Menzies trials ECO-Start Sprinters

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Newspaper distributor Menzies is trialling some of the first Sprinter vans to be fitted with the new, fuel-saving ECO-Start system from Mercedes-Benz.

Menzies operates a fleet of nearly 500 commercial vehicles, the majority of them 3.5-, 6.5- and 7.5-tonners, in which  Mercedes-Benz has not previously featured.

But now Edinburgh-based Menzies is running ten 3.5-tonne Sprinter 311CDIs, while a 5.5-tonne Sprinter 515CDI with automatic transmission is also due to enter service soon.
Stuart McLean, logistics manager for Menzies Distribution, says: “Given the ever-increasing cost of fuel and environmental concerns we are keen to explore any opportunity to achieve improvements in both of these areas. The risks of trialling this system are low; if ECO-Start does not deliver the expected benefit then we will still have a standard vehicle with proven reliability and a strong residual value.”

ECO-Start works by cutting the engine whenever the vehicle is stationary for more than two seconds, then automatically starting it again when the driver depresses the clutch pedal.

Mercedes says the potential savings are significant for city centre operation. Its tests indicate a reduction in fuel consumption of at least six per cent and in very heavy traffic conditions this figure is likely to be higher.

Menzies will monitor the fuel usage of the Sprinters for at least six months before reaching any firm conclusions about the effectiveness of ECO-Start.

ECO-Start is now optionally available on all new Mercedes Sprinters with four-cylinder engines and manual gearboxes. The system, including the uprated battery and alternator which are also required, retails for a combined price of £545.

Menzies Distribution is the largest operating division of the John Menzies Group. On an average day the company delivers some 4.5 million newspapers and 2.5 million magazines using a combination of  its own fleet and contractors’ vehicles, together totalling some 1,700 vans and trucks which between them cover 93,000 miles each day.

* Sainsbury’s has ordered 200 Mercedes Axors to add to the 130 that it bought last year. The 2540 tractor units  are powered by BlueTec Euro 5 selective catalytic reduction engines driving through the latest Mercedes PowerShift 12-speed automated transmissions, and all qualify for Reduced Pollution Certificates, which bring a £500-per-truck saving in Vehicle Excise Duty every year.

Each unit also has an air management kit, developed for the Axor by Hatcher Components in conjunction with experts from Cranfield University. In tests this has been shown to deliver a six per cent improvement in fuel consumption over a vehicle with standard air management equipment – figures from real-life applications have delivered similarly impressive results.

“We buy vehicles from other manufacturers too,” said Sainsbury’s engineering controller Gary King. “But after completing a full-blown tender exercise, which examined all aspects of vehicle costs over a life of four years, we found that the Mercedes Axor was the most cost-effective of all the SCR-equipped options.

“Our philosophy of sustainability means we look at the complete picture of a truck’s costs, both in financial terms and with regard to its impact on the environment – and of course the two often go hand in hand, as a vehicle that uses less fuel is both cheaper and greener to run.

“Once you’ve decided to head down the SCR route the next obvious step is to go directly to Euro 5 – it’s really a ‘no-brainer’. Choosing Euro 5 vehicles with NOx sensors not only helps us to minimise our impact on the environment but means they will retain significantly more residual value. This, together with the reduction in VED and its excellent fuel economy, helps to make the Axor’s whole-life cost even more attractive.”

The new trucks are owned by Sainsbury’s but operated by Wincanton. They work from regional distribution centres across the country and supply good to some 800 stores. The total fleet numbers around 1,000 trucks.

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