Iceland racks up a Mercedes-Benz Vans milestone.

Four years after resolving to switch its entire fleet of home delivery vehicles to Mercedes-Benz, Iceland Foods has taken delivery of its 1,000th Sprinter panel van.

The landmark vehicle, a Sprinter 314 CDI with temperature-controlled body conversion by Paneltex, was presented to Iceland’s Commercial Fleet Manager Alex McKinlay by Steve Bridge, Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK, and Paneltex Group Sales Director Dave Evenett.

The high-flying retailer also operates 500 chassis cabs with insulated box bodies, 300 of which wear three-pointed stars. Within the next six months Iceland will replace the remaining 200 with new Sprinters, completing its transformation to a 100% Mercedes-Benz fleet. The Sprinters are supplied by Roanza Truck & Van – the Dealer’s flagship Deeside branch is located next-door to its high-profile customer’s headquarters – via a full contract hire package with VMS Fleet Management.

Iceland Foods has built a strong relationship with Mercedes-Benz Vans and Roanza since 2013. The Dealer’s specialist driver trainers provide detailed, instructive handovers to drivers and Store Managers, and through its franchised network the manufacturer provides 24-hour back-up nationwide. Alex McKinlay said: “Our online shopping customers rightly expect their deliveries to arrive within the time slot they’ve booked, so vehicle availability is crucial. We need the vans to start in the morning, and the Sprinter has proved extremely reliable, which helps to explain why we’ve invested in so many.”

Now Roanza and Mr McKinlay have developed a system which is helping to ensure that Iceland’s vehicles can remain on the road for even longer. He explained: “We found that when a vehicle was off the road, the cause more often than not has been a flat battery, the result of a simple driver error like leaving an interior light switched on.

“We looked into fitting expensive aftermarket battery protection systems, but I also raised the issue with Roanza’s After Sales Manager Nigel Lewin at one of our regular meetings. As a result, we have come up with a much more cost-effective package that employs technology already available on these vehicles, and which has been hugely successful.”

Nigel Lewin takes up the story: “Sprinter vans can be fitted at the factory with optional Parametric Special Modules (PSMs) – electronic control units which allow us to access and alter or set various performance parameters. We looked at the issues Iceland were suffering and could see that we could use this technology to help address them.

“I tasked our technician Lan Dempsey to investigate adjustments to the PSM which would drastically reduce the incidence of flattened batteries, while also addressing some other issues raised by Iceland, such as minor body damage caused by low-speed accidents.”

Lan, a former Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicle Technical Apprentice of the Year, has now devised a programme which not only monitors battery voltage and turns off interior lights automatically if they are accidentally left on, but also limits the vehicle’s top speed and maximum reversing speed, and flashes the hazard lights when reverse gear is selected. Iceland immediately agreed to specify PSM modules with Lan’s package of settings on its next batch of vans. The results have been remarkable. In 2013 more than 30% of Iceland’s Sprinters suffered a non-start incident due to a flat battery within their first six months of operation. Since the PSM programme was introduced this year, that figure has dropped to 5%.

“This is a fantastic turnaround,” enthused Mr McKinlay. “It’s produced exactly the result we wanted, and made a tangible difference to our ability to deliver a top-quality service to our own customers. We’re now specifying the PSM programme on all new Sprinters and looking forward to even more vehicle uptime as a result.” Steve Bridge added: “This is a perfect example of the way Mercedes-Benz Vans and our Dealer partners will always go the extra mile to keep our customers moving. Four years ago, Iceland told Mercedes-Benz and Paneltex they wanted not only the best delivery vehicles but also an exemplary level of customer service. We remain committed to delivering just that.”

Iceland’s long-established and highly successful Delivered Sales business services more than 200,000 customers every week, from a network of 850 stores nationwide. For 20 years Iceland has uniquely offered its customers free Home Delivery of goods purchased in-store, subject to a minimum purchase of £20, while its fast-growing Online business has twice been rated Britain’s best online store in the annual Which? supermarket survey. Iceland was also named Online Supermarket of the Year in The Grocer Gold Awards in June 2017.

Moving forward together: Iceland Foods Commercial Fleet Manager Alex McKinlay, left, and Mercedes-Benz Vans Managing Director Steve Bridge, second from right, with Roanza Truck & Van Joint Managing Director Roy Reed, second left, and Paneltex Group Sales Director Dave Evenett.