Iceland Foods has taken delivery of its 1,000th Mercedes-Benz Sprinter panel van, four years after resolving to switch its entire fleet of home delivery vehicles to the model.
The landmark vehicle, a Sprinter 314 CDI with temperature-controlled body conversion by Paneltex, was presented to Iceland’s commercial fleet manager Alex McKinlay by Steve Bridge, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, and Paneltex group sales director Dave Evenett.
The retailer also operates 500 chassis cabs with insulated box bodies, 300 of which are Mercedes-Benz.
Within the next six months Iceland will replace the remaining 200 with new Sprinters, completing its transformation to a 100% Mercedes-Benz fleet.
The Sprinters are supplied by Roanza Truck & Van via a full contract hire package with VMS Fleet Management.
McKinlay said: “Our online shopping customers rightly expect their deliveries to arrive within the time slot they’ve booked, so vehicle availability is crucial.
"We need the vans to start in the morning, and the Sprinter has proved extremely reliable, which helps to explain why we’ve invested in so many.”
Roanza and McKinlay have developed a system which is helping to ensure that Iceland’s vehicles can remain on the road for even longer.
He explained: “We found that when a vehicle was off the road, the cause more often than not has been a flat battery, the result of a simple driver error like leaving an interior light switched on.
“We looked into fitting expensive aftermarket battery protection systems, but I also raised the issue with Roanza’s after sales manager Nigel Lewin at one of our regular meetings.
"As a result, we have come up with a much more cost-effective package that employs technology already available on these vehicles, and which has been hugely successful.”
Lewin added: “Sprinter vans can be fitted at the factory with optional Parametric Special Modules (PSMs) – electronic control units which allow us to access and alter or set various performance parameters.
"We looked at the issues Iceland were suffering and could see that we could use this technology to help address them.
“I tasked our technician Lan Dempsey to investigate adjustments to the PSM which would drastically reduce the incidence of flattened batteries, while also addressing some other issues raised by Iceland, such as minor body damage caused by low-speed accidents.”
Dempsey has now devised a programme which not only monitors battery voltage and turns off interior lights automatically if they are accidentally left on, but also limits the vehicle’s top speed and maximum reversing speed, and flashes the hazard lights when reverse gear is selected.
Iceland immediately agreed to specify PSM modules with Lan’s package of settings on its next batch of vans.
The results have been remarkable. In 2013 more than 30% of Iceland’s Sprinters suffered a non-start incident due to a flat battery within their first six months of operation. Since the PSM programme was introduced this year, that figure has dropped to 5%.