With over a million tonnes a year of agricultural and industrial bulk tipping work already in hand, and still growing fast, Fermac has invested in its first company-owned DAF XF460 FTP three-axle tractors. The trucks come with Super Space Cabs and form part of a small initial fleet expansion and renewal programme.
The national operator has taken the DAF XFs based on driver feed-back from a couple of leased units in the fleet. Matthew Hughes, Fermac director, said, “There are three key things we want in a truck. The first is for our drivers to be happy with our choice. The drivers who’d had the lease trucks wanted stay on DAFs, so we talked to the local Milton Keynes dealer, Brian Currie Ltd., who quoted us for a new XF 460. I was so impressed with the spec and the service from them at every level that I ordered three. Then I added another two to those as fleet additions, one of which runs in the livery of our local Air Ambulance, because we are major supporters of that service.
“To be honest, those additional trucks mean we now need extra drivers, but having the DAFs on the fleet and out on the road has made a real difference to recruitment, with noticeably more calls from potential drivers.”
Aftersales is another of Matthew Hughes key buying factors. He had been increasingly concerned with back-up from one of his other marques, and DAF came with “a good reputation”. He said, “We liked the Brian Currie team and had excellent reports from other operators about DAF’s national dealer network. On top of that, we already knew the DAFaid roadside emergency programme was spot-on, as our two leased trucks had occasionally needed it. The hard fact of transport life is that trucks are mechanical, and anything mechanical is going to face a difficulty or two during its life. It’s how that gets dealt with that matters, and that made the DAF choice easy,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, Matthew cites ‘reliability’ as his third key buying requirement. Despite the occasional use of DAFaid, he has nothing but good experience of DAF products in this respect, saying, “You can’t talk about DAF without using the word reliability for their performance.” He added, “It’s what they’re known for and everyone I spoke to agreed it is a ‘given’ with the brand. Just as important though, right from the start we’ve been impressed with their fuel. On our work you’re happy to get consistently around 8mpg. The DAFs already do that and are even beginning to edge beyond expectations.” The company currently has a tracking system on its trucks, getting fleet management information updates from the manufacturers. However, it is developing a package that will incorporate the current tracking technology and add the monitoring elements that Matthew feels important.
The company runs grain into the mills for the agricultural sector, as well as sand and stone for industry. The important thing here says Matthew Hughes is getting vehicle weights right, to maximise payload, as every extra kilo earns money for the company. He says, “The DAFs are good in terms of this, hence why we have the special light-weight lifting axles on our units, so our overall package is very weight-efficient.”
As part of future-proofing the business, Fermac is currently investing into raising its current FORS Bronze status to FORS Silver. Matthew feels FORS accreditation, though the operator doesn’t run into London, is “becoming increasingly important on a national level”. He adds, “We want our drivers, and others road users around them, both to be safe and feel safe. All our drivers are undergoing FORS Safe Urban Driving courses, and the cameras and additional standards at FORS Silver level add significantly to their performance. I believe contracts will be awarded in future based on the attitude to safety and performance that operators show. Fermac will be ready!”