Going with the flow

Thursday, June 8, 2017



Few businesses embrace innovation and enhanced safety as enthusiastically as Fulton Hogan.
The new F Series Isuzu currently being trialled is a supreme example.

New Zealand Trucking watched Fulton Hogan’s latest Isuzu FVZ six-wheeler, complete with a live floor, at work spreading sealing chip on the Kaukapakapa Hill on State Highway 16 recently. The truck is the well-proven F series; it’s classic Isuzu, a good solid workhorse and the type of truck that is ideal for general roading work, especially when reasonable distances need to be covered to complete jobs.

It works in Fulton Hogan’s Auckland resealing department and covers the greater Auckland region, from the Brynderwyns in the north to the Waikato, and occasionally it will be expected to travel further afield.

The comfortable and easily driven Isuzu helps to ensure the driver is fresh when the truck reaches the work site. The section of highway it was working on is over 60 kilometres from the truck’s Penrose base and the route took it through Auckland’s early commuter traffic adding at least half an hour to a trip that could be completed in one hour without competing traffic.

It is powered by a 300 horsepower Isuzu engine putting out 980Nm (723lb/ft) of torque and has a GVM of 26,000kgs, meaning that without a trailer attached it has an excellent power to weight ratio. It meets Euro 5 emission standards, but does it through EGR and a diesel particulate diffuser (DPD), which necessitates regenerating to burn the soot out of the system at times. It’s a sound system, but it has caught some untrained or unaware drivers out at times when they’ve turned off the engine during the regeneration process and had to wear the costs of sorting out the subsequent problem.

Isuzu’s new heavy-duty GIGA range is equipped with SCR diesel engines using diesel emission fluid (DEF) to meet emission standards. It’s conceivable that Isuzu will add a DEF tank to their mid-range trucks at some point, however there’s no sign of it yet. Isuzu general manager Colin Muir says some of their smaller engines will soon be free of the DPD, but rather than use DEF they will be equipped with a catalytic converter to achieve emission requirements through a passive system. However the changes will only apply to engines not exceeding 260hp.

The power is delivered through a ZF nine-speed transmission – or an eight-speed with a crawler gear, depending on your technical upbringing. It has a significant overdrive margin on top gear and is a nice and smooth gearbox to operate. The ZF is our favourite nine-speed manual and a great little transmission. The front and rear axles are Meritor units along with the full S-cam air brakes.

Isuzu’s designers and engineers’ ability to cherry-pick German gearboxes and US axles is a business model that suits Isuzu in New Zealand. The company has been the top selling truck manufacturer here for 16 straight years and while there are many reasons for its market performance, it’s clear that the company produces what the market wants. Colin says the F1400 model, which has choices of air or steel suspension and Allison automatic or manual transmission, is a star seller, making up about 10% of Isuzu trucks sold here. 

Seamus Hogan is the department manager of Fulton Hogan’s Auckland-based resealing unit, and he gave us a tour of the truck. Extra safety gear features heavily, for example, the horn sounds if the driver’s door is open and the park brake is not applied, and the truck won’t move unless the driver’s seatbelt is connected. A reversing camera is fitted, along with a camera inside the bin, so the driver can see what’s behind and how much product he has.

Spreading chip can be dangerous, but the new truck provides significant safety advantages. Because the deck does not have to be raised to eject the product, the chances of it falling over or hitting overhead wires are almost non-existent. The spreading gear is remote controlled and can be operated from inside the cab using fixed controls or from outside using a handheld remote. The aim is to get workers away from the truck while it’s spreading chip when reversing; there does need to be a spotter, but he or she can be well clear of any danger zones and communicate with the driver by radio.

We caught up with the truck during its first week at work. The chip spreader is an all-new system consisting of a live floor truck body and a hydraulically controlled spreader unit, both from Trout River. The truck made the trip to the site empty and although
the gross weight is about 9800kg with the spreader attached, the 10 cubic metre bin can still hold 12 tonne of sealing chip.

There are many varieties of chip; the type loaded is actually an iron ore product from a steel mill, it is coated with bitumen
and very heavy and sticky – probably the most difficult chip material to spread. Driver Marlon Kaaka is a specialist operator, certified to operate all the sealing gear. He’s been with Fulton Hogan for nine years and is known for his ability to sort out problems that prevent perfect chip spreading. Marlon and Seamus soon had all the 10 rams that control the width of the chip distribution
set to their satisfaction. 

It’s a complex spreader, with multiple independently operated gates to distribute the product to exactly the right places at exactly the right rate. The live floor keeps pushing the product against the tailgate at a rate set by the driver and is easily adjusted if necessary, and an air-operated door in the tailgate feeds the product into the spreader. The big advantage with the new spreader and the live floor drive is that the feed rates are easily adjusted by the driver from inside the cab. If the road or PTO speed alters, the driver makes a quick adjustment on a pressure-sensitive dash-mounted screen to ensure the pressure against the tailgate remains constant and the same chip flow is maintained.

A significant advantage of the live floor is that various types of belts are available, including the nitrile rubber belt fitted to Fulton Hogan’s Isuzu. It is capable of withstanding high temperatures and means that hot asphalt can be loaded into the bin. A temperature-rated cover helps the product remain at a compliant temperature too.

It’s a pleasure to watch the teamwork as the trucks spread their loads on the freshly laid bitumen, and the difference between the new system and the other trucks reversing with their trays up and at least one person controlling the chip flow at the back of the truck is clear to see. The screen displaying the chip in the bin gives Marlon a clear indication of when to pull off the wet bitumen and let another truck continue the run. But the safety gains brought about by the live floor, camera, and in-cab controls are a massive benefit to Fulton Hogan’s workers.

The Isuzu and Trout River package is a great setup; the truck is ideal for its role with Fulton Hogan and the revolutionary live floor and spreader are a significant step towards improved efficiency and increased safety for road workers. But the Trout River bin is also a versatile unit that can increase safety in a number of applications. It can be used for ejecting material such as stock feed under low roofs, and spreading metal to a consistent depth on most terrain, including steep tracks.