Reducing unladen weight can help save fuel and give you the chance to increase your payload, and plastic bodies promising significant weight savings were much in evidence at the NEC.
Owned jointly by John Dennis Coachbuilders and Pro Poly of the USA, Polybilt Europe was extolling the virtues of its thermoplastic bodies, said to be up to 25% lighter than standard bodies and on a par in terms of price. “They’re 100% recyclable and we guarantee them for 15 years, although they’ll probably last for 20 to 30 years,” says Polybilt project engineer, Richard Storer.
Elsewhere, Eco-Bodies was promoting its Eco-Lite tipping body bodied for recycling work and made from co-polymer plastic. Suitable for 3.5 and 4.25-tonne chassis, it offers a payload potential of over 1000kg.
On the Ingimex stand there was a focus on safety, with a dropside body built for Speedy Hire equipped with an upper safety rail on each side to prevent anybody climbing into the back from accidentally falling out. Best-known for its tippers and dropsides, the Telford-based light commercial bodybuilder was once again emphasising the structural integrity of its products and the ability of the lashing points fitted to withstand a considerable amount of strain without giving way.
It can supply bodies designed to meet EN12642 XL and EN12640 standards and machinery directive 2006/42/EC with load-tie rings that comply with EN12640 and are tested to 800kg. By no means all businesses in the sector work to these exacting standards.
Ingimex managing director Justin Gallen, says that body sales are bouncing back after some tough times courtesy of the recession. “They plummeted by 75% in 2009 and our losses were horrendous,” he recalls.
“This year however we should turn out 3500 to 4000 bodies, up from the 2200 we built in 2010. It’s nice to be back from the dead.”
Roadload was back at the show with its Peugeot Boxer-based U-tail conversion. The use of stub rear axles and hydraulic lifting arms allows the bodies it carries to be lowered to ground level for ease of loading and unloading.
This time around it was exhibiting a 5.5-tonne version able to handle a 2.0-tonne payload, and in Tesco livery. The supermarket giant is taking one on trial says Roadload with the idea of running 20 on delivery work to its Express stores.
Roadload has extended its U-tail concept to trailers. Dominating its stand was a U-tail lightweight artic using a converted Nissan Cabstar as a tractor unit and grossing at either 7.0 or 8.0 tonnes.
U-tails don’t come cheap however, with a 3.5-tonner leaving you with an invoice for £36,000.
Turning to tail-lifts, Easyloader of the Netherlands was displaying one designed for panel vans with a platform that folds away into the roof when not in use, leaving the rear door aperture free from any obstruction.
The lift can be ordered with a capacity of either 400kg or 500kg, and can be fitted in a day, claimed the manufacturer. Go for the lower-capacity model and you will find it weighs no more than around 150kg.
Ratcliff Palfinger was exhibiting a new but more conventional tail-lift. Fully automatic and internally-stowed, it can hoist either 400kg or 500kg depending on the version selected.
The steel mesh platform is available in a range of depths, from 1100mm to 1500mm,  and the newcomer is on offer in both goods and passenger transport guise.
As the U-tail design discussed earlier illustrates, clever products cost cash. Easyloader’s baby will set you back roughly £4000 although that includes installation.
Another approach to less-stressful loading and unloading was on offer from Joloda with its Vanloda. Designed for panel vans, and weighing around 120kg, it’s a pneumatically-operated roller bed that allows pallets weighing as much as 1,000kg to be slid in and out.
When you want to move a pallet, you raise the rollers using air sourced from reservoirs charged by a 12v compressor that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter in the cab. Once the rollers have been raised, the pallet can move freely and be pushed backwards and forwards. If you want to leave it where it is, you lower them. Vanloda takes about half an hour to fit and costs £1,500 to £2,000.
Some types of cargo are more vulnerable to damage than others and can take a real hammering thanks to the still-atrocious (and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future) state of Britain’s road surfaces. VB-Airsuspension was showing off an air suspension system for light commercials such as Volkswagen’s Crafter and Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter that should help to cushion some of the blows and has a raise/lower facility.
Companies able to rack out the interior of a van
were at the NEC in abundance, with Bott, Bri-Stor, Edstrom, Sortimo and Tevo among those specialists making their presence felt.
Qi was exhibiting a van-bodied Land Rover Defender in the livery of Scottish and Southern Energy with ladder racks fitted with gas springs to allow ladders to be lowered to the ground and put back again without the driver having to climb onto the roof. It has split cargo compartments accessible from each side via roller shutter doors, a rear cargo area accessible through the back door and a through-loading facility that allows long items to be swallowed.
To end on a cheery note, while summer is almost upon us, winter will be here soon enough. Taubenreuther was displaying a range of snowploughs and gritters suitable for attachment to light commercials; just what you’ll need when the snow begins to fall.