There is a particular type of truck which is ideal for the the kind of transport task which is undertaken in rural areas, a rural trucking workhorse. You need a reliable, long wheelbase 6×4 rigid with enough power to pull a fully loaded truck and trailer, as well as the something which is easy to use and can cope with anything thrown at it.
The Japanese truck makers are past masters at building a rugged and simple to use truck which is highly adaptable. This is not because there is some part of the Japanese domestic market with demands the kind of truck which is ideal in Australian farming areas, it’s because the Japanese truck makers know how to build a solid platform which is simple to use.
The truck tested here out on the road took a Hino 700 FS around some of the drought hit parts of Queensland. This is the kind of truck that those working with the farming community in rural areas is looking for. This is the successor to the trucks which dominated rural transport in the past, the International, AEC, Bedford, Leyland and all of the other post-war trucks now commonly seen in the countless vintage truck events around the nation.
The key is not a lack of sophistication, but a lack of sophistication in the right places. Rural operators, like any other responsible operator, want a safe truck with the latest in steering and braking technology as well as a drive train which can handle some hard work without too much fuss.
The structure of the vehicle, its chassis, engine and cab also have to put up with some rough treatment when needed. Don’t shout it too loud from the rooftops, but trucks hauling freight from farm to farm will often travel on some pretty rough roads and may be loaded above the GVM posted on the compliance plate.
It is in this area of expertise that the Japanese brands specialise and the Hino 700 has found a home in quite a few farming industry associated tasks. Working in this segment is not a high mileage task, but it is tough on the trucks. They are rarely turned over after just a few years on the job, they are expected to put in good service over many years, and are only replaced when thoroughly worn out.
The overall impression from this Hino 700 is one of solidity, this really is a rural trucking workhorse. This means the truck has been built to be able to cope with the conditions, not that it feels solid on the road. There is a robustness to the design which means the driver feels confident the truck will keep in a straight line at speed, despite the undulations, potholes and crumbling edges in the road.
This feeling of security is helped by well adjusted cab suspension and a comfortable driver’s seat. This is also quite a large day cab with plenty of room to store what the driver may need. It is also mounted relatively high, which, in these rural situations is quite useful. Drivers aren’t worried about activity close to the the cab, but need good visibility into the distance.
For someone operating in a rural environment, this truck has been well set up. Loaded with bales of hay or straw, the truck is capable of pulling a sizeable trailer to maximise efficiency. Add in some ramps and the truck is more than capable of shifting machinery around from place to place. A livestock body could be added if needed and, of course, it is a flat bed and can handle bagged or palletised supplies.
It is not too sophisticated, just sophisticated enough. This is a modern truck able to cope with the hammer of rural life, while carrying a substantial load, at the same time as delivering a comfortable ride, easy driving experience and modern safety features.
The test truck driven for this article was also fitted with a reversing camera mounted on the rear of the body. This may be fine in this initial phase of the truck’s life, but if this truck ends up working in the kinds of rural trucking tasks it has been built for, the camera may not survive the rough and tumble of farm deliveries and collections.
The way the truck has been set-up it is possible to drive the truck in the traditional manner, brake into corners, perhaps grab a gear as well and then power out of the bend, resuming top gear. However, it is also possible to drive it using the more modern systems. Use the stalk to activate some retardation into the corner, until a safe speed is reached, before resuming cruise control on the exit and letting the transmission decide on the best gear to be in.
Compared to some of its competitors, this truck is a relatively simple, good, solid , basic truck. As a rural trucking workhorse it ticks all of the boxes without going over the top in terms of the kind of electronic control systems which can be available. It should also be possible to fix quite a few problems, which may arise on this truck by the side of the road, without a diagnostic laptop on hand, most of the time.