Unlike their predecessors, drivers who passed their car test after 1 January 1997 do not have an automatic entitlement to drive the former and have to take a separate test if they wish to do so. Many haven't bothered.

“We recently had an order for a dozen 3.5 tonne tippers from a firm that was finding it difficult to recruit 7.5-tonner drivers,” says Matthew Terry, managing director of London tipper body specialist Tipmaster.

Clearly anybody downsizing in this way still wants to maintain a decent payload, so Tipmaster fitted all-alloy bodies to the medium-wheelbase Citroën Relay chassis the customer had selected. Relay is one of the lighter vehicles in its class.

“The body includes an alloy floor as well as alloy sides and an alloy tailgate,” Terry says.

“As a consequence the customer can achieve a payload of over a tonne even with two people, all the tools they need and a full tank of fuel on board,” he says.

The cost of the material employed — “the welding wire used alone is six times more expensive than standard welding wire” — plus the extra labour input means that the body is approximately £1,000 more expensive than a standard tipper body, says Terry. “That's not as much more as you might expect though,” he contends.

Aiming to build around 1,000 tipper bodies this year, Tipmaster is planning to relocate away from its factory on the edge of the site earmarked for the London Olympics in 2012 to premises in Essex or even Cambridgeshire. “We've yet to find the site we need, but we're certainly looking,” he says.

He's confident that he'll be able to take most of the staff with him. Skill shortages mean that they include a number of Latvians.