Staffordshire County Council has added nine new Stratos III spreaders to its winter fleet for the first time. Aebi Schmidt equipment came out top in the council's tender process for nine replacement spreaders.
Staffordshire operates a fleet of 39 spreaders to meet its statutory requirements to keep the council's highways and byways free of snow and ice during the winter months across its territory of around 1,000 square miles.
But when nine of the fleet came up for renewal at the end of their 10-year working lives, the council went out to tender through the Procurement Partnership (TPPL) framework agreement using a number of criteria ' including price, support, warranty, back-up, and lead time - to select the most suitable replacements.
The winning bid came from Aebi Schmidt for its Stratos III spreader, twinned with an 18-ton MAN chassis, which scored highly in all key areas, including the provision of a two-year warranty for both the equipment and the vehicle.
Tony Richards, Fleet and Engineering Manager at Staffordshire County Council, commented: 'We had seven or eight responses to our tender, including some from individual dealers, but we opted for the direct bid from Aebi Schmidt/MAN because we felt they offered the best overall package including the best back-up, training and support.
'Most bids came with a 12-month warranty but we wanted longer than that because the machines are only really used for six months of the year, which means we only get to use them once and the warranty has expired.
'Aebi Schmidt and MAN were able to offer us two years on both the equipment and the vehicle which was exactly what we were looking for in terms of a longer warranty as it provided us with support for two winter seasons,' he said.
Councillor Helen Fisher, Highways Chief at Staffordshire County Council, explained that keeping the county safely on the move over the winter months was a priority and the boost to the gritting fleet would help do just that.
'The new vehicles have all been put through their paces and are standing by ready for action. They're also all fitted with the latest safety and satellite technology to help make sure that drivers can get around safely and that roads get exactly the right amount of grit,' she said.
The new spreaders have been shared around Staffordshire's four main winter depots at Gailey, Lichfield, Leek and Stafford, and have been specified with VPZ snow ploughs, brine tanks and Schmidt's automated spreading system, Autologic.
The Autologic automated spreading system ensures that exactly the correct amount of salt is spread, allowing drivers to concentrate solely on the road and not have to focus on the vehicle's spreading settings.
Thanks to its use of GPS technology, Autologic can identify the council's exact road widths and ensure the optimal amount of salt has been spread to maximise the treatments, meaning precious salt has not been wasted and that as little environmental damage is caused as possible.
The GPS navigation guides the spreader driver along the correct route and the spreading settings occur automatically, enabling the driver to fully concentrate on the traffic without being distracted by the spreading process, thus increasing road safety.
Autologic also provides optimal spreading settings, flexibility in staff deployment and requires no previous route knowledge, allowing complex routes to be perfectly spread.
When confronted by roadblocks or detours, the system visually guides the driver back to the correct route.
'Autologic will enable us to use spread more accurately, use salt more economically and effectively and benefit both from a cost and environmental point of view,' said Tony Richards.
'The brine tanks will allow us to use brine on roads in some of the areas we are responsible for, particularly in the Cannock Chase area where the solution seems to be particularly effective,' he added.
Staffordshire's drivers are currently undergoing training on the new spreaders which have been used already on a number of occasions when the temperature has dropped to or near freezing point.
'The new spreaders have a greater degree of automation than some of our drivers have been used to, which requires a little more training. But we wanted to increase the levels of automation on our fleet going forward, not least for safety reasons, so they have been ideal from that perspective,' said Tony Richards.
'This is the first time we have ordered Aebi Schmidt winter equipment but, despite it being very early days, we have been very impressed so far. Should the new Schmidt spreaders prove as successful as we think they are going to be over time, then we will definitely be looking at ordering more when our next batch of spreaders comes up for renewal,' he added.