TOKYO, Japan – Hino has two extensive proving grounds in Japan, but when it comes to testing new technology there’s no better place than the real world.
When developing new safety features or environmentally-friendly technology, Hino often calls upon one of its largest and most loyal customers to help evaluate its latest ideas. Seino Transportation is a courier fleet of more than 10,400 trucks – about 97 per cent of them Hinos. The fleet has enjoyed a 40-year relationship with Hino and buys about 1,000 new trucks per year (to put that in perspective, that’s about the total number of trucks Hino sold in all of Canada last year).
The life-cycle of each of these vehicles is about eight or nine years, says Yasuji Kiyohara, chief officer and branch manager of the Tokyo South Region of Seino Transportation.
Seino has been actively involved in the research and development of Hino’s hybrid trucks. There are currently 17 hybrids in Seino’s massive fleet, and Kiyohara says those trucks are the favourites among the drivers.
“The drivers love them,” he says, adding they’re easy to drive and they perform as well as non-hybrid trucks. Kiyohara adds they’re also popular with the drivers because they are among the newest trucks on the road, making them a status symbol of sorts.
In Seino’s experience, the hybrids have resulted in fuel savings of 20-30 per cent. Kiyohara admits the main incentive for buying hybrids was the fact eco-friendly vehicles are mandatory in the greater Tokyo area. In addition to reducing emissions substantially, they also run quieter which endears them to the drivers.
And of course, the fleet loves the fact the life-cycle cost of the hybrids is far less than other trucks – even though they carry a more expensive purchase price.
Kiyohara says Seino would like to convert its entire fleet to hybrids over time.
Hybrid trucks aren’t the only new technology to be tested by Seino Transportation. The company also has a Hino truck equipped with newly-developed safety systems designed to reduce the danger of truck-pedestrian collisions.
One such system consists of air bags mounted to the front bumpers which are deployed upon impact with a pedestrian. The airbags cushion the blow and also prevent the passenger from sliding under the front of the truck and being run over.
Another safety enhancement on the same truck involves a cage-like set of bars that is deployed along the side of the vehicle when cornering at slow speeds.
This protective cage is lowered close to the ground while the truck turns at an intersection, ensuring pedestrians don’t get run over by the rear wheels.
Hino says collisions with pedestrians are a top concern in urban pickup and delivery applications. Truck-mounted cameras coupled with in-cab monitors are also used to help prevent accidents with pedestrians.
Seino Transportation is an ideal partner for Hino when introducing new technology because the fleet shares the manufacturer’s commitment to safety, Kiyohara says.
New safety systems are generally tested extensively in Japan before being introduced to the North American market.