Heavy Goods Vehicles And Stuff — Peter Jackson — 27th February 2017.

Our Speaker this week, our very own member Peter Jackson, clearly had a spring in his step.  His daughter-in-law, Julia, had just given deliv­ery to a baby boy, Albert Joseph, weigh­ing in at 5lbs 4oz.  But proud Granddad was about to cap­tiv­ate us with a talk about some­thing rather weight­ier: Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) weigh­ing up to 40 tonnes together with their lighter sis­ters (all Stobart vehicles have female names).

Peter com­menced his talk by giving us a brief resume of his jour­ney through life so far. A Sheffield lad born in the Old Jessop’s Hospital on the 3rd July 1948.  Educated at Wrekin College on the Welsh border. He felt that his aca­demic education-especially chemistry- had been ‘good’ but the careers advice ‘could do better’.

As the motor­way system developed during the ‘six­ties freight was shift­ing from rail to road and vehicles becom­ing larger. Moving with the times, Peter was inspired to become not a train engine driver but an HGV driver, an ambi­tion encour­aged neither by his school or his par­ents.  After one or two minor jobs –includ­ing one in a brewery- Peter found his milieu.  He secured employ­ment in 1975 with DAF Trucks GB Ltd which was to absorb Leyland Trucks in 1987 and become the DAF organ­isa­tion we know today where almost all DAFs in the UK are built at the Leyland plant. Over the next 25 years he worked his way up from what he described as a ‘Tea boy’ to Bus, Military and Government Sales Director.

During these years Peter absorbed both tech­nical and com­mer­cial know­ledge equip­ping him for a higher aspir­a­tion: he was to start his own driver train­ing busi­ness eco­n­oDrive in 2000. With the road trans­port industry facing increas­ing envir­on­mental, safety, effi­ciency and legis­lat­ive require­ments demand was grow­ing (and con­tin­ues to grow) to improve both driver com­pli­ance and com­pet­ence oper­at­ing increas­ingly soph­ist­ic­ated and expens­ive vehicles.

Our speaker moved on to the meat of his talk: the vehicles and their fuel.  Was the Diesel car dead? He asked.  Peter thought that depended on its applic­a­tion: The size and weight of vehicle, the dis­tances to be covered and the type of use.

The Controversy over par­tic­u­late pol­lu­tion (soot) was grow­ing along with the number of diesel vehicles on the road.  The issues were con­fus­ing: encour­aged by legis­la­tion in the 1990s 50% of new cars are now powered by diesel and vir­tu­ally all HGVs.  But while cars had increased from 4 mil­lion in 1970 to over 36 mil­lion today, there are, thanks to greater effi­ciency, actu­ally a third less (at 450K) HGVs (exclud­ing buses).  The shift from petrol had been offi­cially encour­aged by tax incent­ives (to be with­drawn from April when most vehicles will have to pay a min­imum of £140 annu­ally) to address con­cerns over burn­ing fossil fuels and Carbon Dioxide emis­sions cre­at­ing a hole in the ozone layer.

There was increas­ing sci­entific evid­ence which showed these were con­trib­ut­ing to global warm­ing while the issue had become the sub­ject of International agree­ments. But the debate had shif­ted to the impact of soot from burn­ing Diesel and the asso­ci­ated Oxides of Nitrogen (known col­lect­ively as NOx)  on air qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly in con­ges­ted cities,  a sub­ject high­lighted by the VW scan­dal.   All this was to lead to the present devel­op­ment of hybrid (usu­ally petrol/electric) and elec­tric bat­tery powered vehicles. Leaving aside cur­rent (highly sub­sid­ized) cost even these had their dis­ad­vant­ages: their depend­ence on Lithium (a mater­ial in very short supply and with lim­ited sources) bat­ter­ies which required reg­u­lar and access­ible char­ging facil­it­ies, aside from their as yet unknown life cycle.

Peter went on to out­line the the­or­ies behind vari­ous types of engine and their fuels. I am afraid that pos­sess­ing, I am ashamed to admit, only an ‘O’ Level in General sci­ence the chem­ical equa­tions show­ing the molecu­lar con­struc­tions of fuel com­pounds were rather beyond me!  Peter had had to con­sult his old Chemistry teacher (still alive) to under­stand them.  We were showed a number of video clips which  includ­ing one which explained the tech­nic­al­it­ies of vari­ous types of engine and espe­cially how fuel is con­ver­ted into the horse power which thrust a vehicle.  Another showed the effects of adding “Ad Blue” to diesel fuel to reduce NOx.  One video showed lighted matches being dropped into bowls of petrol and diesel to illus­trate their dif­fer­ent com­bus­tions: not to be tried at home!  Another explained how diesel is vapor­ised under pres­sure to encour­age com­bus­tion, and yet another the devel­op­ing scene in self -con­trolled or driver-less vehicles.

Finally, we came to the crunch when shown the effects of a ser­i­ous col­li­sion which radar con­trol (Autonomous Emergency brak­ing System – AEBS) is seek­ing to pre­vent.

All this research has been stim­u­lated in recent years by a series of six European dir­ect­ives, in turn driven by envir­on­mental and, at times, fuel sourcing con­cerns. Developments, both now and in the future, such as the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Advanced Emergency Breaking (AEBS) and other research has had much of its ini­tial applic­a­tion to heavy vehicles but is being increas­ingly applied to cars, driver-less or oth­er­wise.

Peter help­fully con­cluded by giving some advice to mem­bers think­ing of buying a new car:

  • Diesel, with its higher mpg,  for fre­quent long or con­tinu­ous run­ning which keeps the exhaust system hot and there­fore cleans the emis­sions
  • Hybrid  or petrol for medium dis­tances
  • Electric for short or stop start jour­neys round the town

Peter was warmly thanked by our Chairman for his most inter­est­ing talk which, as stand in, he had fin­ished pre­par­ing at 4am.  Perhaps Eddie Stobart should give the boy(s) some recog­ni­tion and name one of his vehicles Peter Jackson!