Scania’s brace of Limited Edition Black Amber R-series trucks are bringing a golden glow to the roads of Western Australia, and a heart-warming glow to their new owners.
Perth-based Scania customers have purchased both the V8-powered Black Amber prime movers imported into Australia; an R 730 and an R 620.
The R 730 Black Amber made its Australian debut at the Brisbane Truck Show earlier this year, with the R 620 saving itself for the Perth Truck Show in July.
Greg Goodchild from Greg’s Meat Transport secured the R 730, while David Edghill from Express Freezer Transport has become the owner of the R 620 Black Amber.
Greg’s Meat Transport runs a mixed fleet of more than 50 trucks, six of which are Scanias. Greg has added two R 560 6x4s and the Black Amber this year, with two P 360 8×2 rigids scheduled for delivery in 2014.
“I have been in the transport industry for 36 years and the Black Amber is the best vehicle I have ever seen,” Greg says.
“I have always wanted a truck like this, and as soon as I saw it at the Perth Truck Show and looked inside it, I knew I had to have one.
“The truck is already on the road, being driven by Greg Howard, one of my long-time drivers. He is fanatical about keeping it clean. His ute even carries a rainwater-filled tank that he uses to wash the truck. He’s got towels all over the inside to keep it pristine.”
Although Greg’s Meat Transport specialises in the refrigerated transport of a wide range of meat products, the Black Amber is hooked up to B-double containing supermarket groceries. Each day it plies the Forrest Highway to Bunbury and back, from the company’s base in Jandakot, Perth.
“We are getting excellent fuel from the truck, better performance than we expected, in fact,” Greg says.
“The response from other drivers on the road, and just anyone who sees it is phenomenal. It has been a great image-builder for our business, too, and I reckon it will help us attract good drivers in the future,” Greg says.
“We started buying Scanias because we had a good recommendation from another transport operator who has run them. We really like the quality of build and the backup from Scania, because you’re dealing with the factory. The team at Scania Bunbury is particularly good, and so I will have the Black Amber serviced by them. They’re always on the ball,” he says.
Express Freezer Transport has 10 trucks – eight of which are Scanias. Their trucks are also used in the distribution of fresh produce for supermarkets. EFT has purchased three new Scanias this year: a P 440 6×2 prime mover, the R 620 Black Amber, and a soon-to-be-delivered R 480 6×2 prime mover.
“The first truck I bought was a Scania, a second-hand 82M rigid, and my first new truck was a Scania a 4-series, a 94 310 hp 4×2,” David says.
The Express Freezer Transport R 620 Black Amber is pulling a smart new 49 ft. jumbo slider-side single refrigerated trailer that complements its stunning looks.
“That’s my truck,” David says definitively, when asked about the new Black Amber.
“I drive it most of the time and when I don’t, the driver who gets the text message that says he’ll be driving it the next day has a very big smile.
“It’s a beautiful truck to go to work in everyday,” David says.
“In the first week of driving Black Amber three guys came up and offered to come to work for me, just because we had it on the fleet. I reckon the Black Amber definitely elevates our profile. It says something positive about you as a transport operator.
“The Black Amber is such a distinctive truck, wherever we go not only do the fork lift drivers and dispatchers stop work to look at it, and pop their heads inside, but the office girls come out to see what all the fuss is about too.
“It’s like dating a movie star. I expected other drivers would be interested in it, but everyone wants to look at it,” he says.
David is not only a long-time Scania owner, he is also sold on Scania Maintenance and Repair Programmes, which means his trucks will always be in prime condition.
“All our trucks work six or seven days a week, but cover only around 80,000 km a year because we are delivering around the metro area. But they are hard kms, which is why I have these three new trucks on the Scania Maintenance and Repair Programme.
“It’s a no brainer for me because to be successful as a transport operator you have to know your costs as accurately as possible and control them.
“You need to be able to keep to your budget or know when you are not, so you can take action and adjust your prices to be in line with your costs.
“It’s about managing risk, so with the Maintenance and Repair Programme, the risk is carried by Scania over 1000 trucks, rather than my business across my 10 trucks,” he says.
According to Robert Dryland, the Scania WA Account Manager, New Trucks, who sold both vehicles, the eye-catching Black Ambers have been the talk of the town.
“We had a great response to the R 620 we had at the Perth Truck Show, and I was delighted when Greg and David expressed interest in them.
“Not only will the trucks be doing good work transporting produce and boosting the reputations of their owners, but they will raise the profile of Scania in Perth and Bunbury as well,” he says.
“Both customers were very enthusiastic about their new vehicles, and both are going to look after them through the Scania network which means they will enjoy complete peace-of-mind and maximum uptime.”
The Scania Black Amber Limited Edition trucks were created by Svempa, one of Scania’s long-time collaborators in the production of eye-catching trucks.
In addition to the Black Amber metallic paint that really glows in direct sunlight, there are carbon-fibre look flames racing up the side of the vehicle, complementing the bold Black Amber name badge adorning the front of the Highline Cab.
The special truck has black and chrome highlight wheels and plenty of piano black gloss trim, and inside the luxury continues with premium, perforated leather upholstery, a wood-and-leather-rimmed steering wheel and special carpets, while a large wooden commemorative plaque is fixed to the back wall.
Australia’s leading provider of transport and logistics, Toll Group, has unveiled Australia’s first 100 per cent electric truck.
The 10-tonne Smith Electric vehicle will be used for parcel pick-ups and deliveries around Brisbane.
Toll IPEC will use the all-electric vehicle during an initial three-month trial that will look at how the vehicle performs in Australian conditions, and its cost to operate.
Speaking at the unveiling, Toll Group Environment and Energy General Manager Nick Prescott said Toll is constantly looking for ways to apply new technologies and practices to reduce the consumption of non-renewable resources.
“We are extremely excited to be the first to get a look at this type of vehicle,” Mr Prescott said.
“It is a shining example of the sorts of things we’re doing as part of our broader Smarter Green environmental program, which looks at the use of smarter fuels such as biodiesels, compressed natural gas and electric vehicles, but only when it makes
operational and economic sense to do so. The Smith Electric adds to the many CNG, LNG and hybrid vehicles we operate in Australia and globally.
“Improving emissions, safety and energy consumption and costs also benefits our customers. That’s why we offer lower-carbon choices through our technology, fuels and energy efficiency initiatives.”
Toll will use data from on-board diagnostics that can be viewed online to monitor the vehicles’ performance in real-time.
Smith Electric 10-tonne electric truck
? Range of up to 200km
? Top speed 95km/h
? Lithium-ion 80kW battery
? Requires 5-6 hours overnight charge
Patico Automotive is the exclusive distributor of the Smith Electric range in the Oceania region. Managing Director Tony
Fairweather said Patico was proud to be representing such an innovative brand as Smith Electric in this region, and was looking
forward to trialling the vehicle in Australia.
“Smith Electric has been able to develop a product that makes absolute commercial sense, and we’re honoured Australia’s
leading transport and logistics company, Toll, were so keen to be the first to use it,” Mr Fairweather said.
All-electric vehicles are slowly increasing in popularity overseas, where they are used by some of the world’s largest companies
across the US and Europe. All-electric vehicles account for around three per cent of the total US market.
More information on Toll’s commitment to environmental sustainability, including a copy of Toll’s environment report, Managing
climate change and energy risks, can be found at www.tollgroup.com/environmental-sustainability
Is it possible to create a vehicle that won’t let you crash, even if you try? Scania’s Research and Development department is hard at work, trying to achieve this vision.
Imagine a vehicle that can’t crash. A vehicle that has sensors to detect the surrounding traffic, that through a traffic-monitoring system can check out what’s going on further down the road, and can also work together with other vehicles to adjust the speed of the traffic flow.
Such a vehicle wouldn’t just offer lower energy consumption and a reduced environmental impact; it would also contribute to increased delivery precision and reliability.
It might seem like a distant reality, but parts of Scania’s research and development department have already taken the first steps towards just that reality. Two people who have come a long way down the road are Tom Nyström and Henrik Pettersson.
Nyström is working with advanced driver assistance systems, which means the automisation of vehicles to help the driver and also reduce the risk of mistakes. Simply put, it’s about creating an electronic crumple-zone around the vehicle that is significantly larger than the mechanical ones used today.
“For me, the end goal is a vehicle that doesn’t need a driver at all,” Nyström says. “Instead, with the help of different types of sensors, the vehicle would take into consideration the surrounding environment, regardless of what happens, without needing continual adjustment.”
He nominates areas where the working environment is particularly arduous, such as mines, industrial sites and quarries in desert areas, as key examples of where driverless trucks might be required. The road towards automisation will, of course, provide many spin-off technologies for driver assistance long before the first driverless vehicle rolls out of Scania’s factories.
While Nyström works primarily with systems that are located within the vehicle itself, Pettersson is working on the development of communication between vehicles in road trains, as well as inter-vehicle communication and communication between vehicles and the underlying infrastructure. The goal is services that help hauliers, haulage centres and trucking groups to plan their transport tasks. Pettersson’s work is essentially to create a kind of electronic towbar.
“I work on, among other things, increasing fuel efficiency and increased traffic flow by ensuring a steady and predictable speed for single vehicles or entire trains by utilising information exchange between vehicles,” he says.
The connection between the two men’s areas of expertise is clear. Pettersson says: “I work with systems that use a transport plan that is optimised around specific transport tasks. That plan is then sent to the vehicles that carry out the work.”
Work towards fully automised vehicles has been going on for quite some time. The first steps were taken, for example with the introduction of anti-lock brakes and cruise control. Next came comfort functions that supported the driver. These have been further developed and now contribute to improved safety and better fuel economy. Adaptive cruise control systems, for example, are now commonplace. They contribute to automatic cruise control systems, time keeping and also help to reduce fuel consumption.
As work towards the uncrashable vehicle advances, additional support functions are emerging. The eventual arrival of such a vehicle will also allow for the use of lighter construction materials – yet another way of reducing the environmental impacts.
The pursuit of quieter streets and cleaner air took another step forward today as Hino Motors marked a key milestone in its trial of full electric commercial vehicles.
For the past six months three prototype all-electric Hino 300 Series trucks have operated alongside their traditional diesel and hybrid diesel/electric brethren in two established Japanese transport companies’ fleets.
Hino Australia Product Planning Manager Daniel Petrovski said the 300 Series electric vehicle prototype’s familiar exterior belies the unique architecture of its chassis and drivetrain components.
“If you were to see a 300 Series electric prototype parked on the street, it wouldn’t be obvious that it was an all-electric or even a prototype vehicle,” he said.
“Nevertheless, the entire architecture of the truck is different – it has a lithium-ion battery that powers an efficient electric motor which actually drives the front wheels.
“Even though the words ‘front-wheel drive’ and ‘truck’ don’t traditionally go together, there are a number of benefits to this design.”
Mr Petrovski said the front-wheel drive, all-electric architecture had surprising benefits in a light-duty commercial vehicle.
“The batteries sit inside the frame between the axles, where the driveshaft and fuel tank would traditionally reside,” he said.
“The lightweight electric motor sits in place of the diesel unit, which directly powers the front wheels.
“Because of the immense torque of the electric motor, and because there is no need to maintain idle if the truck is stopped, a traditional gearbox and clutch aren’t required – it’s as easy as driving a golf cart.
“With the entire drivetrain located in the front of the truck, and the power source mid-mounted low in the chassis, the truck body can have an extremely low floor – some 42 centimetres lower than a traditional light-duty truck.”
Mr Petrovski said that in addition to the efficient load space and ease of use that the 300 Series electric prototype offers, the impact of all-electric commercial vehicles on a city environment would be immense.
“As we’re all aware, cities are a focal point for pollution from airborne waste, noise and hazardous fuel products,” he said.
“The electric 300 Series prototype solves these problems in one fell swoop.
“Replacing the internal combustion engine with an electric motor means no hazardous fuels or oils are used for power or lubrication.
“Electric vehicles don’t emit any pollution, which means cleaner air in the cities, and the noise of the 300 Series prototype’s electric motor at full load is a fraction of the level of a traditional diesel engine.
“Electric motors are more efficient at turning potential energy into power than their fossil-fuel equivalents as well; if the electricity was generated by solar, geothermal or wind-turbine generators, we could be utilising this renewable energy in the most efficient way possible.”
Mr Petrovski said the 300 Series electric prototype sets the bar for clean, green and quiet commercial transport.
“Hino Motors is well aware of the impact of private and commercial vehicles on the environment,” he said.
“Since 1993, Hino has had an environmental charter that pushes for continuous improvement of efficiency in transportation, construction, recycling and product.
“We believe the 300 Series electric prototype is a significant leap forward in that regard.”
Allison Transmission Holdings announced the new TC10 road tractor transmission is now offered in Navistar’s International ProStar and TranStar models using MaxxForce 13 engines with SCR. This is the first offering of the fully automatic Allison TC10.
Navistar began accepting orders on 15th October, 2013 and expects initial deliveries to occur in the first quarter of 2014.
“The Allison TC10 is an innovative and efficient option that demonstrates our commitment to International truck customers,” said Nadine Haupt, director of alternative fuels and heavy duty on highway product marketing, Navistar.
“Fleets that rely on the TranStar and ProStar models will find that spec’ing them with an Allison TC10 will further their fuel savings and operational goals.”
Allison claim test fleet users achieved an average 5% fuel economy improvement with the Allison TC10 road tractor transmission over their current manual and automated manual transmissions.
The TC10 is specifically designed for both city and highway road tractor duty cycles and provides a blended architecture with full power shifts, a torque converter and a twin countershaft gear box. It is fully automatic and offers smooth, seamless shifting through 10 ranges.
This optimizes acceleration and fuel economy, making the transmission especially ideal for distribution applications where a tractor-trailer splits its work cycle between city and highway conditions.
“We have a long history of successful initiatives with Navistar, and this launch of the TC10 into the prime mover market furthers that model,” said Jim Wanaselja, vice president of North America marketing, sales and service for Allison Transmission.
“The TC10’s cutting edge transmission technology, paired with Navistar’s offerings, will allow fleets the ability to save fuel while enjoying the performance, durability and reduced maintenance that the industry has come to expect from Allison Automatics.”
Rated up to 600 horsepower and 2,305 Nm of torque at launch, the TC10 is designed with 10 forward speeds and two reverse. It comes equipped with Allison’s newest generation of electronic controls which provide superior fuel economy features, prognostics to eliminate unnecessary oil and filter changes, and enhanced shift selector functionality. A five-year or 1.2 million warranty is also included.
As Australia’s hub for federal government activity and a visiting place for many influential people, Canberra is a city that must always be well presented. To assist in this task, arboricultural business, Priority Tree Care, has been keeping Canberra’s trees in top shape since the business was established in 1989.
Started from scratch by two friends who each invested $10,000 to get the business up and running, Priority Tree Care has progressed over the years through word-of-mouth and hard work.
One of those friends is Scott Wallace, who is still involved in the business today and says the early days were tough due to tight budgetary constraints.
“We first let people know about our business by delivering advertising pamphlets by pushbike between jobs. We also aimed at keeping our customers happy so that we would benefit from word of mouth endorsements,” Mr Wallace said.
“At the start it was just the two of us and a small truck, trailer and the basic climbing gear. There was a lot of hard work and long days, but after a few years the business developed into a successful little enterprise.”
Today Priority Tree Care employs six staff, four arborists and two groundsmen, who operate a range of trucks and equipment, including an Isuzu FRR 600 and Isuzu NPR 300 Tipper.
With the trucks and equipment yard based in Parkwood, Priority Tree Care operates within the Canberra area and provides arboricultural services to a range of customers including the Australian National Botanic Gardens, universities, embassies, real estate businesses and has a particular focus on residential customers.
“We ensure all of our arborists are professionally qualified and work as a team to the highest industry standards. We pride ourselves on the number of repeat customers that choose to use our services year after year and we continue to do the best job we can to keep them all happy,” Mr Wallace said.
Mr Wallace and his team offer a range of specialist services including the dismantling and removal of trees, directional pruning and deadwood removal, power line clearance, stump grinding, root pruning and barrier installation, supply and or transplanting of trees, audits and reports, consultancy and programmed maintenance.
“The new FRR 600 has a custom built mulching bin body and tows a wood chipper trailer. We have also had an Isuzu bullbar and some work cupboards fitted to store our tools, safety equipment and spill kits,” Mr Wallace said.
“The NPR 300 Tipper is used to tow the stump grinding machine. With its drop sides it makes loading the grindings and wood a lot easier.”
Mr Wallace said the Isuzu trucks are driven in the Canberra city and residential areas, as well as the occasional trip on dirt roads.
“The FRR 600 is a great truck. It offers us plenty of power. With a full mulch bin and the chipper on the back there is plenty of drag and resistance, but this truck offers us more power than our previous truck and goes up hills easily,” he said.
“One of our drivers loves this truck and doesn’t want to give up driving it. It’s very nice to drive with all of the mod cons.”
To provide an enjoyable ride, the Isuzu FRR 600 features a comfortable state-of-the-art Isri 6860 air suspension driver’s seat, cruise control, Hill Start Aid and an Anti-lock Braking System. With its six cylinder diesel engine rated at 176 kW power and 706 Nm torque, it easily handles heavy truck bodies and trailers.
Although Priority Tree Care doesn’t follow a selection process when in the market for a new truck, with the truck simply chosen to suit its application, Mr Wallace said the new Isuzu FRR 600 was selected due to the performance of the NPR 300 Tipper over the years.
“We purchased the NPR 300 Tipper in 2004 and have had no dramas with it. We decided to follow suit with the new truck and opt for another Isuzu. If we require an additional truck in the future, we would consider Isuzu again,” he said.
Located in Australia’s north-west, the Pilbara is often referred to Australia’s engine room – home to the massive mining industry in crude oil, salt, natural gas and iron ore.
Supporting the mining industry is Pilbara Concrete Service, a concrete and labour supplier which doesn’t shy away from the harsh and remote conditions not to mention the sweltering heat.
Pilbara Concrete Service is also one of the first companies to be using Isuzu’s new FYH 2000, with two having been added to its fleet some months ago in a bid to keep up with ongoing industry demand.
While airbag suspension is often specified for Agitator work in the form of Isuzu’s FYJ model, given the inhospitable conditions, Pilbara Concrete Services opted for the added strength of taper leaf springs.
The company supplies an extensive range of ready mixed concrete and contracts labour to various companies such as Rio Tinto and the Australian Air Services, as well as residential clients in the region.
Across its seven offices, the company employees 25 staff in the Pilbara region.
Established by the Hill Family Trust in 2010, Pilbara Concrete Service has relied on Isuzu from its inception.
Pilbara Concrete Service Manager, Marcel Stadoliukas, said that the company has been pleased with the performance of all their Isuzus.
“Our first Isuzu was a FVZ 1400 and we haven’t considered another truck brand since,” Marcel said.
“Isuzu makes great trucks – they are the perfect size and capacity for our day-to-day needs.
“We are proud to have an exclusively Isuzu fleet and currently have 11 in service.”
In addition to the two FYH 2000s, the company has various N and F Series models in their fleet ranging from a NPR 200 to a FXZ 1500.
Some of company’s services include support for mining infrastructure and residential construction.
The two new FYH 2000s are fitted with 8.4 m3 agitator bowls, built by Mixers Australia and are used to transport concrete to clients for their construction needs.
According to Marcel, the FYH 2000 is well suited for harsh conditions.
“We are quite happy that Isuzu released the FY Series,” Marcel said
“All we needed to do was fit some rock tyres onto the FYH 2000s and they are good to go.
“Our trucks drive in some of the most extreme environments and places where only four-wheel-drives would dare to venture.”
Marcel also praised the FYH 2000s’ power.
The truck’s SiTEC Series III 350 engine is rated at 257 kW @ 2,000 RPM and 1,422 Nm @ 1,200 – 1,500 RPM.
“We’ve had no problem with the trucks conquering steep and rocky hills with a full 12 tonne load,” Marcel said.
“The standard rear axle and cross difflocks have also proven themselves when we’ve needed extra traction.”
The two new trucks are fitted with a roll over protection structure (ROPS), a falling object protective structure (FOPS), and Hella Rallye 4000 driving lights for added visibility.
The FYH 2000 features the Isri 6860 driver’s seat with integrated seatbelt and coil spring cab suspension with hydraulic shock absorbers.
According to Marcel, the trucks’ comfort features make the harsh conditions of the Pilbara more bearable.
“Some of the roads out here can be pretty rough, the Isri seat and cabin with its appointments make the going easier,” Marcel said.
“The Allison 4430 automatic transmission, which also comes as a standard, makes handling the truck a lot easier and accessible for our drivers too.
“All round vision is excellent too, making reversing a breeze.”
As the company expands with the mining industry, it will continue to add Isuzu trucks to its fleet.
Hino Trucks Japan has ranked highest for customer satisfaction in a study by prestigious ratings agency J.D. Power Asia Pacific.
Hino ranked highest in a tie in the Light-Duty segment and outright highest in the Heavy-Duty truck segment of the 2012 Japan Light-Duty Truck Ownership Satisfaction Study.
Hino Australia President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Lotter commended Hino Japan on the results.
“This is truly a red-letter day for Hino Japan, and one that I’m proud to be associated with,” he said.
J.D. Power’s studies measure commercial fleet owners’ overall satisfaction with truck manufacturers and their respective dealerships.
Satisfaction is measured on a 1000-point scale and is determined by examining four key factors – service, sales, vehicle and cost.
Hino ranked highest for customer satisfaction in Heavy-Duty Commercial and Cargo trucks for the fourth year in a row.
Mr Lotter said that ranking highest in customer satisfaction for both light and heavy-duty segments in the J.D. Power study was a welcome addition to Hino’s awards for its 300, 500 and 700 Series trucks.
“To be ranked highest in customer satisfaction by a leading authority such as J.D. Power really is its own reward,” he said.
“Hino strives to make the very best trucks, using the most advanced manufacturing methods.
“We follow that up with an internationally renowned dealer and service network.
“Hino is built on the success of our customers – our trucks help our customers succeed and our customers help us to succeed.”
J.D. Power is a global marketing information services company providing performance improvement, social media and customer satisfaction insights and solutions.
The company’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually.
The design and performance of the new Stralis, released in Australia in May, have been enhanced by the inclusion of new safety, styling and drivetrain features. Certain models of the new Stralis incorporate some of the most advanced road safety technology. These are EBS with the Brake Assistant Function, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) which regulates engine power and braking during a skid and the Advanced Emergency Braking System, while Daytime Running Lights will also be an option.
The interior of the new Stralis has also been redesigned. Improved ergonomics and comfort are the product of close cooperation between Dealers and customers. The external restyling of the cab has focused on improving vehicle aerodynamics and therefore fuel efficiency. Among many new features, the cabin now has a central grille, redesigned “air deflectors” and a new bumper dam design.
Already renowned for its fuel efficiency and its ability to meet the demands of driver convenience and comfort, the latest Stralis is one of the most versatile trucks produced by IVECO. Offering maximum flexibility and versatility, and with a Gross Combination Mass (GCM) ranging from 36 to 90 tonnes, the Stralis has been designed to be used in a variety of applications including single trailer, prime mover, tanker, car transport and refrigerated transport.
The IVECO Cursor engine—fitted as standard to all Stralis trucks—delivers power, high torque values and remarkable fuel economy. The standard transmission for the range is the ZF EuroTronic II automated gearbox, which comes in a 12 or 16 speed configuration. Both options use electronically controlled clutch engagement to automatically select the appropriate gearshift according to load, road speed and road incline. The transmission delivers optimum performance, advanced drivability and superior fuel economy. The intelligent and adaptive controls allow the driver to focus on the road ahead.
The Stralis comes with three cab variations, Active Day (AD) for short haul metropolitan jobs; Active Time (AT) for medium to long haul jobs, and the flagship of the Stralis cab range, the Active Space Long (AS-L) designed for long haul jobs. All Stralis cab types include an ISRI 3-way adjustable air suspended seat and fully adjustable steering column. Safe and easy driver access is assured with the inclusion of wide opening doors, anti-skid steps and ergonomic grab handles. There are multiple storage compartments and the vehicle controls are within easy reach.
The Stralis is a truly international vehicle, and continues to be produced to the highest standards of manufacturing quality. The AD, AT and AS-L models are made at the IVECO Trucks Australia manufacturing facility in Dandenong, Victoria while the ATi range is manufactured in and fully imported from Madrid, Spain. All versions are now available in Australia through the IVECO Trucks Australia Dealer Network.
The latest Australian Stralis is part of an award winning range with the European Stralis being awarded ‘International Truck of the Year’ for 2013 at the Hanover Truck Show.
Slotted under the snout of its Super-Liner and Titan flagships, there was never any doubt that Mack’s 16 litre MP10 would strike a sharp chord with bulldog believers. With up to 685 horsepower, why wouldn’t it! But as STEVE BROOKS finds, even the non-believers are discovering a dog with some serious bite.
Brand loyalty is something that doesn’t rate particularly high with Mark Prendergast. Sure, it’s fine to stick with a certain brand while ever the product and the people behind it do the job expected of them, but the minute things change for whatever reason … well, the way he sees it, that’s the time to shop elsewhere, or at least have a look at what else is on offer.
As for those who stick religiously to a certain make of truck no matter what, and rarely give serious thought to an alternative even when problems start mounting up … well, the affable yet fiercely determined 49 year-old just smiles, shrugs, and simply suggests a shortage of sharp tools in the shed.
From the moment we start talking there came the stark realisation that a rural upbringing and road transport’s school of hard knocks have carved deep into the Prendergast persona. On the truck front, it started when he first climbed behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive ACCO tipper at 16 years of age. It wasn’t easy work, hand loading and hauling rocks from a paddock being prepared for spuds.
After that, “I drove for other people for a long while, mainly livestock and a lot of interstate, but the longer I did it the more I thought I’d like to run a truck of my own,” Mark reflects. “So in 1991 I bought a Benz, a 2638, to do livestock and fridge work. It wasn’t a bad truck and probably did a lot to set us up.
“By that I mean it didn’t send us broke,” he laughs.
Home has always been around Victoria’s Daylesford district, specifically a small farm near the village of Blampied, about an hour and a half north-west of Melbourne. With wife Gabrielle, a daughter and two sons, a farm, and a business that nowadays runs a dozen trucks on livestock and grain, a candid Mark Prendergast concedes he has plenty to keep his days occupied.
On the home front, Gabrielle looks after the administrative side of the family business but it’s an adamant husband who adds with a broad grin, “She likes to stay well under the radar.” But as the conversation continued it became increasingly apparent that while Mark is happy to talk about trucks he, too, is happy to fly under radar when it comes to divulging business detail. And fair enough! It is, after all, a competitive world and as he puts it, “The less people know about the details of your business, the better!
By his own admission, the road has at times been rocky but with no shortage of perseverance and a desire to set his own course rather than follow the paths of others, refrigerated loads diminished as four-legged freight steadily grew to dominance. First it was typically sheep and cattle but with a sharp eye for opportunity, pigs emerged as the core of the Prendergast business.
Easily stressed and far more vulnerable to climatic conditions than cattle or sheep, Mark confirms that pig breeders and buyers demand particularly high standards of care during transport to ensure animal welfare and accordingly, meat quality. Consequently, trailers purposefully modified for pig transport (specifically Dickinson trailers from Wagga, NSW, and G&C Engineering from Kyneton in Victoria) coupled with strict adherence to cleanliness and maintenance standards are paramount in keeping customers satisfied.
“Hauling pigs comes with its own issues. It’s different in heaps of ways to hauling cattle or sheep. There’s a lot more in the detail, and I’m not just talking about the smell,” he says seriously. “Someone who might be good at handling cattle and sheep may not be cut out to handle pigs.
“They’re quite an intelligent animal and you have to be tolerant. It definitely helps if drivers aren’t short on commonsense and calmness.
“It’s probably not for everyone and I certainly didn’t set out with a vision to specialise in pigs, but I could see the potential and we’ve worked hard to make it work but like most things in transport, it’s a job that still comes under competitive pressure.”
As for the grain haulage side of the business, Mark confirms that while volumes have increased in recent years, it’s definitely the porkers that bring home the bacon. Literally!
Again though, it’s quickly apparent that brand loyalty hasn’t been a driving factor in the evolution of the company trading as Prendergast Livestock. Of the 10 prime movers currently in the operation, it’s a wide mix of makes and models: Western Star, Kenworth, International Eagle, Mack and MAN. All have a stake in the business and given the spread of brands, it comes as something of a surprise to find MAN the leading supplier. Yet typically perhaps, there are several MAN models rather than just one standard.
It’s obvious he holds the German brand in high stead, not least for fuel efficiency and the attraction of 60,000 km service intervals. But if MAN is so appealing, why not run the brand across the whole fleet?
“It’s good for a lot of our work but not all of it,” Mark answers. “Like, they don’t have enough fuel capacity for the heavy-duty end of what we do and I wonder if the cooling capacity would be up to the job over the longer term. They’re fine for single trailer work but for livestock B-doubles particularly, I think it’d be asking a bit much.”
Consequently, American muscle has long figured foremost in the Prendergast mind when it comes to hauling heavy loads such as three decks of pigs in a B-double combination. In fact, in a business which over its 20-plus years of operation has used numerous makes and models with no professed passion or preference for one brand in particular, Mark is surprisingly quick to cite Iveco’s former Powerstar 7700 model as the best of all, so far.
“We had a couple of 2002 models, one with a Cat C15 and the other a Cummins Signature,” he recalls. “Seriously, they were two of the best trucks we’ve ever run but when they stopped offering the model, I couldn’t get excited about the Cursor engine so we went looking at other brands.”
There’s a dog in the house
Prendergast trucks are almost always bought new and generally kept for about five years. By then they’ve notched between 750,000 and 800,000 kilometres and are either traded on a replacement or sold as a going concern with a job.
Mark concedes, however, that the latest addition to the business was a little outside the square of his normal buying practice. For starters, it was a demonstrator unit with 40,000 km on the clock, an addition to the business rather than a replacement, and came with a specification considerably heavier than he’d usually choose even for B-double livestock work. It was also the first Mack he’d ever bought.
“I’ve never been a Mack man,” he says succinctly. However, a visit to the Brisbane factory where Volvo and Mack are built and what he described as “a highly professional approach” by the CMV Mack dealership in Laverton (Vic) were more than enough to light the fires of interest in a highly specified Super-Liner demonstrator.
Under the dog’s nose was a 685 hp MP10 engine coupled to the seamlessly slick mDrive 12-speed automated transmission feeding to a drivetrain configured for gross weights up to 131 tonnes.
Taking delivery mid-way through 2012, he concedes it’s a big spec but equally admits the attractions were many: a 52 inch high-rise sleeper, the power and torque – peak torque of the 685 engine is a barnstorming 3150 Nm (2300 lb ft) – to make easy work of any B-double loads and subsequently deliver on reports of respectable fuel economy, and the likelihood of a high resale value five years down the track. “And for the work we’re doing, there’s a lot of durability built into a truck like this,” he quickly adds.
Critically, he also had a particular job and driver in mind to take the leash.
Still, Mark wasn’t blind to the fact that the 16 litre MP10 is also available at a 600 hp rating dispensing a formidable 2800 Nm (2085 lb ft) of torque. Asked if he would’ve preferred the engine at the 600 setting, he replied thoughtfully, “I wouldn’t have been turned off the truck if it was at 600 horsepower but I certainly wasn’t turned off by 685 either.
“I suppose you could say it’s an indulgence at 685 but hey, there’s nothing wrong with big horsepower and torque if they’re used properly.”
While the 685 is only available with Mack’s mDrive automated shifter, the 600 setting is offered with the automated gearbox or the choice of a Mack or Eaton 18-speed manual transmission. It is, however, a definite Mark Prendergast who insists the mDrive would’ve been his choice in either case.
“Automated boxes are definitely the go these days, especially when the engine and gearbox come from the same family,” he remarks.
However, as the conversation unfolded it became apparent the Prendergast Super-Liner wasn’t new to me or this magazine. It was, in fact, one of two 685 hp MP10 demonstrator units that featured in DIESEL’s first issue of 2012. On that occasion the Super-Liner was coupled to a set of roadtrain double tippers alongside a Titan hauling a curtain-sided triple combination, the outfits grossing around 80 and 110 tonnes respectively.
We were actually first to drive the MP10 in roadtrain configuration and both combinations made ridiculously easy work of the exercise. As we reported after driving each truck on return runs between Port Augusta and Roxby Downs in South Australia: ‘… the 685 made a mockery of both road and load.
‘But it’s not just the way this engine performs, it’s the way the performance is delivered. Sure, there will be those who will rue the absence of a manual shifter behind the 685 and perhaps the only disappointment of the whole exercise was that the Super-Liner double combination wasn’t powered by the 600 rating with an 18-speed stick shift. It certainly would’ve made an interesting comparison.
‘However, the compatibility of engine and automated transmission in both configurations was truly exemplary. Here’s an engine, for example, which at the 685 setting produces peak power from 1550 to 1800 rpm, married to a transmission programmed to let the engine pull down deep into the rev range before downshifting, while at the other end of the scale, upshifting surprisingly early to maximise the engine’s phenomenal pulling power. Nor, of course, will these traits do anything to harm fuel efficiency.
‘Simply put, Mack has nailed it.’
A year later with close to 180,000 km on the clock, a normally taciturn Mark Prendergast admits to being impressed with the big bore Super-Liner. Citing average fuel economy of 1.5 km/litre (4.24 mpg) since joining the business, he admits to being “reasonably happy” with the fuel figure before confirming it’s actually comparable with his two best B-double trucks on fuel, an International Eagle and Kenworth T904 each with a 550 hp Cat.
“Yeah, I’m happy I bought it,” he says laconically. Yet perhaps his greatest endorsement comes from the admission that he’s now considering either a similarly specified Super-Liner or a Volvo FH16 600 as his next new truck purchase. As he well knows, they may be different brands but the engines and transmissions are bred from the same stock.
Still, is there anything he’d change on a new Super-Liner? “The AdBlue tank,” he says in reference to the MP10’s SCR emissions system. “I’d go for a 200 litre tank instead of the 150 litre. I reckon that’d give us about a week between AdBlue top-ups.”
Anything else? Quiet for a few moments, he says simply, “Not really. We’ve had a few issues but overall there hasn’t been much at all. And when there has been, CMV has been really quick to respond.
“Actually, when I think about it, CMV has been a pleasure to deal with. Their response to issues has been spot on. If it wasn’t, you can bet I wouldn’t be here.”
Yet when it comes to the truck’s day-to-day performance details, Mark Prendergast willingly flicks the ball to the Super-Liner’s driver Alex McRae. “He’s the one you need to talk to about how the truck performs, not me. In some ways it’s more his truck than mine.
“He’s the one driving it and looking after it. All I do is pay for it,” he says with a broad grin.
Thoughtful and quietly spoken, Alex McRae immediately fits Mark’s description of a driver with the right levels of commonsense and calmness. Likewise though, the 37 year old McRae willingly describes his two years with Prendergast Livestock as “probably the best job I’ve ever had.”
And from the outside looking in, it appears the satisfaction of both employer and employee stem entirely from mutual trust: The employer trusting his driver to do the right thing by treating animals and equipment with due standards of respect, and the employee trusting the boss to respect his abilities, experience and opinions.
As Mark explains, the nature of the business sees a number of drivers running their truck from their own home base rather than the Prendergast property at Blampied. In Alex’s case, home is Young in central NSW which puts him within reasonable distance of piggeries scattered throughout the state’s central-west.
Married with three kids, he too comes from a rural background and has been hauling livestock for 20 years or so, starting on large stations in the Northern Territory. As for hauling pigs, “On and off for 10 or 12 years,” he says casually. “They’re certainly a unique animal and easily stressed, physically and emotionally, and the number one priority is to make sure they arrive on time and in top condition.”
Riding shotgun for a few hours as he steered the Mack toward an abattoir on Melbourne’s western outskirts, Alex needed little encouragement to extol the Super-Liner’s abilities. With the tacho needle hovering just under 1600 rpm as the truck strode effortlessly along the Hume at 100 km/h, he’s had experience with a few Mack models in the past but easily concedes to being new to a truck of this calibre.
“I’ve been in it since Mark took delivery last year and you wouldn’t get me out of it now,” he said emphatically. Ride, handling and vision all rate highly in Alex’s estimation but it’s the truck’s manoeuvrability which has been particularly surprising. “It’s a big truck, for sure, but the turning circle is really good and it’s just so easy to put the truck where you want,” he exclaimed, later proving the point as he reversed onto a loading ramp in the tight confines of a suburban abattoir.
“And for a truck that pulls so hard, it’s incredibly quiet,” he said as the big dog dropped just one gear on the long drag over Wallan Hill approaching Melbourne.
Yet just as it was late in 2011 during our first stint behind the wheel of this same truck, it’s the complete compatibility of the 685 hp MP10 engine and the 12-speed mDrive transmission that truly impress. As Alex McRae explained, “I’ve always driven manuals and it took a little while to get used to the auto box but I wouldn’t go back to a manual. Not now! The whole thing’s just so smooth and strong. I reckon it’s brilliant.”
So are there any negatives at all?
“There have been a couple of issues but nothing too major,” he replied, noting a pyrometer sensor, an alternator, and a rubbed wire on an injector sensor as the only maladies to date.
Similar to his boss though, Alex describes the standard of service and support from CMV at Laverton as “exceptionally good,” but reserves his highest praise for mechanics he knows only as Paul and Christian. “They’re really switched on and know this truck inside out. I reckon you’d go a long way to find better people to work on your truck.”
“No. This truck will do me for awhile, for sure.”
Finally, quiet conversations with a couple of senior Mack managers at the recent Brisbane Truck Show suggest the Prendergast experience with the MP10 Super-Liner is far from an isolated example.
According to several sources, since the introduction of the MP10 and mDrive combination in 2012, Super-Liner has gone from being a relatively small player in Mack’s overall sales volumes to a bullet performer.
The way Mack sees it, Super-Liner is back … big time!