Impressive fuel returns from its first Mercedes Axor tractor unit have been raising eyebrows at one of Ulster’s largest road transport concerns.
The truck, an Axor 2543LS with high-roofed, air-conditioned sleeper cab, is a recent addition to the 170-strong fleet of Ballynure-based Woodside Haulage. Double shifted and expected to cover some 180,000km a year, it is running at 44 tonnes between the company’s depots in Preston and Stranraer.
In its first few weeks on the road the Axor returned in excess of 9.5mpg and according to Group Fleet Manager Leslie Arthur: "That’s a very good result, already right up there with the most economical on the fleet and definitely the best fuel figure we’ve seen from a Mercedes."
The Axor was supplied by Belfast dealer Agnew Commercials and is fitted with an extra fuel tank, raising total capacity to 840 litres, as well as an air management system on the cab, a VeMis fuel monitoring system and sliding fifth wheel.
Built specifically for the UK market and launched last spring, the Axor is a practical, ‘no-frills’ workhorse. In place of the V6 and V8 engines traditionally seen in Mercedes tractor units is a 12-litre in-line six – rated at 430bhp in the case of Woodside’s new truck – mated to a light and simple nine-speed gearbox.
Mr Arthur continues: "First impressions of the Axor are certainly very positive. Anyone can drive this truck – it is straightforward, operating costs are very competitive, and in the event of a problem it should be relatively easy to mend."
Woodside Haulage, which also has depots in Dublin, Liverpool, Leicester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Edinburgh, specialises in the warehousing and distribution of dry freight, and numbers ‘blue chip’ names such as J Sainsbury, Michelin and B&Q Warehouse among its customers.
Despite giving the Axor such a resounding ‘thumbs up’, the company recently ordered two Mercedes Actros 2543LS tractors with top-of-the-range, flat-floored MegaSpace cabs from Agnew Commercials, and a pair of 4x2 Actros 1843L rigids for car transporter operation.
Woodside Haulage already runs some 40 Actros tractors, and Mr Arthur confirms his continued commitment to Mercedes Benz’s established, premium product. "Of course, we consider every deal on its merits," he explains.
"But I’m sure we’ll continue to buy the Actros for long-haul operations, because there is such a shortage of good drivers at the moment. Offering them a high-spec vehicle with a big cab is one of the best ways I know of attracting and retaining such individuals."
John Baker, Truck Sales & Marketing Director for Mercedes Benz, confirms: "The Axor’s introduction has allowed us to mount a two-pronged attack on the UK tractor market."
As operators like Woodside Haulage are discovering, the Axor and Actros are very different vehicles, each ideally suited to a particular type of operation.
"While the Axor is designed for relatively short-haul, UK distribution, the Actros remains our premium, long-haul offering and will continue to appeal particularly to small fleets and owner-drivers."Published 26 November 2002