Giving old vehicles a new licence to thrill

If you want to replenish your fleet, but are conscious of your budget, one firm can offer options. Maxine Perella paid a flying visit to the Humberside company

So, you're after a specialist recycling vehicle for a short-term trial, or a back-up refuse truck to complement your existing fleet, but budgets are tight? In that case, you would do well to turn to Hopkinsons Fairdeals to find yourself a good deal. The firm, based in Goole, North Humberside, offers a variety of options for local authority transport managers looking to replenish their aging fleets. Firstly, refuse trucks and recycling vehicles that are nearing the end of their useful life, having typically been in service for about five years, are taken and refurbished to be brought back up to standard for a second rebirth.

These vehicles are then remarketed back to councils, fit for purpose and able to serve an extra few years on the road. Each vehicle comes with a three-month warranty/support, and a full engineering report that can include a LOLER test on the bin lift. Any vehicles that can't be remarketed, perhaps due to their age or condition, are auctioned off via the company's Hopauctions service. This encompasses online auctions and physical auctions, the latter which take place at the firm's five acre site.

Winners all round
Either way, it's a win-win situation for the customer. For those looking to sell their vehicles, Hopkinsons can offer an outright purchase price - if they need the cash quick. Or it can try to get them a better price through remarketing the vehicle, which takes a little longer. Vehicles can also be put up for auction. Paul Askew, Hopkinsons' managing director, says by alternating the online auctions with the physical auctions it maximises selling opportunities for the vehicles. The physical auctions regularly attract up to 150 customers to the company's site.

"We've been doing Hopauctions for the past 18 months, and that was on the back of the older equipment that we felt we wouldn't be able to remarket. We target the auctions mainly at overseas customers, from countries like Africa and the West Indies, and it works really well. We are strategically located near the port of Humber Hull and we can ship out the vehicles from there," he says.

Terry Unwin, Hopkinsons' UK sales director, adds that the auctions are currently attracting a lot of interest from Eastern Europe: "We had five guys from Bulgaria turn up unannounced at our site recently wanting to buy three refuse vehicles. They paid cash and drove them all the way back too!"

That said, Unwin maintains that it is the remarketing side of the business where Hopkinsons can maximise profits for a customer. "Some of these used vehicles we take in are only worth a few thousand pounds but, through refurbishment, you can increase the value of them. And the benefit to local authorities is that the money they get from this method of disposal can be put towards procuring new vehicles," he explains.

Future fleet projections
Hopkinsons can also take a council's fleet projection list, which details their replacement programme for the next six or seven years, and manage the whole fleet by helping the council dispose of old vehicles, and offering them suitable replacements where possible. By having such projections to hand from several local authorities, certain vehicles can be targeted from these fleets, remarketed and sold on to other councils that may require them. It's almost like a match-making service.

Unwin says, in many cases, councils are only too willing to hand over such detailed fleet information. "If you go around any council yard, there will be several vehicles that haven't worked for a year or so, just sitting idle and losing money,"

he explains. "Within a local authority, the finance manager is constantly talking to the transport manager - if there is a truck stood idle and a cost attached to it, they want that vehicle sold and the money in, if only to satisfy the council's standing orders."

Many of the vehicles Hopkinsons sells are used for back-up, to complement a council's existing fleet. There is also a rising need for specialist vehicles for short-term collection trials. Chris France, the company's marketing manager, explains further. "A lot of councils are running recycling trials. Rather than go out and sign up to a five- to seven-year lease or buy a vehicle new, if they can get a used remarketed vehicle that meets their needs, it's a lot less output on a trial scheme. We've recently sold five vehicles to a council for such a scheme."

Hopkinsons is now raising the bar even further and looking to buy in selected new vehicles to offer them on an extended-hire basis but only a short-term basis - typically one, two or three years. Unwin stresses that it is not a contract-hire service. "We have a very good relationship with the contract hire and leasing firms, and don't want to be in direct competition with them. This is a way of feeding our own end-market - we will only be targeting selected vehicles for particular applications, and at the end of the three years, we'll have a nice product to refurbish and remarket."

The Hopper chopper
Hopkinsons is offering VIP open days to local authority clients. Here, customers are flown in the company's helicopter to its stocking yard in Pontefract, where they are given a tour of the facilities before being flown back to the head office to view current stock and have lunch. The helicopter ride also gives a chance to take in the amazing view of local sights such as the Humber Bridge.

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