With prices apparently on the slide throughout much of the country, now may not be the best time to try to sell your house. That can cause home-owners real difficulties if their reason for moving is that they've got a growing family and need more space.
The answer may be to stay put and have an extension built. That's good news for small builders who specialise in that type of work and potentially good news for tipper sales.
“At present things are going really well and I can't complain, but things could get tougher in 2008,” says Tipmaster director, Matthew Terry. As its name suggests, it specialises in building tippers.
Most of its customers favour a tipper body with a steel floor plus a tailboard and sides made from alloy. With steel you get a robust deck that will cope with rubble that could contain everything from broken house bricks to lengths of rusty piping, while the use of alloy elsewhere gives a weight saving of perhaps 30kg.
Alloy has the added advantage that it doesn't need painting. Painted sides on a tipper can start to look very tatty very quickly because of the often arduous nature of the jobs it has to tackle.
A tipper body with a steel floor and alloy sides sourced from Tipmaster will set you back £2,800; all prices quoted here exclude VAT. An all-steel body — Tipmaster produces them regularly for clients who take on particularly tough work — will have the same price-tag.
Surely it should cost less given that steel is cheaper than alloy? “The cost of painting it has to be taken into account,” Terry replies.
The Leyton, London-based company sometimes makes all-alloy bodies too. “Think in terms of £3,800,” he says.
That sounds steep, but an all-alloy body won't rust, a key consideration if you spend a lot of your time in the salty air of a seaside town, and should allow you to carry a payload of 1,100kg on a 3.5 tonne chassis. At that weight a more typical legal payload would be 1,000kg.
However, there is always the risk that an alloy floor will split if you drop heavy rubble on it and require welding up again.
You can even have a tipper body made entirely out of stainless — “it's really strong and won't corrode,” says Terry — but be warned; stainless is more than double the cost of mild steel. It's an option not often favoured by Tipmaster's clients, usually on cost grounds, although it is occasionally requested by local authorities.
What about tipping gear? “We still offer front-end rams, but around 95 per cent of the bodies we make are ordered with underfloor equipment,” he says.
Many tippers are sold with extra pieces of equipment including waste cages — invaluable if you're transporting loose waste paper and cans — and hoods and bin-lifts that allow them to be used as refuse collection vehicles; the sort of vehicle that's sent round if a householder rings and complains that the big bin wagon hasn't collected his or her rubbish.
All bodybuilders are having to get to grips with the implications of 2007/46/EC; the directive behind European Whole Vehicle Type Approval.
At present it's only the chassis that's affected by the Type Approval rules. They're there to guarantee that it meets the required regulatory standards.
Under EWVTA, however, the whole vehicle will have to comply and that includes the cargo body. The Vehicle Certification Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency will ensure the rules are followed.
“The changes start on a voluntary basis from May 2009,” says Robin Dickeson, manager, commercial vehicle affairs at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The new rules won't involve crash-testing, but will involve ensuring that, for example, any side-guards and rear under-run guards fitted meet the law.
The last person in the chain — probably the dealer — will have to collate the paperwork needed to show that this is the case. Without it, the vehicle cannot be registered and sold.
“It shouldn't be too much of a change for us because we've already got a quality system in place,” says Terry. “The extra administrative burden it imposes, however, could potentially cause a lot of smaller firms to get out of bodybuilding.”
Planning to turn out just over 1,000 bodies this year — “we had big problems getting chassis earlier this year and we're still having to wait too long in some cases” — Tipmaster expanded its site 18 months ago.
It now sits on 1.5 acres, but still hasn't got enough space. Nor is there much of an opportunity to expand it further, Terry says. “We need more room because we have to park a considerable number of chassis and we've got trucks coming in regularly delivering steel,” he says. “But we're hemmed in by a canal on one side of the premises and the 2012 Olympics construction site on the other.” Relocating to a site in Essex could be an option in the future.
A number of manufacturers offer ready-to-go-to-work bodied chassis fitted with bodies sourced either from a UK body builder or installed at the factory. Tipmaster provides tipper bodies for Nissan's Cabstar and Citroën's Relay, for example.
Tipmaster is by no means the only producer of tipper bodies on 3.5-tonne chassis. Telford, Shropshire-based Ingimex has made considerable strides with its Titan body.
It comes complete with a steel deck, alloy sides, a polished stainless steel tailboard and a strong, impact-resistant, steel and alloy headboard and gantry.
It can be ordered with a cage body weighing 160kg complete with twin rear doors that can be swung through 270° and a sliding side door.
Titan is the favoured choice of a number of chassis manufacturers running ready-to-go-to-work programmes. They include Volkswagen, which launched its Engineered to Go scheme earlier this year.
One of the most sensible features of Titan's design is the way in which the main cargo lashing points — each one with a 1,000kg capacity — are mounted outside the load area. As a consequence they don't end up becoming clogged by sand, gravel and all the other loose loads that tipper operators carry.
As well as making more inroads into UK sales Ingimex is aiming to increase the volume of export business it does, with a presence at the Solutrans exhibition in France earlier this year and a website that's been translated into Spanish as well as French. Occupying a 6.6 acre site and with an £8m turnover and 70 employees, the firm turns out some 3,000 tipper, dropside and van bodies annually.
Although they're often used in mainland Europe, three-way tippers have never been hugely popular in Britain.
Many potential operators are deterred from investing in one by the extra cost when compared with a conventional one-way tipper. The loading height may be higher too, and the payload capacity down.
Where three-way tippers score if you're a council and you need to repair pavements, for instance, is that you can park parallel to the pavement and tip your load. You're not obliged to park at right-angles to the kerb, blocking the street.
Councils may be customers for the two new three-way Transit tippers just added to Ford's ready-to-go-to-work One-Stop Shop range of conversions. Both models — one a single cab, one a double cab — are rear-wheel drive and available with a 2.4-litre TDCi engine with a choice of power outputs; 100hp, 115hp or 140hp.
Three-way tipping comes courtesy of a five-stage, chromium-plated ram mounted in a cast-steel gimbal in conjunction with configurable ball and socket pivots. For your money — prices start at £21,750 — you get a body with a steel deck, alloy sides and an alloy tailboard.
Local authorities are increasingly being forced to deploy vehicles to pick up illegally-dumped household waste. A pair of Transit-based tippers bodied by Willenhall, West Midlands-based LinkTip that are dedicated to the task have just been supplied to Bromsgrove District Council.
Both the 3.5-tonners are fitted with a box body with hinged rear doors that can be secured to the sides when open, plus a sliding nearside door.
A Ratcliff Palfinger tail-lift specially designed to be fitted to tippers, and with a folding alloy platform, is used to pick up abandoned washing machines, sofas and so on. When folded, it can be lowered to the level of the body's floor to allow unrestricted access through the back doors.
“Smaller and lighter items can then be thrown over the lift into the rear or through the side door if that's more convenient,” says council street cleansing supervisor, Neil Reid.
Once the vehicle is full it travels to the local tip where the load is discharged over the top of the lowered folded tail-lift.
Items that can be recycled are recycled; anything else is earmarked for permanent disposal.
The Transits are also used to collect heavy domestic waste from responsible householders who have asked for it to be picked up rather than gone out at dead of night and dumped it in a lay-by; an offence that can lead to prosecution and a fine on conviction.
Tipper bodies may not be an essential for most operators, but to some they are an integral part doing business. It's heartening that they have some excellent home-ground products to choose from, but it's looking like the market will polarise with the advent of Whole Body Type Approval. Legislation is ringing the death knell for some of the smaller players.