Mercedes-Benz has made further inroads into the fleet of a long-established Middlesbrough-based operator that until relatively recently had only run trucks by other manufacturers.
Of the 12 vehicles Armstrong Richardson Transport has purchased over the last three years, no fewer than 10 have been either Actros or Atego models bearing the three-pointed star.
Latest to arrive via North-East Dealer Bell Truck and Van were a pair of 26-tonne Actros 2540s with curtainside bodies by Lawrence David, of Peterborough. Both have ClassicSpace cabs and, like the two Actros 2551 BigSpace tractor units Armstrong Richardson commissioned last year, were specified with ground-breaking Uptime maintenance technology and Safety Packs which include the advanced Active Brake Assist 4 and Proximity Control Assist systems.
Armstrong Richardson Transport is part of the Armstrong Richardson group, which has been trading since 1925. Originally a regional supplier of commodities to farmers, it now serves customers throughout the UK – trade covers a wide range of agricultural inputs including wholesale horse and pet products, and pet, equestrian and country supplies retailing.
Another specialist arm of the Armstrong Richardson group, C&C Transport, runs an all-Mercedes-Benz fleet of eight horseboxes, ranging in size from 13-tonne Atego with six stalls, to 26-tonne Actros which can accommodate 13 animals. Bell Truck and Van will shortly deliver a new 13-tonne Atego 1327 with body by Oakley Coachbuilders, of Attleborough, Norfolk.
Armstrong Richardson has been owned since 1972 by the Jones family; today, Nigel and Mark are Joint Managing Directors, while younger brother Craig is also a Director. Although Armstrong Richardson Transport undertakes a proportion of third-party haulage work, the primary role of its fleet is to service the group's own customers. Articulated tractors, four of them Mercedes-Benz Actros, are used to trunk palletised horse and pet foods into its 55,000 sq ft warehouse, where the loads are split down.
Deliveries to independent retailers and other customers as far afield as Scotland's Central Belt, and Devon and South Wales, are then made by rigid curtainsiders. In addition to the two new 26-tonne Actros, these include a third Actros six-wheeler, this a 2545 StreamSpace model with Lawrence David body, which pulls a drawbar trailer, and three 12-tonne Atego 1221 curtainsiders by Dependable Bodies, of Gateshead.
Key to Bell's achievement in gaining a significant foothold in the Armstrong Richardson fleet has been the reliable performance over many years of C&C Transport's horseboxes, as well as the customer-focused service both of the Dealer's sales executive Craig Graham and of its Billingham after sales team.
Nigel Jones explained: "For many years we only ran trucks by other manufacturers on the transport fleet. However, Craig was keen to get in on the action and put together a compelling case for the Mercedes-Benz product and back-up.
"He is a very professional sales specialist and as far as the horseboxes were concerned his attention to detail has always been spot on. Bell's after sales team are terrific, too. On one occasion they shut the workshop so we could drive a wagon in with five horses on board – they literally had it jacked up, wheels off and back on the road within 40 minutes, and all without disturbing the animals. You remember service like that."
Mr Jones continued: "We like to support local businesses and, given our previous experience with the C&C vehicles, decided three years ago that the time was right to give Mercedes-Benz a try on the Armstrong Richardson operation. We've certainly had no regrets – its trucks have lived up fully to our hopes and expectations, proving reliable, fuel-efficient and popular with our drivers. Image is important, too, and these smart, modern vehicles can only enhance our reputation for great service when they arrive at our customers' locations."
Commenting on the company's decision to specify its latest trucks with Safety Packs, Mr Jones said: "Health and safety is always at the top of our priority list so any investment in new technology that reduces the chances of one of our vehicles being involved in an accident is always going to be money well spent."
Mercedes-Benz Uptime, meanwhile, employs an array of sensors to monitor the condition of the vehicle in real time, and can deliver planning efficiencies that minimise the amount of time it needs to spend in the workshop; the system can even predict a breakdown before it occurs.
"We cannot afford to have vehicles breaking down or off the road for anything other than scheduled inspections and servicing," added Mr Jones. "Our Mercedes-Benz trucks are all on Service Contracts and the Dealer's workshop team look after us very well – we know our costs in advance so can plan with confidence, assured that our vehicles are being well maintained and fitted only with factory-approved parts."