The RB44 Story

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The RB44 Story Part 1 ~

Part 2 ~ Part 3 ~ Part 4 ~ Part 5 ~ Part 6

Researched by forum member Just Popped In

Part 1

 The RB44 Heavy Duty Utility Truck

1. In June 1988, the Department placed a contract worth some £25 million with Reynolds Boughton for 846 Heavy Duty Utility Trucks - known as the RB44 -to meet a requirement to replace the ageing 1 tonne Land Rover fleet. The RB44 was selected following evaluation trials of one vehicle type from each of three contractors. Although the RB44 used in those trials met the stated requirement and complied with road traffic legislation, the user mandated changes to the production vehicles' design to refine its braking efficiency.

2. The Reynolds Boughton contract provided for the first ten vehicles produced to be validated against the Statement of Requirement in a series of trials following which the Department would consider whether to exercise an option to buy the remaining vehicles. These main production vehicles were to be manufactured to the agreed build standard as set and proved through the series of trials. Reynolds Boughton's quality assurance procedures and their production testing were to ensure this, as stipulated in the contract. The validation trials began in September 1989 and raised concerns about the braking efficiency.

3. Incorporating the mandated changes, a manual transmission to improve off-road handling and further modifications to enhance the braking system, cost the Department some £940,000. Following the successful completion of the validation trials, the design of the vehicle was formally accepted in May 1990 and the production option exercised. However, in April 1991, following delivery of the production vehicles to Units, braking faults began to appear. The Department therefore carried out brake tests on 18 RB44s to determine the cause. Half of these vehicles were assessed as having unsatisfactory performance. Reynolds Boughton argued that the problems were caused by the brakes "bedding-in". Given the low utilisation of the fleet, that "bedding-in" is a recognised phenomenon, and the successful demonstration of the vehicle prior to acceptance, this argument was accepted. But the Department continued to monitor the position. After Units continued to express concern with the braking performance, the Department conducted additional investigations, after which deliveries of RB44 were suspended in September 1992.

Deliveries only recommenced when Reynolds Boughton demonstrated a modification which appeared to resolve the problem and which was incorporated on all of the RB44s already delivered at no cost to the Department.

4. By August 1993, the braking problems had recurred with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers reporting that 37 out of 57 in-Service vehicles investigated had a tendency to deviate to the left when braking at 35 mph. Vehicles being used on United Nations peacekeeping duties in Bosnia were reported to be experiencing similar problems and were withdrawn from service. Finally, in December 1993, the Quartermaster General declared all RB44's "vehicle-off-the-road". Investigations by the Department discovered that maintenance on the vehicles in storage hadbeen suspended and that some Units were applying incorrect maintenance procedures.

5. Responsibility for rectifying the performance shortcomings was the subject of negotiation between the Department and Reynolds Boughton. The company argued that the Department should pay for any modifications required because the vehicle had successfully completed its trials and been accepted into service. The Department continued to argue that liability rested with Reynolds Boughton given that the inherent problem lay in the original design.

6. In the event, both parties contributed to the necessary work. Reynolds Boughton estimate that they spent about £250,000 between January 1994 and September 1995, whilst the Department estimate that in total they have spent some £1.5 million to resolve the braking problems and to make the vehicle fit for service use. These changes included modifications to the build standard to reduce both suspension-related steering characteristics and sensitivity to any shortcomings in the maintenance regime. (These figures ignore the £1.7 million additional storage costs incurred and the operational implications of having to run on the existing 1 tonne vehicles.)




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