Truck driving just ain’t what it used to be, and year on year technological advances smooth over many of the challenges that existed in times gone by, as the older generation of truck drivers will quickly tell you. These days, it is all about fuel efficiency, emissions and safety, and that’s a good thing. Take the ‘new generation’ DAF XF, for example. It’s one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly trucks on the road, as Export & Freight’s Phil Eaglestone has been finding out.
Accompanied by DAF’s highly experienced and knowledgeable driver trainer Mandy Wannerton, we picked up our DAF XF 480FTP 6×2 – fully loaded with 39 tonne of shingle stone – from dealers TBF Thompson DAF at Mallusk and headed out on to the M2 towards Londonderry to put it through its paces on what is a well-worn test driving route for us here at Export & Freight. One of our goals of the day was to experience how DAF’s cruise control features, now accessed via the steering wheel, make life so much easier – and safer – in the driving seat, but more of that later. Professional drivers who spend a lot of their day in their trucks expect a pleasant working environment together with a high level of comfort, and our first impressions on climbing into the Space Cab on the DAF XF didn’t disappoint. If like some you feel that outwardly, the XF may not look that much different from earlier models, be prepared for a pleasant surprise.
As a driver friendly truck, the XF has a host of new features designed to make the cab an even more attractive and comfortable place to work, live and sleep, with numerous innovations that make driving easier, safer and more enjoyable than ever. For one, the cab offers the biggest interior space available on the market, the best and largest bunks and an attractive look and feel; it really is a ‘home from home.’ Even the climate control unit stands out in comfort and user-friendliness. It features one-touch defrosting, park ventilation, park heating with timer, rest heat and automatic air recirculation and can also be operated using the rear wall control unit. That means maximum comfort for the driver, which is further enhanced by the cab’s redesigned the interior lighting featuring an innovative rotary switch control. It is located in the middle of the dashboard console so it is within easy reach, enabling the driver to select different lighting modes for various driving and resting conditions.
On the open road, the driver is always in control, too, thanks to an easy to read, logically positioned instrument and information panel. But back to the truck’s actual performance and handling on the test route which took in a variety of road and traffic conditions.
Our DAF XF 480 was powered by a greatly revised Euro 6 multi-torque PACCAR MX-13 engine, which provided plenty of torque, even at lower rpm, which results in great fuel efficiency and making it possible to quietly cruise at only 1,000 rpm. The engine brake on the MX-13 has also been notably improved. To further boost fuel economy – and lower emissions – the XF includes an extended set of Eco Mode options. The Eco Performance Mode ensures an optimal balance between high driveability and best fuel efficiency. When fuel efficiency is leading, the Eco Fuel Mode is the best option, with gear shifting at lower revs for instance. The engine was matched to a latest generation TraXon 12 speed automated gearbox, which comes as standard and produces less friction losses and faster upshifts – as well as improving driver comfort thanks to its quiet and smooth operation and precise clutch actuation.
The XF simply bristles with safety features, making our journey down from Derry, through Omagh, on to Dungannon and back to Mallusk via the M1 and Westlink totally stress free and a real driving pleasure. Coming into its own was the Predictive Cruise Control feature which uses GPS technology to tells us what to expect concerning driving conditions now up to two kilometres ahead, which is farther than previously; it uses this information to determine the ideal speed within a specified range.
We were also impressed with the Adaptive Cruise Control, especially in heavy traffic as it automatically adjusted the truck’s speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. It really did take out all the worry of keeping us and other road users safe. Other safety and driver assistance features on the XF include Forward Collision Warning which generates a warning sound and a visual alert on the instrument panel, urging you to take action in order to prevent a collision. Then there is the Advanced Emergency Braking System which intervenes to slow the truck down in an emergency, and the Lane Departure Warning System to warn you if the vehicle begins to move out of the lane for whatever reason, be it driver error, drowsiness or distraction, while the truck’s electronic braking system features improved Vehicle Stability Control to prevent jack-knifing and overturning. Of note, too, is the addition of a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System which ensures continuous monitoring of the pressure and temperature of all tyres. The system generates warnings when the pressure of a single tyre is low, or the temperature is high, enabling you to take swift action.
Like we said earlier, the DAF XF virtually drives itself, and quietly, too. It is refined trucks like these that convince us more young drivers will be attracted into the industry to tackle the continuing skills shortages. We didn’t get an opportunity to carry out a fuel economy test, but we are informed this latest generation XF will deliver a 7% fuel saving over the previous models. Fleet operators understandably have already taken to this DAF XF, increasingly a common sight on our roads, and not without good reason.