John Keogh talks to Land, Sea & Air Magazine about the current trends in the commercial vehicle market and what types of vehicles businesses are opting to add to their fleets

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Trade (SMMT, 2018), the commercial vehicle industry witnessed a period of consistent volume growth between late 2012 and mid-2016 with an increase of 140k registrations to its 380k peak.

This growth area was dominated by the pickup and the <3.5t van segments, which is a trend we have also seen within the Rygor business, as well as the industry as a whole.

HGVs are the most intensively used vehicles, travelling further on average than cars or vans. These types of vehicles are travelling less distance, but are carrying more goods since the 1990s, owing to a shift away from using smaller HGV vehicles, either towards larger trucks or vans.

The truck market is mature, it is steady with no long-term growth or decline. There has over the past few years been a couple of spikes in vehicle demand, but these have predominantly been down to changes in legislation. For example, an increase in vehicle cost post legislation change has at times prompted accelerated buying patterns.

However, relatively speaking, the truck market has remained consistent. One of the major trends has been a shift from the demand for smaller tractor units, to larger 44t 6×2 units. This change has been influenced by consolidation in the transport arena. Many larger companies increasingly prefer the greater flexibility 6×2 trucks can offer their business’ fleet requirements.

Heavy duty rigid is also a growth area due to the fact that smaller rigid work can instead be carried out by van operators. This is particularly prevalent when looking at delivery companies who need to increasingly carry out online order drop-offs and collections.

The industry will of course continue to see the effects of legislation changes going into next year, when the Ultra-Low Emission Zone will mean that anyone operating an HGV inside the designated area of the Capital, will need to be operating a Euro 6 vehicle. Following the initial implementation in April 2019, this legislation will expand out to the North and South Circular Roads and this will no doubt force replacement of vehicles quicker than normal turnaround rates in this area.

Positively, for those looking to run new HGVs, the latest technologies available on these intelligent vehicles offer increased comfort along with heightened safety features. For example, the new Mercedes-Benz Actros will be fitted with drive assist cameras instead of wing mirrors and full automated braking. These technological advancements are real benefits for companies and offer better driver comfort too – essential as more and more businesses are listening to their drivers’ feedback when it comes to purchasing or leasing commercial vehicles. With improvements and developments in technologies emerging frequently, it is likely that the lifespan of commercial vehicles will increase as commercial vehicles are becoming more intelligent and can predict necessary maintenance works. This allows a company to maximise vehicle uptime, by being able to plan visits to the workshop.

In recent years, the growth of van traffic has increased faster than that of car in the UK. 2014 saw a peak in this trend, with van traffic reaching 45 billion vehicle miles. The proportion of traffic accounted for by vans has increased over the past 30 years, from nine per cent in 1984 to 14 per cent in 2014.

At Rygor, we expect to see continued growth in this area. This is likely to be influenced by a movement towards online retailing and the need for increased customer delivery options.

We tend to find that vans are frequently being bought by smaller traders and there has been an increase in businesses purchasing vehicles on finance agreements as they offer cash-flow management for companies. With so many excellent financing options currently available, a quality and reliable product has become even more affordable for a greater number of businesses.

What’s more, with the move towards electrification and the environmental and economic advantages this will offer fleet operators, we are likely to see more businesses exploring their van options over the next few years.

For the team at Rygor, the launch of the Mercedes-Benz luxurious pickup has been an exciting time. Launched at the end of 2017, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class is a product that everyone is talking about, as it offers customers an excellent work and lifestyle vehicle option. Pickup demand continues to grow year on year, with the UK continuing to be the most popular market in Europe for this body style.

John Keogh is Rygor Sales Director. Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicle Dealer group, Rygor, has branches throughout Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, West London, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire, offering extensive coverage for customers through the M5, M4 and M42 corridors. The business has expanded and gone from strength to strength in recent years, launching its flagship Gloucester branch in late 2016 and undergoing a significant refurbishment of its Oxford branch in 2018.