Taking centre stage

As a major player in the international refrigerated transport equipment market, French trailer builder Chereau, produces upwards of 4,000 vehicles annually. More than 80 per cent of that figure comprises semi-trailers and the remainder includes rigid-bodied vehicles and light commercial vehicles. Of all the vehicles it manufactures, there are anywhere from 1700-1800 unique configurations for fleets out of the Normandy factory every year.

Chereau CEO, Damien Destremau, says there is strength in managing the mix between mass production and bespoke products because the relationship with the customer goes deeper when you understand what their business really needs in order to be more agile and competitive.

A prominent talking point at the moment is the notion of urbanisation and inner-city mobility where the general consensus for the average fleet operator is to invest in lots of small vehicles. Destremau is adamant that if you multiply those little vehicles to tick the urban access box, there are other critical factors to consider.

“At the end of the day, what will make the best efficiency for last mile is when we all have connected vehicles and shared logistics,’ he says – explaining that an optimised fleet of trailer-truck combinations that use Chereau’s smart trailer technologies is key to coordinating efficient operations. “Our research and development team are concerned that by using too many smaller vehicles other challenges such as noise pollution and CO2 emissions will exacerbate. Even if there are too many smaller electric vehicles in operation, generally speaking, there are also concerns about road congestion and even accommodating for alternative fuel demands including electric charging points and simply consuming electricity en-masse. The key point is the right vehicle size for the right purpose”.

While other OEMs are invested in the electrification trend, experimenting with energy axles and smart trailer functions, Destremau has been ahead of the pack with the Refrigerated Optimised Advanced Design (ROAD) project, a collaborative effort which started in September 2016. It is funded by the FUI (Single Inter-Ministry Fund) and is co-financed by six partners, the Normandy Region, the Burgundy-Franche-Comté Region and the State (BPI France).

ROAD is essentially the trailer of the future. The chassis is lighter due to innovative design and materials; the trailer is optimised to minimise aerodynamic drag; body insulation has excellent thermal performance; there are on-board hydrogen fuel cells for clean power; electric refrigeration units that use carbon dioxide as a refrigerant; and interconnected electrical equipment to reduce energy consumption as well as improve ergonomics for the vehicle operator. On top of all those innovations, this project is introducing additional safety features that benefit the driver from automated lighting to programming conditions that lock the brakes when loading/unloading.

According to Destremau, ROAD will be tested in actual operating conditions by Malherbe, a leader in the French transport industry that specialises in the transportation of general goods and focuses primarily on agri-food, consumer products, mass distribution, pharmaceuticals, chemicals as well materials for the building and construction sectors.

The project duration for ROAD is about three years and is expected to end by approximately September 2019, after a six months field test.

“The Chereau NEXT made its first appearance at the 2017 international show for road and urban transport solutions, Solutrans, which was held in Lyon,’ Destremau says. “This semi-trailer represents a genuine technological leap forward and offers a large number of original features: connection with the prime mover and transmission of information to the dashboard, a telematics socket and a ‘plug and connect’ maintenance socket, coupling functions for unrivalled ergonomics, safety and more.

Destremau explains that all connected elements of the smart trailer adapt to the status of the combination as a whole, in the interests of ensuring efficiency and safety for vehicle operators. “Functionality is integrated as everything is on the network – the equipment shares information. For example, if I go to the tail lift, the rear door will open, the lights will turn on and the cooling unit will stop. Everything works together.”

In paralllel with Chereau NEXT and the ROAD project, Chereau, also launched a multi-year program to overhaul its product range at the end of 2016 – INOGAM EVO. This program entails the redesign of Chereau’s bodywork and chassis which boasts significant payload improvements of up to 400kg for a three-axle semi-trailer. The lightweight chassis, according to Destremau, is the result of a redesign featuring high yield strength steel. To reduce the weight of the body structure, aluminum inserts replace steel.

The INOGAM EVO program also includes new LED tail lights with scrolling function, LED work lights with integrated reversing function and new reflective strips with the Chereau logo. It will be achieved for Solutrans 2019 with the integration of the CHEREAU latest product evolution.

Following all of these innovations, Chereau is also expanding its dealer network to best serve the needs of its growing customer base. “Chereau wants a local technical presence with its customers to support them in the operation of their vehicles,” he says – explaining that with more than 40 per cent of export sales, the OEM is expanding its presence in France and Europe with new distribution partners. “There are now 103 service points in 22 countries, 50 of which have been new since 2014.”

Fast Fact
Three years ago, private equity firm, Miura, formed the ‘Reefer Group’ – a refrigerated transport powerhouse that brought French OEM, Chereau, and Valencia-based manufacturer, SOR Iberica, under the same umbrella. While they share a corporate affiliation, both brands maintain their competitive points-of-difference, where Chereau continues to develop smart trailer concepts without disrupting its partner’s efforts in Spain.

Fast Fact
French OEM, Chereau, introduced its first new generation refrigerated semi-trailer to use Controller Area Network (CAN) bus technology at trade show, Solutrans, last November. The Chereau Next has systems that communicate with each other for the purpose of automating numerous functions and developing new ones while increasing comfort, efficiency and safety for hauliers.

Christophe Danton of the Reefer Group says the process involves grouping the vehicle’s key components into a single network using sensors, enabling all the data relating to their use to be gathered at a single point, from which these components are able to interact.

Chereau was awarded the Silver Award for an innovative telematics technology, allowing a series of functions to be automated to improve safety and operational efficiency at Solutrans 2017. Chereau NEXT was also awarded 2nd place in the Trailer Innovation Award 2019, category ‘Smart Trailer’ at IAA.

Fast Fact
French refrigerated trailer builder, Chereau, says that in the coming years it expects to see an increased demand for cleaner and more fuel-efficient road transport. In line with the original equipment manufacturer’s commitment to rising to the modern challenges of cold chain compliance, it is developing a new generation of refrigerated semi-trailers, highlighting better performance as well as technologies that see a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and noise emissions while improving operational conditions such as ergonomics and safety.

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