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Playing catch up: the numbered days of second-hand imports

Fleet operators in the Gulf have had a good run in the medium-duty segment, enjoying relaxed regulations and plentiful second-hand imports from Europe, but the days of these unorthodox practices are looking increasingly numbered


Wherever you are in the world, behind the biggest and best equipment in every industry, whether it’s construction, logistics, oil and gas or events, there is also a fleet of supporting vehicles. In the Gulf, this  supporting fleet often comprises a somewhat less-than-impressive array of aged second-hand medium-duty trucks, usually imported from markets where they have been obseleted as emissions regulations have moved on.

The GCC’s regulatory authorities have long handled the medium-duty segment with a light touch — for pragmatic reasons. Second-hand medium-duty vehicles from Europe have long been a convenient and cost-effective purchase for construction and logistics operators. But today, the long-term costs of geriatric medium-duty vehicles fleet are becoming more apparent.

While regulations in the medium-duty segment in the Gulf have dawdled, the world has moved swiftly on. Indeed, until 2013, the GCC-wide GSO standards for diesel engine oils in the medium-duty segment were on par with European regulations from the 1980s, and only recently have local authorities begun enforcing the use of oils invented during the 21st century.

There are several problems associated with this. First, these older oils provide little corrosion protection for engines compared to modern oils. Secondly, older oils lack the additives to deal with the natural build up of soot and dust and, as a result, fleet operators opting to use these oils must also change them frequently.

Together, between the use of older vehicles and outmoded oils and air filters, many fleet operators have resorted to routinely hauling their trucks in for service every 5,000km.

However, this is ultimately a costly option, because a modern Euro III medium truck equipped with the right specifications of oils and air filters can easily run for 20,000km without needing a service. Fleet operators servicing vehicles every 5,000km are therefore falling victim to a false economy: by servicing their vehicles and replacing oils and filters more often than necessary, they are ultimately costing themselves more in the long run.

But it is a more fundamental change in medium-duty truck technology that will likely deal the final blow to the Gulf’s fondness for decades-old weathered-beaten workhorses, and it relates to the rising diesel prices. The simple fact is that modern Euro III engines now employ many elements of the technology now used in higher stage Euro V and VI vehicles — resulting in often significantly improved fuel efficiency.

As the diesel prices nudge upwards, operators that stick with their older medium-duty fleet could simply find themselves priced out by more forward-looking fleets deploying modern vehicles with more cost-competitive life cycles — thanks to both their fuel-efficient engines and vastly extended service intervals.

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Construction Week - Issue 725
Jan 19, 2019