Operators could face severe problems getting tippers, dropsides and other chassis-cab- based bodied vehicles registered after April 2013, and the future of bodybuilders all over the UK could be placed in jeopardy – that was the stark warning issued by Justin Gallen, managing director of leading light commercial bodybuilder Ingimex, at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show, held at the NEC?in Birmingham.
The problem stems from the way in which European Whole Vehicle Type Approval is being progressively implemented, he explains. EWVTA involves ensuring that the body as well as the chassis meets Type Approval criteria, which means that only components that are legal and comply with the requirements of the Vehicle Certification Agency or an equivalent approval agency may be used.
To make the whole system work, bodybuilders need seamless access to the chassis manufacturer’s own Type Approval data, Gallen explains. “Unfortunately, only one manufacturer has made the necessary data available so far, and for many of the others the need to take action simply isn’t on their radar,” he says.
Without that information, the whole paperwork trail will stop dead and it will not be possible to register converted vehicles from next spring onwards. As a consequence, bodybuilders will not be able to make sales and the subsequent
cash flow crisis will drive many of them to the wall, he warns.
ll that is in addition to the impact on angry operators who will not be able to put the vehicles they need on the road.
“Bodybuilders have often been criticised for failing to prepare for EWVTA,” he says. “However, it’s the majority of manufacturers who aren’t ready and it’s quite bizarre.”
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and best-known for its tipper and dropside bodies, Ingimex launched a new box body at the show. It is available with a Luton head.
“We’ve been out of the box van market for 15 years apart from the box bodies we’ve been making for Ford, so this marks a return for us,” says Gallen.
Continuing to refine its existing products, Ingimex has also introduced a large, heftily constructed fold-down step that can be mounted on the inner face of a dropside body’s side to make access to the body easier when the side is dropped down.
It is finished in yellow, and its sides are angled in such a way that it should not hurt somebody who happens to walk into it when it is deployed.
Other UK bodybuilders continuing to improve their products include Paneltex. It has developed a refrigerated box body on a 3.5-tonne Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis that offers around 100kg more payload than the temperature-controlled factory-built panel vans that Food Partners, its customer, previously ran. On display on the Paneltex stand, the body offers more load space too and will be going into service with Food Partners on 34 Sprinters on multi-drop work.
Multi-drop drivers burdened with armfuls of parcels would love a van whose load area doors can be opened electrically and automatically so that they don’t have to put down whatever they are carrying and open them manually. Stedall was exhibiting a selection of automatic cab, tailgate and sliding side doors driven by electric motors at prices ranging from £1100 to £1700.
Fuel economy remains a key concern for van operators given the high cost of diesel. Best-known for the hybrid drivetrain it installs in Ford Transits, Ashwoods Automotive has come up with an in-cab package called Lightfoot that encourages drivers to drive more frugally through a mixture of visual and verbal prompts. It costs £250 to install Lightfoot in a van, with a subscription rate of £12 a month thereafter. “However, it has been shown to provide a 14% average fuel saving,” says Ashwoods head of marketing, Victoria Davison.
Showcased on Roadload’s stand was the SuperLow. Using a cab, engine and gearbox sourced from Peugeot’s front-wheel drive Boxer, and grossing at from 3.5 to 5.6 tonnes, it features a cargo body equipped with Dunlop self-levelling rear air suspension that can be lowered by 100mm. As a consequence the rear loading height is a mere 200mm.
Body capacities range from 16.8m3 to 35.8m3 while payload capacity goes up to 2.9 tonnes.
With a £36,000 pricetag, the 5.6-tonner is being touted as a viable alternative to a conventional 7.5-tonner, and one that is more fuel-efficient and easier and quicker to load.
Roadload director William Lambert briskly dismisses suggestions that Boxer’s powertrain may not easily cope with the weight. “Remember that the Boxer has been used as a platform for heavy motorhome and horsebox bodies for many years,” he observes.
Bott used the exhibition to showcase a new load area storage system called Uno. “It’s aimed at van owners – I’m thinking of plumbers, electricians and so on – who may never have bothered
with racking before, or who have installed heavy home-made wooden racks,” says regional sales manager, Neil Piggott.
It is made from steel, but is nonetheless comparatively light in weight thanks to the way it has been engineered, Piggott adds. Prices start at from £679.
Bri-Stor unveiled a load area hardtop for pick-ups. Made from mild steel, it weighs no more than 90kg, says the manufacturer, and its roof will support a 150kg load.
Eco Bodies was explaining the advantages of its Eco-Lite plastic tipper body. They include the fact that it does not corrode and is 100% recyclable.
Under the Handeman Stop’n’ Wash banner, Teal Patents was showing a new onboard unit that allows van drivers to wash their hands using hot water between deliveries.
Rhino Products was promoting a redesigned version of its SafeStow, the SafeStow3, which makes it easier and safer to load and unload ladders carried on the top of high-roof vans, while Vehicle Weighing Solutions was promoting the merits of VOPS2. It warns drivers if their vehicles have become overloaded: as big a potential problem with light commercial vehicles as it is with heavy trucks.