AA Recovery Patrol of the Year Tony leads from the front with new Mercedes-Benz Atego
AA Recovery Patrol of the Year Tony Doran has become one of the first to collect the keys to a new breed of Mercedes-Benz truck.
Tony, who is based at the AA’s depot in Runcorn, Cheshire, was a guest of honour at the Milton Keynes headquarters of Mercedes-Benz Trucks UK, which he visited with senior colleagues from the country’s largest motoring organisation.
Supplied by the Rygor Commercials Group, his 13-tonne Atego 1323 has a factory-fitted crew cab and came complete with the unique AA 3 registration plate that marks Tony out as the face of AA recovery operations.
Part of a ground-breaking order for 30 identical vehicles, the Atego can transport up to five passengers in safety and comfort. It has a bespoke tilt and slide body which was purpose-designed and built by specialist manufacturer Ceejay Systems, of Alresford, Hampshire.
Tony also drove Rygor’s AA-liveried demonstrator in procession with vehicles from the organisation’s historic collection at last November’s Lord Mayor’s Show in London. While continuing in his ‘day job’, he doubles as an AA ambassador.
“The Atego is a really nice drive, very comfortable and with its new body perfectly tailored to our operation,” enthused Tony, who has worked for the AA since 2013 and came through a series of interviews and tests to win his coveted title. “I can’t wait to get out on the road and start using my new truck to support our members.”
The AA runs some 280 recovery vehicles, which are based across a network of 50 depots nationwide. The Atego are the first Mercedes-Benz trucks to wear its familiar yellow and black colours since 2001.
However, the fleet includes 14 FUSO Canter 7.5-tonners which were also supplied by Rygor – fitted with beavertail bodies, these vehicles entered service in 2014-15 and are used primarily in London.
The AA is the first UK operator to run the latest Euro VI Atego crew cab variant in significant numbers. With the driver and a full complement of customers aboard, the vehicle offers a 4.0-tonne payload capacity and can additionally tow vehicles weighing up to 3.5 tonnes.
Key to the organisation’s decision to place its landmark order was the reliable performance of Rygor’s demonstration unit, and the highly positive feedback it attracted from recovery patrols out in the field.
AA Fleet Engineer Chris Wiltshire revealed: “In 12 months that truck didn’t suffer a single day of downtime, which was hugely impressive. Vehicle availability is crucial to our operation. We work our trucks hard – in five years’ time our Atego will each have covered one million km – so if something was going to give, the chances are we’d have found it quite quickly.
“We have taken various opportunities to present the Atego to our patrols, so they could compare and contrast it with products by our two established suppliers. Overwhelmingly, they have come down in favour of the Mercedes-Benz. Their input has also been invaluable in enabling us to refine the chassis specification and body design as we’ve gone along, with the result that the vehicle is now configured precisely as our front-line colleagues wanted.”
Head of National Recovery Ian Dumont added: “Our recovery patrols certainly like the feel of the Mercedes-Benz and the design of Ceejay’s new body, but what’s most important to them is that their truck starts on time and doesn’t let them down. We allocate two drivers to each vehicle and they all have their own kit, so it’s a real pain if they have to transfer it to another because their own has broken down.
“The driving training provided by Rygor has also been a massive plus; I’ve taken several calls from patrols telling me how refreshing it was to receive such professional support, and how much it has enhanced their understanding of the product.”
Rygor Commercials’ Bill Kingsmill made his first approach to the AA in 2010, following his appointment to the role of Fleet Truck Sales Manager. Three years ago Bill hosted Chris Wiltshire on a visit to the Mercedes-Benz Custom Tailored Trucks facility in Molsheim, where they had the opportunity to view the latest version of the crew cab.
“We have liaised closely on this very demanding project with Tony Bell and his team at Ceejay Systems,” said Bill. “At Rygor we pride ourselves on ‘Setting Standards’, and I’m delighted that we have succeeded in delivering a vehicle that meets the AA’s exacting requirements.”