Interview with Richard Drinkwater, marketing, PR and business development manager
Tell us a bit about your business. When were you founded, where are you based and how many people do you employ?
Established in 1993, SvTech is headquartered in Leyland, Lancashire. It employs 10 people and provides Vehicle Type Approval. Our services include commercial vehicle re-rating for the provision of greater payload capacity, or downplating to reduce Gross Vehicle Weight to meet licence and low-emissions limits.
What does the business do?
SvTech provides a range of technical services that support vehicle modification and chassis conversions. We work with vehicle manufacturers, fleet operators, truck dealers, vehicle conversion specialists and individual private customers to avoid vehicle overloading. This is a growing problem on UK roads: DVSA statistics suggest that over 80% of light commercial vehicles stopped in the UK are found to be overweight.
SvTech also offers free weight checks and an online Load Distribution Program to help calculate likely laden weight, avoid fines and reduce operational risk.
As part of the re-rating service that we offer, we can carry out dynamic brake testing on most light commercial vehicles, pickups, minibuses, motorhomes and horseboxes, compiling DVSA reports and offering that increase payload by up to 500kg. Alternatively, downplating vehicles can enable them to be driven under lower-weight licence restrictions or in emissions-governed areas.
Using bespoke software SvTech can carry out brake calculations for any type approved truck from 1982 to 2020. We can also carry out type approvals and assist with any part of the process.
How is business? What’s the outlook for the year ahead?
We experienced a downturn in business of around 25% during the first national lockdown but managed to continue operation without the need to furlough any staff. However, since June we have since experienced an upturn in business, specifically from the motorhome market. We are currently facing increased demand for van work and on towing allowances of pickups such as the Navara, Ranger and Hilux.
Pre-lockdown, we were carrying out a lot of ‘weighing up’ exercises. The issue of overweight vehicles is growing – when a vehicle is stopped and found to be overweight, the operator is rarely found to be guilty of only one offence. For example, the vehicle, axle, tyres or licence can all be in excess of their limits, so the risks of overloading – both operationally and in terms of financial penalties – are high. Offences relating to Category B licence restrictions for drivers who have passed their test since January 1997 (allowing only a 3,500kg maximum authorized mass (MAM)) are especially common sticking points, especially as vehicles are getting bigger and heavier.
Other areas of business that are growing in demand as 2020 draws to a close are for light commercial and heavy goods vehicle type approval, load distribution analysis, tractor and rigid conversions.
What are the big issues or technological advances that fill you with positivity?
The fitting of weighing motion sensors across the UK motorway network is a promising way of combating the issue of overweight vehicles. There are currently around 16 in use across the country and operate at up to 70mph. Offending vehicles are highlighted, pulled over by police or DVSA units and taken to a nearby weighbridge for further analysis.
Increasing adoption of onboard weighing systems will also help to combat this issue, which will become increasingly prevalent as commercial vehicles with electrified powertrains are more commonplace. With existing technologies, EVs tend to be heavier than their internal combustion engine-powered alternatives, which results in a reduced payload. It will be interesting to learn how fleet operators adapt to different payloads and operating requirements. SvTech is currently actively seeking latest EVs to test from a commercial vehicle operational perspective
Legislatively, a little flexibility in Category B licence limitations would help overcome a number of potential problems and avoid the need for physical solutions. For example, increasing the 3.5-tonne limit to 3.85 tonnes would better reflect the nature of today’s larger, heavier and safer vehicles.