Night maintenance for vans and reliability brings brand switch

Fast-growing water and drainage engineering specialist Capelwood Utilities has fully reinstated its long-standing relationship with Mercedes-Benz Vans after a brief interlude during which it tried vehicles by another manufacturer.

The Kent-based company has bought 25 Sprinters within the last year from Mercedes-Benz Van Centre Medway. The latest five are working in the Oxford area, on an infrastructure maintenance and repair contract for Thames Water.

Established in 2005, the company took on its first 3.5-tonne Sprinter the following year, and continued to buy only Mercedes-Benz vans until 2018, when it acquired several vehicles by a rival brand. 

As Austin Carter, Operations Manager with responsibility for the Thames Water contract, explained, it was a move that Capelwood Utilities soon came to regret: “We had more issues with those vans that we’d ever had with any of our Mercedes-Benz Sprinters.”

“The Sprinter makes great sense from an operational perspective. The fact that many Mercedes-Benz Vans workshops offer extended opening hours means we can get our vehicles maintained at night, so we don’t lose valuable working time during the day.”

It was against this backdrop that Mercedes-Benz Van Centre Medway secured the operator’s next order, delivering five vans in March 2019.

Part of the multi-franchise JCB Group, the dealer is a relatively recent addition to the Mercedes-Benz Vans retail network and had only begun trading from its Gillingham showroom a couple of months earlier. 

All of the vehicles it has supplied to date are medium-length Sprinter 314 CDI L2 panel vans with fuel-efficient 143 hp engines and factory-fitted rear steps. They are assigned to two-man teams of water engineers and racked out to carry specialised moling and thrust boring equipment, as well as other tools, pipework and fittings. On-board washing facilities are also provided.

Mercedes-Benz Van Centre Medway is also preparing to deliver a Sprinter 315 CDI chassis cab with dropside bodywork. Like all vehicles pre-built for Mercedes-Benz Vans’ Ready to Work programme – Luton and tipper variants are also offered – it was available at short notice and will come with the same, bumper-to-bumper, three-year, unlimited mileage warranty as other vans bearing the three-pointed star.

Capelwood Utilities’ newest Sprinters also bear the name of another Sittingbourne-based firm, AT Stannard, which specialises in surfacing works, including making good after road and pavement excavations. Having worked increasingly closely for some time, the two companies resolved this year to underscore the strength of their partnership by applying each other’s branding to their respective vehicle fleets.

Strong demand for its services means the Capelwood Utilities fleet now extends to 63 vans. Managing Director Paul Capon said: “We work our vehicles hard, but the Sprinter has proved over the years to be more than equal to the job, strong, well-built and highly reliable.

“Those supplied by Mercedes-Benz Van Centre Medway are from the most recent model generation, so as well as being impressively fuel-efficient they also feature the latest cab design, which is more akin to a high-end car than a van, and exceptionally comfortable. They look great too, and help to convey a professional image of our business when we arrive on sites.”

Meanwhile, the Sprinter’s reassuring armoury of market-leading safety features includes the autonomous Active Brake Assist system with pedestrian recognition technology, and ATTENTION ASSIST, which detects drowsiness in the driver and encourages them to take breaks when tired.

Capelwood Utilities is purchasing the vehicles supplied by Mercedes-Benz Van Centre Medway with the help of competitive Mercedes-Benz Finance funding arranged by the Dealer’s Local Business Development Manager Jon Hawkes. “Jon provides a very good service and keeps us fully informed on the progress of our orders, even when there’s a delay, as was the case earlier in the year due to Covid,” acknowledged Paul Capon.

Capelwood Utilities operates from headquarters in Sittingbourne and provides commercial, municipal and domestic customers across the South East and beyond, with a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week service covering the installation and overhaul of water mains, and the identification and repair of leaks. It has also been heavily involved in fitting smart water meters in homes and other premises.

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