THE RAI SHOW IS BACK. TIM DE JONG EXPLORES.
After another three-year absence, the RAI Show made a successful comeback in Amsterdam last month. This time, the trailer manufacturers took centre stage. The truck industry – represented by all seven manufacturers – had to back off a bit, and was to be found scattered all over the exhibition ﬂoor.
Past years hadn’t been good to the RAI show. It was way back in 2007 that the ﬁnal RAI Show was organised – at a size most of us remember, occupying all halls in a complex just south of Amsterdam. Due to the credit crunch, the 2009 show was cancelled – leading to a period of uncertainty. Many Dutch truck executives feared that the 2007 event was to be its last.
With most of the economic pain resolved by 2012, RAI managed to agree with all truck industry members that a show should be staged the same year. That event itself was half the size most of us were accustomed to: show days were cut and lasted only ﬁve days, instead of the regular ten.
This was now the template for this year’s revamped edition. Again, all truck manufacturers decided to give it a go. Early stages saw the RAI agreeing with its Special Vehicles members (the trailer manufacturers), that they would only appear at the RAI Show – and nowhere else. This is because there are other truck- and trailer shows in The Netherlands, actually twice a year. The success of these, which are held in the western and eastern regions of the country, had been a serious threat to the RAI Show. German trailer giants Krone and Schmitz are very fond of these exhibitions. They stay away from the RAI, which they ﬁnd way too expensive. Ironically – and perhaps signiﬁcantly – both manufacturers account for more than two-thirds of the Dutch trailer market.
And that’s why this year all the major Dutch trailer manufacturers were gathered in the central hall of the RAI. Nooteboom took central stage with its new MANOOVR semi low-loader. In the words of spokesman, Johan van de Water, Nooteboom had a very good RAI Show: “We took down a signiﬁcant number of orders for our new trailer. We’re talking about millions here. Orders for the MANOOVR came from Dutch customers, but also from Britain, Germany and Spain.” As for the new arrangements on the exhibition ﬂoor, van de Water says this was a good decision by the RAI. “Trucks and trailers could be found at random now, which is much better. However, we did hear from foreign visitors that they expected the exhibition to be much larger. But in our view, the RAI is a ﬁne national exhibition, which cannot be compared with, for instance, the IAA in Hanover.”
Just opposite, as you might guess, we found Broshuis showing its air-sprung variant of the SL-semi low loader. Broshuis says it sold several trailers during the Show, and that it also met foreign customers, mainly from Germany and Denmark. Broshuis says its experience of this RAI edition was ‘fantastic’ – they are eager to be a part of the show’s next edition in 2017.
FOREIGN DOMINATION, HOME RESISTANCE
Dutch manufacturers produce much more than just lowloaders or semi low-loaders. In Holland, there are a lot of trailer manufacturers who are all much smaller than the two mass-producing German giants mentioned earlier. Because Krone and Schmitz have taken two-thirds of the Dutch trailer market, it inevitably forced the home-grown industry to go for broke – to merge or to specialise.
Most of the Dutch chose the latter. For instance, Pacton Trailers BV, which is a renowned Dutch name, only produces a third of the quantity it did before the crisis: but in its current size all is well for the company, and their customer-base extends to many different countries. Other manufacturers enjoying the main hall of the RAI Show were Van Eck, Trias, Heiwo and Hertoghs. All of them showed special elements – the main reason why the RAI Show was such a success in the past. At Heiwo, a distinctive airfreight trailer was on display: outside the complex, right in front of the main hall. This particular trailer showed why ﬁrms like Heiwo are totally conﬁdent that no other – for instance, German – competitor will be able to produce similar.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Technical superiority is another strength the Dutch intend to advertise when they become chair of the European Commission, in January 2016. The Dutch have taken ﬁrst steps on the path of platooning: trucks following each other at very short distance electronically, thus gaining fuel savings and road space. The word, despite its military echoes, means a group acting or moving together, and derives from the French peloton, (the term to describe the bunch of leading cyclists in the Tour de France, Or Holland.)
Both Scania and DAF have their largest plants in Holland. Earlier this year, a demonstration of platooning Scania trucks on Dutch motorways made it all the way onto the nine o’clock news. Six weeks later, in another kind of a hurry, journalists and the Transport Minister witnessed a similar test in the Eindhoven region, where DAF are located. As you can imagine, those were two reasons why Mercedes-Benz brought its autonomous-driving futuristic truck to the RAI Show. On another truck by the way: it didn’t undertake the journey autonomously from Stuttgart to Amsterdam.
Still, the Future Truck 2025 made an impression: the Dutch really are wondering what will happen to the profession of truck-driving in the upcoming years. A shortage is expected, but when witnessing the speed at which this new technology develops – as well as the interest from the transport ministry – it is obvious that the Dutch are keen to switch to driverless trucks as soon as possible. Laws have been adapted already to allow platooning trucks on Dutch roads. Autonomous driving will be a only matter of time: the Dutch are eager to be part of the new technological development.
THE FUTURE WILL BE QUIET
Technology less far in the future was the brand new LNG-truck from Scania, and their very new P320 Hybrid. Scania, who put a very good-looking Silver Griffin V8 on their stand, clearly intends to become the most sustainable truck manufacturer, offering the widest range of models possible. Their latest effort is this Hybrid. An electric motor has been mounted on an Opticruise transmission: the driver only has to ﬂip a switch on the dash to have full electric traction – for the ﬁnal quiet mile at night, to reach a shop somewhere downtown or in the suburbs. Silent distribution is a hot topic in The Netherlands. The truck industry has several techniques to achieve it. DAF Trucks, for instance, has had great success with its Silent Models. DAF placed a switch on the dashboard of the CF and XF, so the driver stays underneath the 72 Db(A) sound emissions limit. At the RAI Show, DAF showed an LF versions of their Silent truck range as well. But MAN, Volvo and Renault are not so eager to assist their customers with more silent distribution. In Amsterdam, Volvo showed a kind of racetruck; and an FH sprayed in a gold colour to draw attention to the maintenance contracts you can get with your Volvo truck.
Iveco was the only manufacturer to have a stand in the central hall. It displayed the new EuroCargo and a couple of variants of the Daily van, all with the new eight-speed Hi Matic gearbox. They also showed powerful versions of the Stralis, which was a smart move with Nooteboom and Broshuis heavy low-loaders around them. We mention Iveco, because they have a nice business in Holland with Stralis trucks driven by LNG (liqueﬁed natural gas). In Holland, there are some 300 trucks driving on pure LNG, which is not the dual fuel solution we see in Britain. The Cursor 10 engine is being used in a 330hp form, often combined with a manual gear change.
At the RAI Show, there was also the new trailer of Kraker on display. This manufacturer specialises in moving ﬂoor trailers. Kraker has developed a completely new trailer, which is mainly bolted together, not welded. The new trailer should be lighter, more durable, and should have more loading capacity. It is so much easier to manufacture that Kraker expects to gain ﬁfty percent in production time. The new trailer will be produced from next year.
At the end of the fourth day more than 55,000 visitors had passed through the entrance gates. It became obvious that – in a healthy economy – the RAI certainly deserves its place on the heavy transport agenda. Even though for the ﬁrst time, some reach trucks were on display as well, and there was some emphasis on the Logistics world, all who showed agreed that they had seen the public they were looking for – and they’d found the business they’d wanted.