Wheels in motion: Supporting the industry

It is important for heavy commercial vehicle leasing company TR Group to make things as easy as possible for drivers to operate their vehicles as safely, efficiently, and compliantly as possible – all while helping the industry in its move towards going ‘green’.

With over 7,000 trucks and trailers in its fleet, and about 4,000 of those on long-term lease to customers up and down the country, TR Group focusses solely on heavy commercial vehicles.

Shane O’Grady, TR Group’s national sales manager, says his team’s goal is to take the hassle away for their customers through fully maintained operating leases.

No risk of ownership

In the last issue of FTD we spoke to Kathy Schluter, group manager of sales and customer experience at FUSO, about the first eCanter truck hitting New Zealand roads. And this project is one that TR Group played a major part in.

Supplied by FUSO, the fully electric eCanter truck was provided to Genesis through TR Group by way of a fully maintained operating lease.

“The Genesis eCanter was the first one on the road and was an exciting time for all involved,” says O’Grady.

“We have over 30 of these either on the road now or at various stages of build around the country.

“Given the amount of interest they have generated and the conversations we are having, we are confident that there will be over 100 on the road in the next six to 12 months.”

One thing that makes this possible, is by taking out the risk of ownership. When an eCanter is leased by way of a fully maintained operating lease through TR Group, customers know that their costs, including maintenance, are fixed for the term of the lease. This means there is less worry when it comes to the residual value risk of this new technology.

And this is a responsibility that the company is “happy to take on”.

A lasting (sustainable) footprint

This is one thing the company is doing to ensure a positive difference to the world.

“We want to leave a lasting imprint,” says O’Grady.

“Doing the right thing is acknowledging that we have a big part to play in the adoption of low and no-emission transport technology in New Zealand due to our position in the industry.”

There are new strides being made every day when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint, but often these technologies can be hard to source as well as costly. By taking on the risk and doing due diligence, TR Group hopes to make these new technologies more readily available and to encourage their uptake.

“There is so much going on in this space now, it can be sometimes hard to keep pace.”

A helping hand from OEMs

According to O’Grady, all original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been making strides towards carbon emission reductions in their vehicles.

“The specifications of new vehicles going on the road today both in relation to safety and environmental impact are right up there.

“The journey from Euro 3 to Euro 6 has happened quickly in the context of the development of ICE, so the OEMs should be given credit for that.”

Across Australia and New Zealand, TR Group has over 400 vehicles on order for its rental fleet, all of which have been specified with Euro 6 as a minimum standard.

“Given we sell on average 350-400 vehicles across our rental and lease fleet per year, this means that we are decreasing the average age of our fleet quickly, and consequently our carbon emissions are reducing as we bring higher standard, more fuel-efficient vehicles in,” says O’Grady.

Alternative fuels

As well as battery electric vehicles (BEVs), such as the lithium-ion-powered Fuso eCanter, TR Group is also starting to look at hydrogen fuel cell technology in heavy commercial vehicles.

“We accept that all BEVs have a place and will meet a need in metro-type applications and do it well,” says O’Grady.

But the company’s goal is to also meet the need of the linehaul operator – with hydrogen – with plans to order 20 6×4 tractor units from Hyzon.

The first four hydrogen-powered vehicles will land on the road in August next year, with an aim to have all 20 up and running three months after that in November.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and the Infrastructure Reference Group (IRG) have been a great support in this project for both TR Group and its hydrogen supplier, Hiringa Energy.

The trucks will run up to 54tonne and have a range of 550-600km with a 15-minute refuelling time.

“To think we will have 20 HVCs running linehaul up and down New Zealand by this time next year creating zero emissions is a prospect we are pretty excited about.”

Behind the wheel

But while there is an understandable focus on the move to go ‘green’ at the moment, it is important to not forget about the people of the industry.

“Drivers, like anyone, want to feel valued,” says O’Grady. “Investing in their development and improving their skills can only bring positives to the industry.”

This is one of the driving forces behind TR Group’s driver training programmes.

Seven years ago the company purchased Master Drive Services (now TR Driver Training) as an opportunity to work with its customers to help teach their drivers how to operate its vehicles safely, efficiently, and as compliantly as possible.

“You end up with expert drivers who are operating our vehicles within their capabilities, not speeding, and getting home safely to their families each night.”

And this is important for TR Group, with free driver training provided with every lease “because we believe in the training we provide and the positive impact it has for the driver and the vehicle”.

“If we want to attract more drivers and create a career pathway for them, then we believe training plays an integral role in helping that happen.”