British Gypsum calls for ‘next step’ in HGV tractor-unit design to deliver better direct vision

British Gypsum has called on manufacturers to provide hauliers with tractor-unit designs that grant drivers improved visibility from their cabs.

“We want to find someone to take the next step and give us improved visibility in a tractor unit, which is something we haven’t seen yet,” said Brian Fisher, distribution manager at the building materials firm.

“We are continually looking for the next piece of tractor unit innovation. We’ve seen a lot on rigids and on tippers, but we are predominantly an artic fleet, so for us the vision piece is around artics.”

Fisher said the pace of change to address better visibility is too slow at the moment, with not enough options currently on the market to enable operators to plan their fleet upgrades.

“We’re buying trucks every five years and will do a fleet change in around 18 months. If there isn’t anything on the market then, it won’t be on the fleet for another five years after that. This is the challenge,” he added.

Fisher’s view was last week echoed by London operator O’Donovan Waste Disposal who urged manufacturers to work faster in providing sector-specific solutions to meeting the capital’s pending Direct Vision Standard.

Blind spot elimination

To ensure its core subbies’ fleet trucks are as safe as possible, British Gypsum already specifies additional low-level passenger door window panels on new vehicles, which are supported by cameras to eliminate blind spots.

In a recent Driver of the Year competition run by parent firm Saint Gobain, Fisher said he spent 20 minutes in one of its trucks fitted with window panels and cameras trying to find a blind spot, but was unable to do so.

However, in some truck models, the position of the passenger seat can be problematic in obscuring direct vision even with an additional window panel, he added.

“The industry has got to change this. You need to be able to go straight to a manufacturer and say I want a Fors gold tractor unit,” added Fisher.

Guiding influence

British Gypsum uses three main subcontractors – DHL Supply Chain, Ceva Logistics and John Jempson & Sons – to manage transport across its five Fors gold standard sites.

Rather than hand over responsibility of all fleet management, British Gypsum maintains control over specifying which vehicles are chosen and how they are kitted out for its operation.

“We’re different to a lot of other manufacturers that outsource their transport. We are very prescriptive on the specification of our vehicles.

“We specify a vehicle to minimise any risk to the driver and minimise risk to anyone else that comes into contact with the vehicle,” said Fisher.

For example, British Gypsum’s standard specification for a new vehicle would include: a 360-degree camera system; the near-side high-vision window – about 20 are already on the roads – proximity sensors; an extended catwalk at the back; a grab couple on the trailer; internal load system inside the trailer; and the rest would be up to Fors gold standard.

A Vision Technique’s BrakeSafe automatic handbrake failsafe system is also specified on new vehicles, with an additional requirement on existing fleet vehicles that they will not be able to enter a British Gypsum site unless fitted with an audible handbrake alarm that works.

Direct involvement

The company believes it is important to maintain good relationships with vehicle suppliers directly, rather than this being handled only by its lead hauliers.

“At the minute, we’ve got a brand-new urban artic trailer being built by Don-Bur, which will be our new specification for any urban trailers coming through. They are doing this because we’ve asked them to. Supplier relationship is really important to us,” said Fisher.

“If we look back over the past few years, we’re a different beast because we’ve changed our approach. We don’t now ask our 3PLs to do a lot of the work, we do it ourselves. Now we say ‘we know what we want’ now go and deliver it.”

British Gypsum ensures its smaller subbies are also kept abreast of its company’s safety strategy and the latest regulations by meeting with them twice a year.

It is also working with smaller subbies along its entire supply chain to help them reach Fors silver standard by the end of next year.