National Veterinary Services prepares its fleet for the future with 11 Mercedes-Benz Actros StreamSpace tractors from eStar Truck & Van

The UK’s largest wholesale supplier to the veterinary industry has brought compliance to operations in London and other cities by switching from tractors with large, flat-floor cabs to narrower, lower variants. What hasn’t changed, however, is that, like the vehicles they replaced, its latest trucks bear Mercedes-Benz three-pointed stars.

Working from the National Veterinary Services headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent, the 11 new Actros pull temperature-controlled semi-trailers and serve a network of 11 centers which in turn deliver to some 2,700 veterinary practices across the country. The company has been supplying and distributing products to animal health practices and other licensed outlets since 1989 and stocks over 15,000 lines, including pharmaceuticals, instruments, pet products and accessories.

Supplied by eStar Truck & Van, the new Actros are all 2545 models. Their StreamSpace cabs are 2.3m wide – the narrower of the two available widths – and feature 170mm engine tunnels. This combination, together with Mercedes-Benz MirrorCam technology which has replaced conventional mirrors, and additional windows fitted in the lower half of the near side doors by Astra Vehicle Technologies, of Ellesmere Port, means the trucks attract three Direct Vision stars impressive Transport for London. They are therefore authorized to continue to operate in the capital from 2024.

The Actros are powered by 12.8-litre straight-six engines that produce 330 kW (450 hp) and are now serviced under Mercedes-Benz Finance lease agreements by the branch workshop team eStar Truck & Van’s Stoke.

National Veterinary Services (NVS) tested one of the dealer’s demonstration units with a 320mm tunnel and matching lower floor. However, he felt that the specification of the vehicles as ordered represented the best compromise between better visibility and driver comfort.

To further enhance the driving experience, he opted for the upgraded and interactive version of Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ radical dual-screen multimedia cockpit, which features a larger 12-inch dashboard and additional features including satellite navigation. Taxis are fitted with fridges, whilst reflecting the fact that they are often double crewed for journeys to Scotland and the South West, the co-driver also benefits from a suspension seat.

The latest generation Actros comes standard with the revolutionary Active Brake Assist 5 emergency braking system, which uses a camera as well as radar, and is even more responsive to pedestrians crossing the truck’s path. The operator also added an optional safety package that includes a set of additional features, among them a driver’s airbag and a proximity control assistant.

Equipped with air management systems and Jost sliding fifth wheels, the Actros will each travel 150,000 km per year. They start leaving the company’s main warehouse before midnight, bound for the hubs, with the final deliveries being made to customers by its fleet of 140 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans.

Director of Transport Operations, Phil Bate, observed: “It’s about recognizing and responding to the direction of travel in the industry. Unsurprisingly, our drivers loved the spacious, flat-floor units they had been in before. But they also understand the reason for our decision to upgrade to smaller cabins that provide better line-of-sight.

“We have adopted Mercedes-Benz Trucks’ MirrorCam and other technologies because of the tangible compliance benefits they offer, not only for London but for other cities as well. By moving to three-star rated vehicles, we have effectively ensured the sustainability of our fleet.

“We have also done everything possible to ensure the safety of our fellow drivers and the general public, especially vulnerable road users, while specifying a few additional features to make what can be a very difficult job this bit. More comfortable.”

In addition to its 11 tractors, NVS operates a single 18-tonne Actros with refrigerated body. Mr Bate continued: “We have operated Mercedes-Benz trucks for several years and have a very good relationship with the manufacturer and their local representative.

“The 10 Actros units we removed to make way for the new ones have done a very good job, while eStar Truck & Van understands our business and what we need in terms of back-up. Routine inspections and services are performed at times that are convenient for us, and if we ever have a problem, we know the dealership will do everything possible to get the vehicle back on the road as quickly as possible. Communication is key in these times and eStar is excellent.

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