Leading independent Welsh wholesaler Castell Howell Foods is running two flagship 375 kW (510 hp) Actros 2551 tractor units with range-topping GigaSpace cabs, part of a clutch of orders for 23 new Mercedes-Benz and FUSO trucks.
In addition to the Actros, the Cross Hands-based company has just commissioned 10 fridge-bodied Atego rigids – four 15-tonne 1524s and six low-frame 12-tonne 1224 LnRs – all of which arrived via the Swansea branch of Euro Commercials.
The Dealer is also processing orders for a further six 15-tonners and four more 12-tonners, as well as a 7.5-tonne FUSO Canter 7C18 – the franchised Mercedes-Benz network sells and supports the popular Japanese light truck range in Britain.
Castell Howell Foods serves customers throughout Wales, the Welsh borders and the West Country, and prides itself on supplying and promoting regional produce. It stocks over 10,000 catering products and is best-known for its Celtic Pride Premium Beef Partnership, a supply chain initiative launched in 2003 which now has more than 80 farmer members, all of whom follow strict husbandry and management rules.
The company’s latest acquisitions follow two years of sustained growth during which its sales volumes have increased by almost 15%. Some replace older vehicles which are being stood down but others represent additions to the fleet, which is expanding to meet customer demand.
Mercedes-Benz vehicles supplied by Euro Commercials account for roughly half of Castell Howell Foods’ 108 trucks, the overwhelming majority of which are mid-sized rigids. The operator also runs a dozen Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, which make special and emergency deliveries and each cover upwards of 100,000 miles a year.
The eye-catching Actros are now pulling temperature-controlled Chereau semi-trailers between Cross Hands and satellite depots at Avonmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Chirk, near Wrexham, and Merthyr Tydfil, as well as a cash and carry in Carmarthen.
“The tractor order came down to a straight fight between Mercedes-Benz and one other manufacturer,” recalled Director of Transport Operations Martin Jones. “In the end it was decided by driver choice – we tried demonstrators and they preferred the Actros for its fantastically spacious and comfortable cab, with the driving position winning particular praise, and for the responsiveness of the 510 hp engine, which is also very quiet.”
The Actros are typically working at 37-38 tonnes gcw. “We’re very pleased with their fuel-efficiency,” continued Mr Jones. “Even on a challenging route out of West Wales we’re getting close to 10 mpg, while on motorway routes they’ll often top 11.
“We picked the GigaSpace over a day cab because although the drivers don’t spend nights away in their trucks, they do travel reasonable distances during which our new fleet flagships double as great mobile advertisements for the business.”
Castell Howell Foods has been operating Mercedes-Benz Atego rigids for more than a decade. Its latest examples are powered by advanced 175 kW (238 hp) six-cylinder engines that combine high-torque characteristics, even at low revs, with impressive fuel economy.
According to Martin Jones: “The Euro VI model represents a big step forward compared to the previous version. The turning circle is better, as is the engine performance, while the intelligence and anticipation of the Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated gearbox is also very good.”
The 15-tonners are allocated to urban routes and deliver to larger, contract customers, work for which the operator makes full use of their load volume and payload capacities. The 12-tonners, by contrast, are assigned to rural duties, where their reduced height is a big plus. “We get a lot of overhanging trees in the lanes of West Wales, and like to keep the trucks as low as possible to minimise body damage,” explained Mr Jones.
He added: “We maintain our rigid vehicles and vans locally, with the help of regular parts deliveries from Euro Commercials, but the dealer is inspecting and servicing our new Actros under a Mercedes-Benz R&M contract. Its after sales support is excellent.”