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The industry’s down turn confirmed by Anfia

While Emilcamion and Lamberet launch technical innovations aimed at improving agility and reducing rolling resistance, the market has to deal with an unprecedented crisis that is threatening national brands such as CIR

Massimo Lanari

Despite an internal market in dramatic conditions, the world of semi-trailers is still full of technical innovations. All this in a gloomy framework to say the least: manufacturers that are closing, trucking companies fleeing abroad and registrations plummeting. However, before analyzing these factors, let’s begin with some good news.


Emilcamion (Tecnokar group) has launched the Retrosystem on the market, the steering device replacing the Retronic axle, which caused a sensation in the 90s on 6x2 and 8x2 trucks. Now, many manufacturers already offer a last steering axle: the usefulness of this device focuses, therefore, on the one hand on old vehicles that do not yet have a similar system and, secondly, on semi-trailers. But before analyzing its applications, let’s see what it is about.

The system applies to vehicles already equipped with a self-steering axle, and consists of a hydraulic power pack that supplies oil under pressure to the hydraulic cylinders that control the steering axle. In this way the axle steers even in reverse, with a limited difference on the unladen weight (only 40 kg) compared to the steering axle already supplied. The advantages are obvious: greater maneuverability during operations and less rolling resistance, resulting in less wear and damage. The Retrosystem starts automatically, thanks to sensors mounted on the wheels, which recognize when one of these requires a greater steering than the other. It can also be mounted on other axles and, optionally, is equipped with a remote control for manual steering of the axles. As you can see, a device acts directly on the steering axle weakness, so common in Italy, unlike other European countries, namely its failure in reverse.


A drawback that many other manufacturers have remedied with alternative systems; this is the case, for example, of the Dutch Tridec, with its steering axle system controlled by the fifth wheel, which means though, an increased unladen weight of 650-700 kg, compared to 150-180 kg of a self-steering axle. In recent years, also the French Lamberet has joined the segment, equipping the second and third axle of its  Super City semitrailer with an innovative device with hydraulic steering. The system is composed by a sensor, which unlike the solution adopted by Emilcamion-Tecnokar is mounted on the center pin, which sends the signal to an electronic control unit. This operates two hydraulic pistons that move the axles: the second has a steering angle of 14 °, the third of 32 °. Despite its technical innovations, the Italian semitrailer market is still in serious trouble. The final confirmation came from Tocco da Casauria (Pescara), the headquarters of Compagnia Italiana Rimorchi, the leading Italian manufacturer of these vehicles, which owns brands such as Viberti, Cardi and Merker. The company, on March 7, requested access to composition procedure, which usually forms the preamble to the final cessation of activities. Bad news, then, for the 364 staff members employed, in the  Abruzzo factory, as well as in the former Cardi factory in Bussolengo (Verona) and Viberti of Nichelino (Turin). But bad news also for the industry that, with its numbers, shows how the industrial vocation of our country is falling. Already in 2013, another historical manufacturer, Zorzi of Treviso, had to cease its activities, before being acquired by Menci and is now faced with a difficult recovery. The numbers of 2013 are on red alert: despite a disastrous 2012 and incentives for the purchase of trailers suitable for intermodal transport, the market grew by only 1, 51%, reaching a total of 6,536 registered vehicles. In short, despite some timid signs of recovery in the economy, there are still many difficulties, and the Italian market for trucks over 16 tons, still down 3% (9626 registrations), positions itself now firmly behind countries such as Spain, Poland and the Netherlands. In addition to the economic crisis, over the past two years Italy has been paying a heavy price  to the process of relocating trucking companies abroad, opening businesses (real or fake) in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia.


Back to the data by ANFIA on the semi-trailers market. Sales of Italian producers declined by 11%, to the benefit of foreigners, up 24%: among them Krone stands out, which has tripled its sales touching the thousand registrations, surpassing Schmitz and claiming second place behind the dying CIR. Among foreign companies, Lecitrailer (+101%) did extremely well, as well as Schwarzmuller (+103%); Schmitz (+0.4%) stands its ground, while Koegel (-28%) collapses. The latter, in all probability, suffers the vicissitudes of the  Italian importer, currently Evicar of Gadesco Pieve Delmona (Cremona). Same goes for the -85% of Kaessbohrer, that after the closing of the Italian branch is now in the hands of Lamberet Italy. The strong growth of Lamberet (+47%) and Chereau (+136%) instead, confirms the health of the refrigerator trailer market. In Italy, the building crisis hit hard but Tecnokar limits the losses (-10.9%) thanks to tipper trailers. According to the operators, without a shock to the economy, 2014 will close on probably 5500-5700 registrations. In 2006-2007 registrations reached 16 thousand.


What about exports? For several years both CIR and Tecnokar  have featured greatly on the French market, while Menci focuses on the Brazilian market. In all these cases now 40-50% of the production is aimed at foreign markets. Not to mention specialized manufacturers such as Rolfo (autoracks), Pezzaioli (animal transport trailers) and OMEPS (tanks) that now devote more than 90% of their products to exports. Will this be the industry’s future?

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