Renault's Kerax: built tough

Renault Trucks builds its Kerax range as tough, go-anwhere vehicles

ANALYSIS, PMV, Renault, Renault Trucks

Renault Trucks builds its Kerax range as tough, go-anywhere vehicles. PMV Middle East witnessed the performance of professional drivers in the cab, and wondered how local fleets can achieve the same results

The Kerax range is Renault Truck’s best selling truck offering in the Middle East, known as reliable workhorses in the construction and quarrying sectors. While in Europe, its smaller Midlum range is well-utilised, here the demand for heavier vehicles puts the Kerax at the forefront.

In the construction sector, it’s known as a go-everywhere vehicle, and as the Kerax range is put through its paces at the annual Construction Days event in Lyon, France, it’s easy to see why.

Handled by a team of professional trainers (who also moonlight as drivers of support vehicles in Renault’s endurance racing, such as the Paris to Dakar rally), the Kerax has no problem traversing extremely steep and rough slopes, using the differential lock to prevent tyre spin.

Due to the hilly terrain, the air-cushion seats were fully indispensible, as the drivers delighted in having the cab ‘hang’ in the air going over the top of the steep inclines.

It is a flamboyant style of driving that is unlikely to be welcomed on a serious construction or quarry site, but it’s a fitting demonstration of the trucks’ capabilities, driven by professionals who have made it their business to know how to do so, travelling the world as driver trainers, and driving the test vehicles prior to a new launch.

There were a variety of trucks being put through their paces, and as a global manufacturer, Renault Trucks, part of AB Volvo Group, sees different segments of its offering in-demand in across the world.

The Kerax range is divided into three classes – the medium, which is mainly for Europe; the HD and XHD – the most popular Kerax in the Middle East and Africa, reaching up to 35-40 tonnes on the 6x4; and the large sized Xtrem, typically used for mining applications in Africa and in markets such as Indonesia and Malaysia, where the 8x8 Xtrem is put to good use hauling heavy loads in huge open cast mines.

Patrice Roeser, the Construction range product manager at Renault Trucks, says that across the Kerax range, the trucks are dedicated for civil and construction applications and are engineered for strength.

Designed to go anywhere, in any country, the design emphasis is on robustness, and an ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions, particularly dust and heat.

“We chose at the beginning to have a very high ground clearance, and a very high approach angle, to be sure that the vehicle can run everywhere in all conditions,” Roeser told PMV.

The chassis of the vehicle is also designed for heavy loads and overloading, with more reinforcement on the longer chasses, essential for the many parts of the world where overloading is a common practice.

A special solution for dusty and humid environments in the Middle East is the cyclonic air filter, which saves the filter cartridge that extends the service life of the filter, popular in Saudi.

“Overall, for customers, we have a very low running cost, and high availability of vehicles for different applications,” says Roeser.

The Xtrem is becoming more and more popular he says – fully half of the Kerax sold outside of Europe are the now Xtrem model. But in the Middle East, it sells only in small quantities for specific applications – such as the 8x4 for concrete mixers.

The 8x8 has potential for mobility in the desert, believes Renault, such as if concrete is needed to be transported through the desert, but which is also possible to do with a 6x6. The advantage is that extra large tyres can be fitted to distribute the vehicle weight across the soft sand.

The most popular Kerax models in the Middle East are the HD and XHD ranges, which have the capacity that fits the needs of most customers, and at an attractive price point. In Saudi last year they saw particular success with their 6x6 and 6x4 vehicles, for use in desert applications, while in the Middle East one of the main demands is for tippers is in the 6x6 configuration.

Renault Trucks offers the Optidriver+ robotised gearbox, and the automatic-style gear controls can significantly reduce fuel consumption, as well as wear and tear on driveline components caused by poor driving.

Improvements from Optidriver+ include increasing the life of the clutch by two-three times, and fuel consumption globally is reduced by 5%. There are also other benefits, with the overall stress on the driveline reduced and lower vibrations on the engine, but the benefits of this are less easy to measure directly.

Nevertheless, while the gearbox may be a sensible purchase option for fleet operators, as always the easiest way to improve overall fleet performance is to focus on driver training, and building up their skills in areas such as smooth gear-changes and changing up in the best torque performance range (1400-2000rpm); not starting in a high gear when on a slope or under-load; and regularly inspecting safety-critical components such as the tyres and the brakes.

As is the case across the trucking industry in the Middle East, one of the clear paradoxes of poorly trained drivers is the huge disparity between the value of the truck – in terms of the sale price, but also the amount of investment by the manufacturer into engineering improvements – and the amount invested in a driver when they have not been properly trained by their company.

At Renault Truck’s Construction Days event, Middle East customers are often reportedly blown away by the ability of the team of professional trainers to extract the best from the vehicles.

If anything, it is a sign that more expertise is needed in the driver cabs in this part of the world, both for the sake of lower operating costs, but also improved business performance and profit.

As is always the case in life, it is never too late to learn some new tricks, and it seems virtually any driver in your fleet can benefit from a training or refresher programme – all in the interests of lower costs, but also as a service to the fine trucks they have the privilege to drive.

Verdict
The Kerax range from Renault Trucks has a deserved reputation for being a tough workhorse for construction and quarrying applications, with design aspects such as the high ground clearance and chassis strength tailored to conditions. But professional drivers demonstrate that fleet managers need to focus on driver training and upskilling if they want to get the best from the Kerax range.

Specifications:

  • Engines: 10.8L, DXi11 (max power 321kW @ 1900rpm) or the larger 12.8L, DXi13 (max power 368kW @1400-1800 rpm) both Euro 3 Front reinforcement: Three-part sheet metal bumper with engine protection guard
  • Chassis: 8mm thick side-member module with 5mm high elasticity steel reinforcement
  • Fuel tanks: Steel tank with capacities ranging from 255L to 505L

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