Tipper commercial vehicles make up an important part of the overall vehicle parc – what’s more their demand is usually a good indicator of the state of the economy. With Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA) upon us and many van chassis manufacturers getting in on the tipping body act, what do you need to know about the tipping bodybuilders?
Historically a major small tipper buyer, the ‘municipal’ market, which is powered in the main by local authority money, has just had its financial wings clipped in the spending review. To add fuel to the fire, the construction sector is yet to get fully back into gear.
The latest Federation of Master Builders’ survey showed that construction workloads continued to decline in the third quarter of the year, an 11th consecutive quarterly fall. The outlook for the rest of the year has also weakened, with workloads expected to contract again. So you would think that the future looks not so bright for the market for tipping bodies?
The fact is, however, that most tippers lead a demanding life, which means that extending existing lease contracts and not buying a new tipper is less likely than for a panel van or tractor unit. This means that a certain number of tippers have to be bought. Despite the economic situation, the large utility fleets are still free to spend money on all types of vehicles and there is definitely still work for the smaller builder around as people are spending money on their houses instead of simply moving. This means that they are wearing out their vans – hopefully leading to pent-up demand which will materialise when even more work starts to come in.
Celebrating twenty-five years at the helm, John Stead, boss of tipper specialists Spenborough Engineering, takes a long-term view, “We have seen highs and lows of the market before – the industry has been slow in the last year or two and we are not expecting 2011 to be significantly improved, however we are optimistic about 2012 and beyond.”
Mark Fernyhough of Brookside Engineering tells us that the lighter end of the market is picking up, “Although it is not as good as it was, the lighter, 3.5 tonne end of the tipper market is quite buoyant, although go further up the weight range – from 7.5 to 18 tonnes and the picture is different – this end of the market is still a bit of a lame duck.”
Off the Shelf vs. Bespoke Tipping Bodies
Most new van dealers have an ‘off-the-shelf’ tipper to offer to customers. This is undoubtedly the easier route to travel for the CV Dealer– there may be a short wait for the vehicle, but there should be no question marks about the quality of workmanship. The warranty is in place to take the hassle out of what to do with an unhappy customer – there is nothing worse than a customer coming back with faults and the bodybuilder can’t or won’t help.
Steve Thompson of tipper specialists Essex bodies tells us, “In recent years we have seen most of the chassis manufacturers offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ tipper body. Whilst these obviously serve a purpose and are adequate enough for many industries where the usage is fairly light, there are many companies and industries as a whole who feel these bodies will not stand up to heavy usage over the period of time that they are required.”
Thompson believes it is a combination of the design and the materials used that make his bodies stand out from those supplied by the chassis manufacturers. “In addition to the strong build structure we have listened to many of our clients, especially those in the municipal and environmental industries and have designed a galvanised steel finished body with the option of aluminium sections if required which need no paintwork.
Similarly, Spenborough Engineering’s bodywork is constructed to a high quality specification. On their steel bodies, the company uses ultra high strength steel to keep weight down without compromising on strength. Fully welded seams on side panels, with no stitch welding or sealant, reduce corrosion for an extended body life.
Stead tells us, “All our dropside tipper bodies are designed with integral floors to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible which gives better ride characteristics and reduces stresses imposed on the chassis. This design also confers the additional benefit of providing a lower loading platform which has obvious safety implications.”
When comparing a ‘one-stop’ tipper with a tipper body made by a specialist bodybuilder there’s more to it than simply the quality of the build – there’s pricing and weight to consider too.
With the economy the way it has been for the last two years, helping your customers to save money is at the top of everyone’s list – whilst the one stop shop may be an easy path to tread, it may prove dearer for your customers. It is worth comparing the factory version with a lightweight, aftermarket alternative to see how much a customer could save.
Lightweight Aluminium Special from Spenborough Engineering
One size does not fit all – many customers cannot simply operate with a standard, ‘off the shelf’ tipper, they could be too short, too long, too heavy, not have sufficient storage, need a crane, a special taillift, specific height cages on the side, etc. etc. This is where an experienced bodybuilder can give the customer exactly what they want.
Brookside’s Fernyhough is confident his products can improve payloads for your customers, “our tipping bodies are lighter than the ones available via Ford for the Ford Transit. Ford struggle to get a payload of a tonne on their factory double cab Transit tipper, whereas with our body this is no problem.”
One of 15 Transit Tippers finished by CPD on time
CPD Bodies are a good example of a bodybuilder pulling out the stops to help a CV Dealer. A local Ford Dealer had a customer order for fifteen 9’ 6” Tippers. The specification was more complex, however, as the Transits also had to have step and grab handle fitted, rear seats removed, the windows Blacked out with cage wiring installed behind. As with most jobs, the vehicles were required urgently. CPD managed to turn around all fifteen vans within two weeks including all the extras.
Want Bigger Payloads?
For customers who are looking to legally carry larger payloads without resorting to scaling up to a conventional truck chassis now have a couple of options – Many tipper manufacturers combine steel and aluminium together to produce a hardwearing steel floored tipping body with lightweight aluminium sides and rear door.
Brookside Engineering are experimenting in alternative materials to improve payloads and environmental credentials further – plastic sides are suitable for certain applications – they tell us that they could build a complete tipping body from plastic.
The alternative to a larger payload is to get your tipper body made on a chassis that is plated for operation over 3.5 tonnes GVW. There are, thankfully, a few options from a number of vanmakers, including Ford’s 4.6 tonne Transit chassis in single or crew cab forms, Iveco’s Daily with a choice of weight ranges above the 3.5 tonne range, including 4.2, 4.6, 5.2, 6.5 and 7 tonnes and the Mercedes Sprinter which goes up to 5 tonnes GVW.
There is some evidence of the move up the weight scale – Fernyhough informs us, “we are starting to see a few more Transits at 4.6 tonnes, although as far as the conversion goes there is no difference for us – in any case we make bodies for tippers up to 32 tonnes GVW in all shapes and sizes so larger Transits are not a problem.”
The downside of the higher gross vehicle weight is, of course, the added legislation in terms of drivers, tachos and O-licences – this means that they are unlikely to appeal to the majority of small tipper users who may feel that marginally overloading is a risk they are willing to take.
Used Chassis, New Body
Despite the doldrums in which the new van market finds itself, the used van market has been relatively buoyant. This is all about customers trying to keep costs down for customers means that putting a new body on a used chassis could be the way forward. A used tipper has usually been well used, whereas if the chassis had a small box or maybe even a dropside on for its first life, it makes a great chance to add value by turning it into a tipper – but check the axle ratios and gearing first.
For the heavy truck applications, Brookside Engineering have developed a ‘heated tipper’ – sitting between a standard insulated tipper and a full ‘hotbox’, the body, with a floor heated by electric pads extends the operating range for Tarmac and such products.