Date: 2 October 2007
‘Green’ Vito follows the forest path
A new fleet of Mercedes-Benz vans has checked into Center Parcs – but far from taking it
easy, these Vitos will be working hard for their keep.
Following a comprehensive vehicle evaluation exercise, Center Parcs is replacing its
previous, mixed-marque van fleet with 38 Long-bodied Mercedes-Benz Vito 111CDIs,
which are now entering service across its four villages in Sherwood Forest,
Nottinghamshire; Elveden Forest, Suffolk; Longleat Forest in Wiltshire; and Whinfell
Forest in Cumbria.
Most are high-roofed models that work in tandem with caged trailers and are used by
Housekeeping teams who provide a seven-days-a-week service, ensuring the highest
standards of cleanliness in its self-catering accommodation. However, eight will be fitted
at the Mercedes-Benz factory with insulated bodies and Kerstner refrigeration systems,
and used to make retail deliveries of food and beverages direct to guests.
The Pine Green Vitos are being supplied by Birmingham dealer Gerard Mann
Commercials and will be maintained on Center Parcs’ behalf by its independent, Newport
Pagnell-based partner, CLM Fleet Management PLC.
As Mike Henderson, UK Projects Manager for Center Parcs, explains, environmental
factors were at the top of the agenda when he and his colleagues first sat down with CLM
more than two years ago. “The overriding objective was to reduce our carbon footprint,”
he recalls, “so we were keen to introduce electric vehicles, as well as those with the most
efficient diesel engines.”
CLM’s specialists then began the job of fulfilling their client’s brief, by evaluating a
variety of vehicles from several manufacturers against a set of criteria that included
environmental impact, operational suitability, whole-life costs and compatibility with the
high-profile Center Parcs brand image.
“We eventually came down firmly in favour of the Mercedes Vito 111CDI,” recalls CLM
Client Relationship Manager Chris Allgood, “because as well as having an advanced,
low-emission Euro 4 powerplant, it was also the vehicle best suited to the various roles
Center Parcs had in mind.”
Center Parcs had previously leased its vans but, because the company now wanted to
include its fleet as an ‘on balance sheet’ item, the decision was taken to purchase the new
Each Center Parcs site covers 400 acres of natural forest. At its heart is the village centre
and lake, while nestling among the trees are some 800 self-catering apartments, villas and
lodges. Mr Henderson continues: “Our idyllic woodland settings are what Center Parcs is
all about but they do present challenges for a van that has to work in this environment.
“The terrain can be demanding and although the mileages are very low, with vehicles
restricted to a top speed of just 10mph, it’s stop-start all the way. This places a lot of
stress on the drivetrain, and especially clutches. So we needed a unit with the high build
and component quality that would give us up to five years of reliable operation, as well as
the tight turning circle needed to negotiate some of our narrower roads and turning
The predominant form of transport on these roads is the bicycle; indeed, for many guests
the opportunity to cycle safely as a family is key to the appeal of a Center Parcs break.
There are no pavements and the road edges are delineated by nothing more than the
occasional wooden post or large boulder – as the battle-scarred bodywork of the outgoing
vehicles testifies, these represent an easily unseen hazard for any van driver working to a
tight, multi-drop schedule.
The answer, for Center Parcs, has been to equip its Vitos with optional electric door
mirrors, which can be angled down to reveal obstacles, and, at the front and rear of the
vehicles, Parktronic parking sensors that emit audible and visual warnings of looming
Such attention to specification detail underlines a determination on the part of Center
Parcs and CLM to ensure that the vehicles are as fit as possible for purpose, and that Duty
of Care obligations to employees are not only met, but exceeded.
This commitment manifests itself at Longleat Forest in the form of automatic
transmissions, which have been fitted to the vans allocated to this village alone to reflect
its uniquely demanding topography. Says Mr Henderson: “There are some steep hills at
Longleat and we’ve gone to the extra expense of equipping these vans with auto ’boxes
because we believe the two-pedal system will be easier and safer to use for our staff,
particularly when making hill starts or working in bad weather.”
Because they will never venture onto a public road, most of Center Parcs’ new Vitos are
running on reduced-duty ‘red diesel’, more commonly used in the agricultural sector. The
willingness, despite this, of Mercedes-Benz to stand by its three-year, unlimited mileage
manufacturer’s warranty was yet another factor that weighed in its favour.
“We’re not a mainstream transport operator and we recognised from the outset that we
would need professional help to deliver the ideal van fleet for our business,” concludes
Mike Henderson. “In CLM Fleet Management and Mercedes-Benz we have found the
partners, and the products, that best fit our own values and operating principles.”