When Diesel News took the new Scania 8×2 rigid out for a spin, we found there’s something reassuring about driving an eight wheeler truck. With twin steer axles taking a good proportion of the weight at the front, the truck seems to sit down well on the road. The rear axles can be set a little closer to the rear, so there is no tendency towards the see-saw motion a driver will sometimes feel in a 6×4 on a rough road.
Steering with two axles is also reassuring. The four tyres turning push the front end of the truck around the corner. This allows for very precise turning, especially when the air dump is temporarily activated.
Out on the road, there are two AMT programs available to the driver, auto or auto economy. Both function perfectly OK in both urban and highway conditions. Changes are made at higher rpm levels on auto, whereas the economy mode sees the Opticruise holding onto higher gears for longer and minimising rpm levels.
The instinct to intervene and go up or down the box manually is always there for any driver brought up in the manual-only era. A quick flick of the right hand steering wheel stalk will get the change made quickly, as will either kicking down or feathering the accelerator. Unfortunately, when the AMT is in economy mode, the stalk intervention is unavailable over 50 kph.
On the road across from Brisbane to the foot of the Cunningham’s Gap climb, economy auto had been more than adequate. However, on the climb, at a critical juncture where the driver could see the approaching steepening of the climb, but the truck couldn’t, manual intervention to grab a lower gear to maintain momentum, was not available.
It was necessary to hit the button to change from economy to auto, before hitting the control stalk for the downchange. Of course, by the time auto was engaged and then the manual change made, it was too late and momentum was lost on the climb. Unfortunate, as this was on the last, but steepest, section of the grade.
Coming back down the grade only armed with an exhaust brake and no engine brake, it is important to get gear selection dead right before starting to descend. The exhaust brake can be activated through a button on the floor next to the steering column, or alternatively set to come on when the brake pedal is first pressed and before the service brakes are activated. This second option seemed to offer the best performance descending the Gap. When the engine revs get too high the driver simply pushes through on the brake pedal to engage enough service braking to get the speed back down.
Inside the Cabin
The Scania cabin on the P Series is now getting quite old and will be superseded in the next few years as the the new generation of Scania design works its way through the Swedish truck maker’s portfolio.
In fact, with the low set cabin and the already large window, the advantages of the new design’s visibility improvement will be quite small. The combination of a low cab height, large windows, plus large mirrors well-placed means the driver is well aware of what is around the truck at all times. Of course, when the new design does come though, the technological upgrades will take the truck to another level. We are likely to have a wait of, at least, a couple of years for the new generation.
Hopefully, the new design will improve some of the ergonomics of the current cabin design. The only place for a drinks bottle is on the rear wall of the cabin, behind the driver. There is also no useful pocket or secure shelf on which to put something like a mobile phone apart, from on the module on the rear wall.
There is a lot to like about this unusual configuration. The basic layout works well and does solve the riddle of the conflict between a diminishing load, the need to keep the load stable against the headboard and the need to keep mass off the front axle of a 6×4 or 6×2.
Once the risk of overloading the front axle is irrelevant, the issues associated with twin steer trucks need to be solved. The way this truck has been specified does seem to do the trick. Alongside a heavier payload there is a steering and suspension system capable of enabling the truck to get just about anywhere a 6×2 could access. There is one more axle, and two more tyres to wear out, but the added capacity should make the sums add up.
The design and visibility do make this a useful and viable distribution truck, which could also handle some of the longer routes, when needed. As a working environment it is comfortable, and feels safe. Ease of access in and out of the cabin is excellent with such a low slung cabin.
It will be interesting to see whether this combination does gain any traction in fleets, where it could substitute for the 6×2, 6×4 and some of the heavier trucks in certain situations. Scania have put it out there and now it’s simply a chance to see how the market reacts.