Hauliers and owner-drivers working under contract to Tarmac in London are switching in growing numbers to truck-mounted concrete mixers and tippers based on eight-wheeled Mercedes-Benz Econic chassis. Key to the Econic’s increasing popularity with operators working in busy urban areas is the significantly enhanced visibility afforded to drivers by its low-entry cab, deep, wraparound windscreen, and fully glazed folding passenger door, as well as its market-leading, factory-fit safety systems.
Tarmac helped Mercedes-Benz to pioneer the vehicle’s development for construction applications by commissioning the first Econic mixer. That vehicle, a 26-tonner, entered trials in 2015. The decision last year by the sustainable building materials and construction solutions leader to appoint Mercedes-Benz Trucks as a preferred supplier, means the process of uptake by its contractors is now gathering momentum.
Tarmac has ordered 25 Econics from Dealer S & B Commercials – 18 of the 20 destined for operation in and around the capital are already in service. Most are fitted with McPhee mixer drums, although a handful have insulated tipping bodies by PPG or Wilcox – Tarmac won the Tipper Safety trophy at last month’s (June) Tip-ex and Tank-ex Awards.
The Econic 3235Ls are powered by fuel-efficient, 7.7-litre six-cylinder engines producing 260 kW (354 hp) and driving through six-speed Allison automatic gearboxes. As ENA variants they have single front steer axles, double-drive bogies and rear-steer axles. This configuration gives the vehicle an impressively tight turning circle and makes it significantly more manoeuvrable than a standard 32-tonne construction eight-wheeler, a major advantage for operation in tight streets.
Tarmac has also recently purchased a 6x2 Econic 2630L, an ex-Mercedes-Benz demonstrator for operation in London by its Minimix business, which specialises in small loads. In addition to the Econics, S & B Commercials will be delivering eight muscular Mercedes-Benz Arocs 8x4 chassis to contractors based in other parts of the country. Again, most are mixers, although three will have tipping bodies.
Tarmac operates one of the largest fleets in the industry. Most of its trucks are owned and run by contractors who are free to choose any make, provided it meets Tarmac’s specific standards. However, its preferred supplier agreement with Mercedes-Benz means Tarmac can now offer contractors access to vehicles bearing the three-pointed star at highly attractive rates. Given the commitment to safety which extends throughout the supply chain, the company is actively encouraging those working in London to adopt the Econic.
Sean McGrae, Tarmac’s Senior Manager National Transport, explained: “Tarmac is committed to improving vulnerable road user safety across the UK. It’s important that, as an industry, we continue to drive improvements, and the Econic’s design offers significant benefits in this area.” Greater Safety is one of the three pillars of Mercedes-Benz Trucks all-encompassing RoadEfficiency strategy, and the Econic offers excellent direct visibility. The fact that drivers sit so much lower than they do in conventional trucks allows them to make eye contact with cyclists and pedestrians at junctions and in traffic, another factor that contributes to safety.
A comprehensive standard specification which includes Active Brake Assist 3 emergency braking assistance technology is further enhanced by the camera and audible warning systems required to meet the CLOCS (Construction Logistics and Community Safety) standard. Sean McGrae said: “We now have approximately 20 Econics operating in London, and their owners are all very pleased with them. The drivers are particularly positive about the experience at the wheel, and the benefits of improved vision and manoeuvrability which this truck offers.” Mr McGrae highlighted another of the Econic’s safety attributes: “As well as helping to protect other road users, the low-entry cab is beneficial to the drivers themselves, because it reduces the chances of them slipping and falling while entering or exiting their vehicle.”
He continued: “Over the last three years the work that we’ve done together on the Econic has enabled us to develop a very good working relationship with the Mercedes-Benz team, which now has a good understanding of our business and needs.” The manufacturer last month announced the launch for 8x4 rear-steer Econics of a more fuel-efficient alternative to the Allison gearbox in the shape of the 12-speed Mercedes PowerShift 3 transmission; the same automated gearbox was introduced for certain 4x2 and 6x2 Econic variants last year, in response to demand from the market.
Mr McGrae said the opportunity to specify a 32-tonne version with Mercedes PowerShift 3 would increase the Econic’s appeal to Tarmac contractors working in other towns and cities, who typically cover longer distances than their counterparts in London. “Vehicle quality is very important, and it’s reassuring that Mercedes-Benz took the time to make sure the system works properly before it introduced the PowerShift ’box for eight-wheelers,” he observed.
Mr McGrae added: “It wasn’t so very long ago that we would not have considered putting mixer drums and tipping bodies on what was essentially a municipal chassis. Mercedes-Benz has made it a reality, though, and, as word spreads among our contractors we fully expect to see more of them replacing their conventional trucks with new Econics.”
Tarmac combines the knowledge and expertise of two of the construction industry’s most iconic brands: Tarmac, pioneer of the modern road, and Blue Circle, the company that patented Portland Cement. Operating from 400 strategically located sites throughout the UK, its portfolio covers aggregates and asphalt, readymix concrete, cement, lime and powders, highways maintenance, contracting and building products.