Brakes gears up for safer city deliveries with fuel-efficient Mercedes-Benz Econic
The UK’s leading supplier of food to the catering industry is now servicing customers in central London with the first fridge-bodied Mercedes-Benz Econic to feature the manufacturer’s own automated manual transmission.
Brakes’ low-entry 18-tonner is powered by a high-torque, 7.7-litre straight-six engine which generates 220 kW (299 hp) and drives through a 12-speed Mercedes PowerShift 3 system.
Although well proven in other models bearing the three-pointed star, Mercedes PowerShift was not previously available on Econic. Its recent introduction reflects the truck’s increasing appeal to safety-conscious operators working across a broad range of distribution-related applications, and their requirement for a more fuel-efficient alternative to the established, six-speed Allison automatic which is so well-suited to stop-start waste collection duties.
Working from the company’s Premier Park distribution centre in west London, Brakes’ Econic 1830L has an insulated body by Solomon Commercials, of Rossendale, Lancashire, and is making an average of 20 deliveries each day to hotels, restaurants, pubs and other establishments in the heart of the capital.
Brakes’ Fleet & MHE (Manual Handling Equipment) Manager Paul Vernon explained: “The Allison gearbox was not appropriate for an operation like ours, but we have high hopes for the Mercedes PowerShift system. We’ve already seen some very encouraging fuel returns. The Econic is averaging 10 mpg, which is on a par with the 18-tonne Mercedes-Benz Antos trucks we operate from the same location.”
Like all Econics, Brakes’ vehicle is fully air-suspended and has a deep, panoramic windscreen and full-height, glazed passenger door, as well as the low seating position which allows drivers to make eye contact with vulnerable road users at junctions and in traffic.
Mr Vernon continued: “The Econic’s cab affords drivers great all-round visibility, which may help to make the roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Its easy cross-cab access also enhances safety for our own drivers, because rather than stepping down into the traffic when they exit the vehicle, they can always do so on the pavement side.”
The Econic is additionally fitted with a full complement of proximity sensors and recordable cameras, as well as an in-cab CCTV system for live streaming, a standard feature on the operator’s trucks for more than a decade.
Environmental compatibility was also a priority. Like other vehicles based at Premier Park, the Econic runs on Shell GTL (gas to liquid) Fuel, a ‘paraffinic diesel’ which does not require any engine modifications. According to independent research from one of the UK’s leading vehicle testing organisations, this fuel offers significant reductions in NOx and particulate emissions compared to a standard Euro VI truck, while only rarely do catalytic converters require regeneration.
Carrier Transicold’s PIEK-compliant ICELAND Twincool refrigeration unit runs entirely on hydro-electric power generated by the Econic’s own engine. This PTO-driven multi-temperature system provides optimum performance, even at idle speeds. It helps to reduce the vehicle’s environmental impact by cutting emissions and improving fuel efficiency, while also reducing maintenance costs.
As with all new trucks commissioned by Brakes since 2013, the Econic’s refrigeration unit is underslung, rather then mounted above the cab roof in the conventional way. This measure also contributes to safety by eliminating the need for technicians to work at height when servicing fridges.
Brakes operates approximately 1,500 temperature-controlled trucks, most of them 18-tonners, and 300 vans from a network of 20 depots nationwide. Mercedes-Benz vehicles supplied by Dealer Group Rygor Commercials account for roughly half of the total fleet, and include 50 Antos 18-tonners which entered service last year.
Mr Vernon added: “We back our Mercedes-Benz trucks with Service Contracts so we know what we’ll be paying over the life of the vehicle. The impressive longevity of the product means those whole-life costs are highly attractive.
“As for the Dealer, I’ve been working with Rygor for 12 years now and am very pleased with the support they give us. Their own back-up is very good, and they’ll always go the extra mile if we need them to do so, while they also co-ordinate all of the Service Contracts for us.”
Rygor Commercials Fleet Truck Sales Specialist Chris Carter commented: “It is only appropriate that as an acknowledged leader in its sector Brakes is pioneering the development of safer, more environmentally-friendly truck technologies.
“Continued concerns about the protection of vulnerable road users and the introduction next year of an Ultra Low Emission Zone in London mean the momentum towards more sustainable transport solutions will continue to gather pace. At Rygor, we have the right products, the right facilities and the right people to help our customers operate in a compliant manner, while also maximising efficiency.”