Pete Cochrane

A Different Point of View

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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.

Conclusion

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!



Marketing Strategies – Much Like Fishing

Having The Right ‘Bait’ For Your Marketing Strategies.

Marketing strategies are much like Fishing. Finding a pool of hungry fish is fairly easy, as is casting your line into the waiting mass. But why does a fish choose another fisherman’s bait rather than yours? The bait looks the same, but something must attract one bait over another. Is it a visual thing? Is the taste or something entirely different? The skill is to find out what it is, and this may take many years. Your marketing strategies present just the same problems as a fisherman experiences.  A subtle change to the bait or conditions may result in what worked before not working now. The secret to the skill, is understanding all the variables that catch a fish on any given day and that only comes with experience. If something doesn’t work then try something else, but don’t change too much all at once. Find a baseline, then, change one thing. If it works better, keep that as the baseline if not revert back to the original baseline. Then change something else and determine if that is an improvement or not. Work out what combinations of elements work, and what doesn’t work. Keep a record your results so you don’t try something more than once.

Marketing strategies are just the same. Find a pool of hungry customers, cast your offer line into the pool and then determine if your sales bait is better or worse than your competitor. Determine your baseline and change one variable only, to see if sales increase or decrease. Then use the fishing analogy to determine what changes you must make to your sales pitch to catch your fish.



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.



The Legacy – A Lesson For Life

In my 58th year of life I have come to the conclusion that there are six core areas every human should aspire to. They are imagination, the ability to read, the ability to write your thoughts down, the ability to do basic mathematics, to be inquisitive about everything and above all else DREAM!

Imagination is one of the most valuable tools you will ever possess. Without imagination you will not feel the warmth of the desert sun or the cold of an Arctic chill, or any depth of emotion in the content of a good book. A fertile imagination will also allow you to find solutions to problems that sometimes can’t be seen with your eyes. Imagination is the most incredible tool in the pursuit of your ambitions.

There are many types of reader and not all find it easy, but the more you read the easier it gets and the broader your depth of comprehension. Many young people now seem to think reading is a chore and give the skill little time to develop. I believe that by reading fiction from a broad spectrum of authors will lead to at least one or two becoming a favourite and inspiring the reader to consume more of their content. For me it’s Clive Cussler in fiction and I have every one of his books but I also read many other fictional offerings. Sometimes a title does not reveal the jewel of the content so never judge a book by its cover! Reading biographies of your heroes or those that lead your field of expertise can also be a great source of inspirational development.

An ability to write your thoughts down is also a basic requirement. I will let you into a secret, the reason I write using a computer is because my handwriting is an illegible scrawl that even I have trouble re-reading and my punctuation is also questionable. Years ago when I was at school I would have been considered nearly illiterate. Today there are many tools to help you, from spell checkers to voice to text recorders. So really nobody has any excuse not to get their thoughts down as hard copy and I have to admit that although my handwriting is appalling, it is often the only way to get the thoughts out of my head fast enough when I have an idea. When you read your vocabulary improves and in turn the content of your written thoughts also improve.

My views on mathematics are probably the most contentious by the learned and underestimated by the student. When I was young, great emphasis was placed on basic maths such as multiplication up to and including the twelve times table, the addition and subtraction of very small fractional numbers to very large whole numbers, division of numbers and the relationship between the numerators. I wish more time had been given to understand basic maths and to explain that advanced mathematics such as equations are really just a taster of the truly advanced and varied disciplines of mathematics that your profession may take you in. When you are young, take time to learn the basics. It is not easy but again perseverance is key to your understanding and success.

Leaving school and your early working years can be a time of turmoil and lack of fulfilment. How anyone can truly know what they will enjoy for an occupation when they have little or no experience of working life is impossible. How many young (and older) people are trapped in jobs that do not inspire or motivate them to use and develop all of their skills. Having an inquisitive mind about everything can lead you in directions you had possibly never thought about as a career or solution to a problem. Be a seeker of all knowledge especially those that interest you.

Last but not least and arguably the most important, dare to dream. Success is measured by the failure strewn path you will tread on your journey through life. Failure is not to be taken as a literal but more a step in your learning curve. Failure is only a true failure if you learn nothing from it. Never lose sight of your dreams and make sure your dreams are BIG!

I have been very lucky in my life so far and if I can inspire just one person to strive for a more fulfilled life, I will be a happy man. So let me give you a little insight into my success. At school above being a Motocross champion, I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, inspired by the space race to land on the moon. Life took me in a different path at school that meant I left at 15 years old with no exams taken or even any school grade. Furthermore, the job I had found myself in ceased to trade and even now I remember the day that I realised I had no qualifications and no future in fact absolutely nothing! Move forward 40 years or so and I can look back at a career path in which I have owned several small business ventures in a variety of fields including a twelve year stint building a successful haulage business from a measly $600 to a $1,600,000 turnover before selling up to go back to college to study advanced computer application programming to add to my motor vehicle engineering and transport related qualifications. A time as a non-professional motocross racer racing my own hand built machinery in the seventies and eighties to working in Formula 1, MotoGp and World Rally in a supporting role for many of the top teams and their sponsors. I have visited and driven in more than thirty countries and stayed in the best of hotels that had it not been for my job I would not have done or experienced.

I may not be a millionaire financially but I am a billionaire in the value of my experiences! Right now I am back driving a truck (or semi if your reading this in the states) I am a team leader and driver trainer for one of the UK’s leading food groups and hoping to pass on my skills as a driver so others may develop theirs further.

Am I something special? No, I certainly am not. I am no different than anyone else and I firmly believe that anyone can do what I have done and even a lot more. It all depends on how motivated you are to discover your true calling and pursue it to the level you want. There is no shame in changing direction at any point as how do we know where a path leads us until we travel it?

Am I at the end of my journey? NEVER!! Until my dying breath I will be striving to achieve, learn, be inquisitive and dream. Where will it lead me? I don’t know. But what I do know is that opportunity has to be pursued through continuous personal development. Through continuous practice of the above six core skills I have highlighted you will become a truly proficient master of your own destiny. I am in charge of my destiny and I still have a big dream so watch this space. What do you dare to dream?




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