When Diesel Magazine reached a century, Diesel News thought it would have a look back at the first edition of the magazine to get a picture of how far we have come since March 2001.
In the busy rush of our day-to-day lives, we get little chance to actually take the time to look at things from a different perspective. Sometimes we can gain new insights into our current woes by looking at the world through the prism of another time and another place.
100 issues ago, when the first issue of Diesel hit the streets, the trucking was definitely in another time and another place. What do the things which concerned Diesel’s founding editor, Steve Brooks, at the time show us about the trucking industry today?
In his introduction to the magazine, Steve talked about how lucky Australia’s trucking industry was to have a backbone formed by the drivers and owner-drivers who actually got the trucks from A to B, ensured the loads were secure, compensated for the low-quality vehicle drivers around them and provided the public face of our industry.
The sentiment wouldn’t go far astray in a current issue of the magazine. The driver population is one of the mainstays of the industry and a resource that needs to be well maintained and renewed. Back in 2001, the industry may have talked about a shortage of good drivers, but now we are looking at a shortage of drivers, full stop.
On the opposite page is a reminder of how things have changed, a full-page advert for Sterling Trucks. At the time the brand was new, created by Daimler from the Ford truck organisation it had recently purchased. Unfortunately, the company’s stewardship of the brand did not work out and now the long history and tradition of Ford as a truck maker is just that, history.
Daimler also appeared in the first news story in the magazine, with the launch by Mercedes-Benz of the Atego medium-duty range. Needless to say, these models have not made any major impact on the trucking market, yet.
Another news piece tells us about Volvo’s acquisition of the Mack and Renault truck brands. This was the first move in a long integration period with many ups and downs, but one that Volvo Group Australia, as it is now called, has now emerged from, as a viable and growing part of the truck market.
In the wake of Volvo’s takeover of Mack, Steve Brooks had interviewed Mack boss, Gordon Helliwell, about the changes. At this point, the picture was far from clear and Steve speculated about the possibility of the move ending the same way Volvo’s takeover of White Trucks had played out, with the brand disappearing. His fears were unfounded and the Mack brand remains as strong as ever.
A familiar face also appears in the news. One Phil Taylor was announced as the new National Truck Sales Manager at Isuzu Trucks. All these years later and Phil’s titles may have changed, he’s now a Director and Chief Operating Officer, but he is heading towards steering the Isuzu brand to 30 years as number one in the Australian truck market.
One of the first feature stories was about the new Scania 16-litre V8 engine, rated at 580hp, powering a road train in Western Australia. One of the talking points was the use of an innovative technology, the Opticruise AMT fitted to the truck. This year, most new trucks introduced to the market will have an AMT option, and for many, this will be standard.
This drive is followed by the other story highlighted on the front cover, an interview with industry icon Lindsay Fox. One of the main topics of the conversation? Toll’s recent takeover of Finemore’s Transport, a game-changing event at the time.
Eurobureau was then, as it is now, sent from the UK by Brian Weatherley. A new DAF LF had been launched, as had the Cursor 13 engine from Iveco. UK truck maker, ERF, was planning to break into the Australian truck market, apparently one of those ideas which floated, and then promptly sunk, never to reappear.
Meanwhile, Steve Sturgess, on the other side of the Atlantic, was keeping us up to date with the State of the Union. He wrote about the launch of the Freightliner Coronado in the US market. This was not the Coronado we know today in the Australian market, but its precursor, a new design built on the basics of the Century Class, but aimed at the owner-driver market with plenty of bling and living space.
Another article looked at the Kenworth ‘Truck of the Future’, a T604 tricked up as a concept vehicle with an array of innovative gadgetry. The truck included multiplexed wiring, a feature that arrived with the new T610. Instruments were all virtual, displayed on a series of screens; the T610 has one such virtual display.
In-cab tyre pressure monitors, GPS tracking, fingerprint recognition, lane-keeping alarm and forward-looking radar were cutting edge at the time and all have made their way onto the options lists for most heavy trucks. The truck also used a night-vision system, an innovation whose time is yet to come.