DAF Trucks celebrates 90 years in its birthplace Eindhoven – Report by Sven-Erik Lindstrand.

Think of Holland, and, if you have a European background, you’ll probably be thinking of daffodils, canals and a national dress that includes wooden clogs as footwear. If you have a transport background, you’ll probably be thinking of DAF Trucks, a success story for European trucking that includes innovation and plenty of reasons to celebrate as the brand reaches its 90th anniversary.

On April 1, 1928, Dutchmen Hub and Vim van Doorne initiated a small mechanical workshop in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. History has it that Hub was the innovator while his brother Vim was the accounter.

Initially, its work involved welding and forging for the city of Eindhoven and local companies such as Philips, the light globe and radio manufacturer, in a small workshop that was established in a corner of the local Coolen brewery.

The DAF Museum contains parts of the original workshop as well as a collection of vehicles that illustrates the diversity of the DAF brand through the years. It’s one of the best trucking museums that PowerTorque has ever visited, and well worth a detour for any Australians heading through Europe.

From a humble introduction 90 years ago, DAF has evolved into a global truck manufacturer, since 1996 owned by American PACCAR.

During the great depression of the 1930s, the two brothers began to manufacture drawbar trailers and semitrailers that stood out from the crowd due to the use of a welded chassis, a relatively unique feature for the time that enabled higher than normal payloads.

In 1932 the company name was changed to Van Doorne’s Aanhangwagen Factory, which in turn was shortened to DAF. Trailer production continued, with the debut of a container trailer in 1936, which was designed to quickly load and unload containers from railway wagons. This made DAF an early supplier of container vehicles.

By 1948, it was time for a new focus and the company name was changed to Van Doornes Automobile Factory, still retaining its DAF abbreviation.

On July 28, 1949, the first truck rolled off the assembly line. One year later, a special truck factory was built and production started with 3.0, 5.0 and 6.0-ton trucks.

The first DAF trucks in the early 1950s left the factory as a chassis with a bonnet and a temporary driver’s seat, often consisting of just a wooden box. The chassis were driven to a bodybuilder for installation of locally manufactured cabs and fitted with bodywork such as flatbeds and dump trucks.

During the reconstruction of a Europe devastated by World War II, the 1950s saw a strong development of international freight transport by road. Dutch transport companies were on the alert and took the lead.

In 1951, DAF introduced its own truck cab with round corners and an oblique grill for better aerodynamics. Driver comfort was improved with a suspended seat, and within six years DAF was introducing its heavy DO series with sleeper cabs.

In 1958, DAF started production of small passenger cars. They were characterised by a stepless automatic transmission with belts, called Variomatic, which was considered to be the first CVT or continuously variable transmission. Volvo bought the car business in the 1970s and the DAF 66 became the Volvo 66. A derivative of the transmission also made it onto the race circuit in Formula 3, and the concept remains in production with the system now manufactured by Bosch.

In 1962, the 2600 truck model was presented at the RAI truck show in Amsterdam, setting a new standard for international long-distance hauling. The cab could accommodate two beds and was perceived by many as second to none. Power brakes and power steering were other features that facilitated the driver’s demanding job.

In 1969, DAF was one of the earliest manufacturers to introduce a tilting mechanism for the cabover engine model, which greatly improved maintenance access

In 1984, the famous “Space Cab” was introduced with its raised roof, which made life a little more comfortable for the driver.

In 1994, DAF presented its “Super Space Cab”, which was even more generous in terms of driver comfort and interior design. Today’s top model XF105 continues the tradition and is considered to have one of the most spacious cabs on the market.

Initially, Hercules and Perkins petrol and diesel engines were used, but in 1957 the first original DAF-labelled engines were constructed. Two years later, in 1959, the performance was improved with turbocharging, and, in 1973, an intercooler was added to the turbo to make history as the first in the truck world to feature turbocharging and intercooling. The technology was developed to give higher power, and at the same time lower fuel consumption. Soon air cooling was found to be indispensable for cleaner exhaust emissions.

In the early 1990s, after the first Gulf War, the world economy worsened and truck sales fell dramatically in all markets. In 1993, the DAF brand became insolvent and the company entered receivership. The turnaround came in 1996 when the company was acquired by PACCAR in USA, joining the same stable that includes Kenworth and Peterbilt.

With the purchase of DAF, PACCAR also got access to a separate engine programme of its own.

In 2005, the DAF engines went through a name change to become classified under the collective group of PACCAR MX. This engine range now features in all three brands and in different power and torque capabilities, manufactured in Eindhoven for the European market and in Columbus, Mississippi, for installation in Kenworth and Peterbilt products in North America. Today, MX11 and MX13 engines are installed in 40 percent of Kenworths and Peterbilts, also giving economies of scale.

From 2007 to 2017, some 600,000 MX engines have been manufactured. Of these, about 420,000 were for DAF and 180,000 for the two North American brands.

DAF launched the new LF, CF and XF series in 2001 and 2002, the award-winning XF105 model in 2005, and the Euro 4 and 5 programme in 2006. A full range of new, ultra-clean Euro 6 models entered production in 2013. And, in 2017, the New CF and New XF were named International Truck of the Year 2018 for their class-leading transport efficiency and impressive fuel efficiency gain of 7.0 percent. Also in 2017, in the United Kingdom, the New LF was awarded Commercial Fleet Truck of the Year.

In terms of this year’s total market in Europe, DAF president and CEO, Preston Feight, expects it to increase a few percent to over 300,000 heavy units. Feight also says that this year has started well for DAF. After two months, the overall market share was 16.3 percent, and compared to the full year 2017 it is an increase with some tenths.

Preston Feight was appointed president of DAF Trucks on April 1, 2016. He had then been with PACCAR for 18 years, with his most recent assignment as PACCAR vice-president and general manager of Kenworth Trucks. He succeeded Harrie Schippers, who was promoted to PACCAR senior vice-president with responsibility for DAF Trucks and PACCAR Parts at the corporate office in Seattle, USA.

DAF trucks are manufactured in the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Brazil. A total of 1100 resellers are located on five continents, including Australia.

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