It works on paper

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Departing from an accepted norm is never an easy path, however Zeyn and Farzana Khan are strong-willed business people who knew what was going to work best for their enterprise. A configuration that looked to be the solution on paper, has certainly turned out to be the solution on paper!

You don’t have to look too far nowadays to find a Hino 700 Series rigid 10x4 burning around.They’re always an impressive sight and the tag axle is invariably there so the truck can carry a big lump of a crane while still allowing a half decent payload. But it’s when you’re cruising the streets of Auckland and a gorgeous Mainfreight liveried 700 Series 10x4 steams past with a curtain body, tail lift, and no sign of a trailer coupling that you suddenly channel good old ‘Sheriff Buford T Justice’ ofSmokey and the Bandit fame, yank on the wheel and engage in hot pursuit to find out what’s going on here.

A quick call to Mainfreight operations put us in contact with Zeyn Khan, owner of the Hino attracting our interest, and from that moment the story behind this ‘FASCN8’ing truck began to unravel.

Early starts mean early finishes. It's all about workflow and traffic beating strategies.

A key to operation fluidity is loading time. With no trailer there’s only ever two curtains to work.

Maximum in/out time is usually well under half an hour.

Zeyn and wife Farzana own and operate Raiyaan Transport Ltd on contract to Mainfreight Metro Division. Ironically, the last Hino we tested in metro trim was also a Mainfreight It works on paper contractor, Andrew and Michelle Wickham’s MAKA Transport in Napier. This time the truck’s got bigger, the city’s got bigger, and so have the payloads, but one thing remains a constant – the energy, enthusiasm, and pride that seems to come part and parcel with New Zealand’s own ‘blue machine’ is as evident as ever.

Most people cringe when it comes to Auckland’s traffic scene, but that’s where Zeyn spends almost every working day, servicing the paper cartage contract his impressive machine was designed for.

It would be a rare day indeed that you spotted him beyond Albany in the north, Swanson in the west, Pakuranga in the east and Manukau in the south. “The other day I went to Hamilton,” he laughs. “That was its first trip out of town. I helped out the freight boys. It was good to get out on the motorway and give it a run.”

It’s certainly not an easy life on man or machine. The Hino’s approaching 18 months old and even though it’s only done 60,000km, a day’s work can last between 10 and 13 hours and can tally a paltry 50 kilometres, or a staggering 300. And the figures get even more bizarre when Zeyn tells us that he completes between five and seven return runs a day from the customer’s Penrose base. All this in a city where motorists feel a huge sense of achievement if they’re able to transition from one side of the city to the other in a third of a working day.

“It’s all about timing and using your brain,” said Zeyn. “I start early, about 3.30am and try to finish early, making sure to deliver to the customers close to Penrose when I know the motorways are most choked. It doesn’t always work out, but mostly it does.”

‘Used for Everything, Found Everywhere’

Whoever came up with that Hino number plate surround certainly knows their brand well. There’s probably no truck more worthy of the label than Hino, and the Raiyaan truck only serves to reinforce the statement. Stand on the side of the road anywhere in the country and you’ll see 700 Series Hinos trundling past in every axle and trailer combination you can think of, doing everything from rural stock, to tipper, regional and line haul freight, or logs. It’s Hino’s top end offering inthe power and weight stakes and the last one we tested was Sollys Contractors’ 6x4 and 4-axle bulk unit carting out of the company’s Takaka depot in Tasman’s Golden Bay to all points south, and occasionally north. It had to contend with the infamous Takaka Hill on a daily basis at GCMs in the mid-40 tonnes. Finding one on metro delivery however, takes the ‘found everywhere’ theme to the outer edges of what most would think is the 700’s application envelope. But this truck is as purpose-built as you’ll find, and a lot of planning and effort went into its genesis.

The standard fare on the paper distribution work has traditionally been a 6x4 mid-range curtain and 2-axle trailer. Raiyaan Transport Ltd kicked off in 2013 with a Hino 6x4 curtainside rigid and no trailer. Being the savvy pair they are, the Khans soon realised their mid-range steed wasn’t the best fit. Load sizes can vary significantly, often falling into the 14to 16 tonne bracket, too much for a 6-wheeler and not really enough for a truck and trailer. There’s also plenty of times when a trailer is not required, so the question then becomes do you sink a bunch of cash into something that’s an ornament for large chucks of the day, or frantically try and hire one when required...for a load that may not fill the combination up anyway. If all this isn’t enough of a quandary, add in the fact that the paper pallets don’t conform to a standard footprint anyway,and optimising deck utility can require Rubik’s Cube-cracking abilities. The whole scenario resulted in Zeyn and Farzana picking up a pencil and using plenty of the ‘good parchment’ when it came time to plan the original Hino’s replacement.

Not an everyday sight, an FY 3248 Hino with a 10x4 conversion
working within the city boundaries on metro.

‘Cabtivating’

When we tested the Wickham Hino we said of all the middleweights we’d reviewed in that round of tests, we thought the interior of the Hino was the ‘truckiest’ of them all, meaning the inside was more in keeping with a truck, having a nicely segregated driver’s compartment and just more of a big truck feel. Nothing changes on that sentiment with the Raiyaan FY either. Of all the big trucks from Japan we’ve had a look at lately the Hino we think takes out the cab trophy – just. Admittedly we haven’t gone back to a big UD for a while and it’s no use heading that way at the moment as the new Quon we saw in Brissy last year is due at any tick of a clock, not to mention something new and potentially magnificent on its way from the marque with a three-diamond badge. The cab was a joy to climb in and out of, and it had the same black and grey hue as the Wickham truck. We don’t have a problem with black; it’s the one colour that is ageless. When is Zorro ever not cool?

There’s a nice modular pod type wrap (sort of), across the dash à la Kenworth K124 that’s cool as, but not styled to dovetail with the design of the instrument binnacle in front of the driver, and that’s a tad weird. They both work superbly well, they just don’t complement each other style-wise.

It’s a 6-gauge cluster in front of the driver with a bank of warning lights. Wands on the left and right of the fully adjustable steering column accommodate wipers/washers and engine brake on the left, and indicators, cruise and lights on the right. The centre console houses climate control, various switches, and the entertainment/connectivity/phone/ navigation unit that’s as standard in trucks now as a brake pedal. The driver gets an ISRI 6860 air-suspended seat and there is a bunk behind the seats that’s useable, although not as usable as that of last month’s Isuzu.

The Raiyaan truck is a low roof so there’s a bit of central storage overhead and the rest is in door pockets, central consoles and document trays. There’s a huge centrally mounted ceiling light.

It’s the most ‘open’ and least constricted central area we’ve seen in the Japanese trucks of recent so that was a plus. It would be the easiest bunk to clamber into from the cockpit... again, just. Agh, the cockpit, that was the one slight negative. Neither Zeyn, or Mark in the Sollys machine for that matter, are big burly blokes, which is a plus because this driving compartment was designed with sizes M and L in mind, and XL, XXL the last thing in mind. The gearbox shifter is beautifully mounted on a tower to the left of the driver, the steering wheel is a much nicer size than the one taken from a Whitbread yacht in last month’s Isuzu, but it’s all very...well, close. Sitting in the driver’s seat my right knee was touching the driver’s door.

Without doubt one of the Hino’s finest attributes is the beautiful deep and orchestral engine note. It’s a lovely sounding motor, one that makes you want to keep the radio down and just listen to the awesome guttural note each time the throttle is buried. And that’s a good thing, not just because of the therapeutic value, but also for the reason that even though we spent nearly the entire day on hot-mix surfaces the lowest recording we got on the sound meter was 72dB. Thank goodness it’s a sweet, sweet song the Hino sings.

The round instrument binnacle and squared off wrap both work well
but are an odd union aesthetically. It’s a snug fit for the driver.

Of the big Japanese rigs we’ve sampled in the last year it’s definitely the
easiest to clamber around in if you need to go anywhere... like the bunk.

We hope the person in charge of designing the cab-entry on the
700 series was well rewarded for their work.

Zeyn’s never far away when the forkhoists are within cooey of his guards. Image is paramount for him.

Voilà!

What resulted was what we see today.

“It’s not easy to get people to do something outside the norm. It’s takes longer and there’s always the doubters,” said Zeyn. “But it’s working a treat and often in high demand for other work due to its payload capability, although I have to be a bit firm on that at times. It’s about ensuring the target customer is serviced first and foremost. I love it.”

The final solution was the Hino FY 3248 10x4 with a 9.0m long, 2.8m (internal) high Manukau Truck Bodies Ltd curtainside body with a Zepro tail lift fitted aft. The trailer that would have been required, had the norm been adhered to, now takes the form of a Hendrickson tag axle. It’s always there and doesn’t need to be hired in when needed. The deck can accommodate an 18-Chep footprint and it’ll swallow lots of odd shaped and sized paper pallets and reels. Payload on the unit is right on 15,600kg although with the right permitting that can extend all the way out to 21,719kg, as Zeyn explains.

“It just takes the pressure right off you know. I can take the loads without either being silly or towing a half-full trailer. There’s one customer in the city centre that always gets loads around the 14 and a half tonne mark and there’s no way you can get a trailer in there, so it was always two trips. A real pain. Not any more.”

The base unit is a stock Hino FY 3248 8x4 with a standard 5,595mm wheelbase. The addition of the tag axle increases the wheelbase to 6,620mm. The one thing Zeyn has noticed is the tail swing with 3.190m from the rear axis to the back of the body.

“You just have to be aware, especially pulling away from Zeyn’s never far away when the forkhoists are within cooey of his guards. Image is paramount for him. docks where you’ve loaded alongside. You have to be well clear before you start to turn. The tail lift is just something you have to have at Mainfreight if you don’t have a trailer coupling. It hardly gets used in my work, but it’s handy that it’s there I guess when I do need it.”

In addition there’s the ‘Zeyn factor.’ When it comes to vehicles this man is a perfectionist, and stock standard is never where it’s at. The truck is set off by additional round LEDlights set into stainless light bars on the body, polished alloy guards on the truck and a custom drop visor. It’s tasteful and perfectly done.

The Hino FY 3248 700 Series in its daily playground. When the lights
turn green this truck holds its position amidst the madding crowd,
no problem at all.

Why a Hino and why a 3248?

When it comes to trucks, overkill is an accusation the rest of the world has a habit of levelling at good old New Zealand. Whether it’s axle numbers or power we tend to cop it – just ask any Aussie operator how their FH16 750 Volvo is going. But in this instance even most Kiwis would ask why the top of the range 3248 Hino was specified in a metro delivery environment. Again, it’s the end user who knows their job best and it makes perfect sense.

Load shapes and sizes vary significantly

Starting with the Hino, it was all about the right product and a great response.

“I checked out a couple of Euros but the lead times out of Europe with the tag axle were crazy, six months in one case and up to eight in another. One supplier never even returned my call!” said Zeyn. “I looked at all the Japanese brands. The Isuzus we looked at didn’t really have the power I was after and the Fuso HD cab was a little high and wasn’t the easiest to get in and out of, and that’s really important in this job. I walked into Hino and it was a done deal. They had the perfect truck and Derek Fairbairn at Hino in Auckland said ‘yep we can do that’ when I mentioned the tag axle requirement. They sourced it out of stock in Palmerston North, sent it to Gary Douglas.

Engineering for the axle fitment, the guys at Manukau built the body, and three months after my first meeting with Derek I was rolling.”

“Zeyn is a very passionate customer,” said Derek Fairbairn, sales engineer at Hino Distributors (NZ) Ltd’s Auckland operation. “He took great pride in working through the detail of not only the Hino chassis but also the Manukau Truck Bodies build, which was extra long and had a few extras to suit Zeyn’s specialist requirements. Zeyn was great to work with and we all enjoyed the vehicle handover with his Mum and Dad present. It was great fun and a proud moment for us all.”

Electric cab tilt is in this sneaky hatch in the left hand step well. 

Daily checks are under the front flap.

As for the model choice, that’s about environment and durability. If we talk about horsepower per tonne, and the impact that has when it comes to on-road performance, the Raiyaan Hino probably sets a new bar. Even at the plated OEM GVM of 35 tonnes it would be 13.71hp/tonne. On its Kiwi compliant 29 tonne RUC sticker it’s a whopping 16.55. What it equates to in real terms is the ability for Zeyn to maintain a relaxed state and flow with the traffic in a city where the traffic doesn’t often actually flow.

“You have to be able to maintain your place in the flow,” he explains. “When the traffic breaks and things move you can’t be stuck with a gutless truck trying to keep up. If you’re in a truck like that and a gap opens up, five cars fill it and you’ve gone absolutely nowhere. If you want to get through the work you have to be able to move when it counts. And this is not an easy job, it takes a lot of concentration and it can be very tiringspending all day in the city boundaries. Look how easy this thing does it. It’s effortless, man!”

Many think life for such a truck would be a cinch – not so.

This big Hino, although having never seen any real off-road conditions, and with modest loads at best, by no means gets an easy row to hoe. This truck’s accelerating, braking or turning for hour after hour. Evidence was in the fuel consumption, which based on the rough figures Zeyn gave us, shows the truck doing slightly better than 2.12kpl (6.0mpg), the same you’d expect from a top performing line haul unit running at much higher weights but with long periods on cruise control and generally more constant crankshaft speeds. This Hino wouldn’t know what a constant crankshaft speed was. It’s a pity the Auckland traffic scene is the way it is. With a little more flow and a little less stop/go that figure could be way better still.

Likewise, the constant turning, twisting and raking in and out of driveways is not easy on a chassis dripping with axles and with a big rear overhang when running light or empty. Zeyn wanted a truck that would perform and last. Something over-engineered for the task. In the FY he has both. So far the truck is in its 18th month of operation on the job, and the 60,000km mentioned above have been totally trouble-free.

Mission driven

Zeyn’s introduction into the transport industry is nearly as unique as the Hino 700 Series he has put on the road.

Thirty-seven-year-old Zeyn is Auckland born and bred and meeting him for the first time you quickly appreciate his strong passion for anything with wheels, and the way it is presented. However, the journey to the present day started back in a university lecture theatre where, in his last semester of a Bachelor of Commerce and Computer Science degree, Zeyn realised that a future of crunching numbers for a living, cooped up in an office, was not the way forward, opting instead for an occupation that got him outside and enjoying his love of driving.

At 21 Zeyn had already started his driving career within the Urgent Courier industry as a relief driver, so a move to NZ Couriers was a natural progression, beginning as an owner-driver. Crazy hours and what he saw as unrealistic operational requests brought on a need for change and a more relaxed pace of life.

Zeyn took up an opportunity with Toll Airport Operations. It was hard graft and after 10 years Zeyn had developed a business operation under the Toll banner comprising no fewer than 10 courier vans and staff. The constant headaches with staffing issues and maintaining a realistic margin saw this industrious Kiwi sell up his Toll operation and move on.

After a little time out Zeyn aired his interest in the trucking industry to his wife Farzana. It was met with concern that he would be away from home and family many days at a time and miss out on his young family growing up. With this in mind Zeyn set about looking at Auckland Metro opportunities and came across an open door with the welcome mat out at Mainfreight’s Metro Division. The work involved looking after a specific client with some general overflow tasks along for the ride as well.

The shift for Zeyn in to the Metro delivery side of the industry with Mainfreight has helped him realise his ambition to own and operate a truck at the heavy end of the road transport spectrum. In saying this Zeyn is quick to add that the knowledge he gained at university, along with wife Farzana’s occupation as an associated chartered accountant, have helped dramatically when it comes to making hard business decisions along the journey. “It removes a lot of the emotion and helps to keep you on track with the overall mission in business.”

Travelling about the bustling metropolis with Zeyn and watching first-hand how he goes about completing his deliveries, you soon observe that the mandatory Mainfreight tailgate message of inspiration, personally selected by Zeyn ‘Everything comes to he who hustles while they wait’ could not be more apt. Zeyn is an efficient operator who is always on the hunt for little tweaks that will help him achieve an end goal, right down to set paths that make the most of avoiding known traffic hotspots at various times of the day.

The Mainfreight work brought an opportunity for more flexible hours of operation. Yes, it does require anearlier start, however that invariably means an earlier finish most days, allowing Zeyn to enjoy a good work-life balance, spending quality time with Farzana and sons Raiyaan and Zubayr. “Being able to attend things like rugby practices are a real bonus with the Mainfreight job.”

We were pleased to hear that Zeyn also has an active approach to raising his sons and believes in showing them first-hand from a young age the dedication it takes to run a vehicle, whether it be going to the tyre shop on a Saturday morning in the Hino or cleaning out the new Hilux ute after they have distributed their sandwich crumbs everywhere in the back seat. “You have to start early,” says Zeyn. “You reap later what you teach now.”

We look forward to coming back in 15 years or so when Raiyaan puts his first new Hino on the road.

Even with such a young family Raiyaan Transport is truly a
family affair. While Zeyn and Farzana are 
at the company helm,
sons Raiyaan and Zubayr 
are learning what it takes to keep the ‘big
blue 
breadwinner’ rolling.

Where it comes from

As we said above the truck’s a standard spec FY 3248 ProShift 16 Air Dana. Under the utterly immaculate Khan interior (you’re scared to touch anything in case you leave a mark) nestled between the rails is the Hino E13CVG 6-cylinder motor of 12.913 litres displacement. It’s a turbo intercooled unit with an electronic common rail fuel system, direct injection, EGR and SCR to deliver its Euro 5 emissions status. It produces 353kW (480hp (PS)) at 1800rpm with a peak torque of 2157Nm (1590lb/ft) at 1100rpm, holding a fairly flat line until plummeting south at the 1900Nm (1401lb/ft) mark at 1800rpm. Ancillary braking is via an in-house engine compression brake

Behind the engine is the fabulous ZF AS-Tronic 16-speed automated manual transmission and rearward of that Hino’s 21,000kg DSH44 tandem axle set with diff lock and cross locks on both axles. The retrofitted Hendrickson D22 axle is perched in there as well.

Suspension in the rear is Hendrickson HAS460 air suspension with double acting shocks on the drive, and the tag rides along on Hendrickson HLM-2 air suspension. Up front Hino MF781 axles rated at 15,000kg sit on semi-elliptic tapered leaf springs with shock absorbers and stabilisers.

Dual circuit ‘S’ cam full air brakes are supported by ABS as standard. The rig is fitted with 275/70R 22.5 tyres on Alcoa alloy rims.

GVM in this configuration is 35,000kg and GCM 72,000kg.

What happens when it’s activated 

It’s no use wasting any paper on climbing ability or the hold back capabilities of the engine brake. There’s no incline or decline in the greater Auckland area that poses any challenge to this machine whatsoever. It’s an interesting experience. We’ve always said that a city is a tough place to operate a truck in the context of conformity. If a little light on a stalk turns red, even the biggest fully loaded combination has to stop...even in the wet, on a greasy bitumen climbing turn. Getting started again is your problem. The Hino however, is truly the city beater.

This machine lives up to Zeyn’s requirements in every respect. Loading’s a piece of cake with only ever two curtains to open or close, not four. The biggest payloads we had on our day out were 12.7 tonne and 15 tonne and neither affected the truck’s ability to accelerate at a blisteringly quick pace, able to keep abreast of traffic and effortlessly hold its position in the endless queues.

With deceptive ease. Zeyn happily engages in conversation on all
manner of subjects while weaving the big 700 Series though
Auckland’s daily reshoot of a scene from Mad Max.

Although we don’t support the assertion that AMT gearboxes are now the go-to for all gear changing requirements, the urban environment is certainly one place they are proving their worth in more and more operations. What increases the appeal in this instance is the fact the ZF AS-Tronic is one of our faves in AMT family. An easy to use piece of kit with fantastic, smooth, gear changing characteristics and not prone to the million unnecessary gear changes that always identify an AMT to any seasoned observer. Zeyn too, is a big fan of his auto-stirrer, although he says he does take over on some of the bigger loads as, in his words, “It just seems to change too soon and labour too much”.

Taking a look at the power/torque curves the magic criss-cross happens at about 1350rpm where power is about 290kW (390hp) and torque has barely moved off its peak of 2157Nm (1590lb/ft). The green band on the tach runs from 800 to 1400rpm so there’s certainly an OEM desire to run operations in the lower end. The engine note that comes with that may not suit the ear of a man who crowbarred a 2.2L Honda Prelude engine into a Honda Civic chassis. In a normal full weight application we’d argue that green band was unrealistic and on a steep grade you’d end up in the same situation Roger Prictor did in the Rhodes Fuso HD; with the rate of shift not able to keep pace with the loss of speed. In that application we’d advocate keeping things spinning along. However, the Raiyaan truck and application could be the perfect place to attune the inner ear to a new sound and see what happened to fuel consumption as a result. All that aside there’s no mistaking Zeyn is a natural and talented driver who’s certainly mastered AMT operation. His execution manifested itself in a smoothness of progress among the best we’ve seen.

Handling-wise the Hino was unfaultable. Its fully floating air-suspended but firmly mounted cab gave occupants an absolutely comfortable but firm and positive ride experience. Generally speaking ‘we’ (humanity) have cab suspensions down to a fine mathematical art. The many wallowing beasts of the early 80s are a distant memory, the only flashback of recent times has been the Sinotruk T7H-G and then only in certain  circumstances, and understandable considering it’s still being tuned to our unique topography.

As you’d expect with 10 feet and no trolley behind, it went through corners like it was on rails. The truck is still on original front steer tyres with at least a half-life left. Second steer have been replaced as have front drive. The rest are originals.

Braking was impeccable, and the reality is stopping quickly is a big thing in Zeyn’s world, having to head out to play with Auckland’s finest every day. Bringing proceedings to a rapid halt in response to a lunatic act is part and parcel of this jovial chap’s working day.

Conclusion

Courage and backing yourself is a wonderful thing. It can be full of reward or a valuable, maybe costly, learning experience. Zeyn and Farzana Khan are well-educated savvy business people who took a slightly alternative approach to the odd load sizes, erratic weights, and tortuous theatre of operations their big blue breadwinner was to face. It’s pointless testing a new concept when it’s new. It always ends with a statement like ‘time will tell’. Raiyaan Transport’s FY 3248 is 18 months into its experiment. A big truck prowling a big jungle, working amongst much smaller workmates. Has it worked? Looking at the smiles on Zeyn and Farzana Khan’s faces will tell you all you need to know.