‘Seed’ vehicle bears fruit as Mercedes-Benz wins landmark Blakemore order

New partnership: Pictured at the Dealer’s recently opened, £4-million base in Wolverhampton, Blakemore Logistics’ Dave Higgs is flanked by Tom Morris of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, left, and Richard Mason of Midlands Truck & Van

An impressive 12-month trial of a Mercedes-Benz Actros unit convinced SPAR distributor Blakemore Logistics to place its first orders for trucks bearing the three-pointed star.

The operator is now running five 4×2 Actros 1843 StreamSpace tractor units, and awaiting delivery of four fridge-bodied 18-tonne Antos 1842L rigids. The deal represents a major breakthrough for Mercedes-Benz and the beginning, the manufacturer and its Dealer Midlands Truck & Van hope, of a long-term partnership with their high-profile customer.

Blakemore Logistics is part of the family-owned A.F. Blakemore Group, which traces its roots back to 1917. Food and drink has always been the company’s lifeblood and with retail, wholesale and shop-fitting as well as distribution interests, it now employs circa 8,000 people and has a turnover of £1.35 billion.

The largest division of SPAR UK, A.F. Blakemore owns 295 convenience stores and serves more than 1,000 across England and Wales. Blakemore Logistics’ new Actros tractor units are plated for operation at 34 tonnes gcw and based at a depot in Hastings, East Sussex, from where they deliver, six days a week, to stores throughout London and the South-East, as far north as Cambridge.

The company’s Distribution General Manager Dave Higgs is responsible for a fleet of some 300 trucks, most of them tractor units, in which three main brands are represented. Although Blakemore Logistics has not operated Mercedes-Benz trucks previously, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is firmly established as its van of choice.

Mr Higgs explained: “With the new emissions regulations fast approaching we embarked on a year-long evaluation exercise, and having heard good things about its product at Euro VI decided to include a new manufacturer by inviting Mercedes-Benz to take part.”

Equipped with Mercedes-Benz FleetBoard telematics and fuel-saving Predictive Powertrain Control technology, the Actros ‘seed’ vehicle was based at Blakemore Logistics’ headquarters in Willenhall, Wolverhampton. “It did particularly well,” recalled Mr Higgs. “At just under 11 mpg the truck was competitive in terms of diesel consumption, and used significantly less AdBlue than its competitors.

“It was also totally reliable and well received by our drivers. Our tractors deliver to some very tight locations which is why, as well as standard 13.6m trailers, they also pull shorter, urban versions with 10.6m and even 8.1m lengths – the fact that those who used it also found the Actros to be highly manoeuvrable was therefore another big ‘plus point’.”

Blakemore Logistics’ Mercedes-Benz trucks will be inspected and serviced under seven-year Mercedes-Benz Repair and Maintenance Contracts. Also key to the operator’s order was the proximity to its Hastings depot of Mercedes-Benz Dealer Rossetts Commercials’ Eastbourne workshop, where the new tractor units will be looked after. The 18-tonne rigids, whose bodies are being built by Truck Engineering, of Wednesbury, West Midlands, will be on cash and carry duties and work out of Cardiff and Swansea, where they will be maintained by Dealer Euro Commercials (South Wales).

“This order was all about the total package,” continued Mr Higgs. “We conducted an extensive whole-life cost analysis, factoring in the level of back-up to which Mercedes-Benz has committed, the R&M rates and the convenience of the Dealer locations.

“We knew nothing about Mercedes-Benz at the outset but the proactive support we’ve received so far from Midlands Truck & Van Sales Executive Richard Mason and Mercedes-Benz National Business Development Manager Tom Morris has been very encouraging; we couldn’t have asked for more. Time will tell, but I have high hopes for our new relationship.”