The European Road Transport award for innovation was presented at the Amsterdam Commercial Vehicle show 2003 to a group of truck body builders in the Netherlands. The CombiGroep is a co-op of seven truck body builders, each covering a different geographic area of the Netherlands. They also have an eighth location for central engineering and central production.
The group's winning entry for the innovation award is a newly developed system for the underbody framing of van bodies and other enclosed bodies.
This underbody frame consists of extruded aluminum tubular longitudinal sills that have full-length slots for bolt heads and other fasteners. The hat-section crossmembers are of galvanized steel and are punched with a hole pattern to fit many chassis and many body styles and accessories. Side rails are aluminum extrusions designed to bolt easily to the ends of the crossmembers. The front bulkhead of the enclosed body is bolted in place, as is the one-piece rear door frame.
Nut-and-bolt fasteners are the preferred connections for this underbody frame. The small body builder shops find it hard to hire competent welders, and the bolted connections avoid the need for spray painting after assembly and mounting of the body. Delivery time is thus improved. Welding of the one-piece rear door frame, usually of stainless steel, is done in the central production shop serving all seven body builders locations.
The CombiGroep's winning entry in the innovation award competition was chosen from 21 entries. The jury, consisting of the editors-in-chief of trade publications representing seven European countries, praised the ingenious development and clever use of different materials. The jury liked the easy-to-build basic frame structure that is suitable for a large number of applications. According to the jury, this is a “unique example of mass production which can be applied throughout Europe.”
Second place in the competition went to the refrigerated trailer of the German manufacturer Frigoblock Grosskopf GmbH, which makes use of a clean and economical common-rail diesel engine. In third place came the hook-lift system of Hiab Leebur from Bladel, the Netherlands, which was praised above all for its low tare weight.
Two other juries chose the Truck of the Year award and the Van of the Year award. The new Mercedes-Benz Actros, introduced in the spring of 2003, was chosen as Truck of the Year. The new Volkswagen Transporter T5 was chosen as the Van of the Year 2004. All award presentations were made during the opening ceremony of the European Road Transport Show held in October at the RAI exhibition center in Amsterdam.