Gritting trucks are a welcome sight when Arctic conditions start to bite. But having the high value vehicles lying idle for the rest of the year doesn’t go down so well with council tax payers. DAF St Helens Council

St Helens Council has come up with a solution though, in the shape of two new dual role DAF vehicles, which can grit in winter and empty gullies when conditions return to normal.

The LF55 18-tonners have been designed to take either a gritter body or a gully emptying tank. When snow and ice are predicted, the trucks can be prepared for gritting and ploughing in not much more than half an hour and when conditions return to normal they can quickly be put back into use as gully emptiers.

“When you add together the cost of both the equipment and the truck, then these are expensive pieces of kit,” says Council Transport Manager Colin Smith. “And we needed to find a way to optimise their use and help deliver better value to our 177,500 local residents, particularly with the present squeeze on the council’s budgets.

“Successful trials with vehicles in a road surface ‘quick repair’ role showed us that having the ability to swap bodies is a good way to go,” he adds. “Now we can optimise the use of the vehicles throughout the year and make significant savings.”

With a wheelbase of 4.75 metres the DAFs can take an eight cubic metre Econ gritter body and snowplough or a Whale gully emptying tank. To change a body it is first raised off the chassis hydraulically from controls inside the cab. Support legs are then manually inserted, enabling the chassis to be driven away. Power for the hydraulic lift system and to operate the equipment comes from an engine-mounted PTO, which was fitted on line during build at Leyland.

The front axle on the LF55s has also been uprated to 7.5 tonne to avoid axle overloads when the Econ bodies are fully loaded. And as these bodies require the DAFs to be slightly longer than is needed for the gully emptying equipment, this has enabled Whale to make the tanks lower and longer, which has lowered the centre of gravity and improved stability.

A green tinted and heated windscreen is fitted, which helps to keep the cab interior cooler in the summer whilst enabling fast clearing of ice in wintry conditions. Safety features include two hazard beacons and a reverse bleeper and to reduce the corrosive effects of salt a vertical exhaust stack has been specified.

“We run a number of DAFs in our 180-strong fleet,” says Colin Smith, “and we have found them to be reliable vehicles. These new LF55s came at a competitive price and we get good support from the local DAF dealer, North West Trucks, who supplied the vehicles. With 300 miles of main roads to grit on each run and 34,000 surface water drains to be emptied across the borough, they’re going to be fully utilised.”

Power for the LF55s is from the 6.7 litre GR184 engine rated at 250 bhp (184) kW and which delivers 950 Nm of torque between 1200 rpm and 1700 rpm to enable the trucks to move off easily in all road conditions. A six speed manual gearbox is fitted and a single reduction rear axle rated at 11.5 tonnes completes the driveline.

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