Hampshire’s Treloar College is now transferring students with physical disabilities in an all-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
The Sprinter 516 CDI was supplied by East Anglian Dealer Orwell Truck & Van and equipped as an accessible minibus by specialist convertor Stanford Coachworks, of Stanford-le-Hope, Essex with the two companies working closely together to meet the brief.
It joins another Sprinter 516 CDI, a standard rear-wheel drive model, delivered just two weeks earlier.
Treloar College, at Holybourne, near Alton, accepts residential and day students from the age of 16 to 25 and provides education as well as therapy, medical care and independence training. Sister establishment Treloar School provides similar services to children aged five upwards.
Both of the college’s new Sprinters have flexible interiors, each with up to 16 seats which can be moved, or removed entirely.
The vehicles are used most often in a configuration with seating for five passengers and space for four students with wheelchairs, which can be safely secured to tracking in the floor.
It is also equipped with no fewer than 10 electric power sockets inside, as well as wi-fi internet connectivity allowing students and staff to work on their laptops and tablets.
The 4x4 model’s raised ride height, and all-wheel-drive chassis with advanced 4ETS automatic electronic traction control, mean it can take winter snow and ice, as well as the occasional off-road venture, in its stride.
College transport manager Mark Copping said: “We had some problems during a bad winter a few years ago and since then have been discussing the best way to equip ourselves to deal with spells of adverse weather in the future. This vehicle is the outcome of that process.
“We have students here for 50 weeks of the year and the college is in quite a remote location. We have to be able to get our staff to work in all conditions, as well as needing a vehicle that’s capable of getting students to the local hospital 15 miles away. It’s a demanding requirement but the Sprinter 4x4 gives us everything we need.”
Copping ordered the 5.0-tonne gvw Sprinters after testing similar models at this summer’s Mercedes-Benz VanExperience LIVE, the manufacturer’s annual showcase of its range of products and services.
“I was very impressed by the 4x4’s off-road ability, as well as the automatic transmission that we’ve specified on both of our new minibuses, and the comprehensive range of standard-fit safety systems such as the Adaptive ESP anti-skid programme,” Copping said. “We need our vehicle to be as safe and reliable as possible, and having seen the Mercedes-Benz and its competitors in action there was really only one possible choice.”