Motoring

Published: March 24, 2020 | Updated: March 24, 2020

Lighting manufacturer shines the spotlight on hi-tech features from Mercedes-Benz Trucks

New Actros drivers Martin Farrell, right, and Rob Perrett, left, are pictured with Tim Pickford, Operations Director, second from left, and Ben Chant, Transport Manager.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A Dorset company has spent more than £200,000 on two of the first right-hand drive Mercedes-Benz trucks to be equipped with ground-breaking Active Drive Assist technology.

Gillingham-based Dextra Group plc, which is the UK’s largest privately-owned lighting manufacturer, turned to established supplier Rygor Commercials for the latest 4×2 tractor units which form part of a 22-strong fleet.

Active Drive Assist manages the vehicle’s speed to keep it a safe distance from traffic ahead, and steers it to keep its position in the centre of the lane.

The driver always retains overall control, though, and must keep hands on the steering wheel at all times.

If the sensor in the steering column detects a lack of human interaction, it sounds audible alerts, and disengages after a minute.

A study by Mercedes-Benz Trucks parent Daimler Trucks concluded that highly automated driving technologies such as Active Drive Assist can reduce sleepiness in drivers by as much as 25 per cent.

Dextra’s longest-serving driver has been quickly won over to the new technology.

Martin Farrell, pictured right, joined the company in 1995 when it brought the transport operation in-house.

He has now driven tractors from all five Actros generations.

Martin said: “I always use Active Drive Assist when I’m out on the open road and it’s lovely.

“Chris Moore, Rygor’s Truck Training Manager, gave us a clear and thorough overview during the handover, and I find the system very simple to operate.

“It’s another tool in the box that helps to make the job that bit easier and less stressful.”

Martin was equally enthusiastic about MirrorCam, the revolutionary, camera-based system fitted as standard on new Actros models.

Gone are the main and wide-angle mirrors outside the truck; instead the cameras relay images to a pair of 15-inch screens mounted on the A-pillars.

“In most trucks you get a massive blind spot in which another vehicle might be hidden, particularly at roundabouts,” said Martin.

“You can be right on top of it and not see it, so I’d always be trying to look around the mirror to reassure myself that nothing was there.

“That blind spot is eliminated by MirrorCam.

“I very quickly got used to the way the system pans the camera image to follow the vehicle’s movements when manoeuvring, turning off or lane changing, a feature that also contributes to the greatly improved all-round visibility.

“There’s no glare from the high-quality cameras either, and because the screens are inside the cab you don’t have to keep getting out to clean the windows.

“Having put some 10,000 km on my new Actros I can’t see a downside to MirrorCam; it’s a brilliant innovation in which I already have full confidence.!

“I’ve always tried to maximise economy by maintaining momentum and staying off the brakes as much as possible.”

The long-serving driver is also impressed by the truck’s increased fuel-efficiency.

Martin said: “My new Actros is definitely ahead of its predecessor on fuel.

“I collected a new trailer the other day and on the outward journey she returned 16.5 mpg.

“Fully loaded I’m averaging 11-12 mpg, but sometimes touching 13.”

Dextra Group plc is the largest and most successful privately-owned lighting manufacturer in the UK.

Founded more than 40 years ago by the current owner, the company boasts the most up to date and largest array of specialist equipment to service its client base of installing contractors and direct corporate accounts.

Its wholly-owned, liveried fleet is integral to the company’s service.

Every one of Dextra’s trucks wears a three-pointed star.

Like the two new Actros, most are 4×2 tractor units plated for operation at 32 tonnes GCW, which pull double-deck trailers restricted to a height of 4.0 metres for operation on the Continent.

Tim Pickford,  Operations Director, said: “We’ve been a 100 per cent Mercedes-Benz fleet since 2002, and have been using the manufacturer’s Fleetboard telematics hardware for nearly 15 years.

“We’re big believers in technology, and the benefits it offers in terms of safety, reliability and efficiency – that’s why our latest twin-decks from Tiger Trailers are equipped with automatic tyre pressure monitoring systems.

“Driver retention is crucial too.

“Guys like Martin are away for two, three and sometimes four nights a week – the truck is their home, so we’re committed to providing them with top-quality equipment.

“The new Actros cab interior looks and feels more like a premium-quality Mercedes-Benz car than a truck.”