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Mercedes-Benz skins the competition for Pratt’s Bananas

Britain’s biggest, privately-owned importer and distributor of bananas has stood down its entire fleet of 15 Mercedes-Benz Actros tractor units – and replaced them with 20 more!

As before, Pratt’s Bananas’ new vehicles have Long Distance sleeper cabs and are the subject of a CharterWay contract hire agreement with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, which was arranged by supplying dealer S & B Commercials, of Hatfield.

This time, though, the Luton-based operator has gone for an increase in power – its latest trucks are all Actros 2546 models with 460 hp outputs, up from the 440 hp ratings of its previous Actros 2544s.

And according to Distribution Manager David Frost, the result has been an immediate improvement in fuel efficiency. "We were previously running at 8.7 mpg but the fleet average is now sitting around 9 mpg," he said. "Given that the vehicles are fully freighted at 44 tonnes most of the time, that’s a figure we’re very happy with."

Family firm SH Pratt & Co – which trades as Pratt’s Bananas – is a long-standing operator of Mercedes-Benz trucks, Managing Director Robert Wells having bought his first in 1980. Operating round-the-clock and stopping only on Christmas Day, its Actros will each cover 180,000 km a year.

The vehicles collect fruit arriving at the ports of Dover and Portsmouth from the likes of Costa Rica, The Dominican Republic and The Ivory Coast. They bring it back to Pratt’s ripening chambers in Luton – the process for bananas can take up to six days – and then deliver it in palletised boxes to the regional distribution centres of major supermarkets.

Pratt’s was previously an own-account only distribution operation, but in the summer of 2011 the company launched a third-party logistics service covering ambient, chilled and frozen products.

"We might previously have made a delivery of bananas to Wakefield then returned empty," said Mr Frost. "Now, though, we’ll send the truck over to Bradford to collect ambient product, or to Grimsby for frozen product. This new venture has proved very successful and continues to grow strongly."

He continued: "As well as being fuel-efficient our Mercedes-Benz trucks have always proved impressively reliable and durable, and are well liked by our drivers.

"The Mercedes-Benz back-up is excellent. S & B Commercials has just delivered another programme of training to our drivers, a number of whom are Polish – the fact that the dealer’s driver-trainer has Polish parents and speaks the language fluently is a big help.

"We also receive excellent support from another dealer, Hughes of Aylesbury, which undertakes all of the inspections and maintenance of our fleet."

SH Pratt & Co was founded in 1947 by Robert ‘Bob’ Wells, father of the current MD, and now has more than 300 employees.

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