A clever cruise control that "sees" the road ahead is contributing to the exceptional mpg returns being recorded by Chiltern Cold Storage’s new Mercedes-Benz fleet flagship.
Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) employs 3D GPS mapping to read three kilometres of topography ahead then responds by controlling speed, braking and the transmission to maximise fuel efficiency. Optionally available at a cost of £1,349 on all New Actros models, the system really comes into its own when the vehicle is travelling up or down hills.
Chiltern Cold Storage’s New Actros 2545 BigSpace is certainly turning heads – finished in metallic blue, it is fitted with two sets of Kelsa light bars and Alcoa Dura-Bright alloy wheels. More importantly to Managing Director Paul Jackson, though, it is also leaving his other trucks trailing in its wake when it comes to fuel performance.
The flagship vehicle took to the road on 1st March and in the following six weeks covered some 10,000 fully-freighted miles – it spends most of its time on domestic duties at 44 tonnes gcw, but also undertakes regular Continental assignments at 40 tonnes gcw. Pulling a 13.6m Gray & Adams reefer, the New Actros is already returning a highly impressive 10.8 mpg average, as measured by the operator’s favoured Proteo telematics system.
"That’s a really good figure," confirms Mr Jackson. "New Actros has taken truck technology to another dimension, and is as close as you’ll get to a future-proof vehicle."
Chiltern Cold Storage was founded in 2003 and has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s leading providers of temperature-controlled storage and global distribution services. The company, which has just completed a major warehousing extension at its Peterborough headquarters, has struck up a burgeoning relationship over the last year with East Anglian Mercedes-Benz dealer Orwell Truck & Van.
Since May 2012 Chiltern has also acquired two more New Actros BigSpace tractors and seven examples from the previous Actros range. They have joined a fleet of 40 trucks – split evenly between tractor units and 18- and 26-tonne rigids – which was previously dominated by a Swedish manufacturer.
Unsurprisingly, given the frugal way in which his latest Mercedes-Benz is sipping diesel, Mr Jackson has just ordered another four New Actros 2545s and, of course, all will have Predictive Powertrain Control.
The "far-sighted" cruise control makes maximum use of the truck’s standard-fit EcoRoll function when travelling downhill, and applies carefully judged single or double downshifts of gear at an early stage. Mercedes-Benz claims the easy-to-operate system reduces fuel use by approximately five per cent.
For Chiltern Cold Storage, however, the saving appears to be considerably greater. The company’s two previous New Actros BigSpace tractors, both of which share the same 450 hp engine as the flagship model, are returning around 9.6 mph.
"That puts them a full half a mile per gallon ahead of the fleet average, which is very impressive," continues Paul Jackson. "But it still leaves them well behind the vehicle with Predictive Powertrain Control.
"All three trucks are on the same work and pulling the same trailers. The flagship vehicle has an exceptionally good driver in Slawomir Andrzejewicz, who is from Poland and has been with us for four years. But this apart, the only significant difference between the three trucks is the intelligent cruise control."
Like Chiltern Cold Storage’s other Mercedes-Benz tractors, Slawomir’s New Actros is the subject of a CharterWay contract hire agreement with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.
Orwell has also just supplied Chiltern Cold Storage with a couple of 18-tonne Mercedes-Benz Axor rigids, both of which are fitted with the latest, aerodynamic, multi-temperature Dolphin bodies by Gray & Adams – one of these vehicles was presented on the bodybuilder’s stand in the Cool Pavilion at this month’s (April) Commercial Vehicle Show at the Birmingham NEC.
Mr Jackson adds: "We receive excellent service from Orwell Truck & Van and particularly its sales executive Tony Simmons, who is both proactive and attentive."