SMMT Bus & Coach Committee

Looking to the future

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) holds an annual press event to discuss key topics impacting on its members and upon the bus and coach operators that rely on the products they produce or sell. Chairman of the Bus & Coach Section of SMMT for the past ten years has been Adrian Wickens of Volvo Bus. With his impending retirement in September he has passed the Chairman’s role on to Optare MD, Enrico Vassallo with effect from 1 January. Although Enrico was present it was Adrian who chaired the meeting for one last time.

There have been a number of personnel changes at SMMT since the last meeting was held and also attending was Aftermarket Development Manager, Peter Lawton. One of his principal responsibilities is for the bus and coach market, a role that was carried out by Bob Davis for many years. He was accompanied by Press Officer, Ben Foulds and Communications Officer, Lucy Bielby.

2014 registrations

The total recorded registration figures for 2014, showed that 7,352 buses and coaches had been registered, of which 3,912 were other vehicles (mainly vans) converted to PCVs. This represents a drop of 4.6% compared with the 2013 figure of 7,707. Of the 2014 conversion registrations, the overwhelming majority (3,210) were in the 3.5 tonne to 8.5 tonne range, with 684 under 3.5 tonnes and 18 over 8.5 tonnes. This leaves a purpose built bus and coach total of 3,440 vehicles, a drop of 6.6%.


Looking first at purpose built coaches over 3.5 tonnes, the figures show a total of 892 which is a rise of 5.8% over the 2013 total. Split down, the official SMMT figures are 49 purpose built coaches of between 3.5 and 16 tonnes, 771 purpose built single deck coaches over 16 tonnes and 72 purpose built double deck coaches over 16 tonnes.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive said. ‘The trend of growth in the purpose-built coach sector was reflected in the 5.8% rise for 2014, compared to the moderate declines seen in other areas of the market.’

However, as Adrian pointed out, the figures exclude certain vehicles registered to the Government that do not appear in the figures. These include 63 Plaxton Volvos supplied in 2014 through Babcock following 71 the previous year. His estimate for the over 16 tonne market is 911 coaches in 2014, up from 855 in 2013. Either way the trend is positive.

A significant achievement is that National Express is already 100% DDA accessibility compliant, six years ahead of the 2020 deadline.

Adrian also noted some nervousness over Euro6 among operators with operators reluctant to make the switch too early. A lessening number of Euro5 vehicles remain available for sale, ahead of the ending of the derogation on named chassis which runs out in June 2015, though it is still technically possible to register not only Euro5 but Euro4 using the IVA and National Small Series legislation. There is currently no timetable for the DfT to introduce legislation closing these loopholes to Euro6 avoidance, and it is unlikely to happen prior to
the election.


Double deck sales have remained broadly constant year on year, the 2014 figure of 1,015 being only marginally below 2013’s 1,026. No precise figure was available but it was thought that London accounted for between 40-50% of the total.

It is in the purpose-built single deck sector that the biggest difference is apparent. The SMMT figures split them into four sections: under 8.5 tonnes (119 down 17.9%); 8.5-12.0 tonnes (262 down 5.4%); 12-16 tonnes (870 down 19.1%) and over 16 tonnes (281 down 12.5%). Despite this, the first stage of DDA for vehicles up to 7.5tonnes GVW has, it seems, been successfully negotiated.

Not a specific sector within the SMMT figures, large single deckers with GVWs of 18 tonnes and over, once a key market segment, have continued to fall from favour. Adrian believed that only 231 were registered in 2014 down from 270 in 2013. This included some hybrids.


Every year, there is minor distortion within the figures because there are always a few vehicles that, despite their registration and entry into service, fail to have the necessary paperwork from which the annual figures are compiled completed in time. While looking through this year’s figures I was puzzled by the low number of Wrightbus vehicles registered in the last quarter. Speaking to the company revealed that a misunderstanding over a slightly altered form layout resulted in 157 integral vehicles that should have appeared in the 2014 figures not being recorded on the SMMT’s figures. I understand these were 89 Streetlites and 68 New Routemasters. These will appear in forthcoming figures but unfortunately their omission has altered the complexion of the 2014 totals published.

If the missing vehicles are taken into account, the 2,548 figure for purpose built service buses would be increased to 2,696, which is a much less significant drop of 5.1% compared with the 2013 figure for purpose built service buses of 2841, and rather less alarming than the 10.3% drop the original figures indicate. It would also have meant an increase in the double deck sector.

A number of other buses that have been delivered do not appear in the figures for a variety of reasons. Thought to be amongst them are at least some of the ten Van Hool A330 hybrid fuel cell buses for Aberdeen and a number of Volvo B8R Plaxton Leopards for two Education and Library Boards in Northern Ireland.

As an aside, the size of the market in the Irish Republic recovered significantly to 207 vehicles in 2014, up from 163 in 2013 but somewhat short of the pre banking collapse norm of around 400 annually.

Alternative drive

It was pointed out that over 40% of the double deckers registered were hybrids, though it was thought that, outside London at least, the percentage may drop this year because Green Bus Fund 4 has run its course. An exception is Scotland which continues with its own GBF programme. It was estimated that one in five new buses have (not 100% diesel) alternative drive systems, with full electrics and gas buses also figuring. This estimate does not include buses with so-called micro-hybrid systems.


For 2015 the forecast is that the coach market will remain steady. However, the bus market is less predictable beyond the major orders for 2015/2016 already in place, because of some significant factors creating uncertainty. These include the election, the increasing impact of austerity measures on public sector spending which may particularly impact on rural areas and the threat of re-regulation bringing with it Quality Contracts. Fuel price fluctuations, the loss of BSOG and Concessionary Fares reimbursement were other issues. There would be continuing Government initiatives to encourage reduced emissions through OLEV (the Office for Low Emission Vehicles) and especially in London with the announcement of the ULEV and the Mayor’s stated ambition that every bus and municipal vehicle should run on B20 (diesel with a 20% bio-diesel content) by 2020.

It was noted that policy is something that the industry has to deal with. Adrian Wickens observed, ‘Things that create uncertainty tend to have an impact on the order book.’ That impact is normally the delaying of the placing of orders.

Clean Air Summit

In order to showcase and debate the commercial vehicle’s contribution to improving the UK’s air quality, SMMT will be staging an event entitled: Improving Air Quality: The Commercial Vehicle Contribution, in London on 11 February. An invitation only event, it is aimed at local and national government policy stakeholders as well as fleet operators and vehicle manufacturers.

Transport Minister, Baroness Kramer, will make the keynote speech, with Doug Parr, Chief Scientist for Greenpeace; Elliot Treharne, Air Quality Manager for the Greater London Authority and Dr Jon Lamonte, CEO of Transport for Greater Manchester also speaking. Delegates will be speaking from manufacturers including: Ford, Iveco, Mercedes-Benz, Optare and Renault Trucks.

SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, commented, ‘Bus and Coach manufacturers have invested heavily in clean Euro6 technology, which is already playing a vital role in eliminating emissions and making significant improvements to air quality. These vehicles feature the latest technologies, which in tests on London’s 159 bus route, demonstrated an 85-fold reduction in NOx emissions over the previous Euro5 standard – as well as a virtual elimination of particulate emissions.’

‘However, as this new air quality event will show, vehicle technology is only part of the solution. To help it reach its full potential, we now need to engage policy makers, operators and manufacturers to facilitate a cohesive and sustainable transport policy framework. UK government and local authorities must work together with industry to support the uptake of Euro6 vehicles. Effective traffic management policies and systems – such as low emission zones – need to be developed in and around the UK’s towns and cities.’

Go to the [email protected] website to register your interest.


There was a reminder of just how huge a leap forward in air quality Euro6 had been, especially in terms of NOx emissions. One Euro5 bus engine emitted 85 times as much NOx as one Euro6 engine. There was also a reminder of how staggering the cost for manufacturers achieving Euro6 had been.

In future the emphasis would be on reducing particular types of NOx because some were known to do more damage than others. NO2 was a particular concern and one of the most serious was N2O, commonly known as laughing gas, which was not currently separately regulated but was 300 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

A lot of local authorities were looking at the adoption of LEZs as a relatively inexpensive policy tool and London was proposing the ULEZ, on which SMMT had made a detailed response on behalf of operators. There were inconsistencies within it, such as having different rules for diesels and petrol driven vehicles and the proposals for exemptions for certain Euro5 buses but not others.


There is no immediate plan for the introduction of a Euro7 round of engine emission legislation, which is welcome news to the manufacturers who will welcome a period of stability to enable them to earn back the billions they have invested to meet the strictures of Euro6. However, this does not mean that there will be no more legislation covering vehicle performance because now there is the Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool or VECTO. This is a computer simulation tool that will measure CO2 emissions from new vehicles given information supplied by manufacturers. Initially voluntary for manufacturers, the European Commission intends to bring in legislation requiring CO2 emissions from heavy duty diesels to be certified, reported and monitored using the tool as the basis for calculations. This will apply to long distance trucks from 2018 and will probably measure buses against a mandatory standard from 2020/2021.


A thought provoking meeting, the event provided a reminder that not only does nothing stand still in vehicle development, the pace at which it changes and the number of factors to be considered continues to increase.






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