A guide for overseas customers on how we operate in the UK, and the terms we use, to help you ask for the right type of vehicle.
Please note one important point: WE DRIVE ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD, SO OUR STEERING IS ON THE RIGHT. Conversion may be possible but is rarely economic in the UK.
The European truck market is the most sophisticated in the world and the British market, the most competitive of all European countries. A used truck from Britain offers the best value in technical standards and pricing.
- Tractor Unit or Articulated Tractor Unit. The towing part of what Americans call a "rig" which pulls a trailer that imposes part of its load on the towing vehicle. Also known as a Prime Mover, Tractive Unit, Mechanical Horse, Horse, Artic or Motive Unit.
- Rigid. As the name suggests, a rigid truck with 2, 3 or 4 axles.
- Tipper. Known in many countries as a Dumper.
- Rig. An American usage to describe the complete vehicle, towing truck and trailer.
- The first cause of much confusion is the "weight" of a truck. In many countries, a "ten tonne truck" is one that carries ten tonnes, but in Britain and the rest of Europe, it is the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). This is the weight of the complete vehicle, including the body, load, fuel and the driver. What the vehicle will actually carry depends on the manufacture's design maximum weight for the vehicle, the weight of the body and the maximum legal GVW for the vehicle in the country of use. Typically, the law of Scandinavian countries allows many vehicles to run at their design maximum GVW, whilst UK law restricts identical vehicles to operate at some 3 or 4 tonnes less.
- The problem can be further complicated when considering articulated tractor units and trailers, where two maximum weights will be given, one for the tractor unit only and the other for the Gross Combination Weight (GCW) or the tractor, trailer & load combined. Tractor unit + trailer combinations may have a number of axle configurations: ie 2+1, 2+2, 2+3, 3+2 or 3+3. The more axles, the greater the weight allowance.
- To establish the carrying capacity of a truck, you must know the empty weight of the truck, trailer if any, its body weight and add an allowance for the driver and fuel. This is then subtracted from the manufacture's design GVW or GCW to give carrying capacity, although this may still be more than local laws permit for the type of vehicle.
Axle Configurations or Wheel Plans
In the UK, trucks are referred to as being 4x2, 6x2, 8x4 etc. Below are explanations of what each one means and some known alternative names from other countries:
- 4x2. A truck with two axles, only one of which transmits driving power. The rear axle will normally have twin rear wheels but the British convention is to count them as one wheel each. Depending on how you count those rear wheels, it may also be called a four wheeler or a six wheeler.
- 6x4. A truck with 3 axles, two of which transmit the drive. Again, the drive axles will normally have twin rear wheels so the there will be a total of 10 wheels on these trucks although we count twins as singles. Sometimes known in the UK as a six wheeler and in some countries as a ten wheeler, a double diff or double drive. Such a wheel plan will only be found on vehicles that have to go on loose or muddy surfaces. They are heavier, more complicated and use more fuel and are mostly found in the UK on tipper trucks.
- 6x2. These have 3 axles, only one of which transmits the drive. They carry the same weight as a 6x4, but are cheaper, simpler and use less fuel. They come in a wide variety of types depending on the vehicle type and its use:
- 6x2 twin steer. This is mostly found on tractor units and as the name implies, two axles do the steering. This eliminates tyre scrub when turning. This sort of axle arrangement is sometimes used on rigid trucks to increase the weight carrying capacity at the front when a large crane is mounted at the front. It is known in Britain as a "Chinese six".
- 6x2 mid lift. In this design the front axle steers, the rear axle transmits the drive and the axle in the middle only carries weight but can be lifted when running light to reduce friction or usefully, can be lifted to add weight to the drive axle and improve traction. Some trucks combine the twin steer and mid lift design.
- 6x2 tag. In this arrangement, the rearmost axle can be lifted for reasons stated above. It is mostly found on rigid trucks but can sometimes be found on tractor units.
- 8x4. This is an arrangement found almost without exception, on large tipping vehicles that require the weight carrying capacity and the adhesion of two drive axles.
The UK Legal Truck Operating Environment.
To use a truck over 3.5 tonnes GVW in the UK, the owner must obtain an Operating, or "O" licence, just to keep the truck or trucks on his premises. He must apply to a licencing authority for a particular number of vehicles or trailers and his ability to run the vehicles in a professional manner will be taken into account before a licence is issued. The vehicles must, by law, be inspected at a frequency that depends on the use they are put to and a system must exist to report technical faults and ensure they are repaired. Drivers are subject to a strict licencing system that covers their skills and their health and they must comply with Europe wide laws that restrict the amount of work that they do each day.
The trucks have to pass a roadworthiness test every year at a Government run test station. It is a very strict test that covers the obvious features such as brakes lights and steering and also includes the exhaust emissions and cab rust. The test is colloquially known at the MOT, and it can be assumed that a vehicle with a recent MOT is in sound condition in most areas.
Almost every area of truck operating in the UK is covered by some law which ensures that even older trucks represent good value.
What we Drive.
All major European makes are available in the UK. The obvious ones include Daf (formally known in the UK as Leyland Daf following their merger, but now known as Daf only), Mercedes, MAN, Iveco, Volvo, Scania and Renault. Less well known in some markets are the following British makes:
- ERF. Until recently this company was independent, but was bought Canadian Western star and then sold to MAN. The company used to make their own chassis and cab with engines from Cummins, Perkins, Detroit and Caterpillar. ERFs used to be marketed under the Western Star badge in some countries such as Australia. ERF are now MANs re-badged with an option of specifiying a Cummins engine.
- Seddon Atkinson. This company is part of Iveco and uses a combination of Cummins engines and Iveco cabs. They no longer manufacture in the UK, the vehicles coming from Pegaso in Spain with either Cummins or Iveco engines. Much of their recent output is in specialised refuse collection vehicles.
- Foden. Long time a part of the American Paccar group who now own Daf, Foden also use bought in engines and have tended to be particularly strong in the 8x4 tipper market. Daf cabs are now used and production has moved to the former Leyland factory.
What we do not drive:
Japanese trucks have failed to gain any significant foothold in the European market. Hino obtained a small part of the 8x4 tipper market while Isuzu are selling their small 7.5 tonne truck in Britain and Mitsubishi are offering their equivalent truck through Mercedes agents. There are not many of any of these.
Bedford trucks have now disappeared. The Bedford factory closed in 1986 and production carried on under the AWD name, but using Perkins engines until 1992. The British Army is still releasing genuine Bedfords onto the market but these are available through specialist traders only.
Genuine UK Ford heavy trucks have also disappeared. The Ford truck operation in the UK was bought by Iveco and the popular (at lower weights) Ford Cargos were replaced by a range of Iveco trucks that were marketed in the UK only as Iveco Ford EuroCargos. They are completely different to Ford Cargos and the Ford name has now been dropped.
If you have any further queries about what is available on the UK market, send us an e-mail and we will try to answer your query.
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