The right conversion will save you money

Aerodynamic styling is becoming an increasingly prominent feature of artic trailers in recent years, as cost-focused fleet operators bid to minimise fuel consumption.

Don-Bur has led the charge with its distinctively-shaped and aptly-named Teardrop trailers, said to be capable of achieving average fuel savings of just over 11% thanks to a reduction in drag.

But can such treatments also work on 3.5-tonne vans to 26-tonne rigid trucks and save fleet operators money? They can, but much depends on the sort of work such vehicles are deployed on.

Most artics spend most of their time going up and down motorways at a steady 56mph. That is when aerodynamics come into their own. By contrast, vans and rigids are often engaged in low-speed stop-start work in urban and suburban areas, picking up and dropping off palletised loads for the pallet networks or delivering groceries to households on behalf of the major supermarkets.

Under those circumstances, streamlining functions less well; but that is not to say that it brings no benefits at all.

“You may only improve your fuel consumption by as little as 1% to 2% but that is still worth having,” says Anthony Bevan, managing director of west Midlands-based bodybuilder Bevan Group. Bear in mind, too, that a low-speed trudge around an industrial estate may be followed by a swift trip down a fast dual carriageway to a retail park – and that is when an aerodynamic treatment will suddenly start to make its presence felt.

“In some cases the highly-streamlined Icon Luton body for 3.5-tonners we developed in partnership with aerodynamics experts at Cranfield University and Hatcher Components has recorded savings of from 5% to 12%,” says Bevan.

McCarthy & Stone certainly garnered a fuel saving from the ten Icon-bodied Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313CDI 3.5-tonners it put into service. Specialising in the development of retirement homes, McCarthy & Stone uses the Sprinters to help deliver a removal service for its clients.

They have cut diesel bills by 15% when compared with the performance of its previous vehicles. CO2 emissions have fallen by 13%.

“Even if you decide not to opt for the full aerodynamic treatment for a box-bodied vehicle then at least fit the cab with a collar and a cab-top spoiler and ensure that the top edge of the latter is line with the body’s roof,” advises Bevan.

Such steps could lead to savings of up to 10%, although once again it depends on the sort of routes the truck is travelling down. Stoke-on-Trent’s Don-Bur has built Teardrops on rigid truck chassis, with operators reporting fuel savings of up to 8% on motorway work.

DHL adopted a Teardrop body on a Scania P-280 compressed natural gas 18-tonner that went into service last year. It is designed for quiet operation in urban areas.

Streamlining, then, may help operators reduce their fuel costs and their carbon footprints. The same can be said of some of the developments now being seen in bodywork construction. Strongs Plastic Products builds co-polymer plastic bodies and was exhibiting a variety of them – including a tipper – based on four-wheel drive pick-up platforms at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April. These materials have the advantage that they do not corrode and can be recycled – good news from an environmental viewpoint.

Composite materials are used by Leicester’s Doyles Commercial Bodybuilding to construct a 20cu m Luton body, suitable for the Peugeot Boxer and Renault Master among other models. Said to be more than 500kg lighter than a more-traditionally-constructed 3.5-tonne Luton and sold as the Aduro, it delivers a payload capacity of 1550kg and a claimed average fuel consumption of almost 33 mpg.

Doyles has also created a triaxle Fiat Ducato Maxi fitted with an Al-Ko chassis conversion and a 30cu m Aduro XL body and grossing at 5.0 tonnes.

The company claims it is capable of returning an average 30mpg and, with a maximum payload capacity of 2,220kg, it is being touted as a cost-effective alternative to a thirstier 7.5-tonner. Certainly, many of the more heavily-engineered 7.5-tonners with a European pedigree cannot carry much more than that. However 7.5-tonners built by Fuso and Isuzu are noted for being able to shift somewhat heftier loads than the equivalent offerings from, for example, MAN and Mercedes-Benz.

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