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LNSWER MAID'S PRAYER
Triple-compartment boxvans, holding frozen, chilled and ambient temperatures within a single unit, are the key to Trust House Forte's temperature-controlled distribution. David Wilcox reports on Puritan Maid, whose services arc now sold outside the group
IROBLEM: how do you deliver 'ice-cream and frozen food at minus 25 degrees Centigrade, t at plus three degrees Centigrade groceries at ambient temperature? do not want to run three different des; neither do you want to make separate delivery runs.
Us is the conundrum facing Puritan I. The company is the supply arm rust House Forte, meaning that it ures (or manufactures) and then 'ers a wide range of food and related ing products. The company's des go to Trust House Forte (THF) !ts which include hotels, motorway ce areas, Little Chef restaurants, frt and flight catering sites, town7e restaurants and industrial catering such as offices and factory canteens and hospitals. In all, there are 1,500 delivery points and Puritan Maid is working on boosting this number even further by supplying some non-group catering customers as well.
For five years the company has been working on consolidation of deliveries and products, despite their wide temperature differences. Puritan Maid's fleet manager Alan Archer explained that this not only cuts distribution costs, but also means that the catering outlets receive a single comprehensive delivery instead of two or three smaller ones.
The whole country is served from four depots (London, Farnborough, Hinckley and Rochdale) with satellite depots for Scotland and the South West. Some of the delivery runs are quite long, and so Puritan Maid cannot afford to run vehicles with food being held at the wrong temperature.
Furthermore, Alan Archer said that THF is particularly strict on quality control, lacl this includes rigid temperature control for Puritan Maid's deliveries. The principle behind this insistence is to maintain a uniformly high standard right across the THF chain of hotels and restaurants.
The fleet numbers just under 100 vehicles, all on contract hire from either Wincanton Vehicle Rentals or Charthire; maintenance is included but not the drivers.
Puritan Maid does not pursue its consolidation principle in London. Most of the deliveries in the capital are to the large hotels such as the Grosvenor House and the Waldorf, where drop sizes are so large and distances so short that it is viable to deliver temperaturecontrolled goods and ambient goods separately.
But outside London consolidation is very much the name of the Puritan Maid game. Here, 50 of the highly versatile, 16-ton gvw triple compartment boxvans arc the key to the operation.
They are on Volvo F6 rigids, chassis choice being a joint decision between Alan Archer and the contract hire company. The bodies are standard Gray and Adams refrigerated bodies (supplied via English agent Atlas in Nottingham) using panels with polyester lining and one-piece alloy external skins. The sophistication is inside, where the 7.3m (2411) internal length is divided into three compartments by means of two movable bulkheads.
The front compartment is for the deep-frozen goods and is kept at —25°C. The bulkhead between it and the next compartment is raised with the help of four gas struts to lie parallel with the roof.
Meat and certain delicatessen products are kept in the middle compartment where the temperature is at +3°C.
Fruit, vegetables and dry goods are put in the rear compartment, which is at ambient temperature.
The size of the compartments can he varied to suit the load because the bulkheads are mounted on tracking which runs along the walls. With any dual or multi-compartment refrigerated body there is bound to be some "cold creep" and this likelihood is increased if there is an imperfect seal like a movable bulkhead. Atlas Refrigerated Vehicles is something of a specialist in multicompartment bodies and has been supplying Puritan Maid's movable bulkhead vehicles for five years. Th seal is a combination of a brush and flexible plastic gasket, and manages keep cold creep to an acceptable lev Fridge units vary; Thermo King, Fetter and Carrier are all in the fleet The temperature in the frozen and chilled compartments is thernaostati controlled and air can be sucked or blown between them.
Tail-lifts complete the body specification arid Alan Archer's rnc” recent choice is the L5-tonne capac Ross and Bonnyinan column lift w: the ram mounted under the floor in: of in an overhead beans.
It is an expensive body so Puritan Maid is aiming for two, or even tit chassis lives out of one body.
While the F6 Volvo is performim well as a versatile multi-temperatur. le in the provinces, for its Central on work Puritan Maid is switching rd Cargo 1615 chassis. Alan Archer bat a comparison of wheelbase ns, turning circles, body positons xle weights showed that the any could meet its needs for a manoeuvrable I6-tonner with the Because the Cargo cab is not as as the Volvo's, the body can be necl further forward and so length : sacrificed.
ritan Maid wanted payload as well igth and the Cargo also scores here Ls lighter than the F6.
spite knowing that the 16-ton q is not the best-loved Cargo Alan er was convinced by the contract 7ompany that it has improved. es the beauty of contract hire — aassis isn't my problem."
cause there are separate dry-freight ans to handle the London grocery .tries the new Cargos will have just :ompartments (frozen and chilled). will also have doors on both sides id of just the nearside because of ne-way streets in London that force .ding from the offside.
c first Cargo is due to arrive me now, to be followed by several other vehicle tailormade for Puritan 's London operation is a new )rd TL860. The vehicle is fitted a 5.2m (17ft) dual-compartment ri/chilled body and was wanted for ..ries in the narrowest and most ..sted London streets.
las a Carrier Zephyr 300 fridge unit Ted by the Bedford's engine. The iulieally-driven compressor is tely mounted on the chassis Lse of a lack of space in the engine Partment and it is designed to ice close to maximum output at ligine speeds so that it is effective w-moving traffic.
Yet another innovation for Puritan Maid is a new trunking and distribution operation serving the West Country. Each night a Dal-2500 drawbar outfit is loaded at the depot in Farnborough, Hampshire, with the various hotel/restaurant orders individually assembled in roll cages. The body on the drawbar rigid and its trailer are both triple compartment models, so the complete range of foods can be carried.
The loaded outfit is trunked overnight to the Exeter satellite depot where, operating on its own, • the. Daf rigid is used for deliveries the next day. Its trailer has a demountable body and this is re-mounted on a Leyland Freighter 1615 chassis which is based in Exeter and used on the other deliveries in the region.
When the day's deliveries are completed the empty vehicles are left at Exeter to await the arrival of that night's laden drawbar. The trunker driver will return to Farnborough with the empty Daf and the empty demount body on the trailer.
This system means that the Daf drawbar rigid does not need to have demount equipment, thereby saving weight.
The outfit looks a little odd because the rigid is so different from its trailer. For example, the rigid has a, 7.3m (24ft) body whereas the trailer's is 46cm (18in) shorter, s.o that the correct axle loadings can be achieved when the body is mounted on the Freighter.
And although both bodies have the same internal height the trailer is noticeably higher because of its demount equipment, which is a four-ram, twinbeam system by McDonald Kane.
Alan Archer has considered the use of a close-coupling arrangement for the drawbar, but abandoned the idea because it would have given very little extra deck length (a niattcr of a few inches) for a lot of extra cost. It is the nose-mounted fridge unit on the trailer that interferes with the usual mathematics of close-coupling.
The Daf drawbar rig ids are clocking up the mileage extraordinarily quickly because their daily delivery round out of Exeter can take in a large chunk of Devon and Cornwall. Then they have the trunk mileage clocked up at night between Farnborough and Exeter. And they can also be used as rigids once again on deliveries out of Farnborough during the days they are there.
Understandably, the Exeter drivers prefer making their deliveries in the Dar 2500 rigid rather than the Freighter, but not just because of the Daf's extra power. The additional height of the demount system on the Freighter chassis gives a very high platform height. The drivers say they notice this over a day's work, when they usually make eight or nine deliveries.
The drawbar operation down to the West Country has been running since June and is proving successful, with higher than planned throughputs. Alan Archer said that Puritan Maid is considering using this combination of drawbars, demounts and satellite depot to service other areas of the country.
Watching a delivery at a hotel in Taunton demonstrated to me the versatility of the Puritan Maid multitemperature vehicles. The one vehicle delivered everything from ice-cream to Corn Flakes. Because of the hot(!) weather the second moveable bulkhead was in the raised position, flat against the roof, therefore chilling the whole of the rear of the vehicle.
This flexibility would seem to put Puritan Maid in a strong position for taking on delivery work for other nonTI-IF catering customers, be it frozen, chilled or ambient.