The first high-visibility Mercedes-Benz Econic to be specified for ‘muckaway’ duties has been quick to impress since entering service with fast-growing contractor S Walsh & Sons.
The Essex-based company, which specialises in spoil handling, removal and remediation, is riding high thanks to the construction boom in London.
The new truck – which is also S Walsh & Sons’ first Mercedes-Benz – is an 8x4 Econic 3235 ENA model. Supplied by Dealer S & B Commercials, it has a single front steer axle, double-drive bogie and rear-steer axle. This configuration means it is has a tighter turning circle and is thus far more manoeuvrable than a conventional 32-tonne construction eight-wheeler.
The low-entry Econic chassis offers major safety advantages in relation to cyclists and pedestrians. Most significantly, it has a deep, panoramic windscreen, fully-glazed kerbside door and low seating position. The driver therefore benefits from a significantly improved field of vision, and finds it much easier to see and make direct eye contact with other road users, including particularly vulnerable bike riders.
To further enhance visibility S Walsh & Sons’ new vehicle is equipped with a full complement of cameras, as well as one that monitors the driver’s behaviour at the wheel.
There are now more than 20 Econics working in the capital on construction-related duties. The first, an alloy-bodied tipper built for aggregates work, was delivered last summer; others commissioned since include tipper-grabs and skip-loaders.
S Walsh & Sons’ vehicle has a Fruehauf steel tipping body and is being used to support several high-profile construction projects in London, including the Battersea Power Station redevelopment and Crossrail scheme. The truck collects spoil, much of it clay, which it then tips at various locations in Essex.
The company’s Senior Transport Manager Nathan Hopgood confirmed: “The Econic offers a 19-tonne payload, which is certainly competitive. More importantly, though, it represents a major step forward in terms of safety.”
S Walsh & Sons, which operates from headquarters in Brentwood, boasts an exceptional health and safety record and has long been among the front-runners when it comes to compliance – the firm is a CLOCS (Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety) Champion and accredited to Gold standard by FORS (the Freight Operator Recognition Scheme).
A former driver, Mr Hopgood has taken the new Econic out himself. “My first thought was… What on Earth is this?” he recalled. “The driving position is very different to anything I’d experienced before, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to be.
“After just half an hour on the road, though, I realised that I really liked it. You see a lot more of what’s around you, and the fact that you sit that much lower means that – just as Mercedes-Benz says – you can indeed make direct eye contact with cyclists and pedestrians, which is a big help.
“As a driver you’re always focused on avoiding an accident in which someone gets hurt, but particularly so in London, where the traffic conditions are so challenging. From the perspective of the guy at the wheel the Econic is very reassuring – as a result, a shift in this vehicle would certainly be less stressful than one in a conventional eight-wheeler.”
The latest addition to S Walsh & Sons’ mixed-marque fleet of 67 trucks is being inspected and serviced under a Mercedes-Benz Repair and Maintenance Contract, by the workshop team at S & B Commercials’ Thurrock branch. “It’s a very new relationship but we’ve certainly been very happy with the Dealer so far,” confirmed Mr Hopgood.
Founded by Sean Walsh, S Walsh & Sons has a long trading history with many of the world’s largest contractors. Over the past decade the company has diversified to provide additional marine, rail, logistics, environmental management and soils testing services.