The first Mercedes-Benz tractor units to join the fleet of livestock feeds manufacturer Harbro are delivering a winning mix of performance, driver appeal and fuel efficiency.
The three Actros 2551 BigSpace tractors are beating the company’s previous fleet average by close to a full mile per gallon – which translates to an improvement of 12%.
They are powered by 510 hp (375 kW) Euro VI engines and were supplied, together with an 18-tonne Antos 1827 curtainsider, by Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles Aberdeen – the Dealer has also taken an order from Harbro for a pair of 8×4 Arocs 3240 blowers on tipper chassis, which are due to enter service in the next few weeks.
The new trucks are now transporting feed to cattle, sheep, pig and poultry farms across Scotland and the northern half of England, from Harbro’s mills in Inverness, Lesmahagow and Turriff.
Their introduction marks a change in buying strategy for the operator, as Mercedes-Benz trucks have not featured previously in its 48-strong fleet. However, Logistics & Transport Manager Billy McTavish is no stranger to the brand. “I joined the company nearly a year ago and we decided the time was right to evaluate our vehicle suppliers and their products, so we began discussions with a number of manufacturers,” he recalled.
“Our trucks are worked hard and cover high mileages so fuel is always going to be a major consideration. But we also focused on reliability and the quality of the back-up, as well as the needs of our drivers. We weren’t just looking for a vehicle supplier, we wanted a partner to support our transport needs.
“I know from previous experience that Mercedes-Benz vehicles are solid and dependable, while the Actros cab is excellent and the trucks have real presence on the road. Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles Aberdeen has committed to undertake all inspections and maintenance around our working hours and provide courtesy vehicles for our drivers, while the fact that its Aberdeen and Nairn workshops both now have ATF lanes is another plus point.”
He continued: “The dealer was very confident that the Actros would give us the fuel performance we were looking for, and happy to provide a demonstrator. We ran it for two weeks and it beat our fleet average by a clear margin.”
Like the demonstration unit, Harbro’s tractors are fitted with Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC), a clever cruise control that employs 3D GPS mapping to read three kilometres of topography ahead, then responds by controlling speed, braking and the transmission to maximise fuel efficiency. It is optionally available on all Actros models at a cost of £1,349 or, if specified as part of a Mercedes-Benz Financial Services contract hire package, for just £2.50 a week – equivalent to the price of a cup of coffee.
The ‘far-sighted’ system really comes into its own when the vehicle is travelling up or down hill – on downward slopes it makes maximum use of the truck’s standard-fit EcoRoll function and applies carefully judged single or double downshifts of gear at an early stage.
Mercedes-Benz says PPC reduces fuel use by approximately 5%, although some operators are reporting even bigger savings.
Added Mr McTavish: “Our Actros are frequently running from Inverness down the A9 and M74 into England, and as far south as the Midlands. There’s some mixed terrain on that route, while they also have to access farm tracks, and use their engines to power our blower trailers. So we’re never going to achieve very high mpg figures but the average 12% improvement certainly lives up to our expectations.”
In another departure for Harbro, the new trucks are also the subjects of CharterWay contract hire agreements with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. “Previously we’ve bought outright and done our own maintenance, but the level of care promised and the competitive rates meant that the package was a very attractive one,” Mr McTavish concluded.