at Penrith. Conditions were wet and windy with occasional hail showers. On returning to Penrith, I moved the sliding fifth wheel closer to the cab as I believe it was too bigger gap. Before departing Penrith in the morning, I did raise the roof spoiler to try and compensate for the gap, but I think the gap between the trailer and the cab may have impacted on the fuel slightly.

On the journey North, I did have a couple of overspeeds due to letting the vehicle run as far as it could for economy. Later in the journey I began to use the downhill speed regulator a bit more efficiently on the upper part of long hills before letting it run out lower down. The retarder is also very good and I did notice that its use does help the braking score on the driver scoring system. The adaptive cruise control is superb in its effectiveness but I think it could be easier to find and engage! It is something you don’t need all the time and could have a detrimental effect on fuel if used incorrectly. That said on my journey fully freighted from Penrith junction 40 until coming off the M80 for Cumbernauld, I had very few reasons to touch the brakes, even through the notorious Raith interchange roadworks and down the steepest of hills on the M74, quite impressive.

Overall, day one was a familiarisation day to try and understand how it worked a bit better, mainly because this morning was the first time I had seen a ‘Next Generation’ Scania close up never mind sit in one and drive it.

Day 2

I was very impressed with the Scania today. My run started of in freezing conditions in Penrith. I had a single deck round edge Gray & Adams fridge fully loaded for Livingston. Just before Beattock on the M74, I ran into snow that was enough to close the outside lane of the motorway. The Scania feels more ‘planted’ on ice and snow than the Volvo. It does feel that your on the edge of adhesion with the Volvo in slippery conditions sometimes, but I didn’t have that feeling with the Scania. At Abington I decided to turn off the M74 and head for Lanark before turning off for Carstairs, Forth and Whitburn, then back onto the M8 for Livingston. The Scania felt surefooted on the whole route, which was very good considering the conditions. There is a particular bad bit I was concerned about where you turn right up a short steep hill. The Volvo sometimes needs its first stage diff lock engaged to stop wheel spin and as the Scania doesn’t have that, I was concerned it might struggle, but it took it in its stride and never slipped at all.
This route is single carriageway and of mixed terrain. The Scania coped really well and achieved 10.6 MPG at the delivery point, which is probably the best I have ever achieved with any truck using that route.
After tipping at Livingston, I used a cross country route toward Linlithgow and the M9. This route is all minor roads and incorporates the Avonbridge Gorge which is a tricky piece of road with steep descent and accents with a hairpin bend. It did climb this hill slower than the Volvo would, but I am beginning to think that the Scania is like the Mercedes Actros and performs better climbing hills on cruise control than by manually pressing the accelerator. Reaching my destination in Bridge of Allan, the Scania was sitting at 11.1 mpg, again a good figure. After loading 9 big pallets of Milk, I set off back for base at Penrith and had a solid 11.9 mpg when I arrived at the Golden Fleece for fuel. After fueling up, I only lost 0.1 of a mpg by the time I arrived back at Penrith. Most trucks lose at least 0.2 of a mpg, so to finish with a roundtrip figure of 11.8 mpg was very good as far as I am concerned.

Day 3

Today my trip was a full load in a square edged Grey and Adams single deck fridge, with drops at Cumbernauld and Livingston, then reloading out of Bridge of Allan with Milk. Traffic was very bad today with congestion everywhere, especially the Raith interchange road works that had a stop go delay for quite a number of miles. My scores weren’t as high as I had hoped by the end of the day. This was mainly due to very unexpected actions by other road users causing me to react in a less than smooth response to avoid a collision. Such is a truck drivers lot. My intention every day is to achieve 100% in every sector and I have achieved it many times with the ‘R’ series Streamline 450 that I drove a couple of years ago. In Eco mode, the slightest mistake is scored very harshly and as I stated earlier in the document, the driver scoring system is brilliant for sharpening your driving style no matter what experience you have.
During the day the weather deteriorated, with the wind blowing sometimes as a cross wind and sometimes head on and quite heavy rain and sleet at times. Also, my back load was 11 pallets of milk today, so a bit heavier. It must be noted that this truck is very new, so still very tight I think. Taking all this into consideration I think 11 mpg was reasonable result.

Day 4

The day could not have been worse for the final day of testing. While managing to maintain 100% in all driver scoring categories from Penrith right up to junction 6 of the M74 at Hamilton, it all went downhill from there on with heavy stop go traffic due to roadworks and accidents at various locations around my route in the central belt of Scotland. Apart from everything I have learned about the new Scania this last few days, I have also learned two major things via the driver scoring system. The first is as I have always known, that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have you can always improve your driving and that we all fall into bad habits that need rectifying. The second is how much bad driving by other road users impact on your driving scores, by not using indicators when changing lanes and taking out your safe braking distance by cutting in front of you without warning. Furthermore, that it is impossible to maintain the recommended safe distances between vehicles without someone cutting in and reducing it. My route was the same as yesterday but my back load was 15 pallets of milk, so considerably heavier, and yet the truck still returned 11 mpg even though most of the day was wet.


1) Without doubt, Scania and Volvo are the best trucks on the road and being a life long Scania fan, I have tried to be as objective as possible, mainly because the current Volvo FH04’s are very good fleet trucks. Both marques have pro’s and cons, but if I was to buy one for tramping operations it would be an ’S’ cab 500 with Eco and Std mode activated.

2) As I have stated in previous test’s, I consider Eco mode quite dangerous in busy traffic and believe it could catch a following driver out if not careful. I have noticed on a couple of occasions at different locations it cuts the power too soon and then accelerates again to take it closer to the descent. In these instances I don’t believe any fuel was saved because of the vehicle having to accelerate again after losing momentum. I also believe that a lot of drivers will just override the Eco mode and use the throttle to accelerate closer to the edge. To this end I think if I was to buy a new Scania, I would specify both Eco and Std mode. The Streamline I used to drive performed better when we added Std mode to the eco mode it originally had. Without doubt it does behave like the Mercedes Actros and does not pull when using the accelerator on even the slightest of hills. Yet engage cruise control and it transforms into a completely different truck and pulls brilliantly. Unfortunately this option is not always possible due to the type of road or traffic conditions you are in. I don’t remember the Streamline being like this in ECO mode. Maybe it would behave differently if it had standard mode activated. In the handbook it does describe Std mode as being suitable for most situations.

3) I think that a lower fifth wheel will let the truck ride better and because the gap between the top of the mudguards and trailer will be reduced and may benefit fuel figures. As I said earlier, I moved the sliding fifth wheel forward a considerable way, but believe it could possibly be moved a bit more further forward, again helping fuel. One thing I did notice is that the Scania has very good airflow around it, directing spray and dirt away from the cab keeping the mirrors and cab clean. This is in direct contrast to the Volvo that is a very dirty truck and is very difficult to keep the mirrors and cab clean.

4) While having a driver adjustable roof spoiler is a good idea, I think it would be prudent to find the optimum setting for the majority of a trailer fleet and then take the handles off, because otherwise you will have deflectors set at all angles and this could lead to a detrimental impact on fuel consumption.

5) One thing the Volvo does far better than the Scania is its ability to maintain progress in such as roadworks with average speed cameras for example. With the Volvo you can set the speed at 49mph and reduce the eco button to 1mph overrun and it will not deviate. The Scania does not allow that fine tuning between cruise control and descent control and even when you split the average will fall out of range and power.

6) While adaptive cruise is useful in some situations, it is not economical or practical to use it in all situations especially really heavy and unpredictable traffic. To select or deselect adaptive cruise control takes 5 button presses that briefly require you to take your eye off the road. To that end, I preferred not to use it in heavy traffic in case of some other road user making an unpredictable move that would endanger the vehicle.

7) Some of the switches are located in blind areas of the dash and are not logically grouped. Quite why you need 5 different rocker switches for interior lights I don’t know. Some of the switches hidden by the steering wheel are quite important and should be more visible. Particularly the Hill start switch that annoyingly defaults to on every time you stop the engine!!!

8) It should also be noted that I am not totally convinced at least without more testing, that there is a considerable fuel saving or that journey times haven’t taken slightly longer. I arrived at this conclusion by using my database that I record each days driving in. This database records fuel, mileage, time, weather, truck, trailer, pallets, deliveries and collections and is something I have done for many years to monitor what I do as a driver, but it does highlight patterns and it does show an increase in elapsed time without much of a decrease in fuel drawn at the Fleece. In fairness to Scania the driving conditions and the severity of congestion has not been good, but it does stand out from the majority of other days recorded especially as my runs are always the same, and certainly more days of consistent testing would need to be done to confirm it.

Wherever I have been with this truck it has generated a lot of interest, and while both Volvo and Scania trucks are prestige vehicles usually found in blue chip fleets, I do think Scania has the edge. As the saying goes: There are only two types of truck driver. Those that drive a Scania and those that wish they drove a Scania. I’ve been both!

A Road Test Of The MAN TGX 500 Truck.

Tested 19/01/2017 to 20/01/2017

The MAN TGX500
The MAN TGX500

I’ve been trying an MAN 500 demo truck for the last few days. While it has a broad torque range with plenty of power, the cab and chassis are very dated and have changed very little in the last seven years or so. The ride is very soft and the vehicle wanders and rolls quite easily. The power delivery and displayed fuel consumption was impressive. However, I am suspicious of MAN dash data from past experience and believe it could be overstated, on the other hand, maybe the Scania engine and driveline influence that is quite evident, has made these figures possible as they are what I would expect from a new generation R500 or R490 Streamline. It is unfair to compare this truck to our current and latest 460 Volvo’s, and it will be necessary to try an FH500 with the latest Euro 6 engine to have a true comparison. The Volvo is still the best fleet motor of the two and if they were the only two trucks in the yard, I would still take theVolvo 460.

With regard to the test over the last couple of days, I think the following notes are in order. The benchmark is our current 460hp Volvo fleet and for the last couple of months I have been driving the Volvo as I was trained to by Volvo trainer Clive Bond. The Volvo is easy to drive by both new and experienced drivers. The controls and functions are comprehensive and very useful as well as being easy to find without taking your eyes from the road. Fuel consumption is fair to good depending on the load and terrain. My view on the test was to get the MAN to do what the Volvo does and unfortunately it doesn’t. Fitted with the automatic gearbox, it is unpredictable in its operation with none consistent gear shifts that catch me out never mind an inexperienced driver. It will be interesting to see if it produces an over rev on Microlise as sometimes when it down shifted the dynamic rev counter did not correspond as it had done on other downshifts yet it was doing the downshift itself. MAN have made a big improvement to the driveline management system and it has followed Scania’s approach of dropping the rpm well before descending a hill. As with the Scania, I feel this is dangerous and a recipe for catching a following driver out and causing an accident. It is the correct thing to do for fuel economy, but it’s impractical on busy U.K. roads as following drivers will overtake and then you catch them up and have to slow down to keep at a safe distance, therefore negating the fuel saving. More than likely you will have to go through the whole overtaking manoeuvre again, and gain a reasonable distance before the system engages again. Overriding it was more the norm to remain safe, as overtaking is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres we do as truck drivers, never mind annoying other road users. Clearly this truck does have lots of torque and seems to be slightly better than the Volvo on fuel. It will be an interesting experiment to try a 500 Volvo though. Finding switches and functions does take your eye off the road and the MAN’s handling characteristics allow it to wander easily if you don’t keep your eye on it. Compared to the Volvo this would not be an easy vehicle to train drivers on and I think abuse of the power would be a result of driving it out of cruise mode. The benefits of extra horsepower and the corresponding torque is mostly only beneficial while on cruise control. To be fair to MAN, if this had been a truck with a manual gearbox and a good driver on it, it would have done well. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the cab and chassis need a massive revamp to bring it into line with all the other current manufacturers offerings. If it was me buying trucks for my own outfit and the MAN 500 and Volvo 460 were the only two options, I would go for the Volvo even at the expense of a slightly lower fuel average. Driver acceptance, ease of training, quality of the product and probably a better residual value would be my reasoning. The current 66 plate 460 Volvo is, I believe a very good fleet truck.
When testing any truck, I treat it as if it was my own and take great care to look after it as well as drive it to the best of my ability to do the job. My expectations of a vehicle are based on nearly forty years HGV experience. In that time I have seen great improvements in vehicles and their technology. While I embrace the technology, the vehicle has to do what is required of it, which may not be exactly as the manufacturer envisaged. I have treated the MAN with an impartial evaluation and will subject each vehicle I am given to the same testing process.

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