"The market is incredibly buoyant and shows no sign of declining," says Dick Woods, a consultant to tipper builder Abbas Trucks.
"We've got a fair amount of work on and we really can't complain," says Tipmaster managing director, Matthew Terry. "We're attracting plenty of business from both the public and the private sector and we should end up producing nearly 500 bodies this year."
Much of Tipmaster's output is on 3.5-tonne chassis and registrations of 3.5-tonne tippers have risen over the past 12 months.
"Some trailer and body builders are quoting April 2015 delivery dates but fortunately we're able to work on an 8- to 10-week lead time at present," says Paul Avery, managing director of Schmitz Cargobull. "As a consequence we've been able to pick up a fair amount of business, especially from some of the smaller hauliers.
"We've supplied a number of tipper trailers to operators who transport scrap metal, we've sold quite a few with aggregate bodies too and we've just delivered one with an alloy body to somebody who transports sugar beet."
Investment in Tipper Manufacturing
Growing market confidence is prompting body builders to invest. Wilcox for example was about to open a new 3,000sq m factory at its Market Deeping, Lincolnshire, site at the time of writing.
Thompsons has recently acquired a third factory in Blackburn which it is now kitting out and an additional unit in Croydon says group director, Scott Burton. "We built 125 bodies in October across the entire business and we're aiming to increase output by up to eight units a week," he says.
Representing a £2m-plus investment, the new Blackburn site will cover around 5,300sq m and is scheduled to open in January 2015.
Strong demand is prompting some manufacturers to ease prices upwards after enduring some lean times during the recession. "We've been trying to nudge them up a little bit of late," admits Avery.
Payload - A ConcernPayload remains a key concern for tipper operators. Many of those who run 3.5-tonners favour bodies with steel floors but aluminium tailboards and sides to keep payload at a respectable level with some even opting for all-alloy bodies; despite the substantial price premium.
"A steel and aluminium body will give you a 1.1- to 1.3-tonne payload capability," says Ingimex managing director, Justin Gallen.
Weight is a concern at the heavier end of the scale too, with tipper builder Aliweld suggesting some months ago that the permitted gross weight of an eight-wheeler should be increased from 32 to 33 tonnes. The idea is to compensate for the increase in un-laden weight imposed by Euro 6 technology and the growing need for hauliers to fit additional safety equipment; side guards, rear under-run bars, cameras and so on
A rise to 32.5 tonnes would probably offset the extra burden and allow operators to maintain existing payloads. The extra payload capacity offered by a move to 33 tonnes would however help them to earn the cash needed to pay for the extra safety kit.
That kit will typically cost them an additional £1,500 to £2,000 - possibly as much as £3,000 - a figure that includes the price hike imposed by Type Approval.
In the meantime body builders are doing all they can to squeeze the last kilo of payload out of the existing weight limits. Aliweld for instance has launched a monocoque alloy body for the Euro 6 Mercedes-Benz Arocs eight-wheeler that can carry 20 tonnes.
Weight WatchingThe need to avoid overloading has prompted tipper operators to fit onboard weighing systems for many years.
Red Forge has just launched its new Axalert Excel axle load indication system. Designed for rigids grossing at from 7.5 to 32 tonnes, it gives tonnage read-outs for front and rear axles along with the gross vehicle weight on a single in-cab display.
A graduated bar graph gives a visual indication of when the maximum loadings allowed are being approached. The unit includes a full complement of warning messages as well as an audible over-loading alarm.
Type Approval ProgressAs hinted earlier, in common with other body builders tipper producers have had to cope with European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA).
As a major group that sells all over the EU and beyond, Schmitz Cargobull has embraced ECWVTA in its entirety says Avery. As a business that sells solely in the UK these days however Tipmaster has gone the less-onerous National Small Series Type Approval route.
"That suits us down to the ground although we occasionally have to go the Individual Vehicle Approval route if we take a special job on," Terry says.
In this context it is perhaps worth noting that Axalert Excel has undergone full Type Approval testing and has achieved Vehicle Certification Agency approval says Red Forge which means it can be installed during the build stage of vehicles prior to registration. All other components fitted have to meet similar approval requirements.
Council TippersOperators are eager to get the maximum use of the vehicles they acquire. That is particularly the case with the public sector, where every penny has to be made to count in the current climate of austerity.
2014 saw North West Tippers supply 20 tippers, almost all 18-tonners, to Leeds City Council in conjunction with Econ Engineering.
Econ has equipped them with a quick-change body system which allows them to be fitted with a gritter and a snow plough when winter bites. When winter is over the kit can be removed allowing them to be deployed as straightforward tippers on duties such as highway maintenance work during the rest of the year.
Urban Safety Concerns
Concerns over cyclist safety in London in particular are obliging tipper operators to have a re-think about the sort of vehicle they run there. One or two are trialling the low-entry Mercedes-Benz Econic refuse collection chassis in tipper applications because it gives drivers a better view of vulnerable road users; a group which includes motorcyclists and pedestrians as well as bicycle riders.
In response Mercedes plans to launch an 8x4 Euro 6 Econic next year which will join the existing 4x2, 6x2 and 6x4 variants. "We're already talking to customers about it," says Burton.
A key player in the drive to make the capital safer for vulnerable road users is CLOCS; the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety working group. The ideas it is developing are sure to influence best practice not just within London, but beyond, over the next few years.