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UD Trucks’ new quest and why it thinks fleets are ready to be smarter

UD Trucks tells T&FME that the region is ready for new truck technology

Huddled in the paddock of the Bahrain International Circuit, T&FME is sitting with the UD Trucks team just hours after they have revealed the New Quester truck. And they’re asking for feedback. Scrambling through some mental notes, one word comes to mind…quiet.

18 months ago, the magazine had flown to Japan to take the Croner through its paces. That medium- duty had been ripped to be ideal for the Middle East but it was a very different ride experience from the Quon, its local market heavy hauler that it pitches at companies that are increasingly cost-conscious, challenged by a lack of drivers and wanting to plug into smart logistics. During BIC testing, the New Quester, Quon’s emerging market off-spring, feels and sounds far closer to that model than the Croner – even if they share similar stylings.

Jacques Michel, SVP Sales Area International, UD Trucks tells T&FME that in every way this is a new truck packed with features and wrapped in services to disrupt the industry in the region. “The New Quester is a new gamechanger,” he starts.

The New Quester was first unveiled in January and formally launched in February from its production hub in Thailand. Now it’s time to start rolling it out in the emerging markets it is intended for; and the Middle East will be one of the first to test whether it meets the company’s mantra of “Going the Extra Mile” for its customers.

Rather than tear up its blueprint of robustness and reliability, UD Trucks has wisely taken the existing platform and introduced key features such as the ESCOT automated manual transmission, engines with higher horsepower, an air suspended cab and ride comfort package which reduces cab vibrations by up to 18% (and optional new high roof sleeper cabin is also available) and plugged it all into its user-friendly UD Telematics solution, “to deliver greater fuel efficiency, productivity, driver efficiency, safety, and uptime.” While fleets can still go for a vanilla vehicle, UD believes the region is ready for the full-fat version, especially as skilled drivers are hard to find, and fuel continues to rise in price.

Michel confirms to T&FME that part of the development of the truck required testing in the region and that feedback has made it into the truck. Talking to its customers here has also bolstered its opinion that the Middle East is ready to accept a truck from UD that capitalises on the company’s shared DNA with the rest of the Volvo Group. Although he is quick to stress that UD has its own deep legacy in the region to fall back on when creating a new vehicle.

“UD Trucks was previously known as Nissan Diesel and has very long story dating back to 1935. It has been part of the Volvo Group since 2007 but most important is its unique trucking history in the region. It has been here for half a century and has seen the evolution from where it was to where it is today,” he explains. “In all those years, our philosophy has not changed: the way we are developing trucks; the way we are launching trucks; and the way we are supporting our customers.

“And it’s based on the heritage of our Japanese history. We celebrate our Japanese heritage to make sure that we deliver products and services that are very durable and very reliable.  We see some major trends in our industry, and we look to our customers to business partners to make sure we understand. As well as the world’s largest truck manufacturer and distributor in the world, it’s very important that we understand what’s going what’s going on in the economy and what’s going on in the logistic industry. We need to make sure that we have the right truck and services for our customers so that they can succeed. When we looked at what we needed, we put ourselves, not only in Japan, but also very close to our customers in all the GCC markets.”

He describes the transportation industry in the region as being in a very challenging environment and extremely competitive. This, he has learned from UD’s distributor partners, is shaping demand and an appetite for efficient products and services.

“For sure in this region, the oil is not that expensive for our customers, but the environment is something which is extremely important. And we need to make sure that we have trucks that are extremely fuel consumption efficient. Safety is also very important. We need to be part of the solution and it is true that we have a safer transport solution.”

Like other regions, he further argues that the shortage of skilled drivers and skills training. The New Quester then, is an opportunity to introduce its training programmes for drivers but also tie it into the UD’s telematics solution – offered as a free limited service up to a year for fleets – which can provide real time data on driver behaviour.

“It’s (driver skills training) is something which is extremely important. It’s one of the biggest challenges when we talk to all of our customers. And we need to make sure that we’re coming up with a solution to support them,” he says, adding that UD is convinced that it is introducing disruptive technologies into its line-up at the right time.

“When we put it all together (the new truck, services, UD Telematics) we thought we needed to put all of this together. We came to what we call Smart Logistics. Smart logistics is embedded into the New Quester with the services that we are bringing. We aim to offer new solutions for our fleet operators, for single owner drivers, to make sure we have the right solution for all our customers in different markets and environments.”

UD believes its smart connectivity features support an increasing trend of new logistics delivery solutions “that are offered by technology and local start-up companies” in the Middle East. Michel also argues that the New Quester will help fleets prepare for the types of projects, regulations and applications needed in the comping years.

“There’s an immense need for more heavy duty and more efficient trucks. The MENA region is one of the most dynamic and we see the economy being pulled very much by construction infrastructure development and it’s very important for businesses to be a success by being a contributor of the economic progress for this region.”

He continues: “Sure, we’re bringing disruptive technologies but that’s just one part of the equation. How do you manage innovation to improve your customer’s business on a daily basis? Yes, we are truckers. But beyond, we are a people business. We are in the people business. B2B.”

Mourad Hedna, President of UD Trucks MEENA, agrees with Michel that the truck industry in the region is changing rapidly and increasingly conscious of the total cost of ownership (TCO).

“Fuel used to be relatively cheap in the GCC but as you know it’s becoming more and more expensive. And in some countries in Africa fuel is extremely expensive. So that’s why fuel consumption for any transport company represents a big portion of the total operating costs. And we cannot ignore it. With the New Quester we have addressed that in a very smart way.”

Read the our full coverage of the New Quester in the May issue of Truck & Fleet Middle East

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Stephen Whitehttps://truckandfleetme.com/
Stephen White was formerly editor of Big Project ME.
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