At April’s CV Show in Birmingham, one exhibitor was head and shoulders above the others.
It was not just that Roadload managing director Keith Jones stands at an imposing 6ft 9in, but his firm’s light commercial vehicle offerings towered above most of the other 3.5-tonners too.
For Roadload, based at Thetford in Norfolk, specialises in adding gargantuan load areas to van chasses while reducing weight and load height – and its high quality offerings in this niche sector are proving very popular.
Vans at 3.5-tonnes gross vehicle weight make up the biggest sales sector in the industry at present – and it is not difficult to work out why.
Go over that weight and fleets have to apply for an O-licence and fit tachographs to their vehicles, which means restricted driving hours and a whole heap of other administrative headaches that are best avoided if possible.
So it stands to reason that operators are opting for vans at this weight – and at the same time expecting to squeeze every last drop of practicality from each vehicle.
The biggest load volume from an off-the-shelf manufacturer at present is 17 cubic metres, but Roadload’s Superdeck models go much further. The biggest 3.5-tonner offers up to a staggering 32 cubic metres. And payload isn’t sacrificed either.
This van still carries a respectable 1,300kg. Go for the bigger five-tonner and that volume increases to a maximum of 44 cubic metres.
So exactly how does such a large van manage to weigh so little?
Managing director Keith Jones says: “We use honeycomb polypropylene panels welded together to make a complete body.
"Most of our rivals still use GRP riveted together with aluminium rails, so our vehicles are much lighter. In fact, in a marketplace where payload is king, we are in a class of our own.
“Because our panels are welded it means they won’t leak either and we’ve just invested in the equipment to spray on Line-X non-slip sealed floors in place of plywood floors.”
Roadload is a relatively new company which was started by Jones from a former business which specialised in building access ramps for disabled people.
The first product was not in fact the Superdeck, but the U-Tail system (see picture, bottom right) which made an impressive debut on the Peugeot stand at the 2010 CV Show in Birmingham.
The U-Tail is a Peugeot Boxer with a U-shaped chassis at the rear with cargo boxes that can be uncoupled, so that one vehicle can have multiple rear ends.
But while many fleet operators admired the technology and practicality of this vehicle, it has not yet been a big sales success.