India has become a favorite supplier of trucks to undeveloped and developing countries. It’s all about price (low) and value (acceptable). For decades, especially during the Cold War, Russia was the primary source of inexpensive, crude but rugged trucks to poor nations with equally dilapidated roads. When the Cold War ended in 1991 Russia lost a lot of those markets, in part because Russia could no longer afford the generous financing terms to sell those vehicles and in part because a lot of undeveloped countries found that Western trucks, while more expensive, were usually more reliable and the manufacturers provided better service and tech support. But since the late 1990s several Indian vehicle manufacturers have become major suppliers of rugged, reliable and inexpensive trucks to countries with bad roads and infrastructure. What kicked this off was an Indian government decision to open up the Indian economy and eliminate a lot of restrictive rules and practices. This allowed the major vehicle manufacturing nations from the West to invest and introduce their more efficient vehicle designs and manufacturing techniques. This transformed the Indian vehicle manufacturing industry and in the last decade Indian firms have been getting more of the business, especially for military and government fleets, in South America, Africa and Asia. Russian and Western firms are still there and China has become a major producer as well. Still the Indian firms are grabbing a lot more sales. Back home the Indian military buys domestic with a lot more confidence since the 1990s. Before that Indian made trucks were second-rate by world standards. That is no longer the case.
One of the more popular military/government/commercial Indian truck designs is the 6x6 cross-country models. These tend to carry up to five tons off road and 7.5 tons on roads. Options include a crane built in for quick loading and unloading at locations where there are no cranes to speed this up. Experience has shown that equipping the driver compartment with heat and air conditioning pays off because it reduces driver fatigue. This is important because most of these vehicles are built to handle dirt roads and cross country operation. Since these vehicles can travel at up to 40 kilometers an hour on dirt roads the drivers must be more alert because these primitive roads often have built in obstacles like deep ruts and large debris. Cross country driving requires even more alertness.
Indian manufacturers are also finding more of their customers want more affordable versions of the latest Western military truck designs. These vehicles are larger but designed to handle primitive roads and cross country travel. One of the most frequently imitated design is that of the U.S. Army 8x8 HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck). This design has been around since the 1980s and currently cost about $300,000 each from Western producers. The American army has nearly 14,000 of these eight wheeled vehicles, which form the backbone of its transport force. HEMTT is similar to most heavy trucks used by Western armed forces. HEMTT come in five different configurations, the most common being the cargo carrier (ten tons carried in the truck, plus another ten tons in a trailer) and tanker (10,500 liters/2500 gallons). The vehicle weighs 19 tons empty, have a max speed of 90 kilometers an hour and a range (on one tank of fuel) of 480 kilometers (less if moving cross country.) There are also 2,000 HET (Heavy Equipment Transporters) in service. These are 42 ton semi-trailers that can carry up to 70 tons. Their main job is hauling M-1 tanks long distances. But HETs can also carry supplies, and often do. The latest HEMTTs (the A3 model) use their diesel engine to drive a generator, which produces over 100 kilowatts of power. Normally, this electricity runs electric motors that move the truck. But put the truck in park, and the power is available for other uses, like powering a military base in a remote location. In 2005, a HEMTT A3 prototype was sent to New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina hit, and provided power for a hospital. This new “Propulse” technology is being installed in other models of army trucks as well. This sort of capability is very popular in developing countries where reliable electricity supply does not exist.
HEMTT and HET provide another major market that India (and China) are closing in on.