The right conversion will save you money

European standards

“We think the aero-style body looks great,” says Arighi Bianchi distribution centre manager, Steve Whiting, who highlights another advantage of going the streamlined route: the benefits it brings to a company’s image. At weights from 7.5 to 26 tonnes it softens the vehicle’s profile and makes it look less threatening; a definite advantage if you happen to be piloting a 7.5-tonner around a housing estate with lots of children and parents with push-chairs.

Meanwhile, down at 3.5 tonnes, Ocado’s image has been enhanced by the distinctively-styled home delivery bodies built by Paneltex of Hull.

There is, incidentally, a strong argument in favour of moving away from 18-tonne 4x2s towards 26-tonne 6x2s with rear-steer axles. While you cannot fit a bigger body – overall length is still restricted to 12m – you will gain a payload advantage of almost 7.0 tonnes.

This makes whoever is at the wheel more productive, a key consideration given the acute shortage of truck drivers. The 26-tonner will be just as manoeuvrable as the 18-tonner, if not more so, and will not have such a long rear overhang.

No matter the weight, restraining the load correctly is vitally important. That is especially the case with curtainsider bodies given the risk that unsecured cargo may break loose and burst through the curtains in the middle of the motorway.

Much depends on the strength of those curtains and the body’s overall construction and whether or not the body complies with European Standard EN 12642-XL. The DVSA accepts that bodies meeting this non-mandatory standard can withstand a sideways force equivalent to 50% of the vehicle’s maximum payload without the need to impose additional restraint on the load. However, this acceptance is subject to a number of qualifications which reflects the fact that EN 12642-XL is a containment standard:

  1. 1The load has to be a positive fit. This means that it must go right up to the headboard and right up to the back doors with no gaps, and be no more than 80mm from the curtains.
  2. If two or three pallets have to be dropped off during the course of a delivery run but the rest of the cargo remains butted up to the headboard then it will have to be restrained at the back with straps or a net.
  3. If it has to be moved backwards from the headboard to avoid the sort of axle overloading problems that can occur as loads diminish then it will have to be kept in place in the same way as cargo carried in a non-XL body. This may involve strapping it rave-to-rave.
  4. If loads in curtainsiders do need to be restrained then this should be done as quickly but, above all, as safely as possible.

Bodied by Bevan Group, two Mercedes-Benz Antos 18-tonners, a Mercedes Actros 18-tonner and three MAN TGM 15-tonners acquired by soft drinks maker AG Barr –best-known for Irn-Bru – have all been equipped with a new, roof-retractable load retention system developed by Simark Engineering. It means that a driver or distribution centre employee can pull the retaining net down and over the product then tension it from ground level without having to climb on to the back of the truck. The trucks are fitted with what Bevan Group refers to as ‘curtainslider’ bodies. The curtains are tensioned front-to-back with locks at both ends which means there are no time-consuming straps and buckles to wrestle with. Bodies can be switched from an old chassis to a new successor two or potentially even three times, but there are important considerations to bear in mind.

After two chassis lives the body may be looking a long way past its best even if it has been regularly maintained. The operator’s requirements may have changed – the goods being transported may be different from those being hauled five years ago – and a switch from one chassis manufacturer to another may mean that the body may not be quite as easy to mount on the new chassis as it was on the old one.

Although there is a certain amount of flexibility built in – an all-alloy tipper body can be used to shift either sand or gravel, for instance – bodies tend to be built with a particular purpose in mind. That alloy body would not be used to haul demolition waste, for example, because all those big lumps of concrete would soon bash it to pieces.

Van load area racking

Allowing mobile engineers to strew tools and materials all over the floor of a van’s load area is a woefully-bad practice on the part of the fleet operator concerned because it breeds inefficiency. If an engineer cannot readily locate what is required in all the jumble then they will take longer to complete each job. Racking supplier Sortimo has calculated that such poor organisation can result in an employee wasting well over two hours a week while searching.

Poor organisation can also result in engineers hauling around tools and components that they seldom or never need, or taking two items with them because they cannot find the first one amid all the mess.

Bott, another racking specialist, points out that as a consequence a fleet may end up running bigger vans than it really requires, adding to costs. Flinging everything into the back of a light commercial higgledy-piggledy can also lead to overloading and the risk of prosecution. Far better to have a sensibly-thought-out binning and racking system installed so that the user can see where everything is and access it quickly. Nor need it land the operator with a massive bill; Sortimo estimates that one of its load area storage packages typically costs approximately 10% of the total cost.

Companies such as National Autorax can help fleets in the design of their onboard storage systems. It can produce detailed CAD drawings that enable the customer to see how the van’s load area will be laid out and what it will look like.

Although it can be classed as a modification, such a package installed in a van prior to registration does not necessarily have to meet all the requirements of European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval. That is thanks to the existence of the Van Enhancement Scheme, a protocol agreed in 2013 between the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (one of the DVSA’s predecessor organisations) and the Vehicle Certification Agency. It means that simple alterations – fitting a lockable cabinet to hold power tools for instance – do not need to be Type Approved, reducing costs and the burden of paperwork. That covers approximately 80% of the work carried out on van load areas, with a further 15% benefiting from a streamlined and relatively-uncomplicated approval scheme.

Bear in mind that all sorts of ancillary equipment can be fitted along with the shelves, bins and so on. They can include a work bench, power points and additional lighting; Modul-System recently launched a range of LED load area lights.

Any responsible fleet that commissions a racking system should ensure that it has been crash-tested. If the shelving and its contents break away in an accident and end up in the cab then serious injury could be done to its occupants. Most suppliers have now commissioned crash tests.

Advantages of steel and aluminium

System Edstrom had its system tested in France to the INRS NS286 standard by independent test house Valutec at up to 25G using a test sled that travelled at more than 30 mph prior to smashing into a concrete wall. Once the dust had settled it was clear that the storage equipment and its contents had stayed pretty much in place. The company has also has its products successfully independently-tested to the more-familiar ECE R17-07 standard at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. This involves a 20G pulse, with some components subjected to 40G.

Racking manufacturers and installers can often arrange for other work to be done on a van at the same time, including the application of livery and the installation of telematics equipment. Bott has provided 37 vans to Yarlington Housing Group with its Uno racking together with a Masternaut telematics system in conjunction with Automotive Leasing. Twelve more vans are receiving the same treatment.

One of the key advantages of a properly-designed and built racking package made from materials such as high-strength steel and powder-coated aluminium is that it can be taken out of one van and installed in another reasonably easily. “You can get two lives out of it,” says Robert Cooper, a director of National Autorax.

What is ECWVTA?

European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) introduced a uniform process for certification of base vehicles, vehicle bodies, vehicle mounted equipment and components. The body production process is also covered.

Without Type Approval vehicles cannot be registered. The process of obtaining approvals can be a long one and needs consideration and planning to implement before the deadline.

It affects any organisation involved in manufacturing vehicles, vehicle mounted equipment, bodies and trailers plus organisations involved in the fitting of this equipment.

The legislation covers:

  • Production facilities and processes (Conformity of Production – CoP)
  • Individual components These may be affected if they are deemed safety critical or impact on the base vehicle approval in some way.
  • Complete installations (Certificate of Conformity – CoC)

For some simple body types it may be only the conspicuity markings on the body that an organisation affects; for complex installations several areas may be affected e.g. lighting, exhausts, side guards, under-run etc.

There are three types of approval for body builders:

  1. Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) This is the route for high volume solutions, it’s the most comprehensive and allows non restricted sales across the EU. Each type needs only to be inspected once and a Certificate of Conformity is issued for the type. A Conformity of Production certification ensures subsequent versions are produced to the same standard  and do not require inspection.
  2. National Small Series Type Approval (NSSTA) This route is for less than 250 vehicles of a type per year. As above a Conformity of Production certificate must first be acquired then the first vehicle only requires inspection.
  3. Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) This route is for specialised vehicles produced in low volumes. Each vehicle will be subject to a test/inspection. Conformity of production certification is not necessary.

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