Fleet News

Van safety: Sprinter takes safety to the nth degree

Driving the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Safety Van is an amazing experience – not only for the myriad of safety features that it contains but because, looking rather like flying banana in bright yellow paint and big decals, everyone turns round and stares.

Grown men point and children gawp which, of course, is exactly what Mercedes-Benz intends.

The van was built as a one-off, featuring every single safety device available as standard along with paid-for options on the Sprinter.

In all, a total of 43 extras have been added.

The safety devices fall into four categories – passive safety, fatigue safety, load safety and active safety.

Under passive safety, the van has a driver’s airbag, improved crash performance design, seatbelt tensioners and a low intrusion dashboard, all of which are standard fitment. Extras include passenger, side and thorax airbags.

Under fatigue safety, the van has a four-way adjustable driver’s seat and excellent visibility as standard.

Extras include steering wheel height adjustment, mobile phone integration, sat-nav, electric windows and heated mirrors, automatic transmission, air conditioning, comfort seats and a full width rear step.

Under load safety, the van has as standard central locking, a steel bulkhead, non-slip wooden floor and a rear grab handle.

Extras include an alarm system, ply-lining, waist-level securing rails and load-securing straps.

Finally under active safety, the Sprinter features as standard adaptive electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, acceleration skid control, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.

Extras include a Parktronic system, headlamp washers, rear view camera, a seatbelt warning, light and rain sensors, reversing alarm, a third brake lamp and a speed limiter.

This van has been doing the rounds of shows and events during the summer spreading the Mercedes-Benz safety message.

Now it has been passed on to the UK’s LCV hacks for evaluation and Fleet Van was first in the queue for a test drive.

Behind the wheel

Driving this van for the first time was a bit of a let-down in some ways.

The Sprinter is an amazingly good vehicle but somehow I was expecting – well, I don’t quite know what.

The fact of the matter is that most safety devices sit there unseen and undetected until something bad happens.

As nothing bad did happen during my test week, they remained lurking.

Things are happening of course. ABS brakes may adjust themselves minutely without the driver noticing, air-conditioning will turn itself on and off to keep the driver cool and the rear view camera does its work every time the vehicle is put in reverse.

The ESP traction control system features an orange light that winks on the dashboard when it is working – and that’s about it.

Even without any of the added extras, this van is probably the safest in the world, apart from the Volkswagen Crafter that shares its body.

The safety message starts as soon as you fire up the engine. If you haven’t got your seatbelt fixed in place, a buzzer goes off to remind you.

The seatbelts, by the way, are bright orange so it becomes immediately obvious to a passer-by if you haven’t got them on.

I suppose even the driver’s seat can be counted as a safety item – it’s one of the comfiest in the business and hugs the figure.

That way it banishes back twinges and discomfort, making the driver a safer driver.

Under way, the Safety Van is whisper quiet and an auto gearbox means that the driver doesn’t have to waste energy pumping his left foot up and down on the clutch.

Winkling the van into spaces is a doddle thanks to the reversing alarm and camera.

In the rear, the loading system works a treat.

The securing rails and straps mean any shape cargo can be locked in nicely with no danger of damage in the event of an accident.

So what is going to happen to this unique vehicle when the lads at Mercedes-Benz have finished showing it off?

Rumour has it that it will be stripped of its logos and auctioned off as an ordinary Sprinter.

Some buyer is going to be a very lucky boy indeed!

Verdict

It’s top marks to Mercedes-Benz for putting in all the effort of building this van and going to the trouble of taking it round to the UK’s van fleet operators pointing out all its safety attributes.

In these days when road safety is taking on ever more importance, projects like this could well pay off. Indeed, Merc’s sales are up by 35% already this year.

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