Croatian manufacturer, Rasco has appointed Pelican Engineering as sales and servicing partner for England, Scotland and Wales. Ivan Fanicevic, CEO of Rasco, points out that with a top manufacturing facility and an established dealer network, winter maintenance equipment need not cost the earth.

Three consecutive harsh winters ' where parts of the UK have been brought to a standstill ' have led to all authorities responsible for roads to reconsider their salt spreading and snowploughs fleet, and at the same time capital and operational budgets have come under scrutiny.

One of Europe's leading designers and manufacturers of snowploughs and spreaders, Rasco, has decided that the time is ripe for entry into the market for England, Wales and Scotland, and has appointed Pelican Engineering, with its proven expertise and nationwide contacts, to lead the charge.

Rasco may be a new name in the UK, but continental Europe has been using the range of Croatia-built snowploughs and spreaders since the business was founded in 1990. Today Rasco machines operate in 22 European countries including Germany and Austria.

The overall philosophy is to ensure that the products not only do their job properly, but they are supported by fast and efficient service and parts supply wherever they are operating.

There are several key issues in designing and manufacturing winter products. The most important is to understand that snowploughs and spreaders have a single purpose ' to make the roads safer in winter. That means very high quality construction and using only the best materials to ensure a hard wearing finish and exceptional reliability. And supply of parts and servicing must be timely and achieved within ever tightening budgets.

Rasco operates from one of the most advanced, purposedesigned and built manufacturing facilities in Europe of some 110,000 sq feet, plus a newly-opened 55,000 square feet final assembly plant on the same site. The company uses the latest technology and efficient working methods, without trying to integrate them with older machinery and old-fashioned production systems.

Pelican Engineering was selected as sole sales and servicing partner for England, Wales and Scotland because of its inherent engineering expertise, from re-manufacturing engines through hydraulics and body building. The plan is to establish satellite sales and services depots to provide on-the-spot, fast reaction, professional help in specific geographical areas.

For example, Arthur Ibbett's in St Neot's, an approved sales and service dealer for the Mercedes-Benz Unimog, will handle East Anglia. In the meantime, taking advantage of Pelican Engineering's established dealership of MAN, Hino and Daf trucks, fully qualified engineers ' with access to a bank of spare parts ' are on hand throughout the country.

The Rasco range of spreaders can be permanently mounted or, as is becoming popular through Europe, de-mountable, making yearround use of existing truck chassis. The SOLID series has hoppers from 1.7m3 (for the SOLID X) and 3m3 (SOLID L and SOLID T) up to whatever size is the operator's chosen truck GVW. With pre-wet capability and side-mounted brine tanks, each of the spreaders can accurately deliver a wide range of treatment materials without waste.

There are three methods of feeding the spinner system: conveyor belt driven, which is the most common in the UK; chain; and worm conveyor. Independent tests have shown that some materials, such as high quality marine salt and mined salt with relatively high mud content, are handled better and more productively than others, depending on delivery method.

There is also a de-mountable spreader, the Junior, with hopper capacities of 1m3 or 1.2m3 for difficult to access areas or narrow roads. And Rasco also manufactures a towed spreader and a special attachment for agricultural tractors ' many of which are being subcontracted to treat rural roads.

Rasco SOLID spreaders have a choice of three in-cab control units ' each ergonomically-designed for ease of use by the driver/operator. They are all speed-dependent, and the EPOS 5 and EPOS 10 units have automatic calibration as standard, so operators are assured of accurate spreading throughout the season.

The EPP100 Control Unit is the basic model, wirth spreading parameters set via closed regulation circuits and pre-programmed to the operator's specification to operate with four dry and one 'wet' spreading material.

The EPOS 5 has spread patterns ranging from 9 metres to 12 metres, with left and right symmetry. Pre-wet salt mixtures can be changed from 10% to 40% to meet weather conditions and road temperatures. The EPOS 5 has internal data storage and an RS232 port, which allows fast connection to GPS-GPRS automatic monitoring modules and transmission of data on the spreader operation, the host vehicle and the snowplough to the fleet manager.

The top-of-the-range EPOS 10 can be programmed to handle up to 20 different dry and pre-wet or wet spreading materials. It includes all the benefits of the EPOS 5 and has the option to operate a thermo-camera to preset parameters, plus CAN-BUS open communication systems.

Rasco snowploughs are built to last and handle all types of snow no matter how heavy the blizzard or snowfall. They are quickly and securely fitted to the host vehicle and ready for operation with a few minutes. Each of the range has a segmented blade system, where obstacles are avoided by the blade segment moving over or away and then returning to its original position. The snowplough's leading edge can be extremely hard wearing polyurethane, rubber, or the “sandwich” ' an exceptionally hard wearing Hardox 500 steel innerprotected by toughened rubber strips.

Rasco's Advanced Road Management System (ARMS), combines mapping, track and trace, and operational monitoring and recording, and is compatible with all open platform communications systems.

A unique feature is that data required to programme the spreader control unit, such as route planning, can be uploaded from a basic “off the shelf” USB data stick rather than an expensive, non-standard memory card.

ARMS offers all the standard features and benefits of software systems that meet the UK's legal requirements of monitoring winter maintenance operations, with user-friendliness and ease of operation at its heart.

ARMS consists of two operating elements: data-collecting hardware from sensors and the engine's CAN-BUS, and GPS or GPRS data transfer products; and software that, at its simplest, allows data collection and review on a website, or introduces an advanced, customised process. Modularity allows operators to start with a basic system and gradually develop decision-making systems as needs arise, without the cost and disruption of replacing existing components.

Software upgrades include Rasco's Road Weather Information Systems, where the road surface temperature, air temperature, humidity and dew point, rain or snowfall, and visibility can be constantly monitored. The system can also include embedded road surface monitoring sensors and atmospheric sensors.

Data can be viewed on a secure web site on the operator's office-based computers, remote devices laptops and notebooks and even mobile phones and other devices. Data from the vehicle sensors is transmitted by satellite to Rasco's server, where it is then sent to the operator's server or direct to their computer system. Password protection ensures that only designated personnel are able to view the data.

Rasco ' through Pelican Engineering ' is bringing new machines, new ideas and competitive pricing to the winter highways maintenance market in Britain, but building on the experience of supplying most of continental Europe. Perhaps there will be no repetition of the early, severe winter of November 2010; the long freeze of winter 2009/10; the harshness of 2008/9; and the fastmoving blizzards of previous years ' but highways authorities have to be prepared.