The FUSO Canter’s ability to ‘turn on a sixpence’ makes it ideally suited to trailer-towing duties, particularly in built-up areas. That’s the view of tree surgeon Russell Coombs, whose company has just commissioned its second new 3.5-tonne Canter this year.
Mr Coombs is the co-owner with Richard Arnold of arboriculture specialist Tree Craft, which is based in Knockholt, Kent. It now operates four trucks, all supplied by Mercedes-Benz Dealer Sparshatts Truck & Van, of Sittingbourne, and smartly finished in its grey livery.
Three are FUSO Canters – the Mercedes-Benz Truck Dealer Network in Britain is also responsible for sales and support of the popular Japanese light truck range. The fourth is a 7.5-tonne Mercedes-Benz Atego with Fassi crane-grab, which entered service in 2014.
The Canter’s cab-over-engine design is key to its manoeuvrability and agility. The vehicle’s ladder frame chassis means it also offers the rugged strength and durability of a ‘proper’ truck, a particular attribute in the 3.5-tonne segment, which is dominated by lighter, van-based vehicles. The Canter can therefore take arduous applications such as tree surgery, which often entail working on rough ground, in its stride.
Tree Craft is approved by the Arboricultural Association, and has been operating across South-East London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex for more than 20 years. Although its experienced and qualified arborists provide a full range of services, the company specialises in environmentally sensitive work, which might entail protected species such as bats, or the preservation of veteran and ancient trees like those found in Knole Park, Sevenoaks.
Acquired with competitive funding support from Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, its new Canters were supplied by Sparshatts’ Canter sales executive Ashley Shilling. Both have Comfort day cabs and are fitted with high-sided, tipping bodies by SB Components, of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
The first, which was delivered in January, is a 3C15 model. It has an advanced and economical 3.0-litre engine, and transmits its 110 kW (150 hp) output via a smooth-shifting DUONIC automated dual-clutch transmission.
The latest, a 3C13, is powered by a 96 kW (130 hp) version of the same four-cylinder unit, which is paired with a five-speed manual gearbox – Tree Craft was keen to compare the two transmission options back-to-back.
Both vehicles feature the fuel-saving Idle Start/Stop function and an engine brake as standard, while variable nozzle turbine technology ensures the delivery of high torque – 370 Nm for the 3C15, 300 Nm for the 3C13 – from low revs.
Russell Coombs said: “The 3.5-tonne Canter carries a full load particularly well compared to other types of vehicle we’ve used in the past. For us, though, the Canter’s biggest advantage over the competition is its brilliant turning circle.
“We’re always towing chippers and plant trailers and when you’re working in towns and cities manoeuvrability is crucial. We used to have real difficulties negotiating mini roundabouts, but not any longer. When it comes to trailer work, the Canter wins hands down!”
He continued: “The Canter has also proved impressively reliable. When Richard and I merged our previous company with Tree Craft in 2005, we were running a couple of old vehicles by another, mainstream manufacturer. Business growth means we’re now able to replace our trucks after five years, so we sold our first Canter to make way for the new ones – it was on a 12 plate and had never let us down.”
Tree Craft is just as happy with its Mercedes-Benz Atego, an 816 variant with 115kW (156 hp) engine. “That’s a great truck,” enthused Mr Coombs. “It hasn’t missed a beat either, and is really strong – nothing we’ve loaded or pulled behind it has ever made it struggle.”
The operator relies on the workshop team at Sparshatts’ Tonbridge branch to maintain its vehicles. “They’re very good at reminding us when inspections and services are due,” he said. “We can take a truck down at the end of the day and they’ll work on it overnight, so it’s ready for collection at six the following morning. This means our vehicles are always available for work when we need them.”