Over recent years, the breadth of choice of commercial vehicle conversions has expanded greatly and at the same time, what will always be complex procurement procedures, has been simplified by manufacturer schemes and collaborative procurement hubs. Within the Public Sector and Housing Associations therefore, there will always be a conversion that is “fit-for-purpose”, either from a manufacturer’s “factory fitted” range or through their conversion programmes for more bespoke requirements.
The most popular “factory fitted” conversions remain the tipper, dropside and box-van. These and other conversions that require a change of body, are available with ECWVTA (European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval) through the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) arrangement through converters. The dealer will look after delivery, the whole point of the manufacturer’s arrangements being to make acquisition as close to the simplicity of that of a panel van as possible. Irrespective of our future arrangement with the EU, it is widely accepted that compliance in this area will remain vital and that Type Approvals, with the same protocols, will simply be written into UK legislation. Having said all of that, the Fleet Manager need not be too concerned so long as the converter has sought and received the correct Type Approval accreditation. If it is a converter approved to any framework agreement or on the Crown Commercial Service DPS, it is assured that they will have the correct approvals. It is only when neither the manufacturer nor their approved conversion partners offers the vehicle required that the Fleet Manager will need to be involved in approval. This will be in the form of an IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval). For a Public Sector Organisation or Housing Association, this will rarely be the case.
All approvals fall under the responsibility of the VCA and it remains to be mentioned that if the conversion required is from a smaller scale converter, the Fleet Manager needs to check that it has received NSSTA (National Small Series Type Approval). In summary, the expertise of manufacturers and converters and their compliance with VCA standards, provides the customer with all-round peace of mind.
When a panel van is modified, which is very often the case when the requirement is for a mobile workshop/racking conversion or welfare van for example, the VCA has developed the N1 Enhancement Scheme to ensure that vehicles modified before registration fall within VCA regulations. Converters also have partnerships with accessory providers, such as axle weighing systems, camera technology etc and these do not affect Type Approval.
In many ways therefore, the Fleet Manager is free to concentrate on perhaps the most important part of the process which is to ensure that the vehicle required is “fit-for-purpose”. Communication is key, between the Fleet Manager and the end-user department and then with the organisation’s procurement team. Miscommunication can lead to serious delays in delivery, financial waste and in extreme cases taking delivery of incorrect vehicles. For example – and this did happen – the delivery of short-wheel base vans when the correct specification was for long wheel base, leading to a requirement for trailers and a shortage of qualified drivers.
The other line of communication is with the suppliers. These manufacturers and converter partners meet the very highest standards in providing quality solutions and they can be relied upon to give expert advice and guidance. They are constantly developing solutions to meet ever more stringent demands and so for example, a “racking” conversion will typically be a very sophisticated piece of engineering featuring ergonomics that allow efficient working, address vehicle security issues and as light weight as possible to minimise the effect of the modification on fuel use. It is worth pointing out here that the weight factor is becoming more and more relevant as the availability and appetite for Electric LCVs increases.
There has never been before, such a wide range of quality, Type Approved conversions available to the Public Sector and Housing Associations. The choice has recently broadened with the introduction of the Crown Commercial Service’s Conversion DPS (Dynamic Purchasing System), that includes all the large convertors, but also smaller regionally based companies. All are pre-approved and the procurement procedure simplified. The intention is to give smaller converters the opportunity to supply Public Sector Organisations who in turn can support locally based SMEs, so whatever the requirement there is a supplier who will fulfil it to the highest standards. What was once a process that involved endless red-tape in the form of tenders and vehicle approvals is now as straight forward as it possibly can be.
By: Mark Cheadle