November 12, 2018.
Staffordshire’s NS Clarke Transport was already serving a broad variety of customers with a Mercedes-Benz-dominated fleet of trucks and vans when Managing Director Shaun Clarke decided to ‘dip his toe’ in yet another new sector.
Fast forward a couple of years and the company’s vehicle recovery arm goes from strength to strength. NS Clarke is now running seven specially equipped trucks representing a combined investment of nearly £2 million, from the impressive headquarters in Rugeley to which it moved a couple of years ago.
Four are based on Mercedes-Benz chassis supplied by Dealer Midlands Truck & Van, which is also a customer. The latest of these is a 26-tonne Actros with StreamSpace cab. A low frame height 2532 LnR model, it is powered by an advanced and fuel-efficient 235 kW (320 hp) straight-six engine.
As with all of NS Clarke’s recovery equipment, the Actros was bodied by industry specialist Boniface Engineering, of Thetford, Norfolk. Its Chevron tilt and slide bed has a 13.6-tonne capacity, while a Hyva HC 241 X crane, which works with a damage-free lifting frame, is capable of picking up a family saloon weighing 1.6 tonnes at a distance of 12 metres, and a vehicle weighing 8.6 tonnes from a position alongside the truck.
To minimise height and loading angles, and thereby reduce the risk of damage to vehicles being recovered, the slide bed has an extra-long slide off ram and is mounted on its own, separate sub-frame, rather than – as would normally be the case – one built on top of the crane’s sub-frame. The new truck can tow a second vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes on its spectacle lift.
The flagship of the fleet is a muscular, 41-tonne Mercedes-Benz Arocs 4153 eight-wheeler with three-stage heavy-duty Recoverer Trident recovery boom, which is assigned to jobs involving large trucks, buses and coaches. The two remaining Mercedes-Benz recovery trucks are both 15-tonne Atego 1521s. They have ClassicSpace cabs with optional bench seats for up to four passengers, and tilt and slide bodies. All six of NS Clarke’s breakdown vans – four Sprinters and a couple of smaller Vito models – also wear three-pointed stars.
Shaun Clarke recalled: “We were having a few issues with our own breakdowns, so decided to give it a go ourselves. I like to think of myself as a bit of a disrupter and although I’m still learning, the recovery operation has gone better than I could possibly have hoped.”
He continued: “The fact that we also run our own transport fleet has been key to our success, because it means we’ve been able to bring an operator’s perspective to the task. Communication is crucial, and we keep everyone in the loop during an incident. So, too, is honesty from the outset – the best way to lose a customer is to over-promise and then fail to deliver.”
Six months after NS Clarke commissioned its first recovery truck, Mr Clarke recruited seasoned industry professional Adam Collett to run the operation. Under the company’s Recovery Manager, the new venture has grown rapidly.
“I have worked in this industry for the last 12 years, so knew who to approach when it came to growing the business,” explained Adam Collett. “Our smart, reliable Mercedes-Benz trucks are integral to the delivery of a timely, customer-focused recovery service, and as an efficient tool with which to lift vehicles out of crash barriers, roadside ditches and the like, the new 26-tonner has significantly enhanced our capability.”
NS Clarke is contracted to recover breakdowns and accident-damaged vehicles from stretches of the M6 and M42 motorways. It also works for other transport concerns and for dealers, including Midlands Truck & Van’s Birmingham and Wolverhampton branches.
The operator is investing, too, in its haulage fleet, and has just taken delivery of another 10 Actros 2551 BigSpace tractor units, its first with intelligent Mercedes-Benz Uptime connectivity. This remarkable telediagnosis programme employs an array of sensors which monitor the condition of the truck constantly. As a result, Midlands Truck & Van will know precisely what is required before the truck reaches the workshop and can order parts in advance, while allocating sufficient time during a single visit to complete all tasks.
Shaun Clarke was just 23 and his wife Janet 22 when they founded their business in 1983. Today, with sons Russell and David also on board, NS Clarke Transport provides UK and Continental bulk haulage of a wide range of commodities, as well as associated transport services, to an impressive customer base.
The company bought its first Mercedes-Benz trucks in 2009. Of the 150 tractor units it now runs, some 80% were supplied and are maintained under Complete Service Contracts by Midlands Truck & Van.
“We enjoy an excellent relationship with Dealer Principal Jon Divers and his team,” added Shaun Clarke. “They provide a collection and delivery service for routine maintenance and inspections, while also keeping downtime to a minimum by sending mobile technicians to undertake a range of tasks at our base.
“The vehicles have to perform, and our Mercedes-Benz trucks and vans certainly do that, but so, too, does the Dealer and, indeed, the manufacturer. Midlands Truck & Van provide the complete package, and we’ve rewarded them with our loyalty.”