Builders’ merchant Travis Perkins is gearing up for improved fuel economy after becoming the first UK customer to take delivery of Mercedes-Benz Econic trucks equipped with the manufacturer’s own gearbox.
Previously, Mercedes-Benz Trucks UK has only offered the low-entry Econic with the fully automatic, six-speed Allison transmission. However, responding to demand from the market, it has introduced the 12-speed Mercedes PowerShift 3 system for certain 4×2 and 6×2 variants. An 8×4 rear-steer version is also in development.
The two transmissions are now being offered in tandem, giving customers more opportunities to tailor the Econic to their operations. Mercedes-Benz Trucks UK Product Manager Rupert Barnard explained: “For those undertaking domestic waste and recycling collections, the Allison gearbox will continue to offer the best compromise in terms of usability, comfort, durability and economy. However, for some trade-municipal and haulage applications, the well-proven Mercedes PowerShift 3 system offers optimum fuel efficiency and is likely to be more appropriate.”
The Mercedes-Benz Econic is well established as the refuse chassis of choice for many local authorities, and waste and recycling specialists. However, the significantly enhanced visibility for drivers offered by its low-entry cab, panoramic windscreen and fully glazed folding passenger door, together with its market-leading, factory-fit safety systems, mean the Econic is now proving increasingly attractive to companies working across other sectors, most notably construction and distribution.
Travis Perkins has ordered ten 18-tonners with PowerShift 3 transmissions. They are being supplied by Midlands-based Intercounty Truck & Van, cementing the long-standing relationship between the two businesses. All are Econic 1830 models with advanced, 220 kW (299 hp) straight-six engines, dropside bodies by Sheffield-based Massey Engineering, and HMF 1210-L long boom cranes.
Travis Perkins purchased five 26-tonne Econics from the same Dealer earlier this year. However, the operator has long recognised the benefits of these vehicles, having acquired its first three 6×2 versions with cranes early in 2016.
Unlike the new six-wheelers, which wear the blue livery of the company’s Keyline civils, drainage and heavy building material division, the 4×2 trucks are finished in Travis Perkins’ familiar green and gold colours. They will be based in and around London – the first two are now in service at a branch in Sutton, Surrey – where Mercedes-Benz is confident the Econic will achieve a top, five-star rating when Mayor Sadiq Khan’s new, Direct Vision standards are announced.
Like its previous Econics, the latest trucks are fitted with five-camera cctv recording systems and Sidescan® proximity scanners, which sound audible alarms to alert the driver to the presence of a cyclist alongside, while also warning the rider when the vehicle is turning left.
Travis Perkins’ Central Fleet Manager James Taylor confirmed: “The advantages it offers in terms of enhanced visibility mean the Mercedes-Benz Econic is ideally suited to work in urban environments, where we share the roads with so many cyclists and pedestrians, as well as other traffic.
“We have been leading calls for the Econic to be offered with the Mercedes PowerShift transmission, and it is gratifying that the manufacturer has listened to what we’ve been saying and acted on it. The Mercedes-Benz system offers improved fuel economy and significant cost savings, compared to the Allison version. It is our intention, therefore, to standardise on Mercedes PowerShift when placing future Econic orders.”
An Econic demonstrator with Mercedes PowerShift 3 transmission is now available for trial by operators. The 18-tonner is fitted with Hyva skip-loading bodywork and starred on the Mercedes-Benz stands at the 2017 Tip-ex and Freight in the City exhibitions. Prospective customers wishing to put this vehicle to the test should contact their local Dealer.