Since when has comfort for the truckie become a priority? One of the changes which still rankles for me is the way the fixtures and fittings in trucks became so much better just after I had ended my full-time truck driving career, nearly twenty years ago. After a long career dealing with cramped cabins, unsuspended seats and under-powered engines, it seems that the contemporary driver gets all of the latest creature comforts.
Of course, this is not necessarily the case and many drivers are driving something twenty years old, or older. However, a lot of the latest line-haul trucks are well appointed and comfortable places to live. They have to be if the drivers are expected to live in them week in, week out.
Expectations have changed and so has technology. The fridges of old were clunky, unreliable and liable to flatten the battery. Cooking could be achieved with a camping gas stove and, if you could get a signal, the crackly radio was your entertainment system.
The truck on test by Diesel would be at once familiar, and also completely unfamiliar, to the traditional truckie of yore. The base truck underneath is little changed and the outside of the truck retains traditional, but the inside of the cabin is a bit of a revelation to the unsuspecting truckie climbing in.
There are a couple of hints this is a special truck. The LED road light array attached to the bull bars is clearly different. In fact, in the centre of the top road light there is a gap, just large enough to fit a GoPro camera to act as a dash cam and provide a picture of the area in front of the bull bars, visible to the driver on a small screen to help them be aware of anyone or anything out of sight in front of the bonnet.
This is not the only camera on the outside. There is also one mounted next to the nearside air cleaner, with a good view of the prime mover’s blind spot. Again, this image can be seen on the LCD screen inside the cabin.
This truck is the Western Star Road Star, built to celebrate 50 years of Western Star Trucks since the company was started as a division of the White Motor Company, back in 1967. The truck is designed as a limited edition, intended to show the traditional virtues of the big Star 4900, but with the addition of state-of-the-art truck interior including all of the latest gadgets, gizmos and home comforts.
This truck has been touring Australia, and Diesel News got a chance to move it from Adelaide to Melbourne, pulling a fully loaded trailer. This was a test drive for the 4900, but it was also a test drive of those little luxuries a truckie dreams of having in their truck.
However, as a test drive we do have to talk about the truck itself and how it drives. This specification is the one chosen by many as the prime mover to do most jobs, but not pulling a 36-pallet B-double set.
This is the Western Star 4964 FXT, with power coming from a Detroit, the DD15, rated at 560hp (412kW) at 1,800rpm and putting out 2,500Nm (1,850 ft lb) of torque at 1,200rpm. The front and rear axles are Meritor with 46 160 GP Rs at the back, running with a rear axle ratio of 4.3:1. The wheelbase is 5,800mm with a 1,475mm overhang at the rear.
Veering away from the traditional spec, but becoming more accepted year on year is the Ultrashift Plus transmission. Controlled by a simple push-button control on the dash, this leaves plenty of room between the seats to wander around a spectacular cabin interior and enjoy the comfort and space.