The Four Letter F-word

the four letter F-word

The trucking industry is becoming concerned about the four letter F-word, and that word is, of course, fuel. In the Apple Isle Diesel News meets another convert to the search for better fuel economy.

It’s about 4pm on a grey and drizzly afternoon on the outskirts of Hobart as a neat looking Scania R730 towing a B-double skel with three 20 footers aboard draws up at the rest area.

Out hops Dave McCullagh, looking fresh as a daisy despite the fact he’s already done a full day’s work and still has a few more hours journey to get to his home on the northern coast. Dave has been an owner operator for the past four and a half years and the R730 is his first Euro truck, having previously owned a Western Star and before that an International Eagle. 

As we converse it soon becomes clear that Dave has chosen the big Scania for a couple of very sound reasons. Asked about his main motivation to go Euro he has no hesitation in responding with the four-letter f word, fuel.

“So, you’re a European convert,” I venture. 

“Yep, never ever thought I’d say that,” he agrees with a grin. “I was always a Kenworth/ Western Star man.”

“What drove you over the edge?”

“The fuel economy figures,” he says simply. “For a single truck operator the profit margin is pretty slim and fuel is basically 50 percent of the running costs, so to make extra money on the job we had to look at what we could do to improve our bottom line. Better fuel economy was the thing that kept jumping out at us so we investigated the European gear and from what we could see Scania, in particular, came out on top.” 

As for the fuel consumption of the Scania pulling a B-double grossing about 55 tonnes between Launceston and Hobart, Dave says it’s consistently returning bang on 2 km/l (5.65mpg). Given the truck is 9 months old with just 110,000 km on the clock that figure is likely to improve as the mileage accrues.


the four letter F-word


Comfort King

Coming a very close second behind fuel efficiency in Dave’s reasons for buying the Scania is ride comfort. Having sustained a back injury in his late teens, he even goes as far as saying that the Scania’s supple ride has actually improved his quality of life and enabled him to keep driving trucks for a living.

“When I first left school I joined the Army and ended up fracturing a vertebrae in my spine so the jobs I could go for were very limited,” says Dave. “I ended up taking a driving job when I was 20 because it was all I could really do with a bad back. The first truck I drove was an International S-Line which was a terribly rough riding truck. But I had to do something to earn a crust so I persevered with the driving. After that I drove for the milk producer Fonterra for a while in a Volvo which was a far better riding truck than the S-Line.

“After that I came to work for a contractor for the company I now work for which opened the door for me to start my own business.” 


the four letter F-word


However, deciding to first buy a second hand International Eagle followed by a brand new Western Star didn’t do Dave’s back any favours.

“I owned the Western Star for nearly three years and put about 650,000 km on it in that time,” says Dave. “It was a good truck but the ride was rough compared to the Scania, a lot of the American trucks are. And with my bad back it was really starting to give me grief, so I was beginning to think I’d have to get out of the trucks and wondering what else I could do.

“In the end it came down to jumping into one of these Scanias and realising the ride is far superior to the trucks I’d previously owned. In fact, two days after I started driving this truck my back pain disappeared and I haven’t had a problem with it while driving since.

“It still gets me a bit doing things like mowing the lawn but on a daily basis doing what I’m doing I don’t have an issue.”


the four letter F-word