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Truck Thursday: The Commercial Vehicle Show

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As Tuesday’s Internet-shaking post on the Ford Transit Custom reveal revealed, I’m in Birmingham, England at the sprawling Commercial Vehicle Show. The same new job duties that brought my regular contributions to Redusernab to a full stop have also brought me to the UK for the first time.

Note – Tanshanomi created this post on his iPhone, a task which he equated to being “one step away from repeatedly poking [his] eye with a sharp pencil”, so let’s show him some love and appreciation. -KK


As a yank experiencing the Euro truck market firsthand for the very first time, and with only cursory knowledge of the market’s peculiarities, I can only offer a couple of insights:

  • Heavy duty cabover semitractors are still pretty cool; I’m sorry they’re all but extinct in the US. The biggest ones have a cab like a second-story walk-up.
  • Americans in the UK are not nearly as notable as running into a Brit in the Midwest.
  • I literally would not be able to park the Town Cow’s 18-foot+ length in most British parking lots.
  • I’m ashamed to say that I really cannot understand a thing people from Northern England say. Can’t even fake it.
  • French vehicles are a much bigger part of the car and van market than I expected. I knew they sold them; I just didn’t realize that anybody bought them.
  • I can report back to America that Isuzu’s pickup truck is alive and well.
  • Great Wall’s China-built Steed pickup isn’t embarrassingly bad by appearance.
  • Trying to write a post on an iPhone is really frustrating.
20120426-115607.jpgSmall diesel cargo vans popular in Europe, such as this Citroen Nemo, need to come to America. Now.


The new Euro Ford Ranger is kinda Teh Hawt.

Could anybody conceive of motorcycles as "commercial vehicles" in the States?

The new MB Actros is like the God of trucks. I want to see it in a Celebrity Deathmatch with an International Lonestar.

A portion of one of three halls the show fills at the National Exhibition Centre. The NEC is HUGE.

There's definitely more environmental consciousness in Europe. Well, except for the 12-gallon flush of my hotel toile-, er, "loo."

  • You did all this on an iPhone? Yeesh. I don't even like banging out throwaway one-liners on my phone, and it's got a slideout keyboard. Respect!

    It's interesting to see how the built environment in Europe pushes the commercial vehicle to be as small as possible. Over here, it seems like the IRS looks at you funny if you try to claim anything less than a full-size pickup as a commercial vehicle, but you've got pictures of a 3-door Fiesta panel van.. Wow! I'll bet the survival of the cabover semi is down to the same reason; any centimeter you can chop off of your delivery vehicle is another centimeter of clearance that can get you around the corner some narrow, winding side-street.

    • I think you're right. The streets in Europe are way more narrow than we're used to. The '66 Chevy Malibu SS that I had when I was stationed in Italy in the early eighties wasn't a large car, not by our standards at the time, but it loomed HUGE among the Fiats, Lancias, etc. Narrow winding side streets? Oh, yeah. One weekend I managed to get my car stuck between two buildings in a village on Lake Garda. Wedged tight. The local Italians were not amused, you should have heard them yelling at me in Italian. Embarrassing, to say the least. That little Citroen van would have fit through no problem at all.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      It still seems like a shame in urban environments. Moving goods around Boston's cow paths, for instance, now requires a straight truck and an equal amount of finesse.

    • Manic_King

      Well, these big semis are not allowed to enter to most city centres, these are purely tools for transport from factory/warehouse/big box outside the town to similar place at least tens of km's away or for international logistics.
      For local distribution work, from logistics centre to factory/shop, much smaller trucks are in use. That winding side street is not for semis and big box warehouses and/or factories are not there either, not anymore.
      In Nordic countries max. allowed length for semi is 75 ft if with ABS and 66 if without, and trials are ongoing in other countries to allow this. I don't know if allowed max. length is main reason for having cab-overs anymore.

  • $kaycog

    That Euro Ford Ranger is gorgeous! Thanks Tanshanomi and great job on your iPhone.

  • Sjalabais

    Isn't Volvo strangely underrepresented here?

  • Stu_Rock

    I've been told that the only advantage to the cabover design was maneuverability in confined areas, and that they had serious disadvantages in ride quality and safety. The reason they existed in the first place was to comply with some states' total vehicle length limits, which are now superseded for commercial vehicles by federal rules.

    You cannot buy a new cabover over-the-road tractor in the US, even though Freightliner still makes them in North Carolina for export markets. I'm pretty sure you can still buy a cabover urban tractor, though.

    • Van_Sarockin

      Cabovers are mainly to allow more length for the trailer. They also provide a higher driving position.

      • Manic_King

        Not sure about that ride quality and safety part. Cabin is usually (air-?) damped and moving separately from the chassis. Should be quite nice place to be. As for safety, if you sit 6 feet from a ground what are those things you must hit to get injured?
        Another truck, bus? Building or other similar structure? These accidents just doesn't happen too often. Risk seems low.

        • Van_Sarockin

          Much worse ride quality and rather less safe than LWB semi tractors. Lots of visibility, but also further to fall and no crush zone. Large trucks don't crash all that often, but when they do, drivers tend to be very injured or dead. Sounds like you haven't driven in many trucks.

          • Manic_King

            No I haven't been in modern truck. Have you been in modern cab-over Euro-truck like Mercedes Actros, Iveco Stralis, Volvo FH, MAN TGX? These are expensive high tech vehicles and I don't think bad ride quality is likely. I don't know any truckers and it would be difficult to find one with experience from both NA and euro trucks anyway. As for safety, in modern cab over truck, driver sits nearly 3 feet from bumper which gives good enough safety room in rare case truck hits something which is high enough to cause damage to cabin.
            Note to myself: must hitch a ride in big truck to find out what's going on in trucking world.

  • Tanshanomi, you MUST get to Motorcycle Museum while you are in Birmingham! The place is truly unbelievable. You could probably walk there from the NEC. Take the train down to London for a day too if you have the chance.

    My first trip to the UK was also to Birmingham in 2000 as a chaperone for the Georgia Tech Formula SAE team for the event at the NEC. 11 days at the Holiday Inn Express there on site.

    • I spent a 3 hour lunch there yesterday! I was on heaven!

      • That calls for another iPhone report!

        • Wait for 2-wheel Tuesday, after I'm back at my desk.

  • FuzzyPlushroom

    Having been to the UK: is the slight odor of sick, covered with air freshener, a factory option for Peugeot Partner/Citroën Berlingo and Fiat Doblo MPVs destined for private-hire service? I already know Škoda offered a similar package for the Octavia.

  • Vavon

    If my mind serves me correctly:

    PSA Peugeot-Citroën are the biggest seller of light trucks (vans that is) in Europe.
    PSA Peugeot-Citroën have the second biggest car sales in Europe. (the VW-group is first).

    The Citroën Nemo (= Peugeot Bipper = Fiat Fiorino) is available with a neat party-trick…
    The passanger-chair can fold down in to the floor (with or without metal seperation gate)
    <img src=";
    <img src=";

    • Van_Sarockin

      Nice. My old FC Econoline had a passenger jump seat that would fold up alongside the door. Seat and back of nylon webbing fabric. I made a foam seat cushion, and it was fine for cross country drives. With the seat up I could get twelve foot lengths into a truck that was about fourteen feet bumper to bumper.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Tanshanomi, pecking this out on an iPhone…you have my sincere respect.

    Even with a keyboard, 'smart' phone use for anything other than Angry Birds, Doodle Bowling, or spoken conversation irks the living crap out of me.

    The US needs moar class-8 truck racing!

  • So much exclusive content, it hurts!

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    You get a purple heart for doing this on an iPhone. The cabover may not be dead yet, I live near Portland Oregon and I often see Freightliner validation fleet vehicles on the road. Normally these are US market conventionals but I occasionally see Euro spec Mercedes cabovers on I-5 or Hwy 26.

  • The new Rangers is also Latin Amerca's new Ranger
    <img src=";

  • Mike England

    Gee that Ranger looks familiar. Isn't that a lot like the Explorer SportTrac?

  • Maymar

    In defense of the motorcycle as commercial vehicle idea, I was at a fleet management conference this time last year, and Harley-Davidson had a booth there too, in with the assorted vehicle manufacturers and upfitters and whatnot. Same idea of course, as police vehicles.

    Also, I find that Fiesta panel van unusually appealing.

    • I wish they'd maybe re-engineered the liftgate on that Fiesta so that the load deck wasnt sunk a few inches from the door. Seems like it's make hauling things around a bit easier.

      • Maymar

        You're not wrong. Unfortunately, I imagine the cost of reengineering isn't worth it for the small handful of sales they'd lose. It'd probably be easier to raise the load deck a few inches with a removable panel. Admittedly, that compromises cargo capacity, but at least the owner gets to choose which tradeoff they'd pick.

  • I am appalled with myself that I didn't visit this thread when it was all crisp and fresh.

    However, I can report that I have, today, become almost certainly the only UK representitive of the 'verse, to have met the actual, living, breathing Tanshanomi in the flesh. Sir, you are a Gentleman and a Scholar.

    • Chris very graciously rode the train three hours round trip to come spend the day with me in London. We yabbered at each other nonstop while tubing around between random Underground stations. He's as entertaining and personable to speak with as he is to read.

      Had a blast with you, Rusty!

      • Aw, I'm blushing here. 'Twas a great pleasure. So, now you've been over as a scout party, how long before the Redusernab invasion? Do I need to be getting some steaks in?

  • I hope I'm here too in this event. I love the police motorcycle. 🙂

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