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ios'1/4 Voting is currently taking place for the International Truck of the Year 2009. Our UK jury member and chairman of the jury gives his low-down on the runners and riders...
Words: Andy Salter
I KNOW I SAY this every year, but the election for the International Truck of the Year 2009 is wide open, with a whole cluster of recently revamped products staking a decent claim on the trophy. The shortlist, as ever. has a maximum of six entrants, and this year's line-up includes product from Isuzu, Iveco, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Scania and Volvo.
Efficiency is key
As many readers will be aware, the winning Truck of the Year is based upon 'the vehicle launched in the past 12 months that has made the greatest contribution to road transport efficiency'. This suitably vague definition allows each jury member to assess the product based on their own judgement of what is important in terms of efficiency in their market.
As the UK jury member,! always focus on a product's fuel efficiency and overall operating efficiency, including service support, parts availability, backup and payload. The product features are important, but I'm more concerned with the product's benefits and how they relate to efficiency.
The 21-member jury consists of leading journalists from the top magazines and websites in countries throughout Europe. Each jury member has 12 votes to cast, and can give no more than seven of them to any one candidate.
All the voting forms are sent to the independent adjudicator at the [RU in Switzerland for counting and the result will be announced at the IAA Truck Show in Hannover on 23 September.
The newest product in this lineup, the Isuzu N Series, probably has the least chance of scooping the gold medal, despite its decent credentials. It's handicapped by only being sold in a minority of European markets, as many of the jury members won't see it as a relevant product. While the product ticks all the boxes for a decent chunk of UK votes, avoiding the wooden spoon should be seen as a major achievement, Scania is the first EGR-equipped truck to be offered with Euro-5 certification, enabling operators to take advantage of the tax benefits on offer around Europe. However, to be elected Truck of the Year usually requires a bit more than a new engine offering, and we expect Scania to be battling it out with Isuzu for the minor rankings.
The remaining four products in the line-up all have a very strong chance of scooping top honours, and it's a difficult call to make.
Renault has gone close in the last two years with its Premium tractor range and then the Lander construction line-up, and it could be third time lucky for the French. The new Magnum is a significant improvement on its predecessor, with drivers and operators impressed by its performance, efficiency and driveability. Magnum is only a bit player in the UK tractor market, which will hamper its UK votes, but it has plenty of fans elsewhere in Europe.
Sister company Volvo Trucks has scraped into this year's shortlist on account of series production of its new FH range commencing in Septemberthe cut-off is 1 October and has all the credentials to hit the mark with the jury. It looks good, drives well and benefits from the proven Volvo driveline. Due to it only being launched earlier this summer we haven't had much of a chance to assess its full merits, although this didn't stop MAN from scooping gold last year.
Mercedes-Benz has been very active in promoting its new Actros since launch earlier this year and the 30-plus improvement items have been well received by those who have sampled them. Actros has continued to evolve and the improvements address many of the concerns previously voiced by users. Yet for all this, we can't help but thinking the new Actros is a marketing makeover rather than a substantial step forward.
Iveco has made the biggest improvement to its product in the shape of the new Eurocargo, although it probably had the most to do to bring its product up to scratch. The new Cargo is a definite runner in the medium-weight sector lightweight, efficient and well-proven. Light trucks don't have a good record in the International Truck of the Year, but in a wide-open contest the new Iveco would seem to have a strong opportunity to take top spot.
All the candidates have strong credentials, but for what it's worth, we'd expect a running order of Iveco, Mercedes, Renault, Volvo, Isuzu and Scania.
All will be revealed in CM at the start of October...