Lombard Shipping has come full circle, replacing the first Actros tractor units it acquired seven years ago with five new examples of the Mercedes-Benz fleet favourite.
Those early vehicles provided reliable, fuel-efficient service from day one, which helps to explain why every new truck commissioned since by the Ipswich-based operator has also worn a three-pointed star.
Today, Mercedes-Benz accounts for the vast majority of Lombard Shipping’s 40 trucks, the only exceptions being the last handful of older vehicles which are due to be phased out soon.
Lombard Shipping latest Actros 2545 tractors were supplied, like their predecessors, by East Anglia Dealer Orwell Truck & Van. They are powered by state-of-the-art, 330 kW (450 hp) straight-six engines that drive through smooth Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated transmissions, and have already impressed with their fuel efficiency.
“We’re regularly seeing returns of well over 10 mpg, which is excellent,” said Managing Director Simon Fraser. “The Actros is a great all-round package. Our drivers like them and they’re reassuringly reliable, with downtime reduced to an absolute minimum.
“This is partly down to the fact that the Actros is a superb piece of engineering, but also because if we do ever have a problem, the team at Orwell Truck & Van invariably deal with it quickly and professionally. They understand our business and are always willing to be flexible to help keep our trucks on the road, where they earn their keep.”
Lombard Shipping also operates depots in Huddersfield, Liverpool, Norwich, Belfast and Dublin. One of the new Actros is based in Ipswich, and hauls shipping containers from the dockside at Felixstowe to distribution centres in the Midlands. The remaining four work out of Liverpool, undertaking haulage and groupage duties between mainland Britain and Ireland.
Mr Fraser ascribes the fuel-efficiency of his Mercedes-Benz trucks to a combination of three factors:
First, Lombard makes full use of the Mercedes-Benz FleetBoard telematics hardware fitted as standard to all new Actros. FleetBoard monitors driving style and highlights incidences of over-revving, harsh braking and other factors which can impact on fuel consumption. “It’s a highly effective educational tool,” said Mr Fraser. “By compiling a ‘league table’ of scores we’ve fostered a real spirit of competition between our drivers, to see who can be the most economical.”
The trucks are also fitted with Mercedes-Benz Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) systems. PPC combines cruise control with GPS mapping so the vehicle can ‘see’ the road ahead and make gear shifts, or throttle back where appropriate, in anticipation of changes in gradient. Tests have shown PPC can deliver savings of 5%, although many UK operators have reported much higher gains. The system is available as an option on new Actros but can now also be retro-fitted to vehicles already on the road.
Finally, Lombard’s drivers have benefited from coaching by Orwell Truck & Van’s ‘Fuel-Saver’, driver-trainer Lee Betts, who has shown them how to make full use of the on-board technology and thereby achieve optimum efficiency.
The Actros are the subject of Agility funding agreements from Mercedes-Benz Financial Services – these provide all the benefits of hire purchase with a balloon payment, including low monthly outgoings, but offer additional flexibility by allowing customers to choose from a range of options at the end of the term.
“The Agility payments are highly competitive – more so than the banks could offer – and we’re able to put off deciding what to do at the end of the contract until much nearer the time,” added Mr Fraser.
“It’s another example of the great customer service we receive from Orwell. They don’t just ‘sit and listen’, but come to us with suggestions if they think they can help us to operate more cost-effectively. For instance, they recently submitted a proposal to retro-fit PPC to several 18-tonne Antos rigids, which we set on the road last year. We’re currently ‘crunching the numbers’ to calculate what level of saving we could potentially achieve.”