Commerce might come to a standstill if it wasn’t for the trucking industry. Without these behemoths, it wouldn’t just be difficult for goods to reach cities; moving raw materials in bulk to factories would be very hard, too.
Trucking is serious business, but according to Olivier Metzger, it’s also quite interesting. The 42-year-old Frenchman started his trucking career in 2002 in Renault Trucks, just after it had been acquired by Volvo Trucks.
Olivier’s experience as a “trucker” includes two years in Ukraine as Renault Trucks’ country managing director, where he led a network of seven dealers. He also spent over five years in France as the MD for Renault Trucks Strasbourg.
Olivier speaks to Torque about the truck industry, and tells us why holistic solutions are the key to a trucking company’s success.
You could have gone into cars, but why did you choose trucks?
Trucking is a business-to-business operation with a high technological playing field. It’s also nice to have my two kids say: “Dad, I want to ride in your truck!”
Are trucks more advanced
I won’t say more advanced. But today’s trucks have plenty of telematics. The automatic gearbox, for instance, is optimised by software that uses data to tell it what type of roads are ahead.
Was this technology implemented on trucks first?
No. It’s relatively new and only available on European trucks that meet Euro 6 emission standards.
After being with Renault Trucks, are the challenges similar to the ones in Volvo Trucks?
They’re completely different because of the market. I spent two years in Ukraine and five in France. Now I’m in Singapore, and the country’s economy and spirit are completely different. The differences are mainly based on where you are.
What are the challenges facing Volvo Trucks in Singapore?
We have been pretty strong in the last four years. But we still have a lot of work to do to make our partners and customers understand what we’re about. We don’t just sell trucks – we want to sell clients a solution.
We offer Dynafleet, a fleet management software. The information it provides trucking companies includes fuel consumption and driver habits in real time. We can even set up alerts for these two. Everything is made to help fleet owners run their fleet.
Are holistic solutions what fleet owners want?
These owners have two big challenges. The first is fuel consumption, which makes up 35 to 50 percent of their total cost. We tell our customers we can improve that to 5 to 20 percent.
The second is never having an empty/idle truck. We can deliver information on every truck – its location, speed and estimated time of arrival to its destination.
Dynafleet lets companies select which truck to send to pick up/deliver orders. It tracks drivers’ work shifts so companies know who is available.
How else can trucking companies reduce their fuel costs, apart from buying newer, more efficient trucks?
This can be done through driver coaching. We have a facility in Tuas where we conduct driver training. When you talk about reducing the environmental impact of vehicles, there’s no way to eliminate the need for trucks.
Almost everything you consume requires trucking. The most efficient way is still via trucks. Maybe one day, the small trucks that go into cities will be powered by electricity or bio-diesel.
What’s the average downtime for truck maintenance?
The minimum would be a few hours in the workshop once a year. On average? This is difficult to say. It depends how long you keep your truck. A new one doesn’t need much maintenance in its first three years.
After that, trucks need more and more preventive servicing to keep them going. In Europe, the big transport companies keep the trucks for only three to four years to avoid the future downtime.
Does this make it easier to have repeat customers?
No. You still have to deliver good service. The sales guy sells the first truck, but it’s the aftersales division that sells the other ones.
The quality of the aftersales service matters. It all boils down to how you define partnerships with customers. They make money with our tools, so they have to be efficient and productive.
How often are new truck
It’s usually every 10 to 15 years. But today, what matters more is the software that goes into a truck. We started Dynafleet in 1994. Connectivity makes it easier to upgrade. Software updates can be downloaded, but the main upgrades can only be done at the workshop.
When you joined the truck industry, did you have to know how to drive a truck?
No. But I have driven three trucks on closed tracks. The first one I drove was a Mack – a huge American truck that was very difficult to drive. Back then, trucks had manual gearboxes that were not synchronised. Just changing gears was a nightmare!
What was the first car
It was probably one of the Renault company cars I had. I’ve had a Safrane and a Scenic. My current company vehicle is a Volvo S80 T5. But it’s frustrating to drive here because of the speed limit. You feel the engine’s power, but you can’t drive any faster than 90km/h!