It’s a regime that few would envy, but for fruit and vegetable merchant Steve Pegrum the nightly journey from Norfolk to London’s New Covent Garden Market has become a lot more enjoyable since the arrival of his company’s new Mercedes-Benz 26-tonner.
Mr Pegrum is a Senior Director at Dereham-based CC Wells, a family-owned supplier and retailer of top-quality produce for the last 35 years. A successor to its two previous Mercedes-Benz trucks, both 18-tonne models, the low-riding Antos 2536 LnR ENA arrived via the Norwich branch of Dealer Orwell Truck & Van, and is the subject of a CharterWay contract hire agreement from Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.
The six-wheeler is fitted with an insulated curtainside body and Thermo King refrigeration unit, while the advanced six-cylinder engine transmits its 265 kW (360 hp) output to the road via a smooth Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated gearbox. Not only does full air suspension ensure a comfortable ride, but it also helps to protect fruit and vegetables from transit damage.
The truck has a steering rear axle for enhanced manoeuvrability; unusually for an LnR variant with low frame height, this has been engineered by Mercedes-Benz so that it can also be lifted when running light, allowing the operator to reduce tyre wear.
Smartly finished with colour-coded bumpers and door mirror covers, an air management kit and alloy wheels, the Antos is proving impressively fuel-efficient while making day-time collections from growers in Lincolnshire, and on its nightly runs through East Anglia and into London.
Mr Pegrum and his driver Paulius Kuizinas undertake the 220-mile round trip to the capital five times a week. They leave at 6pm, stopping off regularly at Shouldham Thorpe, near Downham Market, to pick up herbs and salad leaves, and making other collections along the way, before reaching their destination at around 9.30pm.
Then comes the hustle and bustle of the UK’s biggest and busiest fruit, vegetable and flower market – while his colleague distributes to different stands the produce they have brought with them, Mr Pegrum concentrates on buying the finest fruit and vegetables at the best prices.
“It can get quite hectic down there, with plenty of activity crammed into a relatively short period of time,” he explained. “But I’m nearly 60 now, and I’ve been doing this job for many years, so I take it all in my stride.”
Not until 4am do the pair head for home. Mr Pegrum is glad that he specified the truck’s ClassicSpace M-Cab with optional Comfort seats for the passenger as well as the driver, as he invariably takes the opportunity to grab some well-earned ‘shut-eye’ on the trip back to Norfolk.
“The Antos is a beautiful piece of kit, and a fantastic-looking mobile advertisement for our business,” he enthused. “It’s comfortable, economical, and handles brilliantly, as well as offering the extra space and capacity we badly needed. We’re carrying more and more product for other people these days, and the 26-tonner’s payload allowance ensures we’re always well within legal limits.”
CC Wells supplies fruit and vegetables on a wholesale basis to schools, colleges, shops, cafés, restaurants and other caterers, and sells direct to the public five days a week at markets across Norfolk.
Mr Pegrum works alongside son Darren, the company’s Sales & Warehouse Manager, and daughter Siobhan, a Sales Assistant. The Antos is its only truck to wear a three-pointed star, though the two Sprinter vans it uses for smaller and urgent collections and deliveries were also supplied by Orwell Truck & Van.
“Mercedes-Benz certainly builds a superior product but after sales support is every bit as important to me,” added Mr Pegrum. “Our Antos is a very unusual vehicle. In the event that it went down we’d find it virtually impossible to hire a replacement, refrigerated curtainsider.
“It is crucial, therefore, that we avoid unplanned downtime. Experience with our previous Mercedes-Benz trucks, and with our Sprinter vans, has confirmed that Orwell’s service is second-to-none.
“They do everything well. Truck Sales Executive Tony Simmons will always go the extra mile, while the workshop team appreciate that when a vehicle’s not on the road it’s costing its owner money, so can always be relied upon to do whatever it takes to keep us moving.”