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New Actros Q & A With Truck Handover Specialist Rob Billman - What Are People Really Thinking?

With four new Actros Demonstrator Vehicles currently out on the road, and a wealth of speculation around this highly innovative truck, we turned directly to a source that’s right in the thick of all things new Actros to find out what people are really thinking. To do this, we sat down with our new Truck Handover Specialist Rob Billman for a Q&A session on the new Actros. He has already spent many hours behind the wheel of the truck, as well as giving detailed demonstrations to prospective customers, and as a previous Owner-Driver himself, Rob is passionately placed in the heart of the Trucking Community.

What does it actually feel like to drive the truck?

The truck feels much like the last model, but the interactive systems give it a more secure feeling. You have to put your faith into it and learn to drive in a different way. For many years now, with the advent of Auto boxes, the ‘old-school’ generation have felt that technology has taken over and made them redundant, but this is not the case. This is just a different operating style. It really is a brilliant piece of kit.


What have those who have participated in test drives said about the new Actros?

It has been quite an eye opener, once again, I did feel that maybe the new truck was going to be met with some scepticism, but it has been great. I have had a real variety of people sat in the hot seat. From MP4 drivers that really embraced it, to an operator that hasn’t driven one for a few years, right through to a couple that had never driven an Actros. All have been impressed by the technology and its capabilities. Along with customer test drives, I have also done some staff training. One gentleman from our Colchester depot had a drive and was completely fascinated, he loved the changes!


What do you feel are the best benefits/improvements on the new Actros compared to other trucks?

Despite the fact that many may view the New Actros as a facelift model, it has many tricks up its sleeve. As well as the obvious benefits like the Mirrorcam, there is also the new multimedia cockpit. This gives drivers the opportunity to adopt a more interactive operating style, enabling the driver to interact and understand more about what the various driver assist systems are actually doing. This is certainly more than a facelift! Did the previous model need an external Facelift? It is a very modern and fresh faced machine and now it has further enhancements!


There’s a lot of new technology involved, how did you find the process of getting used to it, and what would your tips to other drivers be throughout the learning process?

In all honesty, I have to confess that the first time I came into contact with the new Actros it was just for a few hours at Wentworth Park [Mercedes-Benz Trucks UK headquarters] within a group, so I had limited contact. I did walk away thinking; “this is too complicated” but the following week we received our first demo and I was able to show three of our Sales Executives how to operate it with reasonable competence. I actually surprised myself - clearly I had taken on more than I first considered. In truth, it’s actually quite easy to get the hang of. Don’t be put off by it, I struggle at times with a smart phone, but this is much simpler. Take your time to learn what it can do for you. Most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help and utilise all of the helpful materials we have available on our website like tutorial videos, or even giving us a call.

So what do you really think of MirrorCam?

Regarding MirrorCam, I really like it. Having done around 18-20hrs driving using them I have to say that I don’t really give it a thought now, I just accept it as the norm. I can understand why some would be sceptical but in all honesty I haven’t found anyone yet that struggled to use them or that had failed to see the benefits. These combined with the advanced systems within the new Actros I believe we have a very good product.


Mercedes-Benz have focused a lot more on driver comfort with the design of the new truck, what is your opinion of the level of driver comfort in there?  

Driver comfort has improved. Certainly from a driving perspective with the standard fitment of twin leaf front springs and comfort cab suspension.  But of course further comfort enhancements can be gained from the cab Air suspension option.  

What about storage space and living comfort for our long distance drivers?

 In principle the cab space is the same as the MP4, but our Gigaspace demo has a locker conversion in place of the top bed. This storage unit contains a microwave which frees up the middle front locker that normally houses it.  So with the front, three overhead lockers, the three on the back wall, as well as the one under the bunk, there should be more than enough stowage for many weeks away.  The Gigaspace demo has also been fitted with the passenger comfort seat and fold out dash table – which  I can say from experience that this is a great addition to any driver that lives away from home.  All the above options are available throughout the Actros range too.  

 Have you personally had any issues with the new Actros, and if so, how have you gotten around them? 

​ No issues thus far.

Is this truck a vision of the future?

 Yes, this is the future.  It is a bold step but I am confident the rest will follow.  

What about the sceptics? 

​Whilst the truck’s presence is very much a talking point within the haulage depots it also appears to be met with much scepticism. However, once the driver is in the seat they appear to accept it really well and are pleasantly surprised by the scope of the MirrorCams and the new tech within the dash displays and its capabilities on the road.  There is very little need to ask if they are impressed. Their own manner and attention to detail whilst driving the truck is very obvious. I feel that the new truck has hit the ground running, just need to keep the momentum up now. I will add that if I had been presented with this vehicle with a view to operating one I would have no hesitation at all.  What a machine! 

As a previous Owner-Driver, why Mercedes-Benz Trucks for you over other competitors?

​It’s no secret that in previous times I always favoured the Swedish brands and I still have an interest in the marques, but for me the German technology is on a different level and always improving and updating. The MP4 that I ran very successfully for 5Yrs was a real game changer. Not only was it reliable and efficient, it changed my driving style completely.  Whereas once I would have chased and used more fuel and caused excess wear and tear, this was an epiphany.  I am proud to have been given such an important role within the company, and I consider it a great honour to have been one of the first to go out and demonstrate this new era technology, something that I consider to be a great honour. 
Well, Rob, S & Commercials | Orwell Truck & Van are very glad to have you! We hope that this Q & A has been insightful to anyone interested in the operations and functions of the new Actros. We look forward to hearing more feedback about this impressive machine as it finds its feet within the trucking world over the coming months.