The first vans to bear the name of MWI Animal Health are also its first to undergo temperature-controlled conversion, and to be supplied by the Mercedes-Benz Van Centre Exeter.
US-owned MWI Animal Health is an international animal health products supplier for veterinarians. It announced in November that it was bringing together the best-in-class distribution capability of Somerset-based wholesaler Centaur Services, with practice management software innovator Vet Space, and two buying groups – St Francis Group and Vetswest – with relationships across the industry. The result, it said, was “a comprehensive solution, flexible enough to help any veterinary practice focus on what matters most: caring for animals”.
MWI Animal Health runs a fleet of more than 80 Mercedes-Benz vans, the overwhelming majority of them Sprinters. They are based at the headquarters of Centaur Services in Castle Cary, Somerset, depots in Carlisle, Ivybridge, Letchworth, and an additional warehouse in Stoke-on-Trent, and deliver pharmaceuticals and other products to veterinary practices nationwide.
The company’s latest order – which is also its first for vehicles from the third-generation Sprinter range launched last year – comprises 17 3.5-tonne 314 CDIs with L2 medium or L3 long bodies, and a pair of L3 514 CDIs with 5.0-tonne gross weights.
Polar Truck & Van, of Westbury, is undertaking the insulated conversions and fitting the GAH refrigeration systems which ensure temperatures within the vans’ single-compartment compartment cargo areas never fall below 15ºC or exceed 25ºC. For pharmaceuticals that must be kept at between 2ºC and 8ºC, the operator relies, as previously, on Nomad cool boxes.
MWI Animal Health’s decision to insulate and refrigerate the latest Sprinters was driven by changes in legislation governing the distribution of pharmaceuticals – the new vans are also fitted with Transcan® temperature data loggers by Seven Telematics.
Having previously operated another brand of van, the company completed its transition to an all-Mercedes-Benz fleet in 2016. Alan Cruickshank, its Transport Manager South, recalled: “At the time we bought our first Sprinters they were each covering 80,000-plus miles per year. We were confident back then, that they’d prove to be reliable, cost-effective and safe workhorses, and so it’s proved. We wouldn’t consider any other make of van now, because the Sprinter is such a brilliant tool, and the manufacturer’s 24-hour back-up so reassuring.”
Mr Cruickshank said the three-year, unlimited mileage manufacturer’s warranty, and MobiloVan cover, which includes free emergency roadside assistance, were both key to the appeal of the Mercedes-Benz product. “We’ve just had a door mirror knocked off one of our vans while it was parked,” he said. “The local Dealer was straight out to fix it, and within an hour our driver was back on his way again. That’s great service.”
The latest batch of Sprinters replace vehicles which are being stood down, each having clocked-up more than 250,000 miles. The first van to feature 4G Internet connectivity, new Sprinter is a technological tour-de-force, with Mercedes PRO connect offering a range of fast, efficient and cost-effective vehicle management services.
While external revisions are relatively modest, the cab interior has also been completely redesigned to provide a class-leading working environment offering unrivalled levels of quality, quietness and smoothness. Other highlights include the standard-fit Mercedes MBUX system, which provides cutting-edge infotainment, and incorporates a user-friendly voice control function.
“We tried a new Sprinter demonstrator which was very well received by our drivers,” said Mr Cruickshank. “The drivers love the improved comfort and extra features of the latest model – the experience at the wheel is closer to that of a high-end car than a van.”
He continued: “We’re already making use of the Mercedes PRO connect system, which is going to be very helpful when it comes to managing the fleet. Whereas previously a driver might have forgotten to mention that a service was due, we’ll now know this is the case because we are able to monitor the status of the vehicle in real time.”
Long recognised as the benchmark for safety in the van segment, the Sprinter is now equipped as standard with the autonomous Active Brake Assist system, which features another industry ‘first’ in the shape of pedestrian recognition technology. ATTENTION ASSIST, meanwhile, detects drowsiness in the driver and encourages them to take breaks when tired.
MWI Animal Health’s Castle Cary-based vans will be maintained under Service Care Contracts at the Mercedes-Benz Van Centre Exeter. Part of the Snows Motor Group, it opened for business in January 2018, from a stunning showroom and workshop development on Hennock Road Central, Marsh Barton.
“We’ve visited the Retailer and they certainly have some cracking facilities,” confirmed Mr Cruickshank. “Corporate Sales Manager Nicola Townsend has a great eye for detail and put together a very attractive acquisition and maintenance package.
“Nicola is very professional in terms of her communication and account management skills – she’s managed the conversion process and ensured that everything has happened exactly as we wanted and needed.”
Centaur Services was established in 1964 by a group of veterinary surgeons to provide vets with a single-source supplier of products. Operated initially as a co-operative, in 2010 it became part of the MWI Veterinary Supply family which was then acquired in 2015 by Amerisource Bergen, a world leader in human health distribution.