RECOVERY EQUIPMENT AND BODYWORK SPECIALIST BONIFACE ENGINEERING HAS GONE FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH IN THE RECOVERY SECTOR OVER THE LAST FOUR DECADES. ON SCENE FINDS OUT WHY.
Boniface Engineering’s recovery equipment and bodywork is probably the most popular in the UK and many other markets. It is used by recovery operators of all kinds as the company and its products are held in high regard. Its recovery equipment and bodywork are the mainstay of many fleets and are often used as the benchmark against which other manufacturers’ products are measured.
Over the years, the product range has been expanded and adapted to meet the diverse needs of the recovery market. Since 1996, Boniface has been part of Miller Industries, of course, the world’s biggest manufacturer of recovery equipment with four factories in the USA, a factory in France and the Boniface manufacturing facility at Thetford, Norfolk. Founder Mike Boniface still heads the UK operation with a considerable degree of autonomy, however.
Miller Industries has a portfolio of seven brands with their own product ranges. Certain technologies and product features are shared, of course, but each company has its own identity and customer base.
IN THE THIRD OF FIVE ARTICLES ABOUT RECOVERY LEGEND BILL JACKSON, ON SCENE LOOKS AT BILL’S POST-DIAL HOLMES COMEBACK, AS HE ELEVATED HIS NEW BUSINESS WRECKERS INTERNATIONAL TO NEAR-CULT STATUS IN THE INDUSTRY.
When recovery legend Bill Jackson found that The Holmes Company in the USA had decided to abandon its arrangement with him for Dial Holmes to act as its agent outside North America, passing the UK franchise to trailer manufacturer Crane Fruehauf, his response was typically robust. Despite losing some of his staff to the new UK agent, he formed a new operation called Wreckers International, working from the same Caxton Hill base and offering a wide range of recovery equipment, predominantly imported from the USA and built by Century, Vulcan, Nomar and Wreckmaster – all rival companies to Holmes. The new operation sold and fitted this equipment to new and used chassis, offering the same wide range of technical advice, operator training, aftermarket support and other associated services.
Wreckers International continued to sell this range of imported equipment until the early 1980s, but there was a lot more to come. Bill intended to develop his own UK-designed and built range of recovery equipment, incorporating both his and the rest of the team’s many years of experience.
ON SCENE MEETS SOUTHERN RECOVERY SERVICES BOSS PAUL ATTWATER TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE FIRM’S FOCUS ON CREATING THE MOST FLEXIBLE FLEET OF 16 RECOVERY VEHICLES – INCLUDING A NEW FULLY DEMOUNTABLE RECOVERY SYSTEM.
The ability to handle all types of work is a real advantage in heavy vehicle recovery – particularly if your locality generates a widely ranging workload. If you are dealing with a major incident on a busy motorway at one minute and called out to recover an excavator buried in a bog, tow an articulated bus out of an urban environment or even recover a 60-tonne mobile crane the next, you certainly need a wide range of recovery vehicles and equipment, and each one must be carefully specified to provide maximum flexibility. Ideally, you’ll have at your disposal a mix of the latest top-spec equipment and several custom-built machines that don’t have to go to work every single day to pay their way.
Welcome to the world of Southern Recovery Services, based in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, a firm located close to the A23/M23/M25 and Brighton and Hove on the south coast, and at the same time surrounded by a mixture of farms, narrow country lanes and more than a few sizeable conurbations, along with Gatwick Airport for good measure.
ON SCENE’S UNDERCOVER RECOVERY OPERATOR RON SEEN WONDERS WHY STATUTORY CHARGES FOR RECOVERY WORK ARE NOT PAID IN FULL TO THE RECOVERY OPERATOR.
We all look to get the most from our investments and equipment, and recovery trucks are no different. They are hungry animals, too, requiring fuel, tyres, oil and service items, not to mention insurance, road tax, finance and the most expensive item – the driver.
Taking all these together with the initial cost of the vehicle, you would think the charges payable to an operator would need to be quite extensive. And once you add in the massive recent increases in the cost of fuel, labour and general costs, you would be forgiven for thinking that recovery operators’ charges must be so high as to be almost unacceptable to customers, recovery clubs and other recovery operators.
But how wrong you would be! Because as many readers of On Scene know all too well, the rates being offered by the clubs, insurance companies and other vehicle operators are way out of touch with the costs faced by the average recovery operator.
CWT GROUP STARTED LIFE IN 2016 WHEN IT SET OUT TO PROVIDE THE HIGHEST STANDARDS IN COMMERCIAL VEHICLE REPAIR, TESTING AND MAINTENANCE. AND MORE RECENTLY, IT HAS LAUNCHED A 24-HOUR RECOVERY SERVICE THAT PUNCHES WELL ABOVE ITS WEIGHT AND HAS ITS EYE FIRMLY ON THE LONG TERM, AS ON SCENE FINDS OUT.
Roadside recovery is dangerous work. They say truck drivers are a breed apart, but those willing to venture out in all weathers – often at night – and work on a motorway while traffic blithely flies past are cut from an altogether different cloth. For Chris Tuckwood and Tom Holland, CWT Group founder and the man that heads up the recovery arm respectively, it’s a constant concern made even more challenging by the prevalence of so-called ‘smart’ motorways.
“Not having hard shoulders is just making our work a lot more risky,” says Chris, drinking coffee in his Castle Donington office. “There’s nowhere safe to go and motorists have split seconds to respond to what’s ahead. It’s always a worry when we send someone out on to the M1; it’s not the place it used to be. When you have a hard shoulder to work on, there is still a risk. But working in a live lane, you’ve constantly got traffic moving past you.
VOLVO HAS ALREADY MADE SOME OF ITS LIGHTER TRUCKS AVAILABLE IN BATTERY ELECTRIC VERSIONS AND IS NOW GEARING UP FOR SERIES PRODUCTION OF ITS HEAVIER FM, FMX AND FH ELECTRICS. BOB BEECH GETS BEHIND THE WHEEL.
While the operation of electric vehicles (EVs) might not be a top priority for every recovery company, many already have first-hand experience of dealing with electrically powered vehicles that have broken down, run out of power or been involved in an accident. These vehicles certainly raise challenges for the recovery industry and battery electric vehicle manufacturers need to communicate the potential hazards and protocols required for dealing with them.
Most operators’ experiences will be limited to dealing with electric and hybrid cars and light commercials, and though others might have encountered electric buses in certain areas, the numbers are relatively small compared to the thousands of diesel or gas-powered vehicles they are required to deal with. But this is set to change, as several manufacturers are starting to introduce battery electric heavy trucks into their product ranges and are serious about putting them into service with truck operators across Europe and beyond.
ON SCENE CONSIDERS THE CHANGING NATURE AND ROLE OF THE MODERN SERVICE VAN AND ITS DRIVER.
You don’t usually have to travel far on the UK road network to see a service van, and if you are unlucky enough to need help, it is highly likely one will be in attendance. Road users such as truck drivers are always under pressure to get moving and a service van and technician may be able to get them up and running again, avoiding the cost and inconvenience of a recovery.
For service van drivers, the vehicle they spend their day in is an office, mobile workshop, tool box and parts store. Hours can be long, so it helps if the vehicle is comfortable and has a few creature comforts on board.
As operators of such service vans confirm, the friendly face who comes to try and get you back on the road may be relatively new to the job, or they may have many years of experience. And they may hold an HGV licence and be familiar with what a breakdown can mean for a delivery schedule, or they may not.
MILLERS OF LONGTON HAS GRADUALLY MOVED TO VOLVO AS ITS SUPPLIER OF CHOICE FOR RECOVERY TRUCKS, WITH A FLEET HEADED UP BY A SHOW-STOPPING FH16 750 ROTATOR. ON SCENE FINDS OUT WHY.
Helping locals in Lancashire move farm equipment was all in a day’s work for John and Janet Miller when they first established Millers of Longton. Agricultural contracting was the firm’s main focus back then, and something it quickly became well-known for. As time went on, word spread and people from out of town wanted in on the work the couple was providing. The recovery business was started “almost by accident”, as John recalls. “I had a Fordson Major with a big winch on the back and started getting calls from people asking us to pull them out when they’d got stuck somewhere,” he says.
At the time, the A59 was the main road from Liverpool to Scotland, and the firm’s location led to more and more call-outs and a steady stream of business. “We were ideally placed really; as we are today. Now, we can hit the M6 motorway from five different directions. No matter where an accident has occurred, we can still get to it,” says John.
WILTSHIRE-BASED RECOVERY OPERATOR RD AVERY PRIDES ITSELF ON ITS HONESTY AND ITS CUSTOMER-FIRST SERVICE ETHOS, AS ON SCENE FINDS OUT.
RD Avery is a name that will be familiar to many who ply their trade on the roads of the south of England, having been in business since 1983. Nowdays, Cassie Salisbury is at the helm of the Landford, Wiltshire-based company, with a strong Leadership team of Andy Sims, Vikki Clarke and Andrew Avery behind her. With a fleet of nearly 40 vehicles of various sizes, the business is going from strength to strength under her watchful eye. But it was Cassie’s father, Ray Avery, who set the ball rolling, and we were lucky enough to spend a couple of hours talking to him about how it all began.
Ray wasn’t always a recovery man, but he did have a passion for trucks. On leaving school aged 15, he went to work for a garage in the nearby town of Fordingbridge, a place he’d been familiar with for many years. “I’d been involved with them since I was a boy of about seven,” Ray tells us. “I used to go in after school and make tea for the guys. They were a repair company doing cars and trucks, and part of the business was a transport operation doing general haulage. As a boy of that age I absolutely loved trucks, and I still do now. I’m no different.”