By Roger Brown
A founding member in 1974 of the Mercedes-Benz UK commercial vehicle network, Sparshatt Truck & Van operates from headquarters in Sittingbourne, and has other branches in Ashford and Tonbridge.
In a deal that had the backing of the manufacturer, the company was acquired in March 2018 by Steve and Paul Rooney, who have embarked on an ambitious programme of investment in facilities and people. Earlier this year the company opened its new Dartford dealership which incorporates a reception and offices, as well as a comprehensively stocked parts department.
Meanwhile, the workshop provides double the capacity for vehicle maintenance and repair operations, compared to the previous branch. Accessed via six large roller shutter doors, it has 13 truck bays – two of them with pits – and 13 van bays.
Crucially, the 1.8-acre site also offers plenty of space for drivers to manoeuvre and park their vehicles, the extensive hard-standing providing ample room even for tractor and trailer combinations.
The new workshop is open round-the-clock and Dealer Principal Steve Rooney said: “As a business we are investing heavily to support our growth strategy, and this has been a tremendously exciting project. Our Dartford workshop has been extremely busy for a long time now, and General Manager Sean Bravery and his team have worked heroically in very challenging conditions to ensure that we maintain service levels for operators.
“Colleagues have transitioned seamlessly to their new home, and have been rewarded for their patience and loyalty with facilities that are right up there with the very best in the industry. From the ramps and other tooling in the workshop, to the racking in the parts department, everything is brand new – we’ve even installed a professionally equipped, in-house gym for use by staff!”
Director Paul Rooney added: “This very significant investment underlines Sparshatt Truck & Van’s long-term commitment to the Mercedes-Benz Trucks brand, and reflects our determination to provide our valued customers with the very highest levels of service. It has been an extremely challenging time for the team involved in this project and we would like to thank our Group Operations Director Gary Wilson and Project Manager Vicki Ponder for the key roles they have played, as well as the Dartford management team of Sean Bravery, Mark Price and Mark Holland for their support.”
Due to its expansion Sparshatt Truck & Van is actively recruiting to fill a variety of technical, parts and administrative roles. The firm also completed a £200,000 refurbishment of its Sittingbourne workshop, creating a dedicated unit for van servicing at the company’s headquarters on the Eurolink Industrial Estate. This was made possible by the relocation of its successful bodyshop operation to a new site, a short distance away.
Sparshatt is authorised by the manufacturer to maintain and repair vans and using the latest diagnostic equipment and tooling, and fitting only Mercedes-Benz GenuineParts, its Sittingbourne van team offer a full complement of aftersales services, including Class 4, 5 and 7 MoTs. Its new van centre is open from 6am until 10pm on weekdays, and from 6am until lunchtime on Saturdays with plans to extend these opening times.
Kevin Wise, the dealer’s General Manager – Aftersales said: “This means that customers can get their vehicles serviced, repaired and tested at times which suit them. Our out-of-hours capability is an important benefit for those who need their vans to be out on the road and earning during the normal working day.
“I’ve been here for 36 years and there’s a lot of experience in my team, while we also have some very talented and enthusiastic younger technicians, some qualified, others still apprentices. The fact that we’re trusted to look after vehicles belonging to some of the country’s biggest fleet operators, including the likes of DPD, G4S and Loomis, should give those who might only run one or two vans the confidence to know they’re in safe hands.”
NEW ROUTING SYSTEM
The van centre, which has nine bays, features a new routing system, dividing vans arriving at or leaving the site from heavy trucks, and a van-only parking area. “As regular customers will recall, demand for our services meant that parking has long been a challenge here at Sittingbourne,” said Wise.
“Not any longer. Relocation of the bodyshop has given us the room we needed not only to create a comprehensively equipped service facility which is fully dedicated to light commercial vehicles, but also to reorganise the approach so that van drivers are clearly directed to their own, designated parking area. The decision to separate our van and truck service operations is already proving hugely successful, and means the system works more efficiently and smoothly to the benefit of all our customers.”
Sparshatt Truck & Van has also introduced a same-day paint service for commercial vehicles, following a £330,000 investment in two new spray booths at its workshop in Sittingbourne, Kent. The two Titan CV spray booths were fitted by Todd Engineering, of Rugeley, Staffordshire and include LED lighting and fully insulated roller shutter doors.
One of them is 18m in length and can accommodate an articulated tractor unit and 13.6m semi-trailer combination. The other is 9m long and will be used for vans and smaller rigid trucks.
They also have robotic gas catalytic dryers by Italian manufacturer, Greentech. Automatically controlled, natural gas-powered panels in the form of an arch pass directly over the vehicle, transmitting low-intensity infrared heat. Surface temperatures of 420ºC on the heaters mean very quick curing times, drying the paint within five minutes of exposure.
Steve Rooney said: “We’ve spent a lot more than we need have done for a conventional system, but Greentech’s eco-friendly drying technology holds out the promise of payback over time, through dramatic reductions in energy usage.”