Kent-based contractor Guy Gregson has marked his 30th anniversary in business by acquiring his fifth Mercedes Unimog. His U218 replaces the 23-year-old U1600 which he had been using for the last four years.
The U218 is the smallest in the Unimog range and, thanks to its narrow, 2.15m-wide cab, and a 12.6m turning circle comparable with many cars, is exceptionally agile. With permanent all-wheel drive and a 177hp 5.1-litre four-cylinder engine that produces up to 750Nm of torque, it also offers the go-anywhere capability and 56mph road speed.
Mr Gregson began serving the agriculture and amenity sectors in 1989, with an MBtrac tractor (Mercedes ceased production of the MBtrac, which was built around a Unimog chassis, in 1991). He bought his first Unimog, a pre-owned U1000, in 1990, and ran it for three years, before replacing it with a new U1600.
In 1999 he switched career tack and for the next 15 years provided haulage services as the owner-driver of a conventional truck, while continuing to serve agricultural customers by operating combine harvesters.
In 2014, however, Mr Gregson came full circle when he launched a new venture, Agritraction. He purchased his third Unimog, this time a used U1200, to get the business up and running. Within 18 months that truck had made way for the U1600 which he has just replaced.
Operating from the Kingsnorth, near Hoo, he is now using his Unimog to undertake a variety of tasks, as well as verge and hedge cutting, grass cutting, and overseeding of parks and playing fields. He also serves supermarkets and other corporate customers during the winter, by clearing snow and gritting their car parks.
Agritraction also provides traction-only services for agricultural and industrial haulage. Mr Gregson retains his Operator’s Licence and has taxed his U218 as a Large Goods Vehicle. “This means I can use its transport ability and high road speed to the full, by running it on motorways,” he explained.
Mr Gregson said: “My last Unimog clocked-up nearly 300,000km and was fantastically reliable. The U218 represents a huge step forward, though. The visibility is fantastic, while it’s also a lot more comfortable, and significantly quieter.
“It has plenty of power, but is also compact and highly manoeuvrable in tight spaces. I don’t need a huge, cumbersome machine – small is beautiful where my work is concerned.”
Mr Gregson can attach a variety of implements, including his Mulag flail and mower, and a Schmidt snowplough, quickly and easily to the Unimog’s hydraulic and mechanical implement drives, and front PTO shaft.
He is also benefiting from his new truck’s VarioPilot and hydrostatic drive systems. VarioPilot allows the driver to swap between left- and right-hand drive, moving the steering wheel, instrument panel and pedals from one side of the vehicle to the other in less than a minute; ideal for mowing and hedge-cutting.