Driving Down the Safety Highway

driving down the safety highway

High levels of electronic safety systems are now becoming the normality in all new truck launches as we continue driving down the safety highway. Tim Giles drives the latest model to check out the state-of-the-art technology in the new Isuzu N Series range.

When the latest iteration of the Isuzu N Series was announced last year, the headline feature was not a new cabin shape, or a new engine, or transmission. The headline was the fact that the top selling model, in the top selling brand in Australia was getting the latest state-of-the-art safety technology as standard.

As market leader for the last 33 years, the Isuzu Trucks organisation in Australia has developed a conservative approach to truck development. Invariably, it is rarely the first to introduce any major innovations, but when it does, it gives those developments the stamp of approval and, on the evidence of the last three decades, gets it right.

The major features of the design of the light duty N Series range need little updating. The exhaust emission rules will not change for at least three years, and probably longer. Therefore there is no need to update the engines in these trucks. Similarly, the cabins in N Series are modern enough to suit Australian needs for some time to come.

Safety systems are one aspect of truck design which has changed at quite a sharp rate in recent years, after they started to appear in the heavy duty European prime movers, some time ago. Europe will always be ahead of Australia in these matters, but the North American truck makers picked up on the trend relatively quickly, after the first systems began to arrive.

driving down the safety highway
Simon Humphries, Isuzu Australia Limited Chief Engineer, Product Strategy explaining the new system to PowerTorque Editor, Tim Giles

Since then, the safety systems have moved in throughout the truck market. Any truck maker introducing a new model without a suite of safety gadgets does not make much impression on truck sales. This is not just a fashion, it’s about taking on the responsibility to increase safety out on the roads and reduce fatalities around trucks.

There is also a duty of care on the part of employers and now the chain of responsibility, applying to transport operators, which expects them to use safety technology, if it is available.

Well, now it’s available on the ubiquitous N Series from Isuzu. The technology includes something we haven’t seen on any truck here before, a stereo camera system to see what is ahead of the truck and identify and quantify any problems to alert the driver and stop the truck if needed.

If there is one thing the Isuzu operation in Australia knows how to do, it is selling trucks, consistently over time. The new N Series is going to help the organisation carry on in a similar vein. The truck has been designed to tick all of the boxes for a truck buyer in the 2020s and has introduced enough new technology to keep it in the leading pack.

The truck maker’s situation will be further strengthened by a few aspects of this N series truck launch. the first being the introduction of a factory warranty for six years or 250,000km, plus six years roadside assistance for all of the 4×2 models in the range. 

driving down the safety highway

The other aspect is the continuing extension of the pre-built ready to work body offering, which comes along with these new models. The different options, including the Tipper, Traypack, Tradepack, Servicepack and Vanpack are being extended and developed all of the time and are making up a larger proportion of total sales for the brand continuously. 

There has been some concern about how well the Isuzu brand can keep ahead of its direct competitors. The company is a stand along operation, albeit a large one with global reach, but its major competitors are all part of much bigger global corporations with access to massive research and design funding. 

Isuzu’s answer to this issue has taken the form of a number of alliances with complementary manufacturers, to achieve the kind of R&D scale needed in the modern world. The relationship with Cummins is likely to lead to future power plants in the trucks and the purchase of UD Trucks from the Volvo Group, should see some developments, especially in the heavy duty market segment. There is also an engine deal with Hino.

Overall, on the evidence of the new N Series and its technology, the market will be seeing plenty of Isuzus on the road for a considerable time to come. These new N Series models will take the Isuzu brand well into the future, before the transition across to zero emissions ups the stakes and uncertainty. Watch this space.

driving down the safety highway

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