Crawley look to the future with new Elite+ 'Narrow' fleet

3/12/2024 8:10:00 AM
Christmas came early to Crawley with the new Elite+ ‘Narrow’ chassis fleet delivery.
Whilst many were thinking of slowing down for Christmas, Crawley Borough Council was putting to work 15 new Dennis Eagle’s ‘Narrow’ Elite+ vehicles to replace a fleet of Elites that had been on front-line collection service for nine years!

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With a population of around 120,000 and over 45,000 pickups every week, the West Sussex town isn’t one of the largest boroughs but alongside framework operator Biffa, the council has to balance a unique spread of pockets of densely populated urban areas and rural countryside.


Balancing the needs and books

“We are a small borough that’s predominantly urban but we cover a rural round too,” says the council’s Partnership Services Manager, Paul Baker. “And within the urban areas, we have to factor in servicing 10,000 flats. We would need a versatile and affordable solution.”

The shorter routes typically lead Crawley to keep its fleet for longer but even it didn’t expect its 2015 batch of trusty Elites to still be out five days a week, nine years later. “The lower mileage routes mean our refuse vehicles typically have a seven-year service life here. Yet as a testament to their reliability, we had the last batch working, cost effectively for a further two years. They didn’t let us down and we didn’t forget that,” says Baker.


A long list of requirements

Working closely with Biffa, Baker and his team identified the priorities – and there were plenty of them. “At the top of our list was safety,” adds Baker. “Our urban areas present some very tight streets, only exacerbated by more residents working from home, resulting in more parked cars to navigate. Visibility from the front as well as for reversing and manoeuvring was crucial.”
The nature of the routes meant that payload was also critical on the team’s list of wishes. “The higher density of flats, some 10,000 to service in the borough, means we needed a higher payload and a suitable bin lift that was light enough to not compromise the overall weight,” claims Baker.


Looking to the future

Baker and his team also wanted to ensure the vehicles chosen would be a ‘perfect match’ to the upcoming ‘Simpler Recycling’ plans set to arrive in 2026. “With a longer working life here, we specified adaptable trucks to satisfy future demand such as this too,” says Baker.

The procurement process also considered feedback from Biffa, its operators and maintenance teams. “The positive experience everyone had, either using the vehicles, or engaging with the aftermarket teams over the last nine years was an important factor. We always planned to introduce the new trucks just ahead of Christmas. It’s our busiest time, so the reassurance that Dennis Eagle could fulfil our vehicle specification and deliver the overall support package was compelling,” adds Baker.

The valued order comprised 15 Elite+ trucks, one 18t that is best suited for the rural routes with the balance all 26t. One of these is equipped with the Beta bin lift. Thirty per cent lighter than conventional split bin lifts, the Beta offers a worthwhile increase in precious payload for the routes that service the 10,000 flats. All 15 were specified as ‘Narrow’ chassis derivatives, offering more room to manoeuvre on Crawley’s restrictive, car-lined roads whilst still affording the world-class visibility around the vehicle, that Baker and his team craved.


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Biffa team with members of Crawley Borough Council, counsellors, and coaching staff from Crawley FC, with their new vehicle named Reggie the Red.


Christmas delivery

Despite rolling out during the hectic time of Christmas when demand is higher and most times are affected by holidays and absences, Baker is delighted: “We are very happy. The support has been excellent and it’s a tried and tested relationship. Any issue, no matter how small, is dealt with efficiently and the crews love them.”

The Elites might already be hard at work but there is one last task on Baker’s list. “We are currently collaborating with the local schools to name some of the vehicles,” concludes Baker. “It’s great that these trucks can inspire Crawley’s future generations to take an interest in our environment and recycling. It’s been a perfect match all round.”