Leading UK drinks wholesaler, HB Clark Ltd., has begun a fleet modernisation programme with the introduction of eight DAF New LF 16-tonne rigid curtain-siders. The first six have already been bodied and delivered, and will be joined early in 2018 by two further New LF models.The rigid curtain-side trucks are fitted with a variety of liveries reflecting products that include well-known brands such as Coors, Carling, Carlsberg Export, Corona, Whitley Neill and its own ‘Infamous Soft Drinks’ range. Bodying and liveries have been handled by Scottish bodybuilder, Tekbo.
Darren Williams, Operations Manager for HB Clark, said, “We are embarking on a major investment to modernise the fleet. We have a mixed fleet of about 90 vehicles from 7.2- to 32-tonnes. It is beginning to age in certain areas, so we want to introduce new vehicles that will enhance our performance, please our drivers and deliver a good fuel return.
“I was aware of DAF trucks from some of my previous roles,” he said, “but having talked to current operators about their experiences with the marque today, I am confident we have made the right choice. Dray work isn’t about long distances,” he added, “it’s hard, local work, with lots of stopping, starting and difficult manoeuvring on High Streets and other urban areas. I know from my discussions with other operators that the current range of LFs perform well, so we anticipate even better results on fuel with these six New LFs and the two that will join us later.”
The New LF DAFs, which join the HB Clark fleet after a rigorous tender process, are 4×2 day cab models with full air management kits, air conditioning, radios, seat belts, Truckphone connections, six-speed AS Tronic semi-automated gearboxes, rear air suspension, Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Warning and Advanced Emergency Braking System. The new trucks will all be factory-painted in blue, except for one with a black cab, painted to suit the company’s ‘Infamous Soft Drinks’ livery. The trucks are being taken with six-year DAF MultiSupport R&M packages and, at the end of that first life, the company will handle its own disposals.
With a large fleet to modernise in due course, Darren is also looking to move out of 7.5-tonne trucks up to the more flexible load potential of 15- to 16-tonne vehicles. He said, “We have nine depots right now, and that means a lot of different operating demands. What has been important is finding a truck which genuinely suits this type of work. The New LF,” he said, “is a light chassis cab, very simple for bodying, and with the right body we can maximise the load they carry more effectively. The turning circle is very good for the dray work they do, which makes our drivers’ jobs just that little bit easier.”
HB Clark looked across the UK for a suitable vehicle bodybuilder to build their new fleet, one that could meet their demands on design and quality. Their chosen bodybuilder, Glasgow-based Tekbo Ltd., has more than 17 years vehicle body manufacturing experience, and initial meetings were followed up by design proposals that complimented the operational and design needs of HB Clark.
The bodies from Tekbo include a new safety loading system that Darren Williams has been working on with the Scottish bodybuilder. He said, “In some ways you could say we are returning to some influences of the old ‘roping and sheeting’ habits from years back. Basically, we are using a bungee system, hooked onto rollers at the front and back of the body, that meet to hold the loads firmly in place even as they diminish during the course of the dray’s round of deliveries. Simple, effective and easy for our drivers to operate.”
The DAF New LFs have been supplied by North West Trucks at Huyton on Merseyside.
Darren Williams knows the dealership well, having left school to start an apprenticeship at Heatons Tranport which owned Woodwards DAF Dealership. “I not only started there and got to know Robert Heaton, whose long-established family Group now owns the Woodwards and North West dealerships, but also went to school and college with Craig Gornall, who still works at North West Trucks and will be managing our servicing needs. It helps to know your local dealer for sure, but my previous experience of DAF, means I know they have quality dealers near all our branches. And for those moments when we might need it, I think DAFaid is probably the best roadside emergency service in the UK industry.”