Custom truck eases home deliveries

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Lloyd Fraser has taken delivery of a fleet of specially designed vehicles for its Wickes home delivery operation to meet the needs of health and safety directives and tightening vehicle restrictions in urban areas.

These vehicles have taken 12 months to get from the drawing board into service and the result is a best of breed vehicle for heavyweight home delivery which combines the competing considerations of payload, working time directive, order mix, speed of loading and unloading, and access restrictions.

Lloyd Fraser has held the contract since 2004 and makes more than 3,000 deliveries each week from a 200,000 sq ft national distribution centre, carrying the full range of Wickes’ kitchens, bedrooms, conservatories, residential doors, and appliances. It also operates seven strategically located cross-dock sites.

It operates a delivery fleet of more than 60 double-manned vehicles operating within a 12 hour delivery window.

Some £5.4m was saved in the first full year of operating the Wickes Home Delivery contract through improved management and implementation of cost saving initiatives.

The new vehicles replace an outgoing fleet of 7.5 tonne and 18 tonne vehicles, which were not ideal. The 7.5 tonners weighed out before cube or time, while the 18 tonners were too big to access residential areas without considerable difficulty.

The solution lay in a mid range vehicle which could carry sufficient payload yet have the accessibility advantages of a 7.5 tonne wheelbase.

Lloyd Fraser got together with DAF, Don-Bur, and the transport department of the client, to produce as close a match to its operational needs as possible. The result is a vehicle with a payload of five tonnes to ensure maximum efficiency, and a wheel base of 17.7 feet to ensure minimum access issues.

The 55 series DAF operating in the 13-15 tonne bracket showed small but tolerable dimension differences to the 45 series.

As the 15 tonne version of the DAF 55 operates on the same chassis as the 13 tonner, the new fleet has been plated at 15 tonne, offering a payload of around 6.5 tonnes, while at the same time achieving a 7.5 tonne equivalent wheelbase.

In designing the body, health and safety and economy have been the primary considerations.

But moving away from the 28 foot length of the 18 tonner to solve the access problem created a need to compensate for the loss of cube.

The answer lay in looking down rather than up. Every vehicle carries a 10 foot stillage containing all the work tops, which have now been accommodated in two side panniers below the main body of the vehicle.

The ability to remove this volume from the main load, into what was free space, enabled a reduction in body length to a standard 25 feet, without compromising orders per route.

Further to the theme of economy, the trucks come with automatic transmission, ensuring consistency of fuel performance, and the bodies are fitted with quick release “slide-a-side” curtains which are anticipated to save over 30 minutes on every route.

However, primary consideration for body design was to make the job safer and easier for the delivery crew, in relation to working at height.

A key objective was to reduce the need to climb on to the back of the vehicle un-aided and safe access from the side of the vehicle has been provided by way of a safety platform that folds back into itself for stowage purposes and slides down each side of the vehicle so it can be operated where required.

The side panniers offer a second benefit of stowing the kitchen worktops at a much safer unloading height, as previously these had to be handballed from the back of the vehicle. Additionally, the vehicles are fitted with tail lifts to enable appliances to be unloaded safely and also have in cab reversing cameras which activate when reverse gear is engaged.

Further technology sees the vehicles fitted with the telemetry present in the old fleet which records driver and vehicle behaviour.

The roll out of this new fleet also ties in with a new electronic proof of delivery and vehicle tracking system which allows the customer service centre to provide the customer with a real arrival time-driven by the on-board satellite navigation system constantly updating the route plan for the vehicle that day.

Lloyd Fraser is also trialling a camera system called SmartDrive on a number of the vehicles. This is an insurance led initiative which captures an image inside and outside the cab when a pre-set level of G Force is exceeded. Following an “event”, the previous 15 seconds are recorded giving a visual record of the situation in an accident situation. This information has obvious insurance benefits when it comes to proving blameworthiness, and acts as a management tool for any corrective measures that need to be addressed with drivers.

Rob Ivers, Lloyd Fraser general manager of the Wickes Home Delivery Network says: “Home delivery is a difficult job and every operation has a unique set of requirements that must all be accommodated, most of which compete and which no off the shelf design can satisfy. This vehicle is as near perfect a marriage between safety and efficiency as possible, and addresses as many of the on the road issues as a vehicle can.”

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