The latest Mercedes-Benz Actros is certainly living up its reliable, fuel-efficient billing for Thames Group, a third-generation family firm now celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Three months after they entered service the seven tractor units supplied by Dealer Sparshatts of Kent are out-performing the company’s Swedish-built trucks by at least one mile per gallon, and often a lot more.
“The Actros are great,” enthused Operations Manager Daniel Treadwell. “We’ve had no problems and while the widely varying nature of our work means it’s difficult to make direct comparisons, they are definitely more economical than our other vehicles.
“The Actros are always a good mile ahead and the difference is sometimes as much as 2.2 mpg. When running heavy the Mercedes-Benz units consistently return 9 mpg, whereas the Swedes average 7.7.”
A general haulier experienced in handling time-sensitive deliveries, Thames Group operates 15 tractor units, a single 7.5-tonne rigid and a fleet of vans from its base in Dartford, Kent. The company was established in 1977 by Peter Treadwell. The founder’s son Mark is now Managing Director – Daniel is one of four of Mark’s children who also work for the family concern.
Its latest trucks are Actros 2545 models with flat-floored BigSpace cabs and advanced 330 kW (450 hp) straight-six engines, which drive through smooth and efficient Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated transmissions.
They have replaced Euro 5 Actros which Thames Group was leasing from a major, third-party provider, and are the subject of a CharterWay contract hire agreement from Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.
Not only does the deal put together by Sparshatts’ truck sales executive Ben Williams mean Thames Group is paying less for the new vehicles than it was for their predecessors, but they also came with a significantly higher specification.
Features include colour-coded bumpers and sliding fifth wheels, as well as fridges and the optional Predictive Powertrain Control system. PPC is an innovative cruise control that employs digital 3D mapping and GPS data to scan the road ahead. Armed with this topographical information it manages gear changes and vehicle speed, making full use of the truck’s momentum and of the transmission’s EcoRoll function.
Mercedes-Benz claims average fuel savings and CO2 emissions reductions of 5% for its PPC technology, although some operators have reported more substantial improvements. By also applying engine braking at every opportunity the system reduces component wear and tear, while leaving drivers free to concentrate fully on the road ahead.
The workshop team at Sparshatts’ Dartford branch are carrying out routine inspections and maintenance. “They’re as good as gold,” continued Daniel Treadwell. “Our driver drops his truck off and the Dealer provides him with a ‘smart’ courtesy vehicle to come back in.”
He added: “The lads love their new Actros. The cabs are a lot bigger than they’ve been used to and they particularly like the Lane Assist system and Bluetooth telephony. Everything I’ve heard has been positive.”
In addition to haulage, Thames Group offers secure warehousing and storage – most of the 34,000 sq ft facility on its two-acre Dartford site is fully racked – and confidential shredding services which are fulfilled at a second location in Basildon, Essex.