By the time you read this article the Euro 5 engine will no longer be available for the 3500kg vehicles, which form the backbone of our industry’s operations and we will have embraced the cleaner Euro 6 engine. This is a great step forward for the environment and air quality but there are potential problems on the horizon, albeit a less hazy horizon.
Several months back I explored the issues around engine changes and the use of AdBlue® in agriculture and the potential effects on the machines used in our industry. With AdBlue® now a standard component on many light commercials what are the concerns. We’ve all seen large AdBlue® tanks fitted to HGVs, separate from the diesel tank and with a big blue filler cap, not really practical on a 3500kg tipper, but the solution from some manufacturers is to fit the fillers for both diesel and AdBlue® in the same place. A potential costly problem should miss-fuelling occur and especially if AdBlue® finds its way into the fuel system.
Many Euro 6 engines also require a regeneration of the particulate filter to burn off the collected soot, this can only be done by getting the engine up to full operating temperature for period of time so this can take place. Not a problem if your vehicle operates on the motorways or A roads, but a major headache in short stop/start operations. So what’s the solution, more attention when refuelling should prevent cross contamination but you may have to take your vehicles for a 20 mile drive along the nearest motorway every month to regenerate the DPF filter, not really practical but it could become a necessity.
The second issue is around weight, over the last few years the unladen weight of a standard 3.5t truck has slowly increased, side protection bars, cage sides, tail lifts, tow bars and the like becoming standard components on today’s workhorse. The cleaner Euro 6 system is no lightweight with the weight of the tank, liquid, DPF and ancillary components eating into the available payload, so much so that a new 3500kg double-cab tipper fitted with cage sides, under-run bars and tow bar can weigh in at 2700kg. Then put five people in the cab with all their PPE and snap boxes and you end up with 400kg of useable payload, not much for materials and equipment. Ok you have the trailer to carry the heavy stuff but what if you operate in a built-up area and using a trailer is impractical, you may opt for a tail-lift, further reducing your useable payload.
For those of us who operate beaver-tail type vehicles to move machinery around there is a bigger issue, not only is the Euro 6 vehicle heavier but there is the potential that the next generation of cleaner engines fitted to ride-on mowers and compact tractors could also be heavier. Imagine your truck carrying a triple mower fuelled up and ready to go but without a driver light enough to keep it within the 3500kg weight limit!
So what are our options, not much we can do with the basic vehicle as that’s dictated by the manufacturer, we can specify lighter bodywork for the tipper or drop side, carry less, tow more or increase the size of the vehicle to 4600kg which then takes you into Operators Licencing, tachographs and potentially driver CPC’s. You could consider 4×4 pick-ups but then you lose physical carrying capacity for both people and equipment. We used to have the option of petrol engines for 3500kg trucks alas this is no longer the case, ironic when car manufacturers are boasting how much lighter, cleaner and more powerful their petrol engines are, maybe it’s time for a rethink.
Angus Lindsay, Group Head of Asset & Fleet Management