NHS laundry chiefs in south-west Wales bought their first Bevan-bodied Mercedes-Benz trucks back in 1999, with the intention of running them for five years.
But so sturdily built, reliable and well supported did those two vehicles prove that not until now, 13 years later, has the Hywel Dda Health Board’s Carmarthen Laundry Service finally replaced them.
The Board conducted a formal tender process before ordering its new trucks, which once again combine 13-tonne Mercedes-Benz Atego chassis with Bevan Group bodies.
On this occasion, though, they are the subject of a six-year contract hire arrangement with public sector vehicle finance specialist Automotive Leasing, a division of LeasePlan.
The new trucks also represent a huge step forward in terms of environmental and operational efficiency.
Both are fitted with box versions of Bevan Group’s streamlined Bevan21 body. This features a curved roof and specially moulded air deflector and cab collar which significantly reduce wind resistance. But despite the curved roof there is no reduction in cubic load volumes.
Independent tests carried out under stringent conditions have confirmed that the Bevan21 is capable of cutting fuel bills by more than 15 per cent, and trucks with this body – which is also available as a curtansider – are now producing impressive mpg returns for some of the biggest fleet operators on Britain’s roads.
The Carmarthen Laundry units were manufactured in the Bevan Group factory at Halesowen, West Midlands, from thermoplastic composite Omnia panels – unusually, this lightweight, recyclable material has been specified for the floor and roof, as well as the sides and rear hinged flap – Bevan also installed the 1500kg Anteo cantilever tail-lifts.
The result is a body which as well as being easily cleaned offers an impressive payload of 6,420kg (excluding driver and fuel allowances), some 500kg up on the previous vehicle’s carrying capacity.
The fuel-efficient Mercedes-Benz Atego 1324 chassis on which Bevan’s bodies are mounted, meanwhile, were supplied by South Wales dealer Euro Commercials. Standard equipment on the Atego includes the MSS (Motor Stop Start) system, which boosts economy and cuts emissions simply by switching off the engine whenever the vehicle is in neutral and stationary for three seconds – for example in heavy traffic or at lights – then switching it back on again automatically as soon as the driver depresses the clutch.
The Carmarthen Laundry Service is based at the town’s Glangwili General Hospital and employs a staff of 30, who launder bed linen, towels, gowns and other items for hospitals through south-west Wales. The trucks are used to make collections and deliveries.
Laundry Manager Derek Upton has retained one of the two older vehicles as a spare. He explains: "They proved exceptionally good value for money and are a testament to the manufacturing quality of both Bevan Group and Mercedes-Benz. Others would have fallen to bits years ago but Bevan’s bodies are still perfectly sound, while the Mercedes-Benz chassis have been incredibly reliable – in 13 years we replaced one clutch, which says it all."
On the decision to specify Omnia panels for the bodies of the new trucks, Mr Upton continues: "Payload capacity is not an issue for us but a lighter vehicle is also more fuel-efficient. The reduced weight, coupled with the Bevan21’s aerodynamic shape and the Atego’s MSS system, will allow us to minimise fuel consumption and thereby reduce our carbon footprint.
"Also, of course, the Omnia panels won’t delaminate and are fully recyclable. We’ve used Omnia for the floor because the more conventional ply has a tendency to absorb water over the years, adding weight. And we’ve chosen Omnia for the roof because of its thermal qualities – on days when the sun is beating down it should help to prevent the laundry inside from getting too hot."
Like their predecessors, Carmarthen Laundry’s new trucks will be maintained by the workshop team at Euro Commercials’ Swansea depot. "We’ve had great service from the dealer while Bevan’s Sales Director John Naden was very helpful when we came to specify our new trucks," adds Mr Upton.