Covid vaccine distributor Movianto trials electric transportation

One of the unsung hero companies of Britain’s campaign against Covid-19 is taking a step towards the future of distribution, by trialling a fully electric, zero-emission van from Mercedes-Benz.

Healthcare logistics specialist Movianto has played a pivotal role in the storage and delivery of the vaccines that helped the nation fight back against the effects of the pandemic.

The company was commissioned to design and manage from scratch a system to receive nearly 89 million individual vaccine doses into its dedicated warehouses, and then to distribute them safely to treatment centres across the UK, at temperatures as low as -75° C.

Creating an entire supply chain to such exacting standards, and under extreme time pressure, was a mammoth task with many daunting challenges, recalled Managing Director Paul Wilkinson. “We’re the experts in the field but even we had to take a deep breath at times,” he said.

The rollout of the UK vaccination programme was hailed as a major success story.

“Everyone in our team has been fully aware of the importance of the job we’ve been doing, and how it just could not fail,” continued Mr Wilkinson. “They have pulled out the stops at every juncture. I am incredibly proud of everyone involved.”

Bedford-based Movianto was well placed to win its Covid-19 vaccine role – the firm was already responsible for storing and delivering routine child vaccinations and large parts of the seasonal flu programme for the NHS throughout Britain.

These vital supplies are distributed in its fleet of 120 temperature-controlled vans, while a further 100 uninsulated vehicles are used for deliveries of other medical supplies which do not require cold storage. With the exception of around 25 vans on short-term hire, to provide flexibility, all are Mercedes-Benz Sprinters.

Head of Fleet Mervyn McIntyre said: “The Sprinter is the most durable product in its class, with the best support and warranty package. The vehicles are very well built, highly cost-effective to operate and backed by a network of Dealers who are commercial vehicle specialists. They understand the requirements of businesses like ours, and are happy to carry out any servicing work outside normal hours – to suit our schedules, not their own.”

Now Movianto is moving in a new direction by trialling its first battery-powered eSprinter, supplied by Dealer Midlands Truck & Van. Working from the operator’s Slough depot, this vehicle is making daily deliveries of medical supplies to hospitals, care homes and retailers in the local area.

“We take great care to consider the effect of our business on the environment and are always looking at ways to minimise its impact,” said Mr McIntyre. “This trial is helping us to understand how electric distribution vehicles can fit into our fleet, what attributes they offer and any operational issues they might present.”

Movianto is not alone – more than 60% of SME (small to medium-sized enterprise) companies are actively considering switching to electric vehicles this year, according to research commissioned by Mercedes-Benz Vans UK.

“The eSprinter offers all the proven benefits of a Mercedes-Benz van but with zero exhaust emissions,” continued Mr McIntyre. “As with any battery-powered vehicle there’s a limit to its range but the electric driveline also brings advantages in other areas. The van is very smooth, easy to drive in traffic and its near-silent driveline is much less likely to disturb customers or their neighbours when making deliveries.”

The eSprinter has been well received by Movianto’s drivers. Midlands Truck & Van Fleet Sales Manager Erica Stredwick spent half a day at the Slough site with her customer’s driver management team, offering expert tips on how to operate the vehicle for optimum efficiency and safety.

“As usual Erica’s input was invaluable,” Mr McIntyre added. “There’s growing pressure for everyone working in distribution to start considering electric vehicles where possible, and the efforts of Mercedes-Benz to help operators like us explore all the options can only have a positive effect.”

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