The latest Mercedes-Benz Actros to join the fleet of Carlisle-based MJ Slater Haulage arrived just in time to take part in one of the company’s seasonal specialities – delivering Christmas trees to towns throughout England.
The Actros 2551 arrived via the local branch of North-West Dealer Ciceley Commercials. It is MJ Slater’s fourth new Actros and due to be joined by another early in January.
The truck has a range-topping GigaSpace cab and a 375 kW (510 hp) straight-six engine, which drives through a smooth and efficient Mercedes PowerShift 3 automated transmission.
MJ Slater’s first Actros, which entered service in 2012, had a 330 kW (450 hp) engine but each of its successors has been specified at the higher rating. All, though, have one thing in common – they are delivering significantly better fuel returns than the older vehicles they replaced.
The company operates five trucks and 20 trailers, and is currently providing full-time employment for six sub-contractors with their own tractor units.
“Through the worst of the recession we were not in a position to commit to investment in new vehicles, so were buying older used trucks,” explained Managing Director Mick Slater.
“As soon as things started to pick up, though, I knew we had to get back into some more modern trucks. We wanted to improve our fuel efficiency and also to reward and retain our drivers by providing them with high-quality vehicles.”
Mr Slater was impressed by the professional approach of Ciceley Commercials’ Truck Sales Executive Mike Ferguson. “I asked a lot of questions but nothing was too much trouble,” he recalled. “We took the plunge on that first Actros and have never looked back.
“The trucks are extremely well built, economical, and look great in our colours, while Mike has continued to be so attentive to our needs that we feel no need to look elsewhere.”
The established Actros units are returning 8.1-8.2 mpg. “That’s good for our work,” continued Mr Slater. “We’re 85-90% loaded on average and our routes take us over some hilly terrain, so I’m really happy with this figure. It’s a good half a mile per gallon better than the trucks we were using before, which makes a huge difference to our ability to stay competitive.”
The company relied previously on the movement of Scottish steel for much of its work but the decline of that once-great industry has necessitated a more flexible approach. Transporting loads of fir trees from the forests of south-west Scotland is just one of the ways that MJ Slater is addressing the loss of its traditional core business.
“We’re actively diversifying,” Mr Slater explained. “There’s lots of demand out there in terms of loads coming north into Scotland, but we’re always on the lookout for work going back to England – and at this time of year the demand for trees south of the border represents a very welcome Christmas bonus.”