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Royal Mail: from Penny Black stamps to Penny Hydraulics lifts!

Royal Mail: from Penny Black stamps to Penny Hydraulics lifts!


Royal Mail has a rich and varied history, characterised by a tradition of service and innovation spanning 500 years. Supporting their commitment to innovation, the company has just invested in a number of bespoke high-quality hydraulic lifts from Penny Hydraulics for their extensive commercial vehicle delivery fleet. No stranger to Penny Hydraulics, this new order forms part of a long-standing partnership that spans almost 10 years.

Since Tudor times, our postal network has been connecting families and friends, enabling business and driving innovation across the country. All the way back in 1516, Henry VIII knighted Brian Tuke, the first Master of the Posts. This act was the catalyst for the creation of the Royal Mail we know today. Tuke had the influence and authority to establish key post towns across the country and build out a formal postal network.

From these origins, the postal service has survived 21 monarchs and two World Wars! Perhaps its most famous innovation is the Penny Black stamp, introduced in May 1840. As the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black paved the way for the prepaid, one-price-goes-anywhere postage system we use today. Swapping Penny Black stamps for Penny lifts, Royal Mail made the decision to invest in a number of bespoke, high-quality British made hydraulic lifts from Penny Hydraulics Ltd for their delivery van fleet to lift and lower containerised mail in and out of vans quickly and safely to assist with deliveries.

In conjunction with Royal Mail, Penny Hydraulics developed the special vehicle mounted platform lift back in 2008. The latest lifts will be fitted into new vehicles and will go into operation almost 10 years later - in 2017!

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 new van models which have a lower ground clearance and were being damaged by sleeping policemen. The Load Lift enables four York cages weighing up to 250kg each when full to be carried without exceeding current vehicle load limits.

Changes in road transport legislation 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. Road safety measures and speeding restriction humps that did not allow the installation of existing tail lifts as the underslung design was resulting in damage and costly downtime for the vehicle while the lift was repaired.

The company approached Penny Hydraulics for potential solutions based on its brief. One of its key requirements was for the new vehicles to handle York trolley cages widely used to transport either containerised goods such as bags of mail, safely. 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 also stipulated that the device should be able to handle safely the other HCT’s (High Capacity Trolleys) used for collecting and transporting mail between post offices and sorting offices. It had to be simple enough for one-man operation, but with the reliability and performance to work in a fast-moving business where tight schedules must be met every day.

Penny Hydraulics devised a solution based on its market-leading 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 for optimum carrying capacity.

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 system ensures smooth, precise and controlled operation. Simple push button controls, automatic battery isolation and overload protection promote ease of use and safety. A manual backup pump was also supplied to ensure cages could be off loaded from vans in case of battery / power 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. The smaller van is more manoeuvrable than larger vehicles used previously and this helped Royal Mail be more responsive to its customers’ needs. The new vehicle enabled the company to reduce emissions, reduce the carbon footprint and meet its scheduling commitments more easily. In both cases there was a positive response from the postal staff who used the vehicles.

The company now uses the lifts for additional load handling operations to support flexible working practices. Being a tried and tested design which has been used out in the field for so many years, no design changes have been requested for the latest order and installation of the new units is planned for Summer this year.

“Having worked collaboratively with Royal Mail in 2008 to perfect the York Load Lift design, it’s great to know that after all this time, the lifting equipment truly met the specification and continues to be of great value to their delivery operation,” said Penny’s Sales Director, Richard Short. “The York Load Lift offers both reliable and flexible load handling capabilities, whilst also improving employee productivity and safety. I’m delighted that Royal Mail will continue to see these benefits for years to come following installation of the new lifts.” 

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