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New Actros gets the drivers’ vote at Wessex Water

Wessex Water is running its first Mercedes-Benz tractor units after the New Actros came out on top in a comprehensive evaluation exercise that involved drivers and other colleagues from the company’s sludge operations team.

Mercedes-Benz dealer Pentagon Commercials won the order for the regional water and sewage treatment business’s 10 tractor units, which work with tank trailers. All are 2545 models with ClassicSpace cabs and fuel-efficient 450hp engines mated to Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated transmissions.

Wessex Water’s New Actros are now working round the clock, seven days a week, hauling waste from sewage works to larger processing facilities.

Wessex Water serves an area of some 10,000 square kilometres that includes Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, most of Wiltshire and parts of Gloucestershire and Hampshire.

It selected Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans following a tender exercise in 2009, and now runs a fleet of around 100. A handful of these Medium-length Sprinter 313CDIs are fitted with high-pressure drain cleaning jetters by Dutch specialist Rioned, but most are assigned to general repair and maintenance duties.

Prior to the arrival of its New Actros, the only truck on the Wessex Water fleet to wear a three-pointed star was an 8×4 Axor 3243K hook-loader, which was supplied by Pentagon last year and is based in Bristol.

Wessex Water Group Manager for Fleet & Plant Martin Crocker is responsible for around 100 vacuum tankers and tippers, many of which have grabs, as well as some 800 vans and 200 cars.

He said: "When the time came to replace the sludge operations team’s previous tractor units we decided to trial products by three manufacturers, and to give the drivers a key role in the decision-making process.

"So we went out on the road with the drivers to make sure we had a complete understanding of the operation, then conducted a series of de-brief sessions."

He continued: "The drivers were a bit daunted initially, by the prospect of going from a manual gearbox to the fully automated PowerShift 3 transmission of the New Actros.

"But once they’d tried it they were quickly won over – the feedback on the Mercedes’ two-pedal system was overwhelmingly positive, while they also loved just about everything else about the cab too.

"And while the New Actros was a firm favourite with the drivers, it was also the most fuel-efficient of the demonstration units we tested."

The New Actros came fitted with Daimler FleetBoard telematics hardware, which analyses driver performance against a range of criteria including over revving, harsh braking, idling, speeding and ‘green band’ driving.

"FleetBoard is an excellent system," said Mr Crocker, "because it allows us to concentrate our training efforts on those areas in which the biggest improvements in driver behaviour can be achieved."

The new tractors are operating from different locations but the workshop team at Pentagon’s Poole depot will undertake most of the inspections and maintenance.

"We enjoy an excellent relationship with this highly professional dealer," added Mr Crocker."

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