Rising raw material costs are hitting light commercial body builders hard. 

Part of the Scattolini group, and well-known for tipper bodies such as the Excalibur, VFS has seen the price of almost everything it uses, including aluminium and steel, skyrocket over the past 18 months. 

“We’ve seen rises of 18% to 20%, and the cost of energy has gone up too,” said chief executive officer, Ashley Morris. 

Such increases have to be reflected in the price the customer pays for VFS products. “However, when our costs come down, we’ll reduce our prices accordingly,” he promised. 

Availability of raw materials is not an issue, although supplies of the timber VFS uses for the floors in its dropside bodies have been affected by the Ukraine war. 

“As a consequence, we’re looking at using flooring made from recycled plastic,” says Morris. 

The pressures imposed by price increases are not preventing the company from introducing new products. Among them is a tipper body designed specifically for battery-electric chassis. 

Mounting such a body on a chassis has to be done carefully to ensure that nothing fouls the battery pack or the high voltage cables. Consequently, VFS has altered the position of the tipping ram while at the same time cutting the output of the body’s power pack, so it draws less current from the battery when the body is elevated.

“We’ve reduced it by 18%, but without affecting performance,” claimed Morris. 

The shortage of chassis of all types thanks to extended delivery times caused by a lack of components such as semi-conductors seems to be abating at long last. “They’re coming through now,” Morris reported.

That should help ensure VFS increases its output across its two sites – Eastleigh in Hampshire and Pontefract in West Yorkshire – to 9,000 this year compared with just under 8,000 in 2021. 

The hiatus imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic gave VFS the opportunity to see how costs could be taken out of the business. “We achieved a £650,000 saving,” he said.

“We were spending £200,000 to £250,000 a year on getting liveries, including decals, applied to vehicles,” Morris added. “Now we do the work ourselves.”