A good truck-selling organisation should be about communication, communication, communication up and down the line, with plenty of feedback reaching the right ears. In the case of the new Fighter FK 1124 is one of those models that borrows some elements from the next size up and some from the next size below, it was the product development team who got the message about this emerging gap in the range.
This is where the process gets tricky and the engineering team need to be on their mettle. The sales team can put together a wish list, the engineers can ascertain whether the parts catalogue contains all of the components required to do the job, but does it all fit together? Then, if it does all fit together, is it compatible with every other element of the truck?
This is the fine art of product development. There will be plenty of time on a computer screen ensuring the dimensions work in the available space. The control systems need to be able to work together in the new configurations. There will also be a bit of experimentation, taking a component from one truck and trying it on another just to make sure the computer design got it right.
Then, in the case of Fuso, there is the negotiation with the company’s headquarters and manufacturing set-up in Japan. These are the guardians of the brand, and the models. They need to be convinced the new design is needed in Australia, and then to be sure it will work properly and be as durable as the existing models.
Get the sign off and then its simply a matter of building the truck in the factory and hoping it arrives as designed in Australia. Then, all of the specification sheets have to be developed and the sales teams need to be brought up to speed with the new model.
How long this process takes can be anyone’s guess. Some models introduce complications that can take many years to overcome; others can be sorted in a matter of months. This particular model took two years from idea to finished truck, a typical timeframe for this kind of change.
The development of this model gave Fuso the chance to update the basic truck to align it with future product coming down the pike in the future. The electronics uses the common platform that will be included in all future Daimler trucks. The front axle is also a fully Fuso product, something which will come in across the range.
Testing the Product
The result of this vital development process is the Fuso Fighter 1124 Diesel News took out for a test drive. Configured as a flat top and loaded with a couple of pallets of bags and two IBCs full of water, this model was carrying the equivalent of a typical load.
These trucks will be found hauling odds and ends, palletised goods, steel, machinery – literally anything which will fit on – around metropolitan and country areas. Often, these trucks will be either owned by or contracted to the business that produces or sells the product being shifted. The basic layout is extremely adaptable.
The low cabin makes climbing in and out easy. The seat is comfortable, and the driver can easily fire up the 7.5-litre engine. Put the transmission in ‘Drive’, release the park brake and hit the go pedal, nothing to it. This is how a run-around truck like this needs to drive, nice and simple with enough power and torque to do the job, even when fully loaded.
The engine generates 240hp (177kW) of power at 2,500rpm and puts out 745Nm (550 ft lb) of torque at 1,400rpm. This would be more than adequate for a truck this size and mass, but add in the fact there is an Allison transmission involved, with its torque converter pepping up performance, and you get a nippy 11-tonne truck out on the road.
This combination means you have something that will take off well from traffic lights, even when loaded. The limited exhaust braking available from this engine is enhanced by the auto down-shifting aggressively when required. The higher rpm levels reached when the transmission drops a gear or two turns the exhaust brake into something other than just being a way of getting a different exhaust note.
The visibility is also effective. The cabin is set quite low and does have a large front windscreen. The addition of the transom window lower down in the passenger door does bring any small car coming up on the nearside into view. This type of window is a common sight on trucks in Japan, from all brands, but only Fuso has brought it into Australia.
Rearview mirrors either side are set well back off the A pillar, leaving a space big enough to spot traffic coming in from either side. If this is not set just right, it is so easy to lose a car coming in from the left on some trucks.
Steering has a positive feel and the turning circle is, as you would expect from Fuso, nice and tight. The claimed turning circle is claimed to be 18.2m, kerb to kerb – not bad at all. This kind of manoeuvrability is vital for a truck that is going to be picking up and dropping off at myriad difficult-to-access points.
As is common in all Japanese brands, the cruise control ‘on’ switch is hidden from obvious view. In this case, the switch is just in front of the driver’s left knee. The cruise control is simple and unfussy; get the truck up to the speed required and set it by flicking a switch on the steering wheel stalk. Dab the brake to disengage, simple.
Ergonomically, it is becoming less and less necessary to put the Allison transmission control as a lump on the engine cover near the driver’s left hand. There is little need to interfere with ratio changes in the modern truck. The sensors and electronics associated with a modern auto mean the transmission itself will make adjustments before the driver senses the need to make them.
This demotes the control to not much more than an on/off button and a forward/reverse button. A few buttons on the dash could easily fulfill these tasks and this would free up space and cross-cab access in what is a relatively small cabin.
It is hard to understand why the transmission switching needs to be done by something that replicates, in size and position, a mechanical gear lever, which has to be in this position to actually work effectively.
Is it because drivers would spend their time waving their hand where the gearstick should be, when looking to change gear? Is it an innate conservatism on the part of the designers, or is it a more cost-effective solution?