Stock Sweepers, the only British-owned producer of road-sweepers, is expecting to take up to 30 DAF LF 220 FA 15-tonne chassis cabs so far this year, as demand for its vehicles grows both at home and abroad. Further orders are anticipated as the latest batch of DAFs has been taken to meet current orders and as buffer stock for anticipated future orders.
Jeff Stock, founder of the business 18 years ago, explains, “The DAF is far and away the most popular chassis with customers. It means we can build our standard vehicles to a very high specification, confident of future orders, because we know they will be acceptable in almost any market. It is by far the easiest chassis to build on, and, unlike some builders, we are happy to pass on the price of the chassis cabs at cost to customers. We have a very transparent pricing policy that people genuinely appreciate.”
The business is expecting to hit some 50 sales this year alone, with distributors in Australasia, North and South America and mainland Europe all adding to the figures. This has resulted in a move toward more right-hand drive vehicles being completed, as these overseas markets begin to move the company’s emphasis away slightly from the largely left-hand drive requirements of the UK market.
Although supported in the UK by the entire DAF Dealer network as and when required, Stock Sweepers purchases all its DAF chassis through Watts Truck & Van in Cardiff. From his own production base at Mitcheldean in Gloucestershire, Jeff Stock says, “We have a great relationship with the Watts team. They take good care of both us and all our customers, utilising the overall DAF network for any UK needs we might have.”
Unsurprisingly drivers are an important factor in sweeper selection. Stock Sweepers now incorporate air-con and Bluetooth phone connections as standard, alongside radios and the normal DAF quality cab interior. “Drivers,” says Jeff Stock, “are important for all operators, so we pay great attention to giving them a good working environment. When, in an earlier part of our business development, we ran our own fleet of sweepers for hire, we noticed the importance of even such things as the registration plate date and type of radio fitted. There’s a lot of concentration required by the drivers, so keeping them comfortable is a major part of our job, and DAF cabs are a tremendous starting point in this respect.”
From any operator point-of-view, alongside happy drivers, fuel and fleet management are equally important. Though an unusual operating cycle of normal running to and from a depot to the area of work, followed by hours of low-speed working, fuel is surprisingly important to many operators, especially Local Authorities who have to account for every penny these days. “More and more ask about it,” says Jeff Stock, “and we do our best to answer. The truth is, nobody will get economy comparable to normal transport operations, but we can point to the DAFs’ performance in those other sectors and that gives us a great basis of customer acceptance. We are also looking closely at telematics now, so that vehicle and driver performance can by monitored accurately, as well as for fundamentals such as vehicle tracking and geo-fencing.”
These are increasingly sophisticated vehicles, but Stock Sweepers is not content to rest on its laurels. It is taking an active role in developing the technology available for the niche trucks it builds so successfully, and its latest DAF demonstrator boasts on-demand Hydrogen fuelling for the sweeper kit donkey engine. This has an autonomous Hydrogen electrolyser that generates Hydrogen from distilled water, even while the vehicle is on the move. The autonomous hydrolyser has been developed by Water Fuel Engineering. The company’s UK managing director, Phil Davies, said, “It’s a learning curve for us right now with donkey engines, but the science is identical to that being used successfully in road-drive engines, where it has had very positive effects. “
Jeff Stock again, “We have tied up an exclusive with Water Fuel Engineering, to be the sole UK source for Hydrogen fuelling technology on road-sweepers donkey engines. Every operator, Local Authorities especially, want to see fuel costs and carbon footprints reduced, and this technology does that. I can only see it being to the ultimate benefit of our mutual customers.”