A heightened focus on the protection of vulnerable road users in Britain’s towns and cities has spurred Mercedes-Benz to unveil a prototype urban tractor unit based on its market-leading, low-entry Econic chassis.
The concept shares many of the key attributes that have enabled Mercedes-Benz to win a string of high-profile orders for rigid versions of the Econic from safety-conscious construction operators and refrigerated distribution specialists.
Those attributes include a deep, panoramic windscreen and full-height glazed passenger door, and a low seating position which allows the driver to make direct eye contact with cyclists and pedestrians at junctions and in traffic.
The 4×2 Econic 1835L tractor will operate at a maximum gross combination weight of 36 tonnes. The truck has an economical 7.7-litre straight-six engine which transmits its 260 kW (354 hp) output via a six-speed Allison automatic gearbox – the manufacturer plans to offer its well proven, smooth and efficient Mercedes PowerShift transmission in Econic models powered by the same engine before the end of 2017.
The tractor unit also incorporates a number of refinements made recently to the Econic cab, to enhance its appeal for drivers and crew. These include a driver’s door which is higher and opens more widely, and a re-profiled floor that makes cross-cab access easier.
The vehicle makes its public debut at this weekend’s (30 April-1 May) Truckfest in Peterborough. It will then be presented to a select group of potential customers at Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ Wentworth Park complex near Barnsley next week, before going on static display at the latest Mercedes-Benz RoadEfficiency LIVE event, which takes place at the Millbrook Proving Ground from 15-19 May. By then, it is hoped, operators will be lining up to try the vehicle in ‘real life’ applications.
Philip Chance, Senior Municipal Sales & Special Applications Manager at Mercedes-Benz Trucks, said: “Our experience over the last couple of years in London and elsewhere has proved that the safety benefits which the Econic offers in comparison to a conventional rigid truck chassis give it significant market appeal.
“It was a logical next step, therefore, to explore the potential for an Econic-based urban tractor. We have adapted the base unit built by the factory in Germany so that it is better-suited to a UK audience and are now keen to talk to operators, and to get their feedback on our new prototype.”
He added: “Safety has always been a hallmark of the Mercedes-Benz brand and as well as being available with a comprehensive array of camera and proximity alarm systems, Econic models have also come equipped as standard since December with Active Brake Assist 3 technology.”
A number of Econic-based construction vehicles including builders’ merchant dropsiders with cranes, tippers, tipper-grabs and skip-loaders are now operating in London and Cambridge, while a pair of fridge-bodied 18-tonners also entered service in the capital late last year.