The John O’Conner fleet, which is used for a variety of maintenance works, now consists of 55 per cent Vauxhall vehicles, including over 100 Movanos. Most of the new vehicles will be sent straight to the Isle of Wight, where John O’Conner has recently won a nine-year contract with the council to deliver a range of horticultural services.
“Since ordering our first Movanos, the aim has been to make our fleet 100 per cent Vauxhall,” says Simon Redhead, Fleet Manager at John O’Conner. “We are delighted to be sending our new vehicles to the Isle of Wight to accommodate the demands of our new contract, and are sure that these vehicles will be best-equipped to carry out the work.”
John O’Conner’s appointment by the Isle of Wight council was part of an Eco Island strategy that aims to make the Isle of Wight “a thriving, dynamic and confident community in balance with its local environment.” The Island, which has approximately 2.6 million visitors per year, creates one in four jobs through tourism, so maintaining its natural beauty is crucial.
Neil Cain, John O’Conner’s operations director, said that for this reason, allocating the right vehicles was paramount. “The ambitions of the council and the prestige of the contract were at the forefront of our minds when choosing the new vehicles. We needed a smart, flexible and well-equipped fleet to match the workload and help the council in its visions.”
On a practical level, the vans were originally chosen for the low weight of their chassis. “A few years ago, when we first introduced the Vauxhall Movano to our fleet, new safety requirements meant rollover bars were added to mowing machines, pushing the overall weight to over 3.5 tonnes and so requiring the use of trailers and the fitting of tachographs,” Cain said.
John O’Conner was able to work with BL Searle Ltd to produce specialist bodywork that kept the overall weight below 3.5 tonnes. “The vans have a dropside body with side panels, tailgate and headboard that can be removed when carrying heavy equipment such as mowing machines,” said Cain. “The vans now have a payload of 1,600kg.”
The vehicles were also required to fulfil two very different roles; carrying grass mowing equipment in the summer and as dropside trucks in the winter, therefore adaptability and versatility were important considerations. This enabled the vehicles to be customised to suit the specific needs of the organisation. For example, specially contoured aluminium panels were used to develop the ultra versatile body frame.
Like many of John O’Conner’s clients, which consist of largely public sector organisations, the Isle of Wight Council is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. It takes part in a carbon management programme, which sets it strict targets for reducing carbon emissions by 4 per cent per year. Neil said that this was an important consideration when choosing the right vehicles. As well as this, the Isle of Wight – often referred to as the Garden Isle – is home to many rare plants and wildlife, and sustaining its natural beauty is a key consideration for the council and its contractors.
“Keeping the vehicles low weight obviously has great environmental benefits as well, which is particularly key to our work in the Isle of Wight. We will be replicating this through the entire fleet, therefore reducing our overall carbon footprint,” said Cain.
“We have also applied 60mph speed restrictions to the vehicles,” he continued. “As well as the obvious safety benefits, this ensures better MPG, less maintenance and a reduction in carbon emissions.”
John O’Conner has enjoyed a strong long-term working relationship with Vauxhall. “We have been using Vauxhall Movanos for over three years now and we are very pleased with the results, as well as the aftersales support we receive,” concluded Cain. “The vehicles solved a potential weight issue for us back then and they still continue to meet our needs now. We certainly expect to order more of them as we standardise our fleet.”