The distinct yellow of an RACV van is a welcome sight for anyone stranded on the side of the road.
Matching the fast pace of modern life has led RACV to develop more ways to help members quickly and efficiently; and RACV’s latest business tackles the hassle of changing tyres on the go with a custom built Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
RACV’s Mobile Tyre Service is really two businesses in one, explains project lead Brenton Kaitler. “One side is for new tyre sales, where you can book new tyres online and we come out to your house or workplace, remove your old tyres, fit the new ones, balance them and do a wheel alignment if you need one.”
We send the van out
The other side is puncture repairs, which was identified as an opportunity based on the large number of tyre changes RACV completes each year. “Historically you get your spare put on, but you now have a flat tyre sitting in your boot – another problem to deal with. We work with our members to ascertain whether the tyre can be repaired, and if it can be we send the van out, and we repair it on the spot.”
Making sure the process is as pain free for members as possible led to an extensive search for the right van with the right fit out, taking Brenton all the way to Europe on a research trip.
“We looked at a large number of makes and models for vans, different equipment fitouts – we even looked at one organisation that was trialling a low roof van with a tyre machine on hydraulics,” says Brenton.
Standard driver’s licence
“We decided on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter after finding it the most popular, the most well-suited and the most highly referred. It accommodated the fitout we needed very well.”
The Sprinter 416 Medium Wheelbase Van with a high roof was selected for the trial. With a 4.49 tonne gross vehicle mass (GVM), it provided a more than adequate 2 tonnes worth of payload to cater for all the tyre workshop equipment, while allowing the vehicle to still be driven on a standard driver’s licence.
The 416 also adds more space in the rear cabin because it is fitted with super single tyres on the rear axle. The space between the wheel arches in the cargo area is wider compared to a dual rear-wheel axle vehicle, allowing more room for the tyre equipment to be fitted.
Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia/New Zealand Managing Director Diane Tarr said: “It’s a fantastic initiative by RACV and makes a lot of sense when you consider how increasingly time poor people are becoming. Sprinter is the perfect platform for this type of fitout, plus RACV can be assured that their people are operating in a safe and comfortable vehicle while out on the road every day.”
Australianising the vans
Once the right Sprinter was selected, the vans took form “like a Meccano set”; the fitout kit came from the UK, the tyre changer and wheel balancer from Italy and the vans from Germany.
An interesting challenge arose in ‘Australianising’ the equipment, with features and equipment in the fitout kit that were necessary in the UK needing to be adjusted or removed from the Australian vans.
Taking the equivalent of a tyre mechanics’ workshop on the road also came with another challenge: power.
The van needed to be able to supply battery power to high-load compressors for the tyre machine and wheel balancer, and also be able to recognise when to charge these batteries. The van runs solely on 12V power, removing the need for bulky AC power inverters, and so the solution was an adaptive charging panel that keeps all four batteries powered up and knows when charging is and is not needed, minimising alternator load.
More yellow vans
Brenton is confident taking brick and mortar businesses to the road will only increase in popularity as our lives continue at a rapid pace.
“Take someone with their day off – instead of spending two-to-three hours at a tyre shop, we can come to them and fix it at their own home,” he said. Something tells us that regardless of your location, you will be see even more of that familiar RACV yellow on vans with the 3-Pointed Star in future.