The reader-voted Converter Award returns for the fourth year and 2018 sees Trucksmith become the first company to retain the prize, which was previously won by VFS in 2016 and Tevo in 2015.

Best known for its pioneering work in producing low-floored Luton heavy van conversions over a period of more than three decades, this year the bodybuilder, which is an approved converter for Renault, launched a dropside body for the Renault Trafic medium van at the CV Show at the Birmingham NEC in April.

The new product line, which is called Target, is based on the low-roof platform-cab model and features the innovation of an additional loading space fitted beneath the load bed, which is accessed via a tailgate. This weather-proof new storage space is 1,260mm wide and 505mm deep and has been designed to store bulky loads such as strimmers.

The upper area has 400mm-high foldable sides enclosing a top deck that measures 2,850mm by 1,890mm.

Constructed from pressed and welded steel, the loadbay is mechanically fixed to the vehicle’s floor to form a one-piece structure.

Trucksmith describes the Target as “robust, practical and cleverly designed to meet the needs of tradesmen such as builders and gardeners, as well as council maintenance teams”.

In a further development this year, Trucksmith has invested £1m in metal-cutting fibre laser technology that can cut through 25mm sheets of steel. The Devon-based firm says the equipment enables it to automate production of the Trafic-based Target as well as its low-loading Luton vans, which include the Renault Master LoLoader, Vauxhall Movano KneeHi and Fiat Ducato Canniloader.

Daniel Trebble, MD of the family-run business, says: “As technology has improved we have been first to embrace it. Fibre laser is a great example of how we can produce highly accurate components to enable our skilled people to build vehicles more efficiently.”

He claims the technology is both productive and energy-efficient.

It is for its Luton LoLoaders that Trucksmith is best known and Trebble claims: “Our class-leading low-loading vans are all manufactured to the highest quality and are designed to meet the demands of commercial and fleet buyers. They all achieve outstanding payload for their class of low-loading vehicles, and a true loading height of just 550mm (and only 450mm with air suspension).”

This summer Trucksmith supplied eight Renault Master LoLoaders to Paul Rhodes bakery in London. The bespoke conversion was designed to boost the bakery’s delivery capacity as well as being nimble to manoeuvre in the city.

Company owner Paul Rhodes explains why the vans meet the needs of his business: “We have a number of crucial requirements from our vans. We wanted a box van the width of a Mercedes Sprinter for ease of driving and to minimise potential damage from London’s narrow and busy roads.

“We also wanted a vehicle that would take the strain away from our drivers, and the low loading height is perfect for what we’re doing. We have also designed shelving and boxes that run on the floor to maximise load yet carefully handle the delicate products we produce.

“The result is that we can get an extra 90 boxes in the LoLoader through its design, making deliveries more efficient.”

Trucksmith’s conversions meet European Whole Vehicle Type Approval standards and come with warranties that match those of the van manufacturer.

Highly Commended: Arnold Clark Coachbuilders

Based in East Kilbride, Glasgow, Arnold Clark Coachbuilders can fulfil a wide range of conversion requirements including Luton vans and curtain sides, dropsides and tippers, welfare vans, minibus and seat conversions, temperature-controlled vans and vehicle and plant transporters. The facility is an official supplier for Snoeks conversions and load-liner specialist Speedliner, and has recently attained an extension to its full European type approval portfolio to include the Ford Transit range.

The firm offers a selection of accessories such as wood lining, tail lifts, tow bars, winches, roof racks and bars, beacons, VanWeigh overload protection, roof vents, and audio and video equipment.