A first, 35-mile test drive of a tractor unit in 15 years was all it took to convince AFS Haulage boss Andy Seagrave that an investment in the remarkable Active Brake Assist 3 system from Mercedes-Benz was well worth making.
“I never want to be the one who has to tell the family of one of my drivers that he’s been involved in a serious accident,” he explained. “ABA 3, along with other Mercedes-Benz technology like the Proximity Control Assist, Attention Assist and Lane Keeping Assist systems, means peace of mind for safety-conscious operators like myself, who are always aware of our Duty of Care to employees and other road users.”
Mr Seagrave started out as a ‘man and a van’ in 1983, and now runs 45 trucks at 7.5 tonnes gvw and above. The latest additions to the Southampton-based operator’s fleet are its first Mercedes-Benz tractor units.
Supplied by South Coast Dealer Pentagon Commercials, both are Actros 2545LS models with advanced 330 kW (450 hp) straight-six engines and aerodynamic StreamSpace cabs. And of course, both are equipped with the optional Active Brake Assist 3.
EU General Safety Regulations mandate that all new trucks above 12.0 tonnes gvw (and air suspended trucks over 8.0 tonnes) should be equipped with an Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS) capable of detecting an emergency situation and applying the brakes automatically to prevent or reduce the effects of a crash.
Autonomous braking technology has been fitted as standard to all Mercedes-Benz trucks since 2006, but the latest, ABA 3 version goes far beyond the demands of the legislation. Using a combination of radar and cameras, the system monitors moving and stationary objects in front and sounds an audible warning when it senses potential for a collision. If the driver takes no action, ABA 3 will apply staged braking – and eventually full braking power – to prevent a crash, or dramatically reduce the effects of an impact.
AFS Haulage took part in a two week Mercedes-Benz Fuel Challenge last summer. Pentagon’s Actros demonstration unit won hands down by returning 9.2 mpg, 14.5% ahead of the figure achieved on similar work by the operator’s own vehicle.
Against this backdrop, Mr Seagrave attended an event for local operators organised by the Dealer’s Truck Sales Executive John Sunderland, which combined presentations from representatives of the manufacturer’s driver-training team and its FleetBoard telematics division, with a ‘ride and drive’ over a 35-mile route that combined varying road conditions and terrain.
Mr Seagrave recalled: “I wasn’t expecting to drive when I turned up and was pretty nervous as we set off, not least because it’s been 15 years since I last drove an artic. But I quickly settled in and was really impressed by the effectiveness of easily-operated features like the Predictive Powertrain Control system – I never seemed to be braking hard or chasing the vehicle, and the whole experience was so much calmer than I remembered.
“I was also able to see and feel the Proximity Control Assist technology in action,” he continued. “It was very effective in gently slowing the truck to prevent you from getting too close to the vehicle in front. Again, all very reassuring. In the event, and having stopped just six times, it took me only 15 seconds longer to complete the route than the experienced driver who’d gone before, so I was very pleased.”
AFS offers a full complement of general haulage services and is also a member of the Palletways Network. Its two Actros are being inspected and serviced under six-year Mercedes-Benz Repair and Maintenance Contracts at Pentagon’s Fareham workshop, and have been quick to impress.
“The drivers are delighted with the comfort of their new vehicles and have benefited from instruction by Pentagon’s driver-trainer Phil Whiting,” said Mr Seagrave. “It’s clearly paying off because although the Actros are still bedding in they’re already proving exceptionally fuel-efficient – one of the lads returned 11.5 mpg the other day, which is brilliant.”
He added: “We won’t be buying any more new trucks for a while so we’ll now take a good look to see how both the trucks and the Dealer perform over the longer term. But if they live up to their early promise there’s every chance we’ll be going back for more Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the future.”