We have launched an all-new series in FOCUS, entitled Face to Face, in which we interview captains of industry. This time around, CHARLEEN CLARKE goes face to face with Gianenrico Griffini, chairman of the International Truck of the Year jury
First of all, some background to you, please. I know that you are one of the most important commercial-vehicle journalists in Italy and also in Europe for that matter. I also know that you used to work as press officer of DAF. Please can you tell us a bit more about your career?
I started my career as an aviation journalist. Flying was my great passion when I was young. I travelled a lot, visiting the most important air shows around the world. Then, when I was in my 30s, I got an offer from DAF, the Dutch truck manufacturer.
I became DAF press officer for Italy and was also responsible for marketing (until 1992). I learned a lot from DAF, especially the pragmatic approach to everyday problems. For instance, I learnt to find the most suitable cost-effective solution, without trying to change the world.
Thereafter, I joined Tuttotrasporti, one of Italy’s leading road-transport magazines, where as technical editor I was responsible for the magazine’s extensive coverage of the heavy-truck, bodybuilding and second-hand truck sectors.
Now I work for Vie&Trasporti, the monthly magazine in the Italian transportation field, reporting on major developments and new products from the global truck manufacturers and commercial-vehicle component suppliers.
When did you first get involved in the International Truck of the Year (IToY)?
My involvement goes back to the mid-1990s. My former editor-in-chief at Tuttotrasporti, Lorenzo Raffo, suggested that I replace him as the jury member for Italy when he resigned. Then, in 2008, I was elected chairman of the group.
IToY has actually been around for much longer, correct?
Yes. IToY’s roots can be traced to Great Britain when Truck Magazine´s first editor, the late Pat Kennett, was testing the then new Seddon Atkinson SA200 in northern Britain back in 1976. He found it to be highly innovative and ahead of its competitors when it came to comfort and safety.
Thus the idea was born to create an award that recognised the latest technical developments in new commercial-vehicle design and truck technology – especially with regard to what benefits they offer to operators and drivers. Kennett’s idea was enthusiastically supported by Truck’s publisher Andrew Frankl, and together they decided to create the Truck of the Year award.
In 1977 the very first award was handed over to Seddon Atkinson to honour the best new truck on the market from the owners’ point of view. It was a small step towards IToY, being at first a purely British affair, but that changed the following year when Kennett and Frankl started looking for qualified colleagues in other European countries who shared their vision. By mid-1977 the heart of the very first international jury was created.
Members of the IToY jury are extremely active in the industry – because the organisation is about more than just the competition.
For the benefit of FOCUS readers, please explain the organisation a bit more.
Well, IToY is a non-profit, democratic organisation where the members jointly make the major decisions. The jury meets several times a year to discuss the current nominees and we also meet at various functions during the year, including at new product launches.
IToY has become a truly “international” network for the exchange of information on road transport as well as a forum for cooperation on international truck testing. We also meet regularly with legislators and industry representative bodies to help promote road transport. In this respect, it is a unique body with great value to the members.
The jury is now made up of members from all over the world, correct?
Indeed. Traditionally, the jury was made up of only European journalists. They are still members today; 23 leading European journalists represent their various countries. However, we also have associate members from China, India, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Iran and Japan. (FOCUS editorial director Charleen Clarke represents South Africa on the jury.)
You have now decided to introduce a new award, called the Truck Innovation Award. Why?
Within the automotive industry, a technological and energy transition/revolution is underway. Therefore we – the Truck of the Year group – decided to do something to acknowledge this new trend and revolution. The new award recognises “tomorrow’s trucks”.
Which vehicles qualify for this award?
Truck Innovation Award nominees must increase the efficiency of transport of goods by road in the foreseeable future and offer a reduced environmental footprint. The nominated truck must be an advanced-technology vehicle, with a gross vehicle weight over 3,5 t. It should either feature an alternative driveline — hybrid, hybrid range-extender, all-electric — or have an alternative fuel-system such as liquified natural gas, compressed natural gas or hydrogen fuel cells.
Alternatively, it must feature specific high-tech solutions when it comes to connectivity – whether semi- or fully autonomous driving systems, a platooning capability, or advanced support services such as remote diagnostics.
Do concept vehicles qualify?
No. Truck Innovation Award nominees must be “driveable trucks”. One-off concept vehicles are not eligible.
And the finalists for the first-ever Truck Innovation Award are?
Volvo Trucks FL-FE Electric
Renault Trucks second-generation electric trucks
ZF Innovation Truck
When will the winner be announced?
The inaugural award ceremony will be held at the forthcoming IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Hanover, Germany, in September 2018.
• FOCUS will be at the award ceremony. Follow us on social media to see which vehicle wins the inaugural award!