Driving the latest Scania models on a trek across country Queensland gives us a picture of the future of trucking, from the driver’s point of view. Diesel News leaves most of the decision-making to the truck’s computer and gets a result.
As a trucking operator, you are entrusting a truck, trailer and freight worth over half a million dollars to a driver who has little real qualifications, beyond, hopefully, a good driving record. The majority of truck drivers will do a good job and get the task completed in good time. But, what if there was a way of guaranteeing the driver would make safe driving decisions at all times, while minimising fuel burn? You’d have some of that.
Traditionally, the best way to get the best out of a truck was to hire a ‘good operator’ who was ‘easy on the gear’. Usually, this was ascertained by trial and error and some of those errors could be costly.
Recent years have seen sophisticated electronics increase exponentially in the modern prime mover. The truck’s systems are monitoring everything and helping with the decision-making process aiding the driver in getting the best out of a truck.
To begin with it was the automated manual transmission (AMT), in this a computer took control of the gearbox. It opened and closed the clutch, physically shifted ratios and blipped the throttle to get the gear in place. Some of the original attempts at this were pretty basic and clunky, needing lots of driver input. Some were quite effective, but still had a long way to go to replicate a skilled driver.
We are now several generations of AMT down the track from those early models. Most brands in Australia can offer some form of smart transmission in a heavy truck, which will make good gear changing decisions and engage them swiftly and cleanly. The latest iteration tested here, in the new Scania prime movers is probably one of, if not, the best at getting it right.
This test drive is not a short circuit around the block to see how the truck feels, this is a full two-day run, which any truck could do as part of a week’s work. Heading out of Cairns, the route took the truck down the Bruce Highway to Townsville, before cutting inland, up and over Mingela, through Charters Towers to Clermont for the night. From there a tour through the towns of country Queensland took in Roma, Charleville and, finally, Cunnamulla.
For most of the journey the truck was coupled up as a B-double, with the final leg from Charleville as a B-triple. This route replicates the kind of work many B-doubles will be handling, with a mixture of good high-speed highway along with some pretty ordinary highway where the surface can be rough and the road surface narrow.
The test drive included two trucks, the 620hp fitted with a V8 engine and a 500hp running the 13-litre in-line six engine. These are both prime movers which are likely to pull B-doubles. The 620 can expect to work this hard day-in-day-out, but the 500 is more likely to pull a variety of combinations, including a B double.
The 620 is the R Series model with a larger cabin set higher above the engine, a genuine highway running truck. The 500 is fitted with the, G Series cab, this is set a little lower and smaller, ideal for intrastate work. Both trucks have engines which use the Scania XPI extra high-pressure injection system and Scania SCR system. However, the 500 also uses a DPF. The 620hp truck uses 3.07:1 ratio, tall enough to get a good fuel economy result. The 500 is fitted with a 3.42:1 ratio enabling the smaller engine to handle high masses without compromising startability.