Probably The Best Mini Artic in The World!!?

Volvo FL-290 Urban Artic tractors

Probably the best title on the blog ever! Ok ok that’s enough, you can have enough of a good thing I know. Carlsberg have just taken delivery of 14 of these Volvo mini artics, or Volvo FL-290 Urban Artic tractors, to give them their proper names. There are also 2 Volvo FM-330, 3 axle, 26 ton rigids in the deal too. The 16 new trucks will be split between Carlsbergs Warrington and Croydon depot’s.

The 14 urban artics are all factory built, which is a bonus as far as National fleet manager Neil Davis is concerned;

 “Knowing that we can specify exactly the vehicle we want and that it will be factory-built to our requirements and not converted from a rigid gives Volvo a distinct advantage in the Urban Artic sector. Having something that is factory-built provides peace of mind.”

I have to say I thought that other manufacturers now offered factory built small tractor units, but perhaps they are still converting rigid chassis into tractor units. The press release from Volvo goes on to say;

“The Urban Artics will operate with single axle semi-trailers at a gross weight of 26-tonnes and are expected to cover around 35,000 to 70,000 km annually. A two-man bench seat is installed to accommodate a three-man crew if required for training purposes. The two Volvo FM 6×2 day-cab rigids feature a hydraulically-steered rear axle to improve manoeuvrability and are fitted with a nine-metre long curtain-side body and 2.5-tonne cantilever-type tail-lift. Power is provided by the Volvo 11-litre engine rated at 330hp. Low-profile Michelin Energy tyres are installed in order to keep the deck height as low as possible and to optimise fuel use. These vehicles will cover around 70,000-km per annum. Both artics and rigids are equipped with telematics and will carry out between 10 and 18 deliveries daily.”

Still No Activ Update!!

One of my drivers was told by the staff at Bremen based Activ Cars that they’d send soe photo’s to the blog soon………..nothing yet!

Activ Cars

After a delivery not far from Activ Cars base in Bremen one of our drivers had 30 mins to spare so he called in at Activ HQ. After a lengthy conversation they decided that he’d be allowed to take some photo’s all the great blog cause, only for the decision to be overtuned by the boss as all the Mercedes trucks were all dirty and they would email over some new fleet photo’s once they had a few trucks back and they had been washed and brushed up. Now I suppose it could be true that at this time of year it can be difficult to get any fleet clean, so i’ll keep my fingers crossed for a Christmas holiday surprise! My driver did say there is an English man working in the office who seemed quite keen on the blog so hopefully one of these days he’ll make contact!!

Activ Cars

Activ Cars

For now i’ll just have to make do with the few photo’s they emailed a few years back, how hard done by am I!! If any of you have any contact with Activ Cars (they do come to all Airbus facilities in the UK each week) drivers or vehicles then email over your Activ Spots;

New SportsMAN for German Football Team


This little MAN TGL LX tractor and trailer have just gone into service, selling footballing merchandise at home and away games for German football champions Borussia Dortmund. The MAN press release states; “The semitrailer tractor has been specially adapted by the Munich Dax-30 Group to the club’s requirements and designed in the club’s colors. Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga team has been traveling to its games in an exclusive MAN coach for around ten years. “

The press releasegoes on to say; Andreas Lampersbach, Head of MAN SE’s Corporate Communications, added: “Our partnership with Borussia Dortmund is going very well for us. Following the new Team Coach and the Champion Mobile, the Fan Shop on wheels is the third customized vehicle that our engineers have put on the road for BVB.”

Can anyone shed any light on the “Munich Dax-30 Group”?? I have heard of them before, they obviously do plenty of truck and vehicle conversions, but when I type it into Google, it just comes back with everything related to the German Stock Exchange! Any ideas, then email me;

New Ozzie Mini Artic is Nearly Ready

Remember a little while back I introduced you too a new mate of mine from Australia, Julian Baker. He runs a mini artic around Australia delivering cars under the wing of Ceva Logistics. He currently has a new UD tractor unit in the making. Once again I will leave you in his capable hands, so sit back open a stubbie, chuck another shrimp on the barbie and enjoy reading what Julian has to say;

New Ozzie Mini Artic

New Ozzie Mini Artic

The new one is a UD too but is quite interesting. In conjunction with the manufacture we have transplanted a 15 inch diff and housing to replace the 13 inch original. The hubs and drums are interchangeable. The project has been delayed and delayed due to sourcing appropriate ratios ex Japan, as the 15 inch was normally on 22.5 inch wheels in Australia, not 17.5. This truck has 4.111 ratio with 0.78 overdrive 6 speed. Also the local senior UD management and Japanese engineering staff had been stalling approval for a few years. I have a friend who heads up UD engineering for Australia/New Zealand. We share a passion for the small, high horsepower tow vehicle but he has struggled to get traction on this project until recently. This type of vehicle sits conveniently in a GVM range that doesn’t require a speed limiter and doesn’t require a log book/work diary (driving hours) when without a trailer. Combined with the low clearance, high manouverability, low loading height and relatively high payload with high GCM we reckon the variant can be a real money making proposition. This little fella is the first UD to be painted Ceva Burgundy on the line too.

New Ozzie Mini Artic

The stronger diff will complement the already upgraded gearbox, tail shaft, universals, clutch and engine in the new model. The end result is the higher GCM with a higher torque engine. The new truck will also have far greater redundancy in the driveline. The old MK265 has done a wonderful job, but as it is approaching 1 million kms, all major components have been replaced at least once. I generally sit around 20 tonne but have gone to Melbourne-Perth, Brisbane-Melbourne and numerous Melbourne-Adelaide/Sydneys a tonne or two over. Like the rest of the world we have a love of the SUV and unnecessarily large cars in Australia. Although still far more modest than the Yanks.

New Ozzie Mini Artic

It is a little bit of a shame the modified truck isn’t the new, new model with a completely new cab and engine. As Volvo have owned UD for a few years the development of a new medium range took place. The new engine is 280 hp (vs 260) and 883nm (vs 794), still on 235/75 17.5 rubber. GVM is up to 11 tonne and GCM with the big diff will be 23 tonne. I know these numbers aren’t enormous compared to a TGL, LF45 or the 12 tonne Atego sold in Germany with the big rear axle, but Jap trucks are the norm down here. They have sufficient cooling capacity and Jap trucks always deliver what they promise. It’s sort of like ‘under promise, over deliver’.

New Ozzie Mini Artic

Anyway, I’m still thrilled my big axle idea has been implemented. The little buggar is going to cost me a fortune as I’ve got a bit carried away with the accessories, but it’s coming along nicely. Things left to do are the bull bar and driving lights (very similar to the old truck), Ceva livery (I’m thinking of putting a big UD logo on the back window too, and maybe my football teams logo:-)), rectangular alloy fuel tanks with matching separate third hydraulic tank, the Alcoas off the old truck with a polish, chrome axle end trims on the drive, nut covers, water tank, tool box, proper drive tyres and leather upholstery. The tanks are 560mm wide x 510mm high, they should really finish the little banger off. They will send me broke alone!! I am a huge fan of the mini prime-mover, this will be my third. Chassis height and tare weight with my trailer are unique. My total tare weight is comparable to the Ceva 6 car trailers my mates tow alone. Therefore my fuel consumption is 0.4-0.7 kms per litre better. It doesn’t sound much, but can be over $100/day if running highway kms. The other blokes are pulling their 6-9 tonne prime-movers for no extra income. Purchase price, and maintenance are slightly less, but these little trucks are a five year proposition towing trailers, not 8 like they old one is.

Mighty, mighty expensive, but look good

Of course comfort and cabin room are not comparable in any way to European trucks. I have flirted with buying a MAN for 10 years but LEs then TGLs are like rocking horse droppings here. DAF LF45s don’t cool and Ivecos are terribly unreliable in Aussie conditions. Benz don’t bring Ategos to Australia running on 17.5 inch rims, and the chassis height of the 19.5 inch trucks is pretty high. Avia have been introduced recently but a 4.5 litre engine is reason enough not to consider them. Probably the main reason I haven’t taken the MAN plunge though is the odd stud pattern on the wheels. My current setup runs the same Alcoa 17.5 x 6.75 rims throughout. Even the 8 stud used by DAF and AVIA could be replicated here, but the MAN pattern would be custom custom.

Mighty, mighty expensive, but look good

I have recently come back to Melbourne from almost two years fly-in/fly-out in Tasmania. The little truck didn’t come home once. It was my home during the week. In Australia we have an ADR (Australian Design Rule) which grants the bunk in a truck to be a ‘registered sleeping compartment’. The little bunk in the MK has had this accreditation since this cabin was introduced in the mid 90s and until recently was the only narrow Jap cab to be approved. The Isuzu narrow extended cab now complies. You do not have this cab in the UK I believe. Isuzu UK either sell the narrow cab with no bunk, or the wide cab with a bunk. Anyway, I have wrap around curtains and my passenger seat folds flat so I sleep well. An extra foot of bunk and a foot more head room would be very well received though. And more storage space!!! New truck will be two seater with proper consol vs three seater with shallow consol in the back of the middle seat.

Ozzie Mini Artic Specialist – Julian Baker

My new Ozzie pal Julian left all this info in a comment on the blog, but I feel that it’s just to good and to much not to give it’s own post on the blog. I think Julian may be a regular from all the way over there in BBQ land. These are Julians own words and photo’s of his mini UD Artic. By the way don’t be fooled into thinking that big old Roadtrains are the only ones to transit the great dusty expanses of Australia;

Ozzie Mini Artic

Mini Artics, or semi-trailers as we say in Australia, as a general rule are limited by the GCM (GTW, GCW) of the prime-mover (tractor). Of course there are exceptions to every rule and there may be factors that prevent the GCM being achieved. Examples of limiting factors could be an inadequate hitch/tow bar/turntable capacity, insufficient trailer axle load capacity, insufficient trailer braking capacity or just that the trailer has an insufficient ATM (aggregate trailer mass).

I guess the first thing to consider when setting up a mini semi-trailer is whether the GVM of the prime-mover will be exceeded when the combination is loaded. That is, will the combined axle loads at the ground exceed the GVM of the prime mover. The second consideration is do the trailer axles have enough load carrying/braking capacity to cater for the remainder of the combinations weight. These principals are of course the same for any type of combination, from a motor bike towing a trailer to a road train, but the mini prime-mover generally runs much closer to max. GCM than some other combinations. For example most single steer tandem drive prime-movers have GCM ratings of 70 + tonnes in Australia, but if only operating with a single trailer can only have a combined allowable weight of around 45 tonnes. The limiting factor is the local road rules. Where as with a single trailer it is very easy to load a mini semitrailer to its GCM with a fairly light trailer.

Ozzie Mini Artic

I will set out a scenario based on my vehicle:

GVM: 10400 KGS
GCM: 20000 KGS

steer axle capacity: 3700 kgs
drive axle capacity: 7500 kgs
(but steer + drive can’t exceed 10400kgs)

ATM: 20000kgs

Prime-mover tare weight: 4000kgs
Trailer tare weight: 6200kgs

So, vertical load trailer exerted on the turntable can’t be greater than 6400kgs (10400 – 4000) so the prime-mover is not overloaded. My turntable, trailer axles and trailer ATM cannot be exceeded by loading the combination to its GCM, therefore my payload is 9800kgs (20000 – 4000 – 6200). The replacement of my prime-mover is imminent and the new vehicle will have a GCM of 22000kgs. The same trailer will be used, the new truck carries more fuel and has some additional equipment so tare weight will increase to approx. 4500kgs though its GVM remains at 10400kgs. Once again the turntable, trailer axles and ATM don’t hinder the load capacity in any way. So, this time the vertical load on the turntable can’t exceed 5900kgs (10400 – 4500) and overall payload is 11300kgs (22000 – 4500 – 6200).

As you can see from the two scenarios above, care must be taken when positioning the load on the trailer as to not throw too much weight forward onto the prime-mover.

Ozzie Mini Artic

So now you know!! Hopefully Julian will keep us updated with stories, info and any thing else the Australian trucking industry can chuck at us. We all love Roadtrains, but once again anything the biggun’s can do, the little Tonka toys will be following right behind. So not only are mini artics regularly crossing Europe in all directions, but also Australia. Brilliant. I have photos of Julians new truck, they will be coming soon. Also a another good write up on the troubles of speccing a mini tractor unit in Oz.

Activ Spotting by You Lot

Everyone thinks it’s me thats keen on the little German fleet of Activ Cars Spezial Transporte from Bremen. Well that is quite true, I am. Mrs Truckblog quite simply say’s the reason I like them is because they are little big trucks. Which, when you think about it, is pretty spot on.  As I have harped on about Activ month after month, my plan has finally started to work, you are beginning to email me with your own spots of the Silver Mercedes Benz fleet.

First up is one of my work colleagues at HC Wilson, Matt Lamb spotted this one in Germany last week, some where between Osnabruck and Bremen. Bremen being Activ’s base.

Activ Rear!

Activ Rear!

Activ Rear!

Zoomed in you can see the tractor is a Mercedes Benz Atego with what i’m guessing is an 11 or 13 metre long Berger trailer. Yes I was a little disappointed that there was no cab shot, but Matt did’t get the chance, so i’ll be happy in the knowledge that he is on the case and busy spotting! If you see and Activ Cars why not email me with your pics;

Next up is driver Robert Davey, he emailed me some pics of a Mercedes Benz Vario. Robert was un-impressed with his own photographic skills, but I got him to email them over. Robert says; “They were all taken from my cab, in the queue at Killingholme (quayside) on the 30th of September this year.”

AirBus Merc by Robert Davey (3)

Activ Cars - Mercedes Vario Mini Artic

Activ Cars - Mercedes Vario Mini Artic

I often wonder what the inside of the Vario sleeper cab is like. I have seen the inside of of the newer Sprinter sleeper cabs, so I guess they are like that, probably with a slightly wider bunk. Speaking of the bunk, I do hope the drivers remember to keep the rear doors of their cabs locked, to avoid any nasty bunk falling out the door incidents! Top spotting my Activ friends, keep at it and keep emailing……

Mini Artics For Sale

Mini Atego Artic

By now I should think I have converted you all to being mini artic lovers, with all the Activ Cars stuff I put on here and what you lot keep emailing me, I won’t be long before you see the appeal! Any way there is more new Activ Cars stuff to come, but in the mean time how about you get your own mini artic?

Mini Atego Artic

Mini Atego Artic

This Mercedes Benz Atego 824 was found on the German truck site, I was doing a bit of Google Street View in Bremen, whilst stalking a certain German mini artic operator. As their base is not on street view I thought i’d play Coloumbo. I looked on street view for the nearest Mercedes Truck dealer in case of any being serviced, but no luck, but what I did find nearby was a Truckstore site, so being the detective I searched for mini artic and this was the result. To start with I thought it was an ex Activ Cars truck, that was until I got my German phrase book out and realised the advert was for the tractor and trailer and the trailer isn’t Activ Cars spec. The outfit was up for sale for €25,000, but could only be bought as truck and trailer and not be split, the truck has done done 351,000 km and was first registerred in April 2007.

Mercedes-Benz Atego 1324 LS

 This 2nd example, was also found on truckstore and I think it is still for sale, here. This Atego 1324 was first registered in March 2010 and has only done 57,000 km but for €44,500 it isn’t particularly cheap! Then again if you can really afford to run one of these I think it’s fair to say you will be in some specialised job anyway.

Mercedes-Benz Atego 1324 LS

Please keep you long distance mini artic info coming in and i’ll try to put the best of it on here for all to enjoy, please comment below or email me; in the mean time, you asked for it………… there will be more Activ Cars mini artics coming in the next few days.

Home Made Fiat Euro-Wheeler

Once again my good friend Neil Jarrold sent me a little gem from his ever amazing collection of self taken photo’s. Often I am busy working away at my desk, when I get an email from the man behind usually titled “a bit of you”. This time round I think Neil was spot on, this little FIAT is probably a bit of me! An early mini international light weight wagon and drag.

Firstly Neil thinks this was taken in Boulogne, France. Other than that there really isn’t any more info to go with it. This is where you come in, do you know who’s it is? Where it was going? I can’t decide whether the caravans are an export or an import. The doors are on the offside, so does that mean they are UK built for the European markets, or are they European made for the UK?? Which ever, was there ever a return load or and outward load?

As for the vehicle itself, agin there are lots of questions and probably not many answers, unless you can help? leave a comment below or email me, . If you look carefully at this side of the cab, you can see the left overs of the side panel of the van, when it was indeed a panel van. Looking through the windscreen, the other side of the cab has an additional window between the door window and the back of the cab, likely to aid with vision while driving on the wrong side of the road. Flashing light on the roof. Again on this side of the cab behind the door handle, there looks to be the van model badge and what likes like or could be the owners details / sticker. All in all this is once again a real little gem and is typical on Neil’s photography.

Do your self a favour and set aside a wet Autumn afternoon and enjoy sifting through the thousands and thousands of photo’s on you will be amazed!! From the late 1970’s to present day there is something for all trucking persuasions. Personally I love the London Market night time photo’s, all sorts of Paddy Scania 141’s and Scottish Volvo’s and also the late 1980’s Dover photos. I also like the very rare rigid photo’s you can find. Neil has confessed to me that he isn’t bothered by little lorries so the odd photo he has taken must be of some thing special/interesting. Like this little Mercedes Benz 1117 from Malmo.

Harwich Port is Very Activ!!

During my rubbish truck spotting trip to Harwich, there were 2 highlights. The <a href=""Harwich” target=”_blank”>P.Bjarne Andersen Scania that was good enough to make <a href=""picture” target=”_blank”>Picture of the Day on and the 2 Activ Car’s trucks that were parked up on the far side of the truck park…….just my luck. There was one Mercedes Atego mini artic with an 11 metre trailer and an older bonnetted 814, I think they are, please correct me;

Harwich 21/08/2011

It turns out that Activ Cars may use Stenaline in and out of Harwich a lot more than I realised before. Just a couple of weeks later, one of our drivers (HC Wilson Drivers) was sitting in the rain in Harwich, when what should appear out of depths off the Hoek boat…… yes of course it was, another Activ Cars mini Atego Artic.

Activ Cars Spotted @ Harwich

I do wish that Activ Cars were a bit more up to date. Now I don’t mean this in a bad way but, they must be one of the only transport companies who don’t yet have a website and also they very rarely reply to their emails!! Come on Activ Cars get emailing and get a website!! If you see Activ Cars in the UK or in Europe please get a photo and send it over to me, and if you can get talking to one of their drivers and get them to contact me, there will be an 18 inch <a href=""Transam” target=”_blank”>truckblog sticker in it for you. By the way they are now available in white or navy blue.

Activ Update…..

Still nothing in particular to update you with, no photo’s any way, but….. a couple of our drivers we’re heading for Bremen and that sort of area last week. In my wisdom I mentioned it to the drivers and after the usual barrage for abuse for being such a sad-o, one driver said have you looked on Google Street View around the Airbus factory’s in Bremen………….. of course I hadn’t!! I popped onto the interweb and plonked the Street View man on a road right out side the one of the factories and low and behold an Activ spot!! A nice ageing Mercedes 814.

Activ Cars Spot in Bremen on Google!