Penny Posts New Way of Handling for Royal Mail
Penny Hydraulics has developed a special vehicle mounted platform lift for Royal Mail Letters that is helping to simplify the safe handling and collection of post trolley cages using smaller vans. The platform lift, known as the York Load Lift, was designed to replace conventional underslung tail lifts that could no longer be fitted to Royal Mail Letters’ new van models which have a lower ground clearance. The Load Lift enables four York cages weighing up to 250kg each when full to be carried without exceeding current vehicle load limits. Royal Mail Letters has so far deployed around 50 of these Four York Carrier vans to help ensure mail can be collected and delivered to sorting offices on time to meet new delivery schedules.
“We needed something that was simple and safe to use,” says Chris Fisher, Fleet Planning and Operations Manager at Royal Mail Letters. “We said to Penny Hydraulics ‘here’s a problem - find a solution’ and they did. It’s a decent bit of kit.”
Changes in road transport legislation have meant that Royal Mail Letters must complete collection rounds slightly earlier in the day in order to meet its overnight delivery targets for first class mail. Among a number of changes to procedures the company identified that deploying small vans would help it avoid the incoming restrictions placed on larger vehicles and at the same time be nimbler and more flexible when managing collections. However, the company needed to find a different way of handling loads on and off vehicles because the latest model of its preferred van had lower ground clearance that did not allow the installation of existing tail lifts.
The company approached Penny Hydraulics and other suppliers for potential solutions based on its brief. One of its key requirements was for the new vehicles to handle safely the York trolley cages widely used to transport either trayed or bags of mail. The new vans had to accommodate four Yorks, each weighing up to 250kg, without the overall weight of the vehicle exceeding 3.5t. Royal Mail Letters also stipulated that the device should be able to handle safely the other dolleys, trolleys and carts used for collecting and transporting mail between post offices and sorting offices. It had to be simple enough for one-man operations but with the reliability and performance to work in a fast-moving business where schedules must be met every day.
Penny Hydraulics devised a solution based on its Load Lift, a light and compact platform lift that offers a safe, reliable and economical way of handling loads. The unique design of the York Load Lift allows it to be installed inside the rear doors of the van without restricting access to the load area or affecting alternative carrying solutions.
During collections, a York cage is rolled onto the platform and lifted into the vehicle, pushed into position and secured. The fourth cage remains on the York Load Lift to ensure maximum use of space within the vehicle. Cages are removed in reverse order at the destination. The York Load Lift’s self contained hydraulic systems ensure smooth, precise and assured operation. Simple push button controls, automatic battery isolation and overload protection promote ease of use and safety. A manual backup pump was supplied to ensure cages could be off loaded from vans in case of battery failure.
The York Load Lifts were supplied with a special platform matched to the dimensions of Royal Mail’s equipment and which incorporated restraining straps and automatic roll stops to ensure the cages can be secured safely during operation and when inside the vehicle. A prototype was tested on a delivery/collection route in East London where business mail volumes have been increasing. The smaller van is more manoeuvrable than larger vehicles used previously and this helped Royal Mail Letters be more responsive to its customers’ needs. A second prototype was tested in Devon where the new road transport legislation made it more difficult to get mail from outlying rural locations such as Dartmouth to the local hub in Exeter in time for trunking to other depots. The new vehicle enabled the company to meet its scheduling commitments more easily. In both cases there was a positive response from the postal staff who used the vehicles.
Working with Royal Mail Letters and its fleet vehicle supply partner, Penny Hydraulics used feedback from the trials to perfect the overall design. This included re-engineering the platform chassis and frame to reduce the overall weight of production models to support enhanced vehicle load carrying capability. Royal Mail Letters currently has 50 of the new York Load Lifts in operation around the country and plans to increase the numbers in the near future. The company is also assessing whether the device can be used for additional load handling operations to support flexible working practices.
“At Penny Hydraulics the attitude was ‘let us build something for you’ rather than lead us down a particular route,” says Chris Fisher. “They worked with us and took a risk in investing in a new product but it didn’t hinder them on delivering what we needed.”
Penny Hydraulics designs and manufactures lifting and load handling equipment for use in a wide range of applications. Products include the Swing Lift range of medium duty cranes for use on pick-ups, drop-sides and flat-beds and the Step Lift, Load Lift and Tail Lift lifting platform ranges for use on pick-ups, drop-sides and vans.