The Top 5 Benefits of European Truck DesignMay 17th, 2016
by Andrew Bell
While artic trucks in the EU tend to deliver smaller loads than their American semi-truck counterparts, they have proven themselves to be some of the most finely engineered, efficient and safest in the world. Strict regulation in Europe has fostered an impressive degree of innovation from manufacturers such as Scania, Mercedes and Volvo, mitigating the high cost of fuel in the European continent and delivering a remarkable amount of stock.
EU law restricts the length that commercial vehicles can be, meaning that European trucks must make the most of limited storage space. The response to regulation has been the wide adoption of the ‘cab-over’ design, essentially meaning that the truck cabin is positioned directly over the engine, resulting in a flat-faced design. The key benefit to this approach is that with the placement of the cabin directly over the engine, commercial vehicles are able to fit significantly more stock into a limited total length. This is in stark contrast to the conventional truck – the dominant model in the USA – which features a cabin placed behind the truck engine. We have listed what we feel are the top five benefits associated with the European cab-over artic truck below.
5. Better in narrow places
The smaller form factor of European trucks makes them superior on small roads and in tight spots. These trucks are more capable of navigating both rural and urban landscapes than their American counterparts, meaning that they can be deployed in more diverse ways. Naturally these trucks tend to be a better fit for European roads, which can become notoriously narrow and precarious in both the countryside and in dense urban areas.
This compactness also makes these trucks far easier to park, and ultimately better suited for European retail, where stores often lack the space to dock large conventional trucks.
4. Better visibility
The placement of the cabin above the engine means that visibility is vastly better than the conventional semi-truck. With the driver sitting on top of the truck engine as opposed to behind it, not only is the driver made to deal with fewer blind spots, but they are also granted a better 180 degree view of their surroundings. European artic trucks are also capable of accommodating additional mirrors placed low down on cabin doors in order to improve drivers’ ground-level view. The main knock on effect of this is improved safety for both the driver and other vehicles on the road, particularly in urban areas. Better road awareness ultimately means fewer accidents, and this point shouldn’t be understated – these large vehicles are capable of doing a lot of damage on the road.
3. Better maneuverability
The cab-over design also ensures a greater degree of maneuverability than the conventional design. Because cab-over trucks don’t require drivers to maneuver a bulky nose bonnet, the flat faced cab-over trucks are far easier to turn on a smaller axis. This vehicle is therefore not just easier to drive, but also safer, as drivers are better equipped to react to changing road conditions when necessary. This model is also better for tight roads and urban conditions, which often require vehicles to make tight turns with little notice.
2. Better safety
The European cab-over truck is acclaimed for its safety; with the driver positioned above most other vehicles, the cabin sits over most collisions with shorter vehicles, protecting everyone inside. The safety benefits are not just felt by the navigator however; Volvo and Mercedes artic trucks are now engineered to collapse intelligently upon impact. For example, the Volvo VN is constructed for the engine to actually detach from under the cabin during forceful collisions, meaning that any other vehicles are collapsed around instead of simply being crushed.
This point on safety also ties back to points #4 and #3; European trucks are made far safer not just by their engineering for emergency circumstances, but also by their superior maneuverability and driver visibility as cab-over vehicles.
1. Greater efficiency
Perhaps where European trucks shine the most is in their efficiency. With the high cost of fuel in mainland Europe and the limited stock that EU trucks are capable of delivering, these trucks have set a new standard in efficiency. While semi-trucks in the USA average a fuel consumption rate of 33l/100km, EU artic trucks average 37l/100km. This is no doubt due in part to their smaller truck size, but this difference results in significant savings in fuel over the conventional model, and goes some way towards countering the relatively high cost of fuel in Europe. This means that while European trucks may be more expensive to purchase and more awkward to repair, they are ultimately cheaper to run on a daily basis.
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See also ‘The Top 5 Benefits of American Truck Design’.