Is HN Logistic’s Cityloader streets ahead?

In the second of LAWR's Road Test series, we test drive HN Logistic Systems' new Cityloader body on an Econic chassis during a live round to see how it measures up. Dan Gilkes reports

The Mercedes-Benz Econic chassis has made a big impact on the refuse collection vehicle (RCV) market in the UK. In the seven years since the square-jawed Merc first appeared on our streets, the company has sold more than 2,000 chassis to UK authorities and contractors.

It comes as little surprise then, to find that HN Logistic Systems is using the Econic as a base for its recently introduced Hufferman collection bodies. HN, formed by the merger of Otto Lift UK and German manufacturer Hufferman, is well established as a bin lift supplier and waste logistics specialist, but the Hufferman bodies are relatively new to many in the UK market.

The company has three demonstrators running in the UK at present, all based on the Econic chassis, although it can be supplied on Dennis running gear if desired. However the fact that both the Hufferman body and the Merc chassis are built in Germany must make it easier to bring the two together successfully.

So how does this combination perform on the bustling streets of the UK’s busiest cities? LAWR hopped aboard a trial machine that is currently working with Southwark Council, in the heart of London, to find out.

Not surprisingly, given the time it takes to build a chassis and have it bodied and specified, the test vehicle was a Euro 3 model. The Euro 4 Econic chassis was unveiled earlier this year and anyone ordering a truck now will be getting that latest specification.

Proven reputation

However the existing Econic is a well-proven chassis, and there aren’t too many changes to the vehicle itself. The Euro 4 engine offers a slight power boost, from 279hp to 286hp, while torque is similarly raised from 1,100Nm to 1,200Nm.

To meet Euro 4 emissions legislation, the Econic’s BlueTec engine uses AdBlue additive, which means a second tank on the chassis that has to be filled alongside the diesel fuel. The second generation Econic gets a slightly revised face, with a new grille, and the cab now meets ECE-R29/2 impact regulations, making it an even safer place for your employees.

Even in Euro 3 form, however, our test vehicle was a modern looking truck, with a wide cab that easily seats the driver and up to three crew. It is however wider than the narrow track Dennis vehicles that Southwark already operates, which means that it has taken some time to gain acceptance with a few of the drivers.

To meet the needs of congested urban operation, the Econic test vehicle was equipped with a steering third axle, greatly improving manoeuvrability on the Southwark routes. You can also specify the 6×2 truck with a mid-steer axle for optimum load distribution or the truck can be ordered as a full 6×4 if you need to deal with the rigours of landfill work.

You can even choose to have an 8×4 Econic if you are looking for maximum payload, a typical example carrying around 15 tonnes of payload to the six-wheeler’s 11.5 tonnes.

Although the Euro 4 truck comes with more power, Southwark’s test vehicle certainly had no problems moving around the borough’s busy streets. The push button Allison automatic transmission is simplicity itself to use and was both smooth and very quiet in operation.

Indeed the transmission was particularly quiet in this truck, having none of the whine often associated with auto boxes. That said, the Euro 4 Econic gets a new generation Allison transmission, to further smooth gear shifting and offer additional flexibility.

Mounted on the Econic chassis is HN Logistic’s rear end Cityloader. This 21m3 body weighs in at just over 6 tonnes without the bin lift mechanism. HN admits that it is still learning exactly what different authorities and contractors around the country are looking for, so is very flexible about specification.

Initially the firm delivered the truck to Southwark with its Citylifter bin lifts at the rear, but these were changed for the company’s popular Continental split lift, which is the same as that on Southwark’s Dennis trucks and so more familiar to operatives.

The Cityloader has a flat walled body compartment with an understructure of welded construction to prevent any leakage. The compaction mechanism has a carrier plate and a compaction plate, mounted on four highly wear resistant rollers.

Tipping capability

The entire rear end of the Cityloader body tips up to eject the load, which has caused a slight problem for Southwark, as its current tipping area does not have sufficient height to clear the HN body. However, the borough has been using local tipping facilities for the test, and is expecting to move to new yard premises with more headroom within the next two years.

One thing that our time on the round in Southwark showed was the importance of operator training. Southwark has been putting the Econic through its paces with all of its refuse collection teams, with varying results.

However, although Southwark’s drivers have been trained in the use of the vehicle, a temporary driver such as we had on the round we joined may not have been given the full explanation of all controls.

Mercedes-Benz must carry some of the blame here, as its switchgear in the cab is all very similar, with sometimes confusing graphics on some switches. It wasn’t stopping the job getting done, but with an additional five minutes in the cab with our visiting Econic specialist, our driver Marc Walters was able to increase productivity substantially.

One example was easily seen when loading. When the Econic comes to a halt, as long as the driver pushes fully on the foot brake, it is not necessary to change to neutral and engage the handbrake to bring the rear end of the truck into use. Full depression of the pedal engages the PTO and the rear mounted controls for the compaction body.

This means that the driver, if staying in the cab, can move forward as soon as the operatives at the rear of the machine are clear, without having to re-engage gears or drop the handbrake lever. In Southwark, the driver is expected to get out of the cab and help with loading, but on a round where they stay seated this would mean much faster progress along congested streets.

Safety boost

HN’s Continental split lift carries all of the vehicle lights on the actual lift structure, keeping them out of harms way in operation. The lift is capable of handling virtually every bin size from 80 litres to 1,280 litres, making it a versatile piece of kit for a mixed round.

The Econic chassis has an axle weight system built into its central computer, which can be easily accessed by the driver during the round. However the Euro 4 trucks will have a graphic axle weight screen separate to the central console.

CANBus electronics, fitted to both the Hufferman body and to the Econic chassis, mean that transferring information and synchronising components is easily achieved. However it is worth remembering that only trained service engineers should cut into the electronic circuits, to avoid damaging them.

There were few complaints from the driver and passengers on the round, the only one being that they would prefer a standard opening door, rather than the electric folding door. However Mercedes-Benz says that you can specify either, so this is easily cured. Certainly the Econic’s high specification, which includes air conditioning as standard, found favour with the collection team.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie