The first two Mercedes-Benz trucks to wear the colours of North-East operator Thompsons of Prudhoe have been quick to impress with their combination of driver comfort and economy.
Supplied by Dealer Bell Truck and Van, the two Actros 2545 tractor units have been pitched into a head-to-head trial against pairs of vehicles by the two Swedish truck manufacturers, and are already setting the pace.
Both have flat-floored StreamSpace cabs and optional, fuel-saving Predictive Powertrain Control systems. They are additionally equipped with hydraulics packs and pull bulk tipping trailers.
Thompsons of Prudhoe runs a mixed-marque fleet of 90 trucks, the majority of them tippers, and specialises in demolition, industrial dismantling, asbestos removal, site reclamation, earthmoving, contaminated land remediation and site clearance.
It is part of the Thompsons of Prudhoe Group, a third-generation family business which began life in 1948 as an agricultural merchant. Other Group subsidiaries are W&M Thompson (Quarries), a producer of aggregates and agricultural lime, and Tyneside Minimix (Concrete), which supplies readymix concrete within the Tyne & Wear region.
Transport Manager Ronnie McGrouther said Thompsons of Prudhoe’s decision to trial the Actros reflected the persistence of Bell Truck Sales Executive Steve Holmes, and encouragement from other operators.
“We always take a measured approach and did plenty of research before making this commitment,” he explained. “Everyone talks in this industry and by chatting to peers and colleagues you can get a good feel for which vehicles are performing well. Without exception, everything we’ve heard about the Actros has been resoundingly positive.”
Mr McGrouther continued: “These trucks won’t be clocking up exceptionally high mileages but the nature of our operation means they’ll be worked very hard. There’s not much empty or light running – instead, they leave each day at 44 tonnes gcw and are fully loaded for a good 75% of the time, with a lot of A-road work in Scotland.”
Commenting on the three-cornered truck trial now underway, Mr McGrouther said: “Obviously this is a long-term exercise but the Actros have certainly made a very good start.
“Their mpg returns are well into the nines, which is excellent; we can certainly live with that. It puts Mercedes-Benz comfortably ahead of one of its competitors, and on a par with the other.
“Our drivers absolutely love the Actros too. This comes as no surprise, as it’s a fantastic cab, extremely comfortable, spacious and impressively well appointed.”
The new trucks are powered by state-of-the-art, 330 kW (449 hp) straight-six engines which drive through smooth Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated transmissions.
Their Predictive Powertrain Control systems, meanwhile, employ digital 3D mapping and GPS data to scan the road ahead. The innovative cruise control uses this information to manage gear changes and vehicle speed, making full use of the truck’s EcoRoll function to restrict diesel consumption and CO2 emissions.
By also applying engine braking at every opportunity PPC reduces component wear and tear, while drivers are less stressed and safer because it leaves them free to concentrate fully on the road ahead. Tests have shown that the system can deliver savings of 5%, although many UK operators have reported much higher gains.
Thompsons of Prudhoe’s Actros are now being serviced and inspected by Bell Truck and Van under three-year Mercedes-Benz Repair and Maintenance Contracts. “We also run several Mercedes-Benz Vito repair vans so already know the Dealer,” added Mr McGrouther. “As well as the fuel-efficiency and reliability of the trucks, we’ll be monitoring the quality of Bell’s back-up closely.”