Tipper buying guide: your questions answered

Date: Tuesday, September 5, 2017   |   Author: Tony Rock


Essential features and nice-to-haves

Volkswagen says most people want:

  • a tip-over and tip-through function at the rear (where the tailboard is either hinged at the bottom of the tipper bed for loads to pass over, or at the top for loads to pass beneath)
  • bulkhead protection, which protects the cab and usually comes as standard.

VFS lists a further three features as being essential:

  • an adequate tipping ram mechanism to push the bed up to release the load
  • a well-designed load bed with good anti-corrosion standards
  • retaining boards to keep the load contained.

Citroen, though, places an emphasis on safety, and its must-haves include:

  • appropriate instructions
  • operator training
  • a body prop, which is a device that ensures the safety of personnel carrying out routine checks and maintenance of components and structures underneath the body when the body is in the tipped position.

Although not essential, Citroen also highlights the availability of remote controls, saying that “many tippers come with a wander lead or wireless remote control so that the operator can control the tipping effectively from behind the vehicle”, while further options mentioned by Volkswagen include “small cranes to lift loads on to the bed, steps and handles to assist getting on to the platform, towbars, and tool storage”.

I’m ready to buy, so where should I go?

As VFS states: “All the major LCV vehicle manufacturers either have a vehicle body programme or their dealers have designated convertors.”

Volkswagen, for example, offers Engineered to Go tippers of a standard specification that can be ordered like any other van through its Van Centres.

The company also offers bespoke tippers tailored to customers’ requirements via its Engineered for You programme.
There is a third option, too, as Volkswagen explains: “It’s also possible for the customer to order a base vehicle and then convert it himself. We would, however, recommed doing it through a Van Centre because with our approved Recognised Converter programme customers have a single point of contact, single invoice, warranty that covers vehicle and conversion, and peace of mind that the Van Centre will handle any issues that arise when the vehicle is in service.”
While Citroen says bodybuilders can produce a body to a required specification to fit a base chassis cab, it warns customers to “be sure that it carries European Whole Vehicle Type Approval”.

Like Volkswagen, Citroen says the best way to acquire a conversion is from a vehicle manufacturer’s conversion range, such as its Ready to Run programme.

 “This will carry a full warranty on the conversion to match the warranty of the base vehicle and can be ordered from any Citroen dealer,” says the manufacturer. “Citroen uses carefully selected bodybuilders to produce its Ready to Run conversions. All are certified and comply with the required regulations.”

Actually, do I really need to buy one?

While companies like Volkswagen offer finance options on conversions if you want to own a tipper van, Citroen says it might be worth considering rental as a solution “for occasional or one-off needs”.

Leasing is also a possibility, and Citroen says it might be the route for comparatively light-use operations such as a cage tipper or for occasionally moving sand and cement. However, it warns: “Leasing for heavy use could prove expensive if the body is likely to have a hard life and sustain damage.”

Are tipper vans easy to sell on?

This is an easy one to answer as all three companies agree that there is always a market for tippers provided they have been properly maintained and have not suffered significant damage.

Are there any downsides to acquiring a tipper van?

Not much, really, apart from the obvious, such as you could be stuck if the tipping mechanism fails, and you could have a far more serious problem if, as Citroen rightly highlights, you fail to ensure safe operation. So, as the manufacturer advises, make sure to:

  • only tip on a solid, even surface where there is no risk of the vehicle turning over
  • use the body prop if the body is left in the raised position
  • carry out proper maintenance and safety inspections on the tipping mechanism to ensure compliance with the appropriate health and safety regulations such as the Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER).

If you do have a mechanical issue, though, go back to your supplier. Volkswagen, for instance, offers a one-stop-shop to solve any issues with, they say, minimum inconvenience for the owner, while they “will liaise with the converter to ensure the customer does not get ‘stuck in the middle’”.

So to conclude, if you’re in the market for a vehicle that, as Citroen, Volkswagen and VF say…

  • can “speed up operations and reduce manual work”
  • doesn’t “require other feature options to unload the cargo”
  • and is “more versatile than a dropside van”

…then there is “no substitute” for a tipper.


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