The introduction this year of the revolutionary DUONIC automated transmission convinced Bristol-based Charles Saunders Foodservice to make its first investments in Fuso Canter light trucks.
The two 7.5-tonners were supplied by Mercedes-Benz dealer City West Commercials – the German manufacturer’s franchised network is also responsible for sales and support of the popular Canter range in the UK.
They are now being used to deliver fresh and frozen fish – Charles Saunders is one of the largest wholesalers in the South-West – along with other foods and dry provisions, to customers including restaurants, hotels, schools and hospitals, across much of the region and into Hampshre and Wales.
The new trucks are both 7C15 models, and power from their 150 hp engines is transmitted to the road via smooth-shifting DUONIC transmissions.
The world’s first dual-clutch automated manual transmission for light trucks, DUONIC combines the ease of use and safety benefits of an automatic gearbox, with the advantages of a manual, the most important of these being fuel-efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions.
As with a fully automatic transmission, the six-speed DUONIC is a two-pedal system. Drivers can choose between automatic and manual modes, while innovative features include a non-wearing wet clutch.
The benefits are not lost on Colin Bardsley, Operations Director at Charles Saunders Foodservice. "The auto ‘box makes life easier for our drivers when making multi-drop deliveries around town," he said. "It also contributes to safety by leaving them free to concentrate fully on the road, and will help to reduce our maintenance costs because clutch plates won’t wear out and need replacing."
The Canter at 7.5 tonnes gvw is renowned for its market-leading payload and despite their insulated Solomon bodies and dual-temperature Hubbard refrigeration units, Charles Saunders’ vehicles offer highly impressive 3.0-tonne carrying capacities.
With a product portfolio that includes lightweight items such as Yorkshire puddings, volume is every bit as important as payload to the operator. The compact size of the Canter chassis allowed Charles Saunders to specify bigger box bodies than previously – as a result, its Canters can swallow eight pallets, two more than its other 7.5-tonners.
"Our drivers have really taken to these new vehicles," said Mr Bardsley. "So given the obvious advantages in terms of cost and operational efficiency, there’s every prospect of our buying more Canters in the future."
In addition to its 18 7.5-tonne trucks, Charles Saunders operates a fleet of 17 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, several of which have fridge conversions. Most of these vans run in the colours of Good Morning Foods, another Bristol-based company which Charles Saunders acquired recently.
"Good Morning Foods is a long-standing Mercedes-Benz operator and the acquisition means we’re now dealing regularly with City West Commercials, which looks like a very professional operation," added Mr Bardsley.
Its membership of Fairway Foodservice plc, the UK’s largest independent food purchasing consortium, allows Charles Saunders Foodservice to offer its quality quality wholesale products at highly competitive prices.