Tipper bodies are essential in certain industries. We take a look at the latest developments, consider the safety issues and explain the upcoming changes in legislation.
When the housing industry collapses into recession, tipper manufacturers feel the pain too. “We’re certainly seeing a fall in orders from jobbing builders,” says Matthew Terry, a director of Leyton, London-based Tipmaster . “Otherwise we’re relatively busy — we’ll still produce getting on for 1,000 bodies this year — but we’re concerned about what may happen in 2009.”
Best-known for supplying tippers and other types of vehicle to local councils, LinkTip of Willenhall, West Midlands, is to a degree insulated from the problems faced by the private sector. “However, it will be interesting to see what happens when details of the new local authority budgets are revealed next April,” observes managing director, Wayne Hodgetts.
While the government may prefer the public sector to keep spending in a bid to ward off recession, its need to support the crisis-hit banks may mean that it has to cut back dramatically the grants it makes to councils.
The downturn in the economy is occurring at a time when tipper manufacturers are producing bodies that are better designed and built to a higher standard than at any period in their history.
Telford, Shropshire-based Ingimex’s Titan body is a prime example. Its features include a safety valve that stops operators trying to raise the body when it is heavily overloaded and a fail-safe locking device that prevents somebody from accidentally disengaging the tailboard and dropping it on their foot.
Titan comes with steel floor, alloy dropsides and under-floor tipping gear. Protected from accidental damage thanks to its position, under-floor gear allows the body to occupy almost the full length of the chassis. Front-end gear – now rarely seen at 3.5 tonnes – does not.
The steel/alloy combination is a big favourite with many operators because it offers just the right mixture of strength and lightness. A steel floor should stand up to the hammering it’s likely to get in service. Alloy sides are easy to raise and lower, don’t require painting and won’t start to look scruffy after a few months because alloy doesn’t rust.
Tipper bodies on 3.5 tonne chassis are raised and lowered using electro-hydraulic power packs. “A lot of people like to have the controls on wander leads, but they’re mounted on the dashboard on the conversions we carry out for Ford,” says Barry Aitken, sales executive at VFS of Eastleigh in Hampshire; it has close ties with Italian bodybuilder Scattolini. It has introduced a tipper based on Nissan’s recently updated NP300 pick-up.
The argument in favour of wander leads is that they allow the driver to stand outside the cab and see exactly where his load is being tipped. Go to some locations, however, and you may be refused permission to leave the cab on safety grounds.
Most tippers are end-tippers — they discharge the load via the tailboard at the back in other words — although Ford has just reintroduced a Transit three-way tipper, says Aitken. It will tip to either side too.
A tipper grossing at 3.5 tonnes will handle a payload of from 1,000kg to around 1,300kg at the very most. Add equipment such as a tail lift, or the bin lift and steel hood that are sometimes fitted to create a mini refuse collection vehicle, and the payload falls even further.
Different materials sometimes have to be used to bring the payload back to a respectable level. LinkTip, for example, has come up with a 3.5 tonne roadside recycling vehicle based on a tipper topped off with a plastic body. “It will handle loads of from 700kg to 800kg,” Hodgetts observes. Tipmaster has recently unveiled a Citroën Relay with an all-alloy box tipper body and a 1,250kg payload capacity.
The rising cost of steel, aluminium, and other raw materials hit tipper bodybuilders hard a few months ago, but for the moment seems to have reached a plateau says Hodgetts. “Suppliers are not always prepared to stretch their credit terms, however; not even by a few days,” he remarks.
Chassis for bodybuilders to build on are now in freer supply thanks to falling sales of new vehicles. In fact some manufacturers and dealers are finding that there are rather too many of them lying around unsold for comfort thanks to cancelled orders.
“I visited a dealer down in Kent recently who had 50 of them sitting about that he didn’t know what to do with,” Hodgetts remarks. “If chassis are being specially ordered from the factory with equipment to a customer’s exact specifications, however, rather than sourced from stock then they can still take a while to appear,” Terry observes.
More and more light tippers are being supplied through manufacturer’s ready-for-action programmes, with Ford, Vauxhall, Renault, Fiat and Volkswagen well to the fore. The vehicles are delivered to dealers already bodied and the body warranty usually matches the warranty on the chassis.
If there is a problem, then all the customer needs to do is contact the dealer. There should be no need for a three-cornered fight, with the dealer blaming the bodybuilder, the bodybuilder blaming the dealer and the customer left playing the role of piggy-in-the-middle.
Citroën’s hugely-successful Ready to Go to Work scheme is a prime example of what we mean. It embraces a Relay transformed into a tipper by Tipmaster.
A steel floor and alloy sides come as standard along with a ladder rack with a galvanised mesh infill. While some operators remain wary of using front-wheel drive chassis such as Relay as tipper platforms and favour rear-wheel drive because they feel it offers better traction and more generous rear axle loading tolerances. Relay should be suitable for most types of work.
While the majority of tipper bodies sold in the UK are assembled and installed by domestic bodybuilders, one or two manufacturers are having them factory-fitted. Nissan Cabstars built as tippers at the company’s assembly plant in Avila, Spain, will shortly be on sale in this country as part of the manufacturer’s Good to Go programme.
“The factory will fit tow-bars, warning beacons and power take-offs as well,” says Nissan light commercial vehicle sales and marketing director, Tony Lewis.
Tipper operators like to make the most of the available payload on their vehicles, and sometimes run the risk of overloading them – a danger alluded to earlier. That being the case, it is worth thinking about fitting the sort of overload warning system that’s supplied by companies such as Vishay PM Onboard .
The percentage loading of individual axles and the percentage of the vehicle’s permitted gross weight that have been reached so far are displayed on a screen in the cab. An intermittent buzzer sounds when either the axle or gross weights reach or exceed 90 per cent of their legal maximum, with the intermittent tone changing to a continuous one when they achieve or go over their limit.
All bodybuilders will soon have to comply with EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA). Its introduction means that their products — tipper bodies included — will have to meet the same regulatory standards as the chassis they sit upon. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and the Vehicle Certification Agency will be there to make sure that they do.
ECWVTA does not involve crash testing. What it does involve, however, is making sure that all the parts employed in the construction of a body comply with the law and meet the requirements of the VCA or an equivalent approval body. “It will make bodybuilding more professional,” says Hodgetts. Smaller bodybuilders may find compliance with its requirements too onerous, however; and either restrict themselves to repair work or get out of the industry altogether.
The road ahead is looking rocky for tipper manufacturers thanks to the worst recession in decades and changing legislation, but the survivors should be well placed to take advantage when the economy eventually recovers.