Ground-breaking technology designed to prevent and mitigate the effects of accidents has persuaded Flogas to make its first investments for more than 15 years in new Mercedes-Benz trucks.
As one of Europe’s leading LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) suppliers, the Leicester-based operator has an uncompromising approach to safety. It is also highly focused on operational efficiency, and was impressed by the Actros tractor unit’s performance in a series of fuel trials, as well as by the manufacturer’s industry-leading Zero Tolerance on Downtime aftersales commitment.
Supplied by East Midlands Dealer Mertrux Truck & Van, Flogas’s nine new Actros 2445s are the subject of a Mercedes-Benz Financial Services contract hire agreement. They have flat-floored StreamSpace cabs and are powered by economical, 330 kW (450 hp) six-cylinder engines paired with smooth Mercedes PowerShift automated transmissions, which contribute to fuel-efficiency as well.
Small (17.5in) wheels on the mid-lift axles save around 300 kg compared to the standard version with 22.5in wheels, while also freeing up valuable space on the chassis for discharge equipment – the trucks comply fully with PetReg standards and pull bulk tank trailers at 44 tonnes GCW.
They are additionally fitted with optional Mercedes-Benz Safety Packs. Offering customers significant savings on the price they would pay if purchasing its individual elements separately, the Safety Pack includes the remarkable Active Brake Assist 4 emergency braking system, which incorporates a world ‘first’ in the shape of its pedestrian recognition capability, as well as Proximity Control Assist and a driver’s airbag.
Flogas, whose fuel is used to power everything from camping equipment and home heating systems, to major industrial machinery, runs a fleet of nearly 400 commercial vehicles from a network of more than 50 depots located throughout the UK. Most are rigids from 3.5-26 tonnes GVW with tanks or dropside bodies for carrying cylinders, although the line-up also includes approximately 70 tractor units.
Winner of the Logistics Champion of the Year for Essential Services trophy at the 2017 Freight Transport Association Logistics Awards, Flogas has been running a couple of four-year-old Actros tractors which it inherited as the result of an acquisition. It also purchased five FUSO Canters – a trio of 3.5-tonners and two 7.5-tonners, one a diesel-electric Eco Hybrid model – from Mertrux late last year, for delivering bottled gas in London.
Fleet Manager Stephen Moir commented: “This is the first time for many years that we have ordered new Mercedes-Benz trucks. I’ve been really impressed by the level of engagement we’ve seen from the Mertrux team. They were positive from the outset and worked very hard to win our business, responding to requests for information with clarity and detail. The communication has been superb.
“It will come as no surprise given the nature of our business that safety is the number one priority for Flogas. As well as trunking up and down motorways and A roads, the Actros must also travel through high-density areas, where the Active Brake Assist 4 system’s ability to respond to a pedestrian stepping out in front of the truck will provide extra reassurance for our drivers. It’s a truly awesome piece of technology.”
Active Brake Assist 4 employs multi-mode radar to monitor moving and stationary objects in front of the vehicle from a speed of 15 km/h, and sounds an audible warning when it senses potential for a collision. If the driver takes no action, it will apply staged braking followed by full braking power to prevent a crash, or dramatically reduce the effects of an impact. The system is looking for moving pedestrians from a standstill, even one stepping into the truck’s path from behind a parked car, and can apply partial braking, simultaneously activating acoustic and visual warnings, up to a speed of 50km/h.
Mr Moir continued: “Its fuel-efficiency was another big selling point for the Actros. Our established tractor units typically average between 8.5 and 9.5 mpg, but the trials we’ve undertaken indicate that if used correctly the Mercedes-Benz will return 10.5-11 mpg. An improvement of this magnitude would represent a substantial cost saving for our business.
“To help us maximise fuel-efficiency Mertrux is providing driver training, while we’ll also be using the data from the trucks’ Fleetboard telematics systems to analyse driver and vehicle performance, and feedback to colleagues where we identify opportunities to improve style at the wheel and thereby increase economy.”
He added: “Because of the business we’re in, and the service commitments we give to our own customers, it’s critical that we avoid unplanned downtime – ours are specialised vehicles, so we can’t just spot hire a replacement for one that’s off the road. We’ll therefore be looking to the Mercedes-Benz Dealer Network to deliver on the commitments we’ve been given, by providing the fast, efficient back-up we need.”
The Mercededes-Benz Zero Tolerance on Downtime commitment applies to road-going Euro VI trucks covered by a Service Contract. The manufacturer pledges to operators that if their own vehicle cannot be repaired and set back on the road within 24 hours, it will either provide them with a like-for-like replacement, or reimburse them for the cost of renting one.
Flogas was founded in 1984 and is the proud holder of a Royal Warrant. Part of the FTSE 100-listed DCC Energy group – an Irish-owned business with an £11 billion turnover – it also operates in the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and The Netherlands.