The heavy haulage escort business is all about accident prevention, and in his new Mercedes-Benz Jason Priest has one of the safest vans on the road.
His company Priest Abnormal Load Services is based in Droitwich, Worcestershire, and acquired the Vito 111 CDI from the Kidderminster branch of Dealer Group Rygor Commercials.
Mr Priest’s biggest customer is the Allelys Group, which operates from nearby Studley and specialises in transporting the heaviest, longest and most precious locomotives. The family-run haulier was the subject of the six-part factual series Train Truckers broadcast on UKTV’s Yesterday channel earlier this year. Mr Priest and his previous Vito also made several appearances.
A third-generation heavy haulage specialist with 15 years’ experience in the industry, he established Priest Abnormal Load Services in 2016, to provide truck operators with a safe, reliable pilot car and escort service, as well as trailer attendant, operative and steersman support, permits and route surveys.
Mr Priest launched his business with a pre-owned Vito, which he retains as a back-up, and for use by a colleague. “That’s been an amazing vehicle,” he declared. “It’s covered 150,000 miles and has been exceptionally reliable, while returning 50 to the gallon.”
No surprise, then, that when he decided to upgrade to a newer van, it was always going to be another Mercedes-Benz Vito. Acquired with competitive funding support from
Mercedes-Benz Finance, the latest vehicle reflects its owner’s adherence to industry-led ‘best practice’ in being equipped with the latest Whelan warning light equipment and finished with Chapter 8 high-visibility chevron markings.
Other variants of the mid-sized Vito range are available with rear-wheel drive, but the 1.6-litre 111 CDI model’s 114 hp output is transmitted via the front wheels. “When undertaking an escort assignment we may only travel at 10-15 mph,” explained Mr Priest. “Nevertheless, the 57-58 mpg I’m getting from my new Vito still represents exceptional economy.”
Mercedes-Benz is renowned as the van industry leader on safety. The Vito’s standard specification includes Adaptive ESP®, the anti-skid system which takes account of a vehicle’s load status, Crosswind Assist, ATTENTION ASSIST, and airbags for both the driver and co-driver.
As well as an optional reverse warning device, the van’s Active Safety Package provides an intelligent combination of assistance systems which take the strain off the driver and help prevent accidents. It comprises Blind Spot Assist, which provides visual warnings if there is a vehicle in the van’s blind spot – they become more urgent and audible if the indicator is switched on; Collision Prevention Assist, which warns the driver if the vehicle in front is too close, or if there is a danger of collision, and supports the driver when braking; and Lane Keeping Assist, which warns the driver if lane markings are crossed unintentionally.
“Blind Spot Assist in particular is a great piece of kit,” he enthused. “A red warning light in the door mirror alerts you to the presence of a vehicle you may not be able to see. It’s a brilliant idea and really useful for my job.”
With the cargo area converted to provide sleeping accommodation – he can be away from home for anything up to three weeks at a time – Mr Priest’s Vito is also exceptionally comfortable and easy to drive. Other optional features include air-conditioning, electrically heated and operated door mirrors, rain-sensitive wipers, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift knob.
“I’ve had other makes of van in the past but they were all very agricultural compared to a Mercedes-Benz,” he continued. “The Vito’s build quality is markedly superior and the experience at the wheel more closely resembles a premium-quality car than a commercial vehicle.”
Commenting on the support he receives from the team at Rygor Commercials’ Kidderminster workshop, Mr Priest added: “I really can’t fault them. They’re open through the night which means I can get my van serviced at times that suit me, and when I drop it off at the end of the day they’ll always provide me with a courtesy vehicle to go home and get back in.”
The Dealer’s Kidderminster Service Manager Neil Cook commented: “Jason is a valued ambassador for the Mercedes-Benz Vito, and for Rygor’s customer-focused service. My colleagues and I are now hoping there will be another series of Train Truckers, so we can watch him at work with his new van.”