There’s nothing like a long-distance interstate trip for ferreting out foibles in a prime mover. Yet after a return run from Brisbane to Melbourne, Paul Matthei found very little to fault in the latest Mercedes-Benz 2658.
It never ceases to amaze me how the never-ending technological procession infiltrating every aspect of truck design is increasingly making the driver’s job that much easier and safer, particularly on the long hauls such as my recent stint between the two furthermost mainland eastern state capitals.
Indeed, such is the level of refinement and sophistication in the latest prime movers, as epitomised by the vehicle in this test, it almost feels like the driver could be going to work in a suit and tie, climbing the four steps into their very own ‘mobile office.’
Okay, that might be a tad fanciful given the considerable cultural divide between blue and white collar workers but in all seriousness the overall packaging of this and other prime movers of its ilk has created a situation where, in this tester’s opinion, the operator can do the once arduous job of piloting a heavy combination vehicle over a 3500 km round trip in a far less fatiguing environment.
Indeed, it’s interesting to consider the number of factors that accelerate fatigue over and above the actual task at hand. For a start, there are the obvious ones like noise, vibration and harshness. But there is also one that could be considered a touch obscure, visibility.
The truth is, having a panoramic view of the road ahead makes a big difference to fatigue levels because it means, particularly in heavy traffic, you’re not constantly straining to keep abreast of the road and traffic conditions. Critically, this also includes side and rear view which not only means the mirrors themselves, but the gap between the mirrors and the A-pillars. This is essential for spotting cars coming from the left or right as you approach a roundabout.
This was an area of weakness in the previous Actros models as there was insufficient gap which created a massive blind spot across the mirrors and A-pillars. Gratefully, Mercedes-Benz engineers have rectified this situation with the new model, which has elevated the forward vision to being among the best in the business.
Of course, there are other factors at play in the fatigue scenario and perhaps the most critical of these is the modus operandi of the company that owns and operates the vehicle. For example, it’s all very fine to have the safest, most comfortable truck in the world, but if an Operations Manager demands that drivers keep unrealistic delivery deadlines then all the safety benefits of the truck might as well go out the window.
For this reason, it was refreshing to engage with a company like Custom Freight which operates the truck used for this test as well as two identical ‘sister ships’ hauling B-double curtain-siders loaded with stainless-steel products from Yatala, just south of Brisbane, to Sydney, Albury and Dandenong.
“Just take your time,” was the cheerful advice from the company’s operations manager, Jory Dunshea, as I prepared to leave for the trip.
“Yes mate, I’ll be going by the book (National Driver’s Work Diary),” I replied.
“Good, that’s exactly what we want you to do.”
Wow! That’s not what you might normally expect to hear from the OM of an interstate haulage outfit.
At 27 years of age, to my mind Jory Dunshea portrays the fresh face of a modern road transport industry that is crying out to be regarded as professional, efficient and safe. As well as one that expects its drivers to step up to the plate and play their part in striving to achieve these desirable goals.
This recent interstate trip showed that if everyone does the right thing, combined with the use of modern, safe and reliable equipment, this occupation – that is often considered difficult and dangerous – can actually be a safe, enjoyable and rewarding career. We just need to get everyone singing from the same song-sheet.