All down the line

Date: Monday, October 28, 2013   |   Author: James Dallas

Line-X provides load bay protection to LCV operators from window cleaners to construction companies and medical equipment suppliers. James Dallas takes a look behind the scenes

According to Line-X’s marketing manager Darren Hull, the beauty of the firm’s load bed liner is that “it won’t peel, split or crack”.

The Barnstaple, Devon-based company started trading in the UK 10 years ago having established its reputation in the US protecting the load bays of pick-up trucks. This also accounts for a large slice of its UK business, but at least half of its trade now comes from panel van operators delivering a diverse range of services.

Line-X operates from 17 sites nationwide. These include standalone dealerships as well as large-scale racking and conversion firms such as Bott and Bristor.

Vauxhall’s conversion plant at Millbrook, where Line-X has so far protected the load bays of 30 Movano vans, and box body specialist Roadload are significant partners.

“We give dealerships a postcoded area so another dealer cannot come in and undercut them,” Hull explains. “They are not franchises so they are free to set their own prices.”

As a ball-park guide, Hull says spraying the floor and sides of a light van such as a Peugeot Partner costs £250-£300, excluding VAT, while to fully cover (roof, sides and floor) a large panel van costs about £1000.

Line-X’s boss Lee Smith says five of the firm’s centres are standalone sites focusing exclusively on applying the protective coating, six are what he calls upfitters – the likes of Bott and Bristor, which apply Line-X prior to fitting racking systems – and the rest are bodyshops that have added Line-X to their existing businesses. For bodyshops the entry-level costs are much reduced because they

will already be equipped with suitable premises, in particular application booths.

“We can supply a full turnkey operation for £40,000,” says Smith. “For someone already in business, like a crash repairer, it would be £20,000.”

Smith says the standalone sites tend to be urban-based where they can attract plenty of trade whereas the add-ons are in rural areas. He also says Line-X coated 2500 pick-ups last year and about the same number of panel vans.

“It’s probably about a 50/50 split overall,” says Smith.

He claims Line-X fared well during the recession because, on the one hand, operators holding onto vehicles longer may have needed to re-line a damaged load bay, while on the other, when it does come to sell, a freshly coated cargo box will increase residual value.

The company is set on expansion, with Hull confident it could double the size of its network “without treading on any toes”.

“The long-term goal is to have a dealership within one hour of where you are,” he says.

Line-X has opened four sites this year, in Merseyside, Norfolk, the Channel Islands and south London, and the benefit of nationwide rather than just local coverage, Hull says, would be that a brand such as Toyota, for example, could offer Line-X as an add-on at all points of sale – just as it does with an option such as satnav.

Hull says the company picks up used business, especially from 4x4 owners, through appearing at trade fairs and country shows such as The North Devon Show.

He claims Line-X only has one direct rival in the UK, Speedliner, but he is quick to point out the advantages of his firm’s product. Chief among these is a drying time of just three to five seconds for the tough, rubbery spray-on liner compared to a four-hour span for its competitor’s product. Secondly, Line-X is not solvent-based, so it is less likely to harm either applicators or the environment, Hull says.

Line-X is both “anti-bac”, with an antimicrobial additive included in the application mix “proven to reduce 99.9% of MRSA and Salmonella within two hours”, meaning that it does not harbour or provide a breeding ground for bacteria, and is Foodsafe-certified. As a result, it is popular with operators transporting pharmaceutical and medical supplies as well as catering companies.

Medical equipment supplier Medequip, which has 30 contracts in the UK, called on Line-X Slough to coat its van fleet to provide easily cleanable interiors. Medequip says the textured, non-skid surface helps prevent equipment moving in transit.

Hull says the AA uses Line-X in its Fuel Assist vans, which serve customers who have mis-fuelled their vehicles. Unlike ply-lining, the liner is resistant to diesel damage. The fact that it provides hard-wearing water-tight protection to load beds that would otherwise be prone to rust from scrapes and scratches ensures Line-X is popular with window cleaners and utility companies such as Scottish Water.

The latter has its vans’ load bays sprayed in its distinctive corporate shade of light blue. This is possible because Line-X is available as a clear set that can have pigment added to create the desired colour.

Another customer is Dyno-Rod for whom the fact that Line-X is jet washable is especially advantageous after dealing with blocked drains and sewers.

For Line-X customers in the construction field “it’s all about durability”, says Hull.

But by serving the needs of such a wide range of light commercial vehicle operators, it is perhaps the product’s versatility that is its greatest asset in looking to grow in the UK over the coming years.

 



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