BPW’s Thore Bakker talks mobility partnerships

Thore Bakker – General Manager Trailer Solutions & Mobility Services at BPW Bergische Achsen KG – reflects on last year’s IAA Transportation event and offers a glimpse of what’s to come.
Thore Bakker

Thore Bakker joined BPW Bergische Achsen KG in 2017 and has been General Manager for the Trailer Solutions & Mobility Services Business Unit since 2019.

In this role, he is responsible for overall sales (original equipment and original spare parts market) and product management.

Global Trailer followed up with Bakker to learn more about his industry insights specifically in regards to BPW’s latest developments.

Q: Did you take away anything surprising or unexpected from IAA Transportation?
A: I experienced a lot of new developments and ideas at the fair, especially with regard to alternative drives. The industry has shown enormous power and spirit of optimism. But when I turn on the TV in the evening, the media tell me exactly the opposite.

Q: Was the BPW exhibition at IAA a success?
A: Last year we deliberately designed our trade fair presence differently than in the years before. As you know economies all over Europe are suffering from rising energy prices, disrupted trade routes and the consequences of the war in Ukraine. We therefore avoided the usual trade fair glitter and focused on the cost-effectiveness of our solutions
as well as the reunion and exchange of ideas with hauliers, drivers, dispatchers, fleet managers and innovative industry partners. This allowed us to successfully show and discuss our trade fair innovations in an informal solidaric atmosphere.

Q: Are there any important messages or topics from IAA you would like to reiterate?
A: In the transport and logistics industry the main question is how transport can become more economical and environmentally friendly. Alternative drives are a good solution, but they require a high initial investment. The trailer already holds particular potential to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. This is also subject of a whitepaper that we published and which can be downloaded on our website. Some of the trailer solutions that we address in the white paper even pay off in the first year. All fleet operators should therefore spend time becoming familiar with the relevant trailer features.

Thore Bakker and Thermo King President, Dwayne Cowan, at IAA Transportation. The Thermo King AxlePower System with BPW ePower axle won third place in the Trailer Innovation Awards.

Q: At IAA you also introduced an online amortisation calculator. What are the advantages of providing industry with this tool for vehicle operators that incorporates BPW products and services? Has this helped to boost the uptake of BPW technologies?
A: As I said, facing the current energy and economic challenges, many vehicle operators are looking for solutions that make transport more economical. Sometimes the less-obvious details can reveal whether a trailer brings in thousands more – or thousands less – in terms of euros per year. Sample calculations like mine just before on AirSave are good because they show where the journey can go. But they do not address the individual situation of the vehicle operators. So now we are providing an online efficiency calculator that can be fed with individual operating and vehicle data, which it uses to precisely calculate amortisation and additional income and display it graphically. The feedback from our customers has been very positive so far because they can directly calculate their return on investment now.

Q: Would you be able to walk us through the main products and services that are on offer via the calculator tool?
A: The online calculator is available for our tyre pressure refill system AirSave, our intelligent load securing iGurt, the PSP maintenance contract and the electric 7.5 tonne truck BAX. The amortisation calculator will be continuously expanded with additional BPW products and services in the coming year.

Q: How sophisticated is the online amortisation calculator in terms of demonstrating the advantages of incorporating BPW equipment? Does this still require wintervention from subject matter experts at BPW to reinforce the benefits and explore other potential opportunities?
A: The amortisation calculator is self-explanatory and easy to use. All you need to do is enter a few details about your own fleet into the tool. The amortisation period is then calculated automatically. And the website also offers additional information on our products.

Q: Can you share any specific case studies or examples of a road transport fleet that has turned to BPW to improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions and tyre wear? Alternatively, can you speak more broadly about feedback from the industry about the perks of investing in BPW as a supplier and business partner?
A: Our strength is that we already involve vehicle manufacturer and vehicle operators in research and development at an early stage. We want to understand their real requirements and challenges as best as possible. And we develop with a holistic approach. In this way, we achieve efficiency gains from production to assembly at the vehicle manufacturer to the vehicle operator’s operating and maintenance costs. And more efficiency is always a win for the environment. In addition to other exciting topics from transport and logistics we regularly report on our online portal motionist.com about collaborations with customers and partners. A central question is always why they chose BPW and how they benefit from it.

I would like to use the example of the AirSave tyre pressure control system to illustrate our approach: With AirSave, we prepare the installation process by using factory-pre-assembled components. This allows the installation to be integrated smoothly and efficiently into the vehicle manufacturer’s processes. They only need to replace the wheel hub caps and mount the rotor. The system can also communicate directly with the telematics system, the driver’s smartphone and, if desired, with the dispatcher. To demonstrate the advantage for hauliers I like to use the example of a 10-12 tonne four-axle low-loader semitrailer driving with twin tyres and an average of 10 per cent pressure deviation in the tyres. With a mileage of about 80,000 kilometres per year, AirSave can save up to 350 litres of fuel in this case. If the lower tyre wear is taken into account, haulage companies save around 1,750 euros per vehicle per year at a current diesel price of two euros per litre.

Q: How do you make fleet operators care or become more mindful about how their truck and trailer investments affect the business bottom line?
A: This is a good question, because it should be in the interest of every business to examine their investments in this respect – regardless of the branch. But since the transport and logistics industry is facing enormous and particularly various challenges, it is up to us to prove to them that investing in BPW solutions pays off. We don’t rely on catchy advertising slogans to persuade, but on serious facts and figures. The data which forms the basis for the online amortisation calculator was determined through extensive practical tests in real-life driving mode. Our white paper also explains in detail the potential contributions of modern trailer technologies to the economic efficiency of transports and makes the calculations transparent.

Q: Why does BPW support the Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool (VECTO)? Should the industry get behind this initiative?
A: The EU has set ambitious climate protection targets – but these are being missed by the transport sector. Therefore, in addition to towing vehicles, the EU will set fleet thresholds for trailers from 2024 onwards. Trailer manufacturers who fail the yet to be defined fleet consumption targets can expect fines. The VECTO tool will make it easier to compare trailers and reward climate-friendly technologies with a CO2 bonus. So the regulation is a great advantage for innovative vehicle manufacturers and their system partners as it creates more transparency and comparability, where previously the sales price was the main focus. The new trailer certification will be a win-win situation for our environment and for vehicle operators. So yes, the industry should surely get behind this initiative to combat climate change.

Q: Are you excited about the future of electromobility? Why?
A: There is a lot going on in the field of electromobility. The current energy crisis once again demonstrates our dependence on fossil fuels. So electromobility will play a very important role in the energy transition in the coming years. But today no one knows exactly which technology is really the most adequate, considering the entire mix of environment, charging infrastructure, energy generation and energy distribution. We need to think technology open. I think that we will end up using electric motors that are being powered by batteries or fuel cells, with batteries being the most efficient at the moment. The eTransport axle that powers our 7.5 electric truck BAX is actually open to both.

Q: What was the overall impression from those who performed test drives of the BAX at IAA? Can you share any feedback? Similarly, what was the conversation like on the BPW stand about the BAX? Are fleets keen to invest in it and see the vehicles hit the road in the near future?
A: We received very positive feedback at the IAA. BAX was on the road non stop and covered more than 360 km on the fair test track during that week. In addition to the test drives we had intensive discussions with fleet managers about BAX at our BPW booth. An increasing number of entrepreneurs are interested in equipping their fleets with alternative drivetrains. And in the niche of 7.5-tonne trucks, which is absolutely necessary for inner-city logistics, there are very few offers. Moreover, our customers have shown us that they need such vehicles when it comes to entry restrictions for combustion engines in city centres. Because it is obvious that large furniture, electronic goods and household removals cannot be shifted to cargo bikes.

In the run up to the trade fair BAX was already on roadshow through German cities. Interested commercial vehicle operators and journalistswere able to convince themselves of its everyday suitability. Between the roadshow stops, BAX was also tested by customers in their normal daily business for several days. The practical tests showed that it is indeed the perfect vehicle for inner-city traffic. Many customers were enthusiastic about the vehicle’s real range. Despite being fully loaded, ranges of over  200 kilometres are the norm.

Q: The BAX has been designed so that the driver is at eye level with road users, pedestrians etc. This is incredible for improving safety especially for inner-city applications. Do you agree? Can you touch on other safety features?
A: Yes, the BAX driver sits about as high as in an SUV – which means at eye level with cyclists and pedestrians. This seat height allows eye contact with other road users and makes it easier to get in and out of the truck. This offers a big plus in terms of safety. Our BAX also comes with comprehensive accident prevention systems, including a rear-view camera and a turn-off assistant that warns the driver that cyclists, pedestrians, and motorbikes are in the “blind spot”. ABS, ESP, ASR and an emergency brake assistant shorten the braking distance and ensure that the BAX remains controllable even in dangerous situations. And a track-keeping system is also on board.

BPW’s Thore Bakker with Alltrucks CEO and CFO, Homer Smyrliadis.
BPW’s Thore Bakker with Alltrucks CEO and CFO, Homer Smyrliadis.

Q: Does BAX address or overcome other specific industry challenges? Please elaborate?
A: Normal trucks are very noisy. Electric delivery vehicles for urban distribution traffic like our BAX therefore promise not only relief for the climate, but also a considerable gain in quality of life for residents and drivers. However, so far mainly light vans up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight are available with electric drive – but for many tasks in urban distribution transport their payload is not sufficient. Our BAX transports a payload of up to 3 tonnes and it is as quiet as an electric car. A further particular advantage is the powerful battery (from BMW i), which gives the BAX 7.5 a range of up to 200 kilometres. It can also be connected to an external consumer – such as an electric cooling unit, so even urban fresh food logistics are possible. Taken together, these advantages offer the best opportunities for low noise logistics at off-peak times in the late evening or early morning. In this way, urban traffic could be effectively relieved. Drivers would no longer be constantly stuck in traffic jams and would easier find parking spaces.

Q: What can you tell me about the collaboration with Thermo King on the ePower axle-driven generator?
A: ePower are two axle-integrated generators with an own control software. The system generates energy in the trailer during driving and deceleration that is used to operate hybrid or fully electric refrigeration units. So kinetic energy is not lost but used efficiently. Depending on the configuration this saves the freight forwarder up to 4,000 litres of diesel per year and trailer for operating the refrigeration unit. The AxlePower solution from Thermo King stores this generated energy in a high voltage battery and reuses it to power the refrigeration unit – enabling fully electric, low or zero-emission and autonomous trailer refrigeration. The battery pack, depending on battery size and set point, provides on average five hours of refrigeration unit autonomy to cover stationary operations.

Q: Do you have any comments to share about how Alltrucks Truck & Trailer Service is expected to enhance service networks in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and beyond?
A: The Alltrucks partners in central Europe as well as selected existing service partners offer maintenance and repairs of our trailer axles and suspension components. With this cooperation we are strengthening our service network initially in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands and will then successively expand it throughout Europe. On the other hand we are supporting Alltrucks with our spare parts trade network. They will have access to our innovative digital services – such as a smartphone app which can be used to identify spare parts in seconds, and which will give access to maintenance documentation and instructions in the future. Upon request we can also provide them with a digital spare parts warehouse that can be integrated into the existing workshop system or placed on the premises as a pre-equipped container. It is named ‘Upbox’. They can then simply pick spare parts from the shelves; through Radio Frequency Identification Tags the parts are automatically identified, invoiced and replenished. So it is a win-win-collaboration not only for both of us but also for vehicle operators to get the best possible uptime during daily business.

Q: It is our understanding that the specialised Alltrucks partner workshops will take over the aftersales of BAX?
A: With our support, selected Alltrucks partners will successively build up and expand know-how for the service, maintenance and repair of our BAX. Spare parts for the electric truck will be available through our BPW Aftermarket and the dealers of the BPW Aftermarket Group.

Q: Looking at the open-system transport telematics solutions from your subsidiary idem telematics, why is it important for vehicle operators to be able to share selected data without surrendering their data sovereignty?
A: The digitisation of transport enables total transparency across the entire supply chain. That’s why more and more hauliers are being asked to share transport data with their clients. But this transparency is not always in the interest of hauliers as they might release unfiltered data to their clients’ systems, which inevitably also reveals business-sensitive information. So our telematics experts from idem telematics now enable hauliers to manage data relating to trips and orders. The data can either be entered directly in the telematic portal cargofleet3 or transferred from an external transport management system (TMS). Based on these trips, the haulier can monitor the transport in real time and forward selected data in a targeted manner to the shipper or other partners – data such as continuously updated estimated time of arrival (ETA) or temperature reports. In this way hauliers retain full sovereignty over their data and do not become dependent on third-party systems.

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