Econ shows true grit with £8m investment for winter

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ECON Engineering, the operator of the UK’s largest hire fleet of gritters, has invested more than £8m in new vehicles ahead of a winter that is forecast to bring earlier snow than usual.

Ripon-based Econ Engineering, a manufacturer and operator of winter maintenance fleets, produces more than 70 per cent of Britain’s winter gritting fleet.

The firm said it has grown it fleet by 50 per cent since the harsh winter of 2010.

Econ Engineering said it has made a record order of 100 new DAF vehicles as well as several dozen Mercedes Benz trucks in the past months, growing the fleet to 420 gritters, up from 238 four years ago.

The new vehicles also feature advanced monitoring and spreading equipment, said Econ Engineering.

“We have been working hard to build up our fleet of new 2013 vehicles, and have decommissioned some of the less efficient older vehicles as well, to ensure our rental customers have the most up-to-date equipment ahead of the winter season,” said Econ sales director, Andrew Lupton.

“It used to be the case that only customers buying new vehicles could have the latest kit, but around half of our contracts are for rental vehicles and we have invested £8m this year to deliver the newest and most technologically advanced gritters for these hire customers, as well as outright buyers,” he added.

The £26m turnover, family-owned business employs 200 people at its Ripon headquarters – making it the town’s largest employer – and services the majority of the UK’s winter fleet at the factory each summer.

The company operates contracts with customers throughout the UK including councils, local authorities, contractors and private businesses that undertake road maintenance work across the UK.

“The weather outlook for this winter is pretty extreme, according to some forecasters, with an early cold snap and lots of snow anticipated.

“As a result, councils and operators all over the UK are preparing for a busier than average winter,” Mr Lupton said.

Econ Engineering was founded in 1959 when Bill Lupton, Andrew’s grandfather, invented the flail hedge cutter on his father’s farm.

Bill Lupton sold the business, called Lupat, to a company based in Thirsk in 1964, before buying it back five years later.

In 1972, the company launched its first gritter at the IWM show in Torquay, before acquiring its major competitor from The Laird Group in 1981.

In 2005, it bought MHS Highway Hire’s winter maintenance hire fleet from the administrators doubling the size of it’s hire fleet.

The name Econ, comes from the acquisition of heater manufacturer Econo Heat in the 1970s.