Lincolnshire is renowned for being one of the flattest counties in Britain, yet its new
Mercedes-Benz gritters will be ensuring the roads remain open this winter in an area of hills and steep valleys.
The UK’s first 8×6 Arocs models will see action should temperatures plummet in the Lincolnshire Wolds, a designated Area of Natural Beauty with the highest ground – near the village of Normanby le Wold, at approximately 551 feet (168 metres) – in eastern England, between Yorkshire and Kent.
The four trucks were purchased by contract hire specialist Essential Fleet Services for operation by Lincolnshire County Council. Key to the order won by Dealer Intercounty Truck & Van, was the availability of a factory-fitted front drive axle, as well as the proven reliability of previous Mercedes-Benz vehicles and its own, high-quality back-up.
The latest arrivals are Arocs 4143 AKs with ClassicSpace M-Cabs, advanced 335 kW (428 hp) six-cylinder engines and smooth Mercedes PowerShift 12-speed automated transmissions. Their Danish-built Epoke gritting bodies were fitted and supplied, along with demountable Riko V snowploughs complete with Küper blades, by UK agent Scarab, of Tonbridge, Kent.
Mercedes-Benz Axors in 6×4 configuration delivered by Intercounty Truck & Van and leased through Essential Fleet Services form the backbone of Lincolnshire County Council’s fleet of 47 gritters. However, the new 8×6 Arocs have replaced 6×6 vehicles by another manufacturer – two are based at its Willingham Hall depot near Market Rasen, and one each at Horncastle and Manby.
The 32-tonne Mercedes-Benz chassis offers a gritter body with carrying capacity of 10 cubic metres. The vehicle can go further and stay out for longer than its 26-tonne predecessor before it has to return to base to reload.
Lincolnshire County Council has been at the forefront of the development of winter roads maintenance technology for many years. As with previous gritters, its new trucks are equipped with sprayers that pre-wet the dry salt with a brine and water solution just before it reaches the spinner, so it clings better to the surface and is not blown away. This allows the salt to melt snow and ice more quickly.
The authority is responsible for the upkeep of some 2,000 miles of roads across England’s second-largest county. David Davies, its Principal Maintenance Engineer and Fleet Manager, confirmed: “We have been running Mercedes-Benz vehicles for a number of years now, and they have proved to be very reliable.
“Three drive axles are essential for operation in the Lincolnshire Wolds, which are very susceptible to bad weather coming off the North Sea. The fact that our new Arocs were available direct from the factory as a complete, winterised package makes a big difference – Mercedes-Benz have met all our expectations.”
The Arocs are the subject of 10-year agreements with Essential Fleet Services, which operates from headquarters in Lincoln and supports 42 local authorities from a network of service centres nationwide. It owns a fleet of more than 1,000 trucks, some 300 of which are Mercedes-Benz rigids, among them a number of Econic refuse vehicles.
National Fleet Engineer John Dimbleby said the fact that the 8×6 Arocs chassis was available ex-factory negated any need to deal with a specialist, third-party converter. “The online build is very reassuring in terms of anticipated reliability and warranty cover, because once you start dealing with ‘add ons’ you’re just introducing another element that can go wrong,” he observed.
Four Essential Fleet Services technicians are on out-of-hours standby throughout the winter months, to provide breakdown cover for Lincolnshire’s winter maintenance fleet. “We need to be ready for the worst that winter can throw at us,” Mr Dimbleby continued. “Gritting chassis don’t cover high mileages but although they’re washed down after every run, they do spend time standing in wet, salty atmospheres that can play havoc, for example, with their electronics. Mercedes-Benz trucks are without doubt the most reliable on our fleet.”
The high-riding Arocs have been well received by their drivers, for whom Intercounty Truck & Van has delivered a programme of training.
Lincolnshire County Council’s David Davies said: “The Dealer’s Truck Sales Executive David Mitcham was extremely professional in helping us to specify these vehicles, offering alternative suggestions at various stages that we hadn’t thought of. It’s a very good package.”
And John Dimbleby of Essential Fleet Services added: “Intercounty support us very well when it comes to warranty claims and technical issues for which we might need diagnostics assistance. We’re very happy that these latest vehicles are perfectly tailored for the job.”