Ed Higginson joins the Scania Master Trainers to keep his skill set up to date before the launch of the New Generation truck range in 2018
Have you ever jumped behind the wheel of a modern truck recently and wondered what all the buttons, symbols and acronyms meant? No matter how much effort is made by truck designers to make life easier for the driver with better ergonomics, if you regularly drove the previous model Volvo FH and then jumped into the new FH model, or from a Kenworth T609 into a T610, or the older Mercedes Actros into the New Generation this year, I’m sure it took you a few runs to get to know all of the features.
Most reputable transport businesses in Australia understand the importance of ensuring every driver is fully inducted before heading out on the road. But how many show each employee the new features of a truck when handed the keys, especially if it’s not their full-time drive, or they are only using the machine for a single shift. If you want to get the best out of your new trucks, improve your fuel efficiency, reduce wear and tear, increase driver safety or just lower driving stress, it’s well worth the effort.
Scania has known this for many years, spending a lot of effort and resources in providing excellent support to drivers. This is done through its in-house highly experienced trainers, Peak Efficiency training programs, onboard Driver Support functions, plus extra sources of useful information with online websites, YouTube videos and the Scania dedicated apps.
Recently I joined Lindsay Pollock, one of Scania’s Master Driver Trainers, for a run in a fully loaded G440 to experience the company’s Driver Peak Efficiency programme firsthand.
The day started with a full professional vehicle handover, showing just how this should be done. It would also be a good opportunity to refamiliarise myself with the current models before the New Generation Scanias hit the market around April.
Scania vehicle training programmes specifically focus on providing new drivers with all of the information they need to operate any of its truck and bus range at the optimum performance levels. The programme, which takes around four hours with one of Scania’s own Master Driver Trainers, is offered free of charge when you purchase a new vehicle, or for a small fee if you want refresher training during the vehicle’s life.
It covers all of the important aspects for getting behind he wheel, from pre-trip inspections inside and out, instruments, safety features and more. It also importantly runs through the Euro 5 low-revving engine, which gives maximum torque between 1000 and 1500 rpm, and requires a different driving style from trucks of just a few years ago.
On the day that I joined Lindsay Pollock, we kicked off at the Campbellfield dealership where our G440 demo truck was sitting connected to a fully-loaded curtainsider trailer.
Lindsay started off by showing me how to open the bonnet (latch is hidden in the driver’s door pillar so not easy to find) then proceeded to show me the essentials. The main issue here is that the locally added bullbar had to be lowered down to access under the bonnet, so you then had to step through the bullbar or stand on it to check the oil, which can be tricky and a little awkward.
Once the outside was covered, we then jumped behind the wheel and started to run through the many features of the current model, such as how and when to engage diff locks, cross locks and the load share feature. Then onto the cruise control, downhill speed control and the offset speed control, all of which were conveniently operated from the steering wheel.
We then ran through the Scania Opticruise transmission, controlled with a single stalk just below the steering wheel and also giving the options to select standard mode, power mode, economy or off-road functions. As a side note, fleet operators can choose to lock the truck into economy mode if they want to persuade drivers to stay out of power mode and conserve fuel. With the stalk, you can also select manual shift changes if the conditions need it, however, on the road, I’m more than confident to let the modern computers concentrate on the gears whilst I look ahead. Next Lindsay explained the instruments, braking systems, retarder controls, seat adjustments, climate controls, storage and more.
It all sounds like a very long start to a shift, but, realistically, it only took 15 minutes and much quicker than trying to figure it all out yourself whilst on the move. Drivers are also offered a 10-page quick guide that was a very useful reference for the key elements of the truck. This is ideal and very welcome for drivers that jump into any truck without having the benefit of a hands-on training session.
With everything explained, we fired up the engine and jumped out to do our walk around and check the lights. Modern Scanias, like most trucks these days, only need a minute or two to warm up before moving off in the morning. The days of starting a truck then heading inside for your coffee are long gone.
Another key feature to Scania’s ongoing driver training is the Driver Support feature on all its models. This was launched back in 2009, with new features added since.
Driver Support is a dash display that constantly assesses how a driver is performing in four key categories: hill driving, use of brakes, anticipation and choice of gears.
Once the driver trainer has signed you off and you are familiar with the information available, the simple dash display offers tips and scores on each of the four topics, enabling the driver to maintain and improve their driving skills and benefit fuel efficiency over time. It may sound like big brother is constantly giving you a driving test, but, in fact, it helps you adapt your driving style to match the truck. Helpful suggestions could be to lift off the throttle slightly before cresting the top of the hill, not to accelerate down the hill, not to accelerate and then brake seconds later, use your retarder, or to let the truck roll (in gear and in control) to save as much fuel as possible.
The system can also be linked back to Scania connected services and driver development, which offers reports to drivers and operators on the truck and driver’s performance for further coaching, or for drivers to phone directly. These features are then also available through the online website or Scania app along with vehicle tracking data.
The cab of the G440 sits between the top end R-cab and smaller P-cab. The internal layout in each cab variant is consistent across the range, which helps with driver familiarity, but the size you go for will depend on the application and how many horses you need underneath.
The G-cab arrived in Australia back in 2010 and has gained favour in many local distribution fleets for single and light B-double work. Our truck for the day was fitted with Scania’s DC13 engine at Euro 5 (ADR80/03) with 12.7-litre, in-line, six-cylinder engine rated at 440 hp (324 kW) @ 1900 rpm giving 2300 Nm (1696 ft-lb) of torque @1000-1300 rpm. This can also be rated up to 480 hp (353 kW) @1900 rpm with torque of 2400 Nm (1700 ft-lb) @1000-1350 rpm.
As we took the truck out of the Campbellfield dealership and turned right up the old Hume Hwy towards Craigieburn, loaded with a GCM of around 40 tonnes, it was striking how relaxing the drive was, particularly with the torque at such low revs. With Lindsay offering tips and guidance on all the features to assist along the way, the drive was very relaxing and not like a driving test at all. Lindsay adds that he is not there teach a driver how to drive, just to drive more efficiently and to enjoy the trucks.
We would take the back roads through Kilmore to Puckapunyal then join the main Hume Hwy back into town. The short route gave us a good mix of slow and fast hills to gain and understanding on how the Driver Support system worked, and, importantly, scored us over the four hours. Once you get used to how far the Scania will coast without hitting the throttle, and how strong the retarder is, you soon learn to match your style with the truck to quickly reduce fuel burn.
This showed how effective the specific training with the vehicle could be. Without Lindsay’s guidance I doubt I would have driven the way he explained, and may have taken a while to get up to speed, if ever, at the same level.
Scania believes that they see up to 10 percent fuel savings after training, so the time spent is well worth the effort. This in turn should see the Scania models favour well against their competitors in mixed fleets, with the aim to hopefully help with sales in the long run.
After getting a sneak preview of some of the New Generation models under evaluation prior to launch, specific product training will be crucial on delivery. The new interior and Euro 6 engines will take a bit of getting used to, so if you want to see the savings from day one, spend the time and effort in running your employees through the programmes so you can all sit back and enjoy the purchase.