CV Dealer takes a look at some of the favoured recovery vehicles currently on the market, as well as the different body types and features available to choose from.
Versatility and low operating costs are two of the key requirements recovery companies lay down when they specify a truck; along of course with the ability to tackle the jobs allocated to it.
With a detachable tag-axle which transforms it from a 4×2 to a 6×2, the new £210,000 DAF CF 530 recently acquired by Statham’s Motor Engineers would appear to tick all these boxes.
Featuring a body and equipment sourced from NRC – Dave Bland Engineering is the Canadian company’s UK distributor – in 4×2 guise, it can easily recover a stranded motorhome. Install the tag-axle, which takes around half-an-hour, and it can go out and rescue an eight-wheeler.
The tag-axle is fitted with brakes and pneumatic suspension.
A big plus-point is the CF’s fuel economy says John Statham, who owns the Dunstable, Bedfordshire, business that bears his name. The truck is averaging a, comparatively-modest, 9.5mpg despite the fact that, of necessity, the engine often has to idle while recovery work is undertaken.
“From such a big 530hp 13-litre diesel that’s an extremely welcome bonus and is a significant improvement on what was returned by our previous, lower-powered, CFs,” he says.
Fitted with a NRC plastic-composite body, the new CF comes with a 25-tonne sliding crane, under-lift equipment and dual winches. It can operate at a gross train weight of up to 80 tonnes.
“The interchangeable axle allows us to lift heavier vehicles weighing 14 tonnes or more all the way up to 44 tonnes,” Statham says. “We’ve now got one vehicle that can fulfil the role of two.”
A useful feature is the presence of VDZ towing equipment. It enables dual tow-jaws to be fitted to the casualty vehicle, offering an alternative to front-end lifting.
The truck’s onboard lockers and some of the other detailed body specifications were designed and installed by Rob Dephley, Statham’s recovery supervisor.
As a 4×2 one of the DAF’s key advantages is its manoeuvrability – an important consideration for Statham’s given that its main areas of operation tend to be London, the Home Counties and the M25, all of which suffer from traffic congestion. The CF was supplied through DAF dealer North West Trucks, but aftersales support is provided through DAF service point HTC Hemel in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
Statham’s provides vehicle recovery on behalf of DAFaid, DAF’s own breakdown service.
Different Body Types
Not all recovery operators want a plastic body. The DAF XF 530 recovery rig supplied to R D Avery has one constructed from stainless steel as part of a package put together by Boniface Engineering. Based in Landford, not far from Salisbury in Wiltshire, the recovery firm acquired the Interstater Mk 6 earlier this year.
It is a twin-winch 33-tonne unit with outboard hydraulic stabilisers and the new K boom. Allowing the operator to power in and out under 9 tonnes of load, it offers greater performance than the old H boom,
There is no lack of demand for lighter vehicles.
Earlier this year Kent’s Neil Yates Recovery opted for a Boniface 6T VLA on an Iveco Eurocargo 14-tonne chassis with a seven-seater crew cab. Its 5.65m wheelbase has enabled a 7m-long aluminium bed to be fitted along with a second car lift and the truck’s gross weight allows the bed to be used to its full capacity.
Boniface has been installing aluminium beds for several years. Made up from purpose-built extruded sections welded together, they offer a strong, durable platform says the company and mean a truck can carry up to 500kg more than one with a steel bed.
Moving a little further down the weight scale, Orchard Works Garage of Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire has put a MAN TGL 12-tonne crew cab into service converted by J & J Conversions. Fitted with an F1 Low Approach aluminium slide-bed body, it comes with J & J’s own sliding winch plus a second car lift.
The interest in even lighter trucks still is illustrated by an order for 13 Isuzu Forward 7.5-tonners, a mix of day and crew cabs, placed by recovery body builder Recovery World. Since 2001 the company has bought well over 250 Isuzus both for customers who want them bodied and for its recovery vehicle hire fleet.
Some of the latest Isuzus it is buying will have manual boxes, but some will be fitted with the Easyshift automated transmission. “We’re seeing a definite switch towards more operators requesting Easyshift as standard,” says Recovery World director, Mac Engledew.
Professional Recovery Tow Show
Dave Bland, Boniface, and J & J will all be exhibiting at this year’s Professional Recovery Tow Show (26/27 September, 9.30am to 5.00pm, Telford International Centre, Telford, Shropshire).
Some 1,500 visitors are expected to attend the event, which is being sponsored by Shawbrook Asset Finance. The AA will sponsor Hall 1 while the RAC will sponsor Hall 2.
During both days the latest recovery equipment and methods will be demonstrated by demonstration sponsor Boniface.
Visitors will doubtless be reflecting on some of the pressures recovery operators face; especially when it comes to recovering vehicles stranded on so-called smart motorways, with no hard shoulder and a live running lane instead.
Many businesses in the sector are highly critical of smart motorways and believe they present a danger to their employees.
Such highways have emergency refuge areas that vehicles in trouble can limp to, but at an average of 1.5 miles, they are too far apart, say their detractors. Nor are they long enough or wide enough for a recovery rig to attend a broken-down artic, manoeuvre in front of it, and tow it away in safety.
Critics such as the RAC are calling for the spacing between refuges to be reduced.
Conventional motorways with hard shoulders present their own dangers.
“The authorities seem to think that it is perfectly OK for recovery crews to work at the side of a motorway without a proper crash cushion vehicle to protect them,” says Steve Smith, managing director of Barking, Essex-based Boleyn Recovery and Fleet Services. “We’ve been forgotten about and put in a position where we’ve got to try to solve problems that are not of our creation.”
Describing the situation as “both out of control and putting lives unreasonably at risk,” the Federation of Vehicle Recovery Associations is calling for action.
“We have recently seen the deaths of three of our recovery colleagues, killed while attending roadside/hard shoulder recoveries,” FoVRA states. “There is a need for protection of the recovery scene as happens on the European mainland, where an extra vehicle protects the adjoining lane to indicate the need for traffic to move across and to protect the immediate vicinity of the recovery.
“We will be recommending that operators stop responding to calls to recover vehicles on major roads until work providers or Highways England provide suitable protection for recovery personnel.”