New Mercedes Are The 'Rail Thing'

Enthusiastic driver feedback, coupled with competitive pricing and 14 months’ reliable performance from a single tractor unit, persuaded a leading container distribution specialist to place its first fleet order for Mercedes trucks in two decades.

O’Connor Transport (Widnes) has bought 14 6x2 Actros 2543 tractor units from Liverpool dealer Road Range, together with three 18-tonne Atego 1823s.

From its own rail terminal on a 38-acre site in Widnes, O’Connor Transport uses a 72-strong fleet of predominantly Scania and Volvo tractors to distribute some 70,000 containers a year, 40,000 of them combined with rail transfers.

The 430bhp Actros all have high-roofed Long Distance sleeper cabs with the exception of one, which has a top-of-the-range, flat-floored MegaSpace cab, as well as bull bars and roof-mounted spotlights.

The company last bought Mercedes tractors in the early 1980s, but was unhappy with their fuel consumption and turned away from the three-pointed star.

Then, two years ago, O’Connor invited eight manufacturers to submit vehicles for a ride and drive event involving its drivers.

Managing Director Steve O’Connor recalls: "The event was a great success, no fewer than 250 test drives being taken. The Actros proved particularly popular, with the drivers enthusing about the comfort and ergonomic design of the Long Distance cab."

O’Connor bought its first Actros, also a 2543, soon afterwards and allocated it to a long-serving driver who had begun to suffer chronic pain in his left arm – the Telligent gearshift proved much easier for him to operate than the transmissions on competitors’ vehicles.

"We evaluated that truck very closely and it’s been completely reliable and fuel-efficient, averaging around 8.1mpg," continues Mr O’Connor. "The after sales back-up has also been excellent so that when Road Range offered us a competitive fleet deal we decided to go ahead."

The three Atego 18-tonners represent a new departure for O’Connor. With substantial skeletal sub-frames, they are being used to carry single 20ft containers.

"We realised that we were handling in the region of 30 containers each day, which weighed less than 11 tonnes," explains Mr O’Connor. "This presented us with an opportunity to put those containers on more manoeuvrable rigid vehicles that will return 13-14mpg.

"A further benefit of this approach," he continues, "is that we can put young, less experienced drivers in the Atego, where they can develop their skills before moving up to the tractors."

John Baker, Truck Sales & Marketing Director for Mercedes Benz, declares: "UK sales of our Actros premium tractor have been forging ahead strongly over the last 12 months.

Not only have we been introducing new operators to the three-pointed star, we’ve also been welcoming back many previous customers, just like O’Connor Transport, who are finding that today’s Mercedes Benz offering is a vast improvement on anything they have experienced in the past."

Published 22 January 2003 Melanie Carter

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