Tippers: Tipping the balance

Date: Monday, November 22, 2010

In the past three years tipper manufacturers and body builders have faced the dual challenges of coping with the recession and preparing for the implementation of the European Whole Vehicle Type Approval legislation. Both issues have had a profound impact on the sector and altered the shape of the marketplace.

Matthew Terry, director of Tipmaster, said the body builder would carry out 450 conversions this year, but admits this number will be “less than last year and less than the year before that”. Three years ago the figure was closer to 1000 conversions.

Terry puts the fall in volume entirely down to the economic downturn. “The recession has altered the business,” he says. “Orders have lowered, the same as for manufacturers.”

However, he points out that while the slump has heavily hit orders from the building trade, Tipmaster has been able to fall back on other well- established areas of the business.

“We’ve supplied tree surgeons and waste management conversions for donkeys’ years.” And from these parts of the business “we’re still seeing the same order amounts coming through”, he claims.
Terry says Tipmaster’s focus on undertaking specialist bodywork for low-volume operators means it has largely escaped being hit by the growing trend for manufacturers to factory-fit tippers.

One trend he has noticed this year is a growing demand for dropside tippers from customers with specialist requirements that cannot be met by standardised models. As an example, he says: “People who build hot tubs need longer dropside conversions”.

Terry says Tipmaster employs commercial bodybuilders to fit cranes, bin lifts and tail lifts, and balances the business between production line conversions and more customised jobs: “We’ve got a nice, even mix. The bulk is low-volume builds of one-to-10 conversions. You have to cater for what’s available but we’re not reliant on one or two customers. We’ve weathered the storm reasonably well.”
According to Terry, the firm has maintained its reputation for high- quality conversions during the downturn and stuck to its guns by refusing to lower prices, to the extent that he has walked away from deals if he thought standards might be compromised. As he says of the strategy: “It’s competitive, we’re still here.”

Tipmaster’s conversions start at £1500 for a tipper with a crane and grab and can cost up to £20,000 for a full stainless steel refuse body with a bin lifter, axle weighing system and LED warning lights. Terry says aluminium bodies are becoming increasingly popular as they lower aconversion weight by 25%, which can increase the payload on a 3.5-tonne caged tipper from 800kg with a steel body to 1100kg. The 10% price premium for aluminium can be recouped quickly, Terry argues, by, for example, a local authority being able to use the increased payload to reduce the number of trips it needs to make to the waste disposal unit.

Tipmaster advises operators to opt for lighter conversions to avoid overloading. It also offers on-board weighing systems that cost up to £2500, but this is “very marginal with hardly any mark-up for us”, Terry says.

He believes Tipmaster’s provision of a three-year warranty appeals as much to one man bands as larger operators and adds that the strong brand name has enabled its website to attract body-building work to its HQ in the heart of London’s East End from as far afield as Scotland.

Peugeot and Merc

Ingimex specialises in the design and volume manufacture of LCV bodies for 3.5-tonne vehicles. It supplies its Titan Tipper for manufacturer schemes and as post-production conversions, and has recently teamed up with Peugeot for the launch of the manufacturer’s dedicated one-stop shop UK conversion programme for the Boxer.

Tipper and dropside conversions of the Boxer are available with single and crew cab versions. The tipper range starts from £21,995 excluding VAT. All conversions come with the three-year/100,000 miles parts and labour warranty commonly offered with the Titan. Two tipper models are available – the 335 L2 120 and the 335 Crew Cab L3. Equivalent dropside versions are also offered.

“The choice of these versions…will help reduce lead time for standard versions but still provide the flexibility to offer other conversions where required,” says Peugeot.
The manufacturer is also offering a range of contract hire and finance leasing rates. For example, the 335 L2 120 Tipper is available on a 36-month contract hire agreement for £330 per month and on finance lease for the same period with a £2000 down payment followed by monthly payments of £280 plus a final balloon payment of £5880.

Mercedes, too, has teamed up with Ingimex for a Titan rear tipper conversion of its 3.5-tonne Sprinter. The model is available with three 2.1-litre diesel units delivering 95hp, 129hp and 163hp respectively and a 3.0-litre engine with 190hp, and the maximum payload is 1160kg. The Sprinter 3 series Chassis cab 3.5-tonne starts from £22,350 with the tipper bodywork costing an additional £2390, excluding VAT.

Earlier this year Southwark Council took on a fleet of 35 310CDI Sprinter cage tippers for refuse collection duties in the south London borough on a five-year contract hire deal. The council says it chose the Sprinter for its environmental credentials – all engines meet Euro5 emissions standards as well as the voluntary Enhanced Environmentally friendly Vehicle standard. The vans are also fitted with the manufacturer’s stop/start ECO-start system.

Meanwhile, market leader Ford launched the Phase Five version of its Transit Tipper in August. Part of the brand’s Ford One Stop Shop scheme, prices for the new derivative start at £26,726. The manufacturer exclusively designed and tested the vehicle and the conversion was carried out by Hampshire-based VFS. Both body and chassis are covered by the same three-year/60,000-mile warranty. Ford claims there are 35 changes to the new Transit Tipper improving productivity, safety and cost of ownership. The manufacturer proudly boasts the Transit Tipper remains the only one in the marketplace with TUV accreditation, the renowned independent certification body, for safety and production conformity.

Body weight for single and double cab variants has come down by 51kg and 40kg respectively, increasing payloads to 1046kg for the single cab and 2099kg for the double cab. The loading height has been reduced by 40mm to 995mm.

Ford has redesigned the control gear to provide a more intuitive joystick operation. The tipper controls are now all to the offside adjacent to the driver’s seat, giving access either when seated or from outside with the door open. A sequenced hydraulic cam now holds the body in the stowed position. This helps stabilise the body under adverse loading conditions such as incorrectly loaded payload or when loaded by mechanical handling equipment. The device is fully automatic and requires no intervention by the operator.

Returning to Tipmaster, Citroen claims its Ready to Run Relay tipper has, at 1300kg, the highest payload of any 3.5-tonne Tipmaster conversion.

Built on a Relay 35 MWB chassis cab, the package includes a tipper body with an all-steel underframe, floor and headboard. The extruded alloy body dropsides and tailboard have recessed fasteners. Tipmaster’s own-make electro-hydraulic power pack, with chromed under-floor scissor action ram, tips the body. The Ready to Run Relay is also available with an all-alloy subframe (increasing payload by up to 100kg) cage sides, lockable toolboxes and a tail-lift.



Looming legislation

A cloud looming on the horizon for the UK’s body builders is the necessity to comply with the European Whole Vehicle Type Approval legislation, which is being phased in across the commercial vehicle sector from October 2010.

Matthew Terry, director of Tipmaster, is a council member of the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association representing body builders, and as a result Tipmaster “acted as a guinea pig for WVTA” during discussions with the DfT.

The firm appointed a WVTA manager five years ago and consequently is “as far advanced as it can be” with meeting its requirements. Terry advises other body builders to read the VBRA’s information pack to aid compliance and estimates the investment in man hours and “putting things right” has cost more than £50,000, which could be prohibitive for small businesses.

“If you want to carry on doing bodywork you have to have type approval,” he says, but points out that most smaller operators would not need to comply with the full European regulation. As he explains: “Through the work we do for vehicle manufacturers we’ve had to deal with it.”

However, dealing with inspection bodies the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency or the Vehicle Certification Agency could present problems for smaller operators.
“The fear is bodybuilders have not understood they need approval,” warns Robin Dickeson, manager CV affairs at the SMMT. “Without it you can’t register the vehicle so you can’t sell it.”

The issue is particularly pertinent for dealers who register the vast majority of LCVs. Dickeson stresses the manufacturer, body builder, dealer and operator must work together to make sure the requirements are met. The best solution, he says, is for customers to ensure they ask body builders and dealers for type approval.


Model values

Well-cared-for 3.5-tonne tippers in good condition are attracting strong interest at auction, according to Andy Picton, Glass’s CV editor, with the best late-year examples achieving guide trade values. Picton says double cab variants rarely perform better than single cab stablemates unless in the 12-18 month old bracket – but premiums are not significant.

While Picton says Mercedes Sprinter and VW Crafter tippers tend to perform well at auction, he cites the Ford Transit 350 MWB as the star- performing base model for a tipper.

“These are highly desired if in the right condition and with sensible miles,” Picton says.

On older plates the LDV Convoy tipper comes into the reckoning if in prime condition. Late-year Iveco Daily models are also in favour.
Picton says the growing trend for one-stop shop conversions offered by manufacturers are increasing in popularity.

Currently, Picton says a three-year-old/60,000-mile Ford Transit 2.4TDCi 100hp MWB tipper in tidy condition should fetch £8425 with the 115hp version worth an additional £625.

When it comes to older stock, he says the small numbers of LDV Convoy 2.4dti 90hp models filtering through could fetch up to £3500 on an 0454 plate.
“With a shortage of supply there is a growing demand for the best-presented stock. This is resulting in values firming in recent months,” says Picton.


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