Truck Assist | Small Business Corner
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Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
Scania Australia unveiled the new generation of P, G and R series trucks in Sydney, which are being touted as the safest and most fuel efficient trucks in Australia.
The new truck range is offered in both Euro 5 and Euro 6 compliance, bringing aerodynamic advances, more efficient engines, and a host of advanced safety features.
Aimed at the long and medium haul markets as well as urban distribution, the range offers configuration for unique customer requirements, with a wide range of engine and gearbox options.
Scania confirmed the order books open immediately for customers, with the first trucks set for delivery in the third quarter of this year.
The manufacturer claims that with significant advances in aerodynamic design, the mechanical upgrades deliver at least 5% better fuel efficiency across the range.
A new 7.0-litre Euro 6 engine for P-series applications has been introduced, while the heavily revised and updated 9-litre 5-cylinder, 13-litre 6-cylinder and 16-litre V8 engines are all offered in Euro 5 and Euro 6 guise.
Scania’s modular drivetrain components have been revised to deliver improved fuel economy and the in-house gearbox range is now fitted with a layshaft brake to speed up gear changes for improved performance.
The famed 730hp (544kW) V8, the most powerful truck engine available in down under and the only V8 option, is offered across the R- and S-series ranges in Euro 6 compliance.
Scania will offer V8 power across several outputs: 520hp (388kW) and 620hp (462kW) with Euro 5 compliance, and 520hp, 580hp (432kW), 650hp (485kW) and 730hp outputs in Euro 6 guise.
In the 6-cylinder, 13-litre category, Scania offers its most powerful in-line engine yet, at 500hp (373kW) with 2550 Nm (1881 lb/ft) of torque. This will be available in the G-series prime mover cab, rated for medium duty B-double and single trailer interstate and intra-state work, as well as for urban tipper and dog applications.
The G-series 6-cylinder engines will be available in Euro 6 at 370hp (276kW), 410hp (306kW), 450hp (336kW) and 500hp (373kW), and identical outputs in Euro 5 with the exception of the 370hp engine which is offered at 380hp (283kW) for Euro 5.
In the urban distribution and vocational truck market, the new P-series will be offered from launch with a broad range of 5- and 6-cylinder engines, in both Euro 5 and Euro 6 compliance: starting with the 5-cylinder 280hp (209kW), 320hp (239kW) and 360hp (268kW) outputs, rising to 370hp — 380hp (283kW) for Euro 5 — to 450hp for the 13-litre 6-cylinder.
The P-series will also debut the new 6-cylinder lightweight 7-litre engine, in Euro 6 guise only, in 220hp (164kW), 250hp (168kW) and 280hp outputs, further assisting customers with additional payload.
ns for the P-series is for single trailer supermarket deliveries, while every metropolitan fire brigade in Australia currently utilises the Scania P-series CrewCab as the basis of its medium and heavy-duty fire fighting vehicles, with around 700 on duty Australia-wide.
On the safety front, a key feature is side curtain airbags fitted to both the driver and passenger doors to protect those onboard in the event of a rollover.
An improved braking system and all new front suspension with the axle moved forward 50mm, provide less dive during braking and assists in reducing stopping distances by up to two metres.
An all-steel cab improves impact resistance while also offering improved driver visibility and trucks operating in urban areas will also get the City Safe Window, which is inserted into the lower segment of the passenger door to provide pedestrian and cyclist visibility.
The new range also scores high-tech safety features such as Advanced Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control with Active Prediction, Electronic Stability Programme and Lane Departure Warning.
A safety feature that works more in the fatigue space, is an auxiliary cab cooler than runs on batter power, so when drivers are on a rest break the temperature is just right.
"The launch of the New Truck Generation range, the safest and most fuel-efficient in Australia, is an absolute milestone for the Scania here," said Scania Australia Managing Director Mikael Jansson.
"It is undoubtedly the biggest investment in our 127-year history.
"As a global truck company, we have spent 10 years and AUS$3 billion researching and developing the new range as well as covering more than 12 million km testing our new designs in all climates and on all types of roads.
"The most noticeable features are of course the new cabs, but the real innovation is the introduction of new technologies, safety feature, services and insights that will help our customers gain an accurate overview of some of their most significant operating costs.
"On average across the range, our new trucks will consume around 5% less fuel and emit fewer emissions, particularly those equipped with Euro 6 after-treatment.
"We’re not only focused on the hardware. Our digitalised connected services provide further tools for enhanced optimisation of fleet and driver utilisation.
"We have unparalleled ability to tailor-make a specification to suit operators’ needs across a very broad array of applications and coupled with our focus on driving down costs and eliminating waste for operators, we can demonstrate quite clearly how our New Truck Generation provides increased value to customers.
"Judging by the response from operators in Europe, who have ordered record numbers of the New Truck Generation, Scania has scored a direct hit. In test after test by media across Europe, in isolation or compared with direct rivals, the New Truck Generation has emerged as the best possible option in all of its formats; from long haulage to urban distribution and vocational applications.
"The new range is delivering improved business sustainability for our customers through lower running costs and higher uptime. Our aim is to improve their total operating economy, providing our customers with the tools for achieving sustainable profitability in the one business that really means something to them; their own."
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
Back for its 31st year and more popular than ever, the Penrith Working Truck Show attracted a crowd close to 20,000 from around the country and more than 250 shiny trucks were parked up looking their best.
Kids went nuts with unlimited rides on the 22 amusements, while family fun on offer included street performers, food trucks and a stellar country music line-up … that’s if you could take your eyes off the trucks on show!
Four- time ARIA-award winning country music icon Troy Cassar-Daley took to the stage at 3pm, drawing a large crowd of devoted fans and amping up patrons before the trophy presentation began.
Among the dozens of coveted awards on offer, there was one particularly special trophy this year, dedicated to the late Chris Sultana, founder of Camsons Transport.
The Chris Sultana Memorial Trophy for Best Kenworth Tipper was awarded to Grimtrans for its spectacular 2007 Kenworth K104 tipper.
"It meant a lot to win an award dedicated to such an icon in the industry, and from a company like Camsons that represents themselves so well on the road," Grimtrans director Damien Grima says.
"This particularly truck is driven by my father Charlie Grima and it carts quarry materials out of the Blue Mountains.
"Charlie founded the company.
"We’ve been going for 37 years ago, back in ’81!
"We’ve been coming to the Penrith Working Truck Show for 20 years now."
TRIBUTE TO A HERO
Chief executive of the Museum of Fire and event organiser Mark White says the memorial award was a highlight of the show and paid tribute to a true hero of the transport industry.
"The tribute to Chris Sultana was important and he’s such an iconic figure, family and friends travelled from around Australia," Mark says.
He says improvements made to the show helped to provide the very best experience for patrons and took the show to another level.
"We made significant improvements this year, covering infrastructure, quality of rides, ticketing process and overall value offered for patrons, and the whole show rose to another level.
"That was reflected in the way the show presented itself and we continue to keep pushing to engage the community."
Mark explains the event is run solely by volunteers, no small feat when you consider 10s of thousands of people come through the grounds each year and hundreds of trucks roll in!
"I do this voluntarily and so do the other 150 people that helped organise this event.
"Every part of the show is organised by the Museum’s team, and we’re extremely proud of what we’re able to achieve and what we stand for.
"The Penrith Working Truck Show is synonymous with the Museum of Fire and it shows the depth of support we have - the Museum has become such an iconic part of the community."
The show represents the positive side of the transport industry, Mark says, in an era when we hear a lot about the negative elements of the game.
"It really showcases the very best of the transport industry in a tough climate.
"We’ve got constant media about inspections and defects and it’s nice to see the show highlight the best of an industry.
"Ninety-nine per cent of our support comes from small business and the support of some the families, their philanthropic contribution, it’s just fantastic."
The Sydney Classic and Antique Truck Show is the next event on the calendar for the Museum of Fire, held on May 27 at its grounds.
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
It’s entrenched as the second most popular brand of truck on the Australian market but even so, for the first time in a long time, Hino appears to be on a roll.
That’s not to suggest Hino will soon be biting at Isuzu’s heels for overall market leadership. Not at all. Right now, and probably for many years to come, that’s a mountain still way too high for a viable assault.
Nonetheless, from the outside looking in, there’s a level of excitement and confidence within the Hino camp these days directly at odds with the somewhat sombre demeanour of the past decade or so.
And the reason for this newfound and increasingly obvious optimism is a batch of new models entirely capable of taking the fight to the competition rather than simply making do with whatever Japan agrees to send this way.
That might sound a tad harsh but the reality is Hino Motor Sales Australia is part of the gargantuan Toyota empire and whilst that has many merits, it also places significant constraints on the engineering, research and development resources available to a relatively low volume, demanding market such as ours.
In effect, it means that while Japanese decision-makers may smile and nod and say they understand what Australia needs, their apparent understanding doesn’t necessarily extend to giving local engineers and product planners what they want and need to reach the top. At least, not anytime soon.
Last year, however, came a couple of critical new contenders which not only put smiles on the dials of Hino operatives at every level on the ladder, but effectively made 2017 a time of overdue evolution.
First cab off the rank came early in the year with a vastly upgraded range of 500-series wide cab models in two and three-axle rigid configuration. A long time coming, the new trucks are unquestionably a huge step in the right direction with more grunt and a suite of smart safety initiatives including the standard inclusion of vehicle stability control.
Yet whereas the latest 500-series wide-cab models are effectively much-improved versions of an existing range, the light-duty 300-series 4x4 is not only an entirely new addition to Hino’s local line-up but from all appearances, also the best in its Japanese class. In fact, after a long day behind the wheel in a wide range of conditions with all versions loaded close to maximum GVM of 7.5 tonnes, Hino’s new truck surprised and impressed in equally high measure.
Then again, it needed to be something special given the amount of hype leading up to the model’s launch. The truck was first previewed with plenty of fanfare at last year’s Brisbane Truck Show, then at the important AFAC conference for fire and emergency service professionals in Sydney last September. At both events Hino certainly wasn’t shy about singing the praises of its new double-differ before its official release just six weeks out from Christmas.
Instrumental in tailoring the truck’s specification to Australian conditions and perhaps highlighting the hype more than most, Hino product strategy manager Daniel Petrovski proudly pronounced, "If you’re going to enter a new category in the Australian truck market for the first time, you want to do it with a product that sets a new benchmark."
Indeed you do and fortunately for Hino, it’s a statement backed more by dusty deeds than executive claims. As Petrovski said at the official launch of the truck at an off-road test centre in Werribee, Victoria, "We have been testing prototypes of the 4x4 for over three years, with real-world customers whose feedback has enabled us to refine the specification of a truck built specifically for the Australian market."
Much of the model’s testing over several years was with the Cook Shire Council in Far North Queensland and Kennedy Drilling based in Kalgoorlie, WA. Testimonials from both companies reinforce Hino’s assertion that several years of careful planning and rigorous testing in both Australia and Japan have created a truck with the right mix of manners, muscle and modern technology. A significantly raised air intake is, for example, one of several important changes resulting from the extensive Australian test program.
Yet as Daniel Petrovski added, while Australia was the prime focus for development of Hino’s light-duty off-roader and is the first market to offer the model, it is definitely not the only market in mind. Asia and South America are also firmly on Hino’s agenda.
Still, Hino’s local leaders insist ‘demands of Australian customers for a better light-duty 4x4 truck’ were the driving factor in the model’s development, leading to a specification which, they assert, simply has no equal among its Japanese contemporaries.
Safety features were high on the agenda and like the latest 500-series wide cab models, vehicle stability control is a standard item. So, too, are driver and passenger airbags, disc brakes all-round, electronic brake-force distribution, anti-lock and anti-slip systems, and a submersible water-proof reversing camera.
Considering its likely roles with fire and emergency departments and mining operations, a good deal of work also went into OH&S standards of the cab which comes in both single and crew cab form.
While Hino says the structure complies with Europe’s cab crash test standard, the A-pillars have actually been narrowed to just 65 mm to enhance visibility. It’s a good point given that the front quarters of many trucks these days actually infringe on the driver’s view at roundabouts and the like.
Importantly, particularly for a truck which necessarily sits much higher than its 4x2 counterpart, entry and exit is at least convenient thanks to well positioned steps and grab handles.
It’s worth noting, too, that the 4x4 model is built on an 840 mm wide chassis with no rivets on the top flange of the rails to hinder body fitment.
On the inside there’s a tilt-adjustable steering column and a comfortable suspension seat for the driver while the passenger gets to sit on a fixed bench seat. Still, even on bumpy bits I didn’t hear too many gripes about discomfort from the other side of the truck or from the back seat bench of dual cab versions … not that I was really listening.
However, one feature sure to please back seat passengers is a separate air conditioning and heating control console. A wise move, indeed!
Meanwhile, back in the front, four-wheel-drive can be engaged on the move (just be sure to lock the manual free-wheeling hubs) by the simple push of a dash-mounted button. Likewise, there’s a button for high and low range selection but in stating the obvious, Hino explains, ‘the vehicle must be stationary to change ranges.’ Does that mean there are really some numb-nuts out there who actually try to jump from high to low while on the move?
Whatever, low range employs a deep 2.2:1 reduction ratio described by Hino as ‘class leading’. Combined with a first gear transmission ratio of 6.369:1, it certainly gives the new 4x4 an exceptionally deep ‘bog cog’.
But with the six-speed manual transmission sporting a reasonably tall 0.782:1 overdrive top gear driving into a 4.625:1 diff ratio, the 300-series 4x4 will cruise comfortably at 100 km/h with the engine running at a relatively frugal 2440 rpm.
Yet one thing about the transmission which doesn’t excite is the shift pattern. First gear is in a dog-leg down to the left and 6th in a dog-leg up to the right. That means, of course, that 2nd through to 5th are ideally sited in a H-pattern and gratefully, the truck will easily cope with 2nd gear lift-offs on level ground.
But then, when you need a fast swap from 1st to 2nd, it’s awkward and finicky. Surely, in a six-speed layout it can’t be all that difficult to engineer a shift pattern that sees ‘Reverse’ as the only slot on a dog-leg. Just a thought! Besides, it’s hard to believe early testing didn’t raise the same suggestion.
It’s underneath, however, where the truck ticks many of the right boxes, not least with an extremely flexible and willing 4.0 litre turbo-diesel engine. In Hino parlance it’s known as the N04C-UT, a four cylinder layout using common-rail fuel injection and a variable nozzle turbocharger to dispense peak outputs of 121 kW (165 hp) at 2500 rpm and 464 Nm of torque at 1400 rpm.
Singularly, these are not particularly potent performance figures but with peak torque on tap from 1400 all the way up to 2400 rpm, it makes for an impressively determined road runner, especially in undulating conditions. In fact, the engine’s tenacity and willingness to hold a gear was at times as surprising as it was impressive.
Yet it’s also an engine which achieves Euro 5 emissions compliance through the combined inputs of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and a diesel particulate filter, or as Hino puts it, ‘diesel particulate active reduction (DPR) system which traps over 95 percent of exhaust carbon soot in a ceramic filter.’
Call it what they like though, the DPR system requires a regenerative ‘burn off’ of accumulated soot which, as many truck operators know only too well, can be a problematic exercise no matter whose brand of truck it is.
Hino, however, is entirely confident. ‘The DPR can begin to regenerate or ‘self-clean’ once the filter reaches 30 percent capacity,’ says a Hino press statement. ‘This process involves the engine control unit (ECU) automatically regenerating the soot build-up.
‘The soot level is indicated in a multi-information dashboard display which extinguishes as regeneration is complete.’
Meanwhile, when it comes to ride quality, the Hino 4x4 is truly surprising, not least because it rides on multi-leaf spring packs and as anyone who has had much to do with Japanese off-roaders with similar suspension layouts will also know only too well, the term ‘ride comfort’ can be something of a misnomer.
Fortunately, the new Hino is an exception and engineers appear to have found an acceptable compromise between the sometimes opposing goals of ride quality and rugged reliability, with six-leaf main packs front and rear, and the back end also sporting a six-leaf auxiliary pack.
For sure, it’s not the best riding truck ever developed but on black top or dirt, it’s way better than some off-road models I’ve had the displeasure of driving.
In fact, after putting several versions of Hino’s new off-roader through their collective paces on everything from freeways, to country roads, forest tracks with plenty of potholes and corrugations, and at day’s end a play on the tortuous tracks of the Werribee 4x4 Training and Proving Ground, it’s hard to see anything other than a bright future for Hino’s latest addition.
Or as a decidedly upbeat Daniel Petrovski put it, "Quite simply, we believe this is the best light-duty 4x4 truck on the Australian market."
From what we’ve seen and experienced at this early stage, it’d take a good argument and a very good truck to prove him wrong.
Make/model: Hino 300 4x4
Engine: Hino NO4C-UT
Transmission: Hino 6-speed overdrive
Power: 121 kW (165hp)
Torque: 464 Nm
GVM: 7500kg std, 4495kg optional
GCM: 11,000kg std, 7995kg optional
Emission Control Type: EGR and DPF
Emission Control Standard: Euro 5
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
Scania has claimed bragging rights in Europe’s truck comparison, the 1000 Point Test, for the second year in succession.
This exhaustive test, once again, confirms not only the excellent fuel performance of our new generation trucks but also the many other attractive features that set Scania apart, Scania head of trucks Alexander Vlaskamp says.
"We have now introduced the full range of new generation trucks in Europe and the response has been overwhelming."
This year’s test focused on mid-sized cabs with power ratings in the 450hp (335kW) range, with the Scania R 450 pitted against the Mercedes Actros 1845 and the Volvo FH 460.
The 1000 Point Test involves an international team of truck journalists who score the trucks subjectively in combination with objective measuring. The test runs along a 180km route in south-west Germany.
With the recent introductions of updated Cruise Control with Active Prediction, the Pulse & Glide function and Downhill Speed Control, Scania says it has improved its fuel performance.
Scania says the Pulse & Glide feature pays off in terms of lower fuel consumption, helping it be the clear 1,000 Point Test winner.
It says its truck proved to be the fastest truck in every comparative situation, including initial acceleration, motorway cruising and driving uphill.
Scania adds that its new generation truck excelled in the categories of cab, driveline and performance, fuel consumption, and cost and payload.
Overall, Scania was ahead of the competition in the 1,000 Point Test with a total of 954.5 points, followed by Mercedes’ 943.2 points and Volvo’s 941.9 points.
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
Following last year's release of the T610 and T610SAR, Kenworth has announced a 760mm mid roof sleeper cab option, complementing the existing day and 860mm sleeper cab.The new sleeper cab option is aimed a range of customers, including those using the T610 for 19m tippers, tankers, and 19m B-double applications.
Kenworth spent 10 years designing the new cab with a focus on the needs of the driver, offering better walthrough access, more storage, better ergonomics and more.
"The core of the T610 project was about building a bigger cab to create the ultimate driver environment, which leads to better all-round driving performance, safety, efficiency and productivity" Paccar Australia director of sales and marketing Brad May says.
"This 760mm sleeper cab option allows even greater flexibility for our customers whose applications demand it.
"The mid-roof allows access under gantries and suits many height restricted truck and trailer combinations and provides an additional 90mm of head room than the day cab."
The T610 interior is designed to offer the driver a more open and relaxed cabin that's easier to move around in and rest during breaks.
The new mid-roof sleeper offers an inner spring mattress with hinged pan for under bunk storage, optional under bunk fridge and open shelving as standard.
Kenworth also focused on optimising the shape and surfaces over the sleeper cab roof to improve the aerodynamics and clearance.
Truck Assist | Know Your Truck
After almost 40 years writing about trucks and road transport, the worst thing for me about a stroll down memory lane is that the lane nowadays stretches a fearfully long way.
Yet while some may rue the endless passage of progress, the pace of change was well and truly on the boil in 1992.
The old ways were disappearing fast and across the board, Australian industry was hauling itself out of the so-called ‘recession we had to have’ and into a slow but certain period of economic growth.
Even the Global Financial Crisis 15 years later would prove to be little more than a speed bump on the Australian trucking landscape.
Economic growth drove increasingly strong demand for road transport and of course, trucks. The rush was on!
After the hiatus and hardships of the previous few years, truck and component suppliers were pumped and primed to make the most of better times, though some were quicker out of the blocks than others.
Heavy-duty specialist Kenworth certainly wasn’t caught napping and in the same year as Owner-Driver came into being so, too, did the much admired and proudly homegrown T950 make its debut, arriving almost two years after the launch of the original T900.
Classics in the making, the T900 and T950 would not, however, be Kenworth’s greatest initiative of the era.
That title would emerge from the arrival of Cat’s C12 engine and Kenworth’s subsequent ability to take its ‘baby’ T4 model and create an entirely new platform which would become the most diverse and successful model range in the brand’s Australian history.
There’s no question, the foundations of the heavy-duty market leadership Kenworth continues to enjoy today were in large part cast throughout the ‘90s, driven by clever engineering and an uncompromisingly strong and stable management culture.
It was also in the ‘90s, 1998 to be exact, that Kenworth parent Paccar added another string to the Australian bow with the introduction of the DAF brand.
With an unenviable pre-Paccar history in this country, DAF has been a hard sell in a market riddled with strong European brands.
Nonetheless, over 4000 of the Dutch trucks have now been sold into Australia since joining the Paccar portfolio and despite assertions of being Kenworth’s poor cousin, the brand has become an increasingly valuable contributor to the Paccar purse.
Nobody’s poor cousin is Isuzu.
Success came early and by 1992 the Japanese maker was already looking at close to five consecutive years as the number one truck supplier in the country.
Today it’s eyeing 30 straight years at the top which is no mean feat in a market as fiercely competitive as ours.
The reasons for such extraordinary success were blatantly apparent from the start; trucks of exceptional durability, a product range constantly evolving and expanding to cover every possible crevice in the light and medium-duty categories, and by no means least in those early days, the distribution afforded by the Holden dealer network.
The same platforms still drive the brand today but with one massive difference. Back in '92, Isuzu’s Australian operation was part of an entity called Isuzu-General Motors but by 2005 with the Japanese parent gradually dragging itself out of an economic abyss in which extinction had been a very real possibility, Isuzu parted from its American ally.
On the local front, this led to the formation of Isuzu Australia Ltd and from here on, Isuzu has been the absolute master of its own destiny.
And the destiny, it seems, is to remain Australia’s top truck supplier forever and a day.
Still, Isuzu hasn’t had things all its own way and there have certainly been companies and individuals keen to knock the market leader off its perch.
None more than Hino and never more than when the brand’s Australian operation was run by a wily, mercurial and often erratic individual named Roger Hall.
Like him or loathe him – and there were plenty on both sides of the fence – ‘the Dodger’ had a passion for the Hino brand which could sometimes appear fanatical.
By hook or by crook, whatever it took, Roger Hall’s goal in life appeared to be nothing less than snatching the top gong from Isuzu’s grip, and several times he came close. Very close. Closer than anyone before or since.
Hino is, of course, part of the gargantuan Toyota empire and it was perhaps inevitable that Hall’s unique business antics and management methods would one day go under the microscope and ultimately, never be seen again as Toyota principals installed more compliant executives with a greater appreciation for corporate systems and sensitivities.
These days, Hino hangs tenaciously to its hard-won second spot in the overall rankings of Australia’s truck suppliers, seemingly secure and satisfied in its place as the perennial bridesmaid.
The other big player from Japan which underwent a massive swing throughout the ‘90s and beyond was Fuso.
Formerly known only as Mitsubishi, by the end of the ‘90s it was being touted as a Volvo acquisition until Daimler stepped in and took control, forming in 2003 the Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation.
Yet other than the supremely successful ‘not-so-squeezy’ campaign for its enduring Canter light-duty truck, Fuso has been something of a silent partner in the Daimler conglomerate.
However, the Japanese brand today shines bright on the radar, notably as the epicentre of Daimler’s push into a revolutionary era of electrically-driven trucks, complete with a new brand called E-Fuso spearheaded by the e-Canter light truck and most exciting of all, the ‘Vision One’ medium-duty model.
On the local front, Fuso has certainly been the rock for Daimler’s truck business in Australia. In fact, without Fuso, Daimler’s overall truck numbers would be significantly less than they already are.
Take Freightliner, for instance, a brand which has promised so much yet in many ways, delivered so little.
Freightliner came to Australia on the back of the amazingly durable FLC112 model. A considerable presence was forged throughout the ‘90s, aided by a couple of smaller heavy-duty models and an aged FLB cab-over which at least added to the brand’s collective volume.
Then late in the back half of the ‘90s, a new era exploded onto the Australian market with the launch of the slick Century Class conventional and its cab-over stablemate, Argosy.
It would be a big fib to say this new Freightliner family didn’t have the competition worried, particularly Kenworth.
The potential was tremendous, especially for the inspiring Argosy, a cab-over which for many years made Kenworth’s K-series appear archaic in comparison.
Unfortunately, reality never quite matched the potential due mainly to a succession of durability issues which progressively battered the brand’s reputation to the point where Freightliner today accounts for just four percent or thereabouts of the heavy-duty sector.
Right now, Freightliner’s best hopes rest with greater uptake of the well-credentialed Coronado 114 model and in another few years, the local introduction of the Cascadia conventional which currently dominates the US heavy-duty market.
As for Argosy, it is today a better truck than ever before but with cab-overs about as popular as square tyres in the US market, the model’s future development and ultimate survival remain highly uncertain beyond the next couple of years.
Still, no story on Daimler’s last few decades would be complete without some reference to the Sterling brand and on a broader scale, the so-called ‘merger of equals’ which led to the company called DaimlerChrysler.
When Freightliner (Daimler) bought Ford’s heavy truck business in 1997, two things happened: The classic Louisville name disappeared and the Sterling brand was born.
Ford had already launched its HN80 successor to the ubiquitous Louisville and it was from this platform – minus the Louisville name which Ford refused to part with – that Sterling emerged.
In durability terms, Sterling certainly had its early issues but while engineering evolution many times appeared to move at snail’s pace, over the following decade the product improved markedly.
Then late in 2008, with the brand doing respectable business in the US and here, a strange thing happened. Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) dumped Sterling altogether, ‘to consolidate manufacturing operations with Freightliner and Western Star.’
Many pundits suggested DTNA would’ve been better served by dumping the low volume Western Star brand but as former DTNA chief Martin Daum conceded in an interview, there was far more to be gained (and saved) by slicing Sterling from the fold rather than Western Star.
As for DaimlerChrysler, probably the only thing remotely equal in this alleged ‘merger of equals’ was the expenses of the executives running each brand. Fortunately, sanity eventually prevailed and DaimlerChrysler was no more.
However, the good news for Daimler Trucks these days is its star brand, Mercedes-Benz.
There’s little value in recalling the dismal history of the original Actros range beyond saying it did more to dim the star than anything ever before it.
After a decade of dilemmas and with its reputation in tatters, Benz needed something spectacular to turn its Australian fortunes around and so far, that appears to be the case following the launch little more than a year ago of an entirely new family of trucks.
There’s still a long way to go but from all appearances, Benz is back. Big time!
Like Daimler, Volvo Group Australia also boasts trucks with European, American and Japanese heritage – Volvo, Mack, UD – and while each had its own history long before becoming part of the corporate triumvirate, each has also evolved dramatically under the group banner.
In the eyes of many, UD has always been the best Japanese heavy-duty truck on the Australian market and that opinion has only intensified since Volvo’s 2007 purchase of the brand from Nissan Diesel.
Even so, UD’s early CK and CWA models at least showed the Japanese maker knew what it took to build a heavy-duty truck capable of meeting Australian needs and expectations.
Fast forward to the present and the latest Quon is unquestionably a far cry from its predecessors, yet in many estimations is easily the best Japanese truck for prime mover roles, especially with Volvo’s input into so many areas of the truck’s design.
As for Volvo’s purchase in 2000 of the iconic Mack brand, it’s hard to think of two more culturally disparate entities than the Swede and the Yank.
Those inherent differences were blatantly evident during the difficult and complex integration of the bulldog breed into the Swedish system.
The thing is though, despite Mack’s long heritage and what some might see as a glorious past, the ailing dog would today be dead and buried if Volvo had not stepped in and bought Renault’s troubled truck business which then included Mack.
In product terms, Volvo’s plans for Mack were relatively simple: Mack’s Australian production was moved into Volvo’s Wacol (Brisbane) truck plant, producing and selling conventional models only, leaving Volvo and to a lesser extent UD (purposefully limited to an 11 litre engine to avoid clashing with Volvo’s popular 13 litre FM model) to tackle the cab-over business.
There are those who say Mack is today nothing like its forebears, and they’re right. However, Mack today also produces and sells more trucks than any time in its ‘glorious past’.
As for Volvo, the journey to the new millennium was not particularly smooth. Try as it might, a succession of product issues hamstrung the Swedish maker during the ‘90s.
Its initial 16 litre engine, for example, was so unreliable the Swedes stopped making it just as the B-double business in this country started to build momentum.
Then, keen to offer something around 500 hp for B-double duties, Volvo introduced a turbo-compound version of its 12 litre engine only to discover it was basically a boy on a man’s errand.
Consequently, struggling for something to satisfy the big end of the business, Volvo introduced a 14 litre Cummins option. Executives in Gothenburg were probably convulsing in horror.
Whatever, Cummins was never part of Volvo’s long range plans and with the advent of a 13 litre engine and a new 16 litre design along with smart FM and FH cabs – the latter with a locally designed enlarged sleeper – plus a string of innovative technical advances ultimately led by the I-shift automated transmission, the new century brought a bold and bountiful future to Volvo’s Australian operation.
The crowning glory of Volvo’s ascent was unquestionably the arrival a few years back of the latest FH and FM models. While the FH currently lacks the big XXL sleeper cab of its predecessor, there can be no question that Volvo is on a roll like never before.
In fact, the collective sales of Volvo, Mack and UD easily make the group the biggest supplier of heavy-duty trucks to the Australian market.
Strangely perhaps, Volvo also figures in the early history of Western Star.
In 1980, Volvo bought White Trucks but declined to buy its Canadian offshoot, Western Star, which staggered along precariously until 1990 when it was bought on the cusp of collapse by businessman Terry Peabody.
Over the next decade Peabody turned the brand’s fortunes around, with Star becoming a serious heavy-duty contender, particularly in Australia.
He did, however, also do some odd things with the brand. In an apparent bid to cash in on B-double growth, Peabody pursued a couple of Star-branded cab-overs based on ERF and DAF cabs and chassis, powered by Cummins and Detroit Series 60 engines respectively. They did not do well and unsurprisingly, fell quickly into oblivion.
Later, in what was obviously an offer too good to refuse considering his warm regard for the brand he’d saved from extinction, Peabody in 2000 sold Western Star to Daimler.
Yet in a move which still defies understanding, if not logic, Terry Peabody somehow convinced Daimler principals he should, for a relatively modest $60 million or so, retain the brand’s Australian and New Zealand business.
Operating as a commercial vehicle offshoot of Peabody’s extensive Transpacific group, Western Star continued to shine bright in our neck of the woods, even after he lost control of Transpacific.
By this time, Germany’s MAN and UK’s Dennis Eagle waste truck had also joined the business.
Even so, the Transpacific board decided trucks weren’t its main game and in the back half of 2013 sold the commercial vehicle division to US motoring mogul and billionaire businessman Roger Penske.
Penske’s record of commercial success is legendary yet under his ownership Western Star sales in Australia have fallen dramatically, with pricing and product issues causing the brand’s slide to less than half of what it was when Penske took over.
On the other hand, MAN is today achieving the greatest success of its chequered Australian history, due to some degree by a TGX D38 flagship which has surprised and impressed in equal measure.
As for Dennis Eagle, it’s a waste specialist which ranks only one rung from the bottom of the heavy-duty sales ladder. In fact, only Cat cringes lower but that’s something we’ll come to shortly.
The other European brand with a chequered history in this country over the past quarter century and more is ‘the other Swede’, Scania.
Rarely, if ever, coming close to the market strength of its Volvo countryman, Scania’s performance over the past 25 years or so is as much about people as it is about product. In fact, the product has largely been more predictable than most of the people sent to Australia to guide the brand’s business.
For whatever reason, Scania’s Swedish masters have historically appointed and replaced more managing directors here than any other brand and of course, each new MD came with a new agenda and a new formula for the future.
Stability, and in its wake greater market success than ever before, finally arrived when an articulate, commercially astute and patient Pom named Roger McCarthy arrived in 2009 to become the brand’s fourth managing director in little more than two years.
McCarthy, too, was recently replaced but not before building the brand’s business over the past eight years to its best ever results with a mix of marketing guile and product initiative. Carefully targeting niche markets he also made Euro 6 something of a Scania exclusive long before it will be required on the Australian market.
Roger McCarthy was, in effect, absolute proof that any organisation is only as good as the people driving it.
And that, perhaps, is an opportune introduction to arguably the most fascinating and perplexing story of the past 25 years: Iveco and its somewhat tumultuous association with International.
It was 1992 when Iveco first took ownership of the company then known as International Trucks Australia. From then on, only the enduring ACCO survived the process of replacing stalwart International models with a mix of locally assembled and fully imported Iveco trucks.
Iveco’s heavy-duty product was not, however, kicking enough goals and with viability of the historic Dandenong (Vic) factory as motivation, former Iveco Australia boss Alain Gajnik engineered a new deal with the US for locally-assembled International models.
With respectable sales of the 9200, 9900 and 7600 models, everything appeared to be going well until around 2010 when International parent Navistar did its dubious deal with Cat and almost overnight, the Iveco and International relationship came to a shuddering stop.
At the other end of the scale though, Iveco is at least continuing to build a good business in the light end with its innovative Daily range.
Meanwhile, sales still remain negligible in Iveco’s heavy league with the brand currently struggling to capture five percent of the category.
Consequently, with the Cat debacle dwindling to certain death, the Iveco and International relationship is again back on the books, this time featuring the slippery ProStar model which formed the basis for the Cat Trucks exercise.
Me too! It’s more than a year since the deal was announced and there’s only now the first tentative signs of International’s re-emergence.
As for Cat, well, what’s left to say?
Just as those loyal individuals with yellow blood were flummoxed beyond belief by Cat’s 2008 decision to suddenly quit the on-highway engine business so, too, have most people been dismayed by the decision to walk away from the truck project after so much initial hype and hubris.
In many estimations, both the Cat truck and its local advocates deserved better. Much better!
Still, maybe it’s best to look on the bright side. After all, when it comes to punching out a high quality publication every month, the last 25 years certainly haven’t been short of things to write about.
Nor, I feel, will the next 25.
Copyright 2017 NTI Limited
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