Truck Assist | Small Business Corner
You may not have the capital, networks or know-how to pull together all of the professional resources and advice you need from day one, so we’re here to help you with a couple of handy weblinks and apps that may point you in the right direction while you find your way.
If you’re interested in stories and learning from other small business owners, or bits of advice from those in the know, here are a few websites and blogs that may be of interest to you:
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Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
There was a time not so many years ago when the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) was a world-class event, showcasing all that was hot and happening in the North American truck business.
Just as you’d head to Hannover in Germany to see the latest trends and technology in Europe, or to the Tokyo Motor Show to see Japan’s best and brightest, historically you’d head to Mid-America in Louisville, Kentucky, to catch up on America’s newest load haulin’ hardware. Not anymore!
Call me biased, but judging by what was on show in Louisville this year, I’d now rate our own biennial Brisbane Truck Show as far more informative and professional than its US counterpart.
Nowadays, MATS has strong competition from rival events and with ever-watchful eyes on the corporate wallet, America’s truck, trailer and component brands are no longer automatic starters when it comes to signing up for a truck show, anywhere.
It appears to be a case of each event measured on its merits of appealing to dedicated markets.
Among the big brands, only Mack and Paccar’s Peterbilt and Kenworth travelled to Mid-America again this year, largely capturing the new truck side of the event to themselves. As it turned out, that was a particularly good thing for Mack, intent on letting everyone know its new Anthem with a stand-up cab and sleeper is aimed squarely at bring the bulldog back to some prominence in the North American line-haul business.
For a handful of Australian visitors, it also meant we could, for the first time, get up close and personal with a rejuvenated bulldog eventually headed for our part of the world – but more on that in an upcoming feature story.
Other than Mack and Paccar, though, Louisville was slim pickings indeed for new trucks from the big boys of the business. No Freightliner, or its corporate cousins Detroit and Western Star. No International other than a very lonely Lonestar courtesy of the local Louisville dealer. No Volvo, highlighting the fact that in the US, Mack and Volvo definitely go their separate ways. No Japanese truck brands despite an ever-increasing presence in the US. And of course, no Cat.
As for new technology, only the Shell ‘Starship’ truck and trailer concept went some way towards showcasing the efficiency merits of advanced aerodynamic design. What’s more, and despite the fact that most major US truck brands are now digging deep into advanced technologies such as autonomous trucks, the only indication of autonomous behaviour at Mid-America appeared to be the public rush to anything labelled ‘free’.
Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there was absolutely nothing from Tesla about electric trucks and, likewise, zilch rom Cummins about its similarly fast-paced push into electric propulsion. I didn’t see it, but an Australian product manager wandering around MATS told me the only electric vehicle he saw was a battery-driven go-kart tucked away on the small nondescript stand of a research outfit.
By comparison, the Tokyo Motor Show late last year was awash with electric technology, led by Daimler’s Fuso with the launch of its dedicated electric brand E-Fuso, and a highly advanced prototype model called Vision One.
Still, truckin’ in America isn’t all about new-fangled gadgets and gizmos. Never has been, and while MATS lacked plenty in big-brand presentation, it at least had enough of the new and the novel, the old and the bold, the long and the lavish to satisfy lovers of classic Yank trucks and keep the good ol’ guys ‘n’ gals mildly entertained.
Anyway, check out our gallery above for a pictorial summary of Mid-America 2018, a show with a touch of everything but on the other hand, not much of anything.
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
Hino Australia says its 300 Series 4x4 is finding success in an unexpected market – with farmers and foresters showing "considerable interest" in the vehicles.
ATN reviewed the off-roader in February following its launch late last year, with technical editor Steve Brooks saying the vehicle had helped inspire "a level of excitement and confidence within the Hino camp".
Six months after it was launched for sale in Australia, Hino says the 4x4 is surpassing its targets and proving it was worth the wait.
Hino Australia general manager of brand and franchise development Bill Gillespie says the versatility and capabilities of the truck have afforded Hino new areas of opportunity.
"In terms of trucks delivered, we have captured almost 20 per cent of the light duty 4x4 market in only six months, a result we are proud of but not surprised by," Gillespie says.
"The real story is in our customer order intake – at the end of April, we increased our orders by 71per cent on our April year to date target."
While the company had expected the model to do well with mining, rental and emergency services markets, Gillespie said regional dealerships had also seen strong sales, to farmers attracted by its 7,500kg gross vehicle mass and 4x4 capabilities.
"This 4x4 segment of the light duty truck market is expected to finish between 800 and 900 units at the end of 2018, which is an increase of over 33 per cent from 2017," Gillespie says.
"Market interest and customer orders of the 300 Series 4x4 have been so strong that we have accelerated our forecasts for the next two calendar years significantly to meet market opportunities."
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
Get ready for the most comprehensive-ever evaluation of all the popular utes on sale in Australia!
Bauer Media’s Transport and Machinery titles, in conjunction with Australia’s leading 4WD magazine, 4x4 Australia, and Australia’s leading car magazine, Wheels, has gathered together all of the popular utes for a week-long knockout to find out just what is Australia’s best ute overall.
Ford Ranger: Big and brawny and Australia’s most popular 4WD ute in 2017
Holden Colorado: 500Nm of torque can’t be wrong! That’s more than Ranger.
Isuzu D-Max: Much loved thanks to its service simplicity and reliability. The mechanic’s favourite.
Mazda BT-50: Shares much with the Ford Ranger including a 3.2-litre five-cylinder engine but generally cheaper to buy.
Mitsubishi Triton: Smaller than most competitor utes but Australia’s cheapest mainstream ute and third-best selling 4WD ute overall.
Mercedes Benz X-Class: The new ute on the block based on the Nissan Navara. This is its first outing.
Nissan Navara: Its coil sprung rear suspension has been revised after earlier load-carrying shortfalls.
Toyota Hilux: Australia’s most popular ute (and has been for years) if you add 2WD sales to its 4WD sales.
Volkswagen Amarok V6: Powerhouse V6 diesel pumps a mighty 180kW, all kept under control by full-time 4WD.
Over a gruelling five days at the Melbourne 4×4 Training and Proving Ground at Werribee near Melbourne, all of the utes will undergo a series of test to determine the winner. The tests include:
No fewer than seven judges, some with many decades of vehicle-testing experience, will conduct and oversee the tests.
Our judges include Cobey Bartels from Owner Driver, Fraser Stronach, Matt Raudonikis and Justin Walker from 4x4 Australia and Ash Westerman, Byron Mathioudakis and Daniel Gardner from Wheels.
Full results will be published both online as well as in special editions of ATN (#382 – on sale July 24), Deals on Wheels (#329 – on sale July 9), Owner Driver (#306 – on sale July 9), Earthmovers & Excavators (#348 – on sale July 23), Farms & Farm Machinery (#361 – on sale July 19), 4x4 Australia (on sale July 19) and Wheels (on sale July 12).
In the meantime, check Facebook to keep up with the action direct from this week’s shootout!
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
Two months after spruiking the Australian input into the updated Toyota HiLux, more details, including pricing, have emerged.
Now officially launched, the 4x4 double cab Rugged X, Rogue and Rugged models come at a time when the higher-spec end of the market has become more crowded, witht eh likes of Mercedes-Benz entering the fray, and budget makes are looking to step up from the basic.
"These three new HiLux heroes give customers a bold new choice in the market whether they are looking for a stylish and refined top-end ute for work and play or need enhanced protection, functionality and recovery capability for serious off-roading," Toyota Australia's vice president sales and marketing Sean Hanley says.
"We know that the average HiLux customer already spends over $2,000 on accessories for their vehicles so we looked at what those needs were from both a capability and style perspective and developed a raft of new features for HiLux.
"Designed and developed over a three-year vehicle program, all the new components on these stunning HiLux models are fully integrated and engineered into the core vehicle and covered by the standard factory warranty.
"The Rugged X, Rogue and Rugged are not accessorised special editions, they are fully fledged new HiLux models that our customers demanded and we can be justifiably proud that they were designed and developed here in Australia."
As the new top-of-the-range HiLux, the fully equipped Rugged X is priced from $61,690 plus on-road and other costs — as are all figures mentioned — in manual guise and $63,690 as an automatic.
The automatic-only HiLux Rogue is priced from $61,690.
The HiLux SR-based Rugged offers superb value and is priced from $54,990 as a manual with the six-speed automatic option adding $2,000.
With its off-road focus, the Rugged X builds on the SR5 on which it is based with a host of protective, functional and recovery features.
At the front, the winch-compatible heavy-duty steel front bar with integrated bash plate, LED lightbar and driving lights provides effective off-road protection and, together with the new design grille, gives the Rugged X a striking and tough aesthetic.
Further protective and recovery features include a snorkel, purposeful side rock rails that are able to support a fully laden vehicle, front and rear recovery points and a new heavy-duty steel rear bar and integrated tow bar.
The rear tub of the Rugged X has also been designed for functionality with a new steel sports bar that can support a vertical load of 75kg and, with multiple tie down points, secure up to 200kg on the floor of the tub.
Inside, it features leather-accented seats, a new design instrument cluster, metallic black ornamentation and black headlining.
The Rogue has been designed with a more urban adventurer customer in mind and features "redesigned front and rear ends that reflect Toyota's global truck design DNA".
Designed in Australia and developed in conjunction with the Toyota engineering team in Thailand, it will be sold in markets globally.
"The new more vertical front end and outboard driving lights give the vehicle a strong assertive appearance that is complemented by clean lines and a neat rear bumper — all with a contemporary black and grey colour palette," Toyota says.
The tub also gains the same practical and stylish sports bar as all the new HiLux models along with a bespoke hard tonneau cover for added protection and security.
As a premium model, the Rogue also gains the same interior features and trim as the Rugged X.
The Rugged model is based on the HiLux SR and is aimed at customers who want the extra functionality and features of the Rugged X but with the protection offered by a traditional steel bullbar.
Like the Rugged X, the Rugged also features a snorkel, redesigned grille, side rock rails, sports bar and heavy-duty steel rear bar together recovery points.
All three new HiLux models share the same mechanical specifications as the SR5 or SR models on which they are based and are powered by a proven, strong and efficient 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine.
Driving through a part-time, shift-on-the-fly 4x4 system with a full set of low-range ratios, the engine generates maximum power of 130kW and 450Nm of torque with the optional six-speed automatic transmission or 420Nm when mated to the six-speed manual gearbox.
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
Within the next two years, Mack will launch a new model in Australia.
It will be the Mack Anthem, a model launched in the US in the back half of 2017 and now in production at Mack’s vastly upgraded Lehigh Valley facility in Pennsylvania.
In the US, Mack executives make no secret of the fact that Anthem is the spearhead of a determined bid to reinstate the bulldog’s presence in the premium North American interstate market.
For many years up to the mid-70s or thereabouts, Mack was a dominant force in the US linehaul business but today, that presence has been whittled to less than two percent.
Senior Mack executives are under no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead and at this point, goals are modest. However, the unequivocal intention is to get to double digits, sooner rather than later.
Key to Anthem’s prospects in North America is a stand-up cab with a superbly equipped 70-inch sleeper.
Righthand-drive Australian models will, of course, be built at the Volvo Group factory in Wacol, Brisbane, but only after a long and detailed testing program to ensure the reconfigured cab will withstand Australian operating conditions.
There’s no reason it won’t come through with flying colours. After all, the Anthem cab employs much the same steel shell which has been serving Mack faithfully and reliably for many years in many parts of the world.
Wisely though, Mack’s local leaders won’t be taking any chances. There’s simply too much at stake in such a demanding and unforgiving market as Australia.
Still, Anthem provides something Mack has wanted and invariably needed in this country for a long time and that, obviously enough, is a stand-up cab.
In its complete form, Anthem will be a direct replacement for the current Granite model.
However, Anthem will do far more than simply replace an existing model.
For starters, the completely redesigned interior layout and high-roof design will be transplanted into Trident, Super-Liner and Titan models. Only the shorthaul Metro-Liner misses out.
The excitement and passion within Mack ranks both here and in the US is almost palpable, and easily understood given the long wait for a development such as this.
Our technical editor Steve Brooks was recently a guest of Mack in the US and on a cold, snowy test track in Pennsylvania, was given the opportunity to climb behind the wheel of a day cab and low-rise sleeper version of the new Anthem.
It’s early days, but equally, early impressions were hugely positive.
The look is decidedly different but then again, so is Anthem.
A detailed feature story will soon appear but in the meantime, here’s a little footage of a new dog with new tricks.
Read more on the Mack Anthem in the May edition of ATN.
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
There’s a brawl brewing at the big end of the cab-over truck business as Mercedes-Benz and Scania shape up to rattle Volvo’s reign as Australia’s top-selling European brand. They’ll have their work cut out but you can bet they won’t be pulling any punches.
Last year, Mercedes-Benz and Scania together delivered 1816 units to Australia’s heavy-duty truck market.
By comparison, Volvo alone left both in its wake with a commanding 1845 trucks, easily maintaining the Swedish giant’s mantle as Australia’s leading supplier of cab-overs to the heavy-duty market.
Nonetheless, both Benz and ‘the other Swede’ are rightly pleased with their respective results in 2017. And fair enough!
For Scania, it was a record year, cracking the 1000 units barrier (1004 to be exact) for the first time in its Australian history and in the process, capping the steady growth which over the past four or five years has seen the brand emerge from mediocrity into a swathe of new operations.
As for Mercedes-Benz, 2017 was the first year with the bulk of its entirely new model range on sale and no doubt about it, Benz boffins were absolutely delighted with the delivery of 813 trucks. So they should be, given the result was close to double the previous year’s performance with the superseded Actros.
Yet anyone thinking Mercedes-Benz or Scania will be content to rest on the laurels of 2017, or simply strive to repeat last year’s performance will need to think again. With the energy and excitement of entirely new models fuelling their futures, neither company is hiding a fierce intention to make the most of a buoyant heavy-duty market where across the board, cab-overs now outsell conventionals by around two to one.
Still, aspirations and reality aren’t always cut from the same cloth and both brands know as well as any that in a fiercely competitive heavy-duty market dominated by such powerful adversaries as Volvo and Kenworth, it’ll take much more than the hype of a new range of trucks to climb to higher rungs on the ladder.
Even so, square in the crosshairs of both Mercedes-Benz and Scania is Volvo, and for good reason. Sure, neither Benz nor Scania will be shy about approaching Kenworth K200 customers but when it comes to continental cab-overs, there’s no bigger or more commercially attractive target than the super-Swede.
By the same measure though, it would be ridiculously naïve and incredibly ignorant to think Volvo will be quaking in its boots or washing the white flag at the threat of increased competition from aspiring assailants.
Indeed, you can take it as gospel that Volvo didn’t reach its current prominence by adopting a casual or lackadaisical approach to competitors. Be in no doubt, any assault on the throne will be met with the ruthless response of a company with an exceptionally successful and locally produced model range, a substantially upgraded service network, and decades of fierce determination.
Likewise, only the foolish would think Volvo isn’t also working on a few new product developments of its own, not least a bigger bunk for the flagship FH range.
All that said though, Benz and Scania are busy sharpening the axes and after recent road tests of B-double combinations from both brands, there’s no doubt the cutting edge is sharper than ever before.
As our technical editor Steve Brooks reveals, the trucks in the recent spotlight were the Mercedes-Benz 2653 and from Scania, the G500 and R620 models from its newly introduced ‘New Truck Generation’.
All combinations were loaded near to full weight with the Benz run northbound on the Hume between Melbourne and Sydney, and little more than a week later, the two Scanias run from Sydney to Melbourne.
Given the different directions, performance and fuel comparisons wouldn’t be much value, so each has been evaluated on its own merits on the day. The one thing they share, however, is the ability to be more competitive than at any time in their modern histories in this country.
Yes, they admit it won’t be easy knocking Volvo off its mantle as the best-selling European truck in the Australian market, and likewise, they concede it won’t happen overnight. They will, however, be giving it their best shot and more to the point, the new trucks provide plenty of firepower.
All up, the next few years will be fascinating to watch and as things stand at the moment, the only sure bet is that heavy-duty truck operators of all persuasions will be spoilt for choice with trucks which, from all appearances, are smarter, stronger, more efficient, more comfortable, better built, and possibly more reliable and better supported than ever before.
Bring it on!
Copyright 2017 NTI Limited
Insurance products are provided by National Transport Insurance, a joint venture of the insurers Insurance Australia Limited trading as CGU Insurance ABN 11 000 016 722 AFSL 227681 and AAI Limited Trading as Vero Insurance ABN 48 005 297 807 AFSL 230859 each holding a 50% share. National Transport Insurance is administered on behalf of the insurers by its manager NTI Limited ABN 84 000 746 109 AFSL 237246.