Founded all the way back in 1928, DAF began its life as a group of blacksmiths operating out of a small workshop. Eventually, seeing a gap in the transport market, the company began to produce trailers, then trucks, and then its own range of engines. By 1996, the company had become part of PACCAR, a European-American company.

“PACCAR is a very solid company, which has over 80 years of black numbers. DAF is a brand that is over 90 years old already, but PACCAR is over 100 years old,” notes Arie Hendrikx, Director, International Fleet Sales, Electric Truck, and Miltary, at DAF Trucks. In 2020, the company made a net profit of $1.3bn and delivered over 133,300 vehicles worldwide. However, for Hendrikx, the thing that interests him most is about what lies ahead for PACCAR and DAF Trucks, pointing to the company’s work in developing fully electric vehicles or hybrids making use of hydrogen power, along with other innovations in its portfolio.

The importance of developing alternatives to diesel trucks has never been more vital, according to Hendrikx. An ever-increasing number of European municipalities are announcing that in the future, inner-city areas will only be accessible to zero-emission vehicles — making fully electric trucks an important proposition. Fully electric solutions also offer the transport sector an opportunity to play its part in helping to meet the challenges of global warming and local air quality.

“By 2030, many cities will forbid fossil fuels inside [their limits],” Hendrikx believes. “That means that trucks will have to be electric or hydrogen, but at least not diesel anymore. I know that some municipalities, they don't buy any [diesel trucks] for suburbs anymore – that's already happening. And the balance will follow soon.”

This also applies to DAF Trucks’ military range, where hydrogen hybrids and full electric vehicles are several years into development. One of the benefits that this technology offers the end user is that these types of vehicles don’t tend to have very high mileage, Hendrikx notes, so should have a long use period.

However, these vehicles will be held up in many parts of the world due to differing levels of environmental technologies – the infrastructure needs to be in place to support hydrogen power and fully electric vehicles, and many places lag behind in this area. As a result, traditional diesel vehicles will remain in demand in certain areas in the years to come, and DAF will continue to supply high-performing diesel-powered trucks to operate in these markets.

At the same time, DAF prides itself on its collaborations with other industry players, such as the undercarriage it has developed with independent access from Tatra. DAF provides the ballistic cab, the gearbox and the engines, with the interior of the cab being developed by Tatra. This collaboration resulted, among other things, in the CF Military Truck, which received a large order of 879 trucks from the Belgian military in Feb 2021, with delivery planned for this year. The quality advanced here, along with DAF’s dense service network, in Hendrikx’s eyes, makes the company “serious, attractive players” for prospective clients.

The CF truck was part of DAF’s so-called “Blue Range” of vehicles, which also included the LF and XF trucks for urban and long-range transport, respectively, with the CF model being intended for national distances. Looking to the future, however, DAF unveiled its “New Generation” XF, XG and XG⁺ trucks at the end of 2021 to considerable anticipation, with 11,000 models sold before production had even begun.

These new generation of trucks “fulfils the new and massive dimensions like you see in Europe,” says Hendrikx. “It's not just another new truck. It's the first truck that's fulfilling those new requirements and you have much more room to improve – for example – things like air drag and safety, and direct vision.”

The new generation of XF – now a bright gold to make it visually distinct from its blue predecessor, is 16cm longer, offering greater cab space with larger windows that provide a better view on the road and the truck’s surroundings. At the same time, it boasts around a 10% improvement on fuel consumption than the Blue Range model and considerable aerodynamic optimisation, along with drive line improvements in the axles, the gearbox and the engine.

The XG and XG+ are brand new trucks for DAF, rather than successors to previous models. The former is 33cm longer than the XF, providing even greater cab space, which Hendrikx believes will appeal to a number of long-distance operators, and the XG+ is bigger still, while maintaining the payload of the previous range.

“So yeah, that is where we are now when it comes to innovation,” Hendrikx notes, radiating confidence in the capabilities of DAF’s latest offerings.  “DAF is innovating and investing a lot of money in development for the future. While I don't know how much further we can go with diesel engines, we have reached another 10% [on fuel efficiency] that we thought wasn't possible – but we have now proven that it is.”

Beyond the trucks that DAF provides, the company also offers a wide service network for its clients. “In Europe, we have more than 1,000 locations where service can be handled and our dealers can also service the military trucks,” Hendrikx says. While DAF only employs a small fraction of these dealerships directly, the others are independent dealerships that are supported with the know-how, systems and training by DAF to enable them to offer the same high-quality service for both civilian and military trucks.

In Germany, DAF have around 127 locations ready to service its trucks, compared with 30 in Russia, where Hendrikx previously worked to establish the company’s network. However, he explains, truck operators in the latter are far more used to travelling greater distances between dealers. With this spread across Europe, and work currently ongoing to develop its network in Africa, DAF is able to ensure that where there is demand for its trucks, it has a service provider nearby.

DAF also provide its International Truck Service (ITS), which provides coverage 24/7 all year round – including weekends, rather than just during the work week. “If somebody has a breakdown, we will be the intermediate [between] the home dealer, the customer and the servicing dealer,” Hendrikx explains. “And we will make sure that they are running as soon as possible.”