A heightened focus on cost-cutting in the face of "brutal" economic conditions has prompted one of Britain’s biggest privately-owned transport companies to make its most significant round of investments yet in Mercedes-Benz trucks.
Newmarket-based Turners has taken the first deliveries from a batch of 30 premium specification Actros 2544 MegaSpace tractor units.
The trucks are being supplied, like Turners’ previous Actros, by East Anglian dealer Orwell Truck & Van. Power comes from the same 440hp BlueTec® engine, but until now Turners has chosen Long Distance rather than flat-floored MegaSpace cabs.
The company’s first Actros was a ‘seed’ vehicle, purchased in 2010. It performed so well that Turners returned soon after with an order for six more, since when it has added further batches. By the end of January, when the last of its new MegaSpace units enters service, Turners will be operating 55 Actros.
The vehicle’s impressive fuel-efficiency is key to its appeal, with Turners recording average returns of 9.6mpg.
Managing Director Paul Day said: "Today’s market is brutal compared to what we’re used to – there’s less work about, and margins are under greater pressure than ever before. Against such a tough economic backdrop, cost control is paramount.
"The Mercedes-Benz Actros is proving extremely cost-effective to operate. Its fuel returns are right up there with the very best, while it has also proved exceptionally reliable.
Ranked 19th in this year’s MT Top 100 list of transport operators, Turners recently posted a £30-million increase in turnover, raising the total to £210 million. The company offers a comprehensive portfolio of services including specialist areas such as temperature-controlled storage and distribution, and bulk tanker work. Its fleet extends to more than 1,000 trucks and 1,400 trailers, which operate from 32 locations nationwide.
Turners’ recent orders for Actros represent a major breakthrough for Mercedes-Benz UK and Orwell Truck & Van, which have been jointly striving to gain a foothold in the operator’s fleet for years. As Paul Day acknowledges, it was always going to be an uphill battle.
"Our policy has been to focus on a limited number of brands and then to develop long-term relationships," he explained. "Historically, Mercedes-Benz have not been represented on our fleet, so it was very hard for them to break in. The fact that they’ve now done so, and very quickly established themselves as one of our main suppliers, is therefore a considerable achievement."
He continued: "We’re very pleased with the team at Orwell Truck & Van, who are very customer-focused. They understand what we need and they endeavour to do all they can to help us, within the parameters of a proper business relationship."
Turners’ latest Actros units are being assigned to refrigerated operations and, like the Long Distance models that preceded them, are the subject of six-year Mercedes-Benz repair and maintenance contracts.
Explaining the decision to move up to the MegaSpace cab, Mr Day said: "We believe the higher resale values will cover the extra outlay. Also, we like to keep our drivers happy and while the response to the Long Distance cab has been very positive, we know they’re going to be delighted with the MegaSpace version."
Turners’ roots go back to 1930, when brothers Wallace and Frank Turner bought their first truck and began delivering loads from their father’s farm in Soham, Cambridgeshire.