MAIN TEST - IDITAROD - Kiwi style

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Few challenges on the planet unify man and beast like Iditarod, the 1500-odd kilometre dog sled race held annually between Anchorage and Nome in Alaska. But you don’t have to go that far north if you want to see big hounds undertaking feats of endurance under the guidance of a master handler; you can find it right here at the top end of our own beautiful land.

Ask any truck-head in New Zealand where you can find a Mack Titan and most would direct you somewhere in the vicinity of Murupara or the like. Not so if you ask that question in Northland. Whangarei-based Shane Laurence recently put an interesting variant of Mack’s mightiest badge to work in his Aysha Logging livery. A Super Liner Titan, the truck will cart logs out of the Far North to sawmills, and the export facility at Northport. Regulars to our pages will recall the last new Mack Super Liner wearing the stunning Aysha colours taking the Top Truck prize in the July 2014 issue of New Zealand Trucking magazine, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that would be a near impossible act to beat. Well, maybe not.

First things first
A Super Liner Titan? Yes, a Super Liner Titan – it’s actually registered as that. Let us explain. Firstly, ceasing the vendor engine option on big Macks eliminated the need for the longer Titan-specific hood. Mack now uses the Super Liner bonnet on all Titans going forward, meaning they now share cab and bonnet. Secondly, the Titan is a more…‘malleable’ beast when it comes to custom building. You can start with a 90 tonne GCM machine and by adding things like bigger rear ends – up to the indestructible Sisu hub reduction set-ups – auxiliary transmissions and other beefier bits and pieces, you can build a behemoth able to wear a GCM plate starting with a ‘2’ and ending in ‘hundred and something’. King House Removals, Fulton Hogan, and the legendary Gibbo Dahngee all have Titans specified to various degrees of outrageous ability. There’s a ‘but’ though.

A Titan with a GCM above 90 tonne falls under a different warranty package on the reasonable expectation that life will get a little arduous at times. In the case of the Aysha machine, a 90 tonne GCM was ample, as is a Super Liner spec undercarriage. The big differentiators between the standard Super Liner and the Super Liner Titan are therefore the cab height and the badges. It’s worth noting a 50mm increase in cab height doesn’t sound a great deal, but it’s striking when they’re alongside each other at the trailer gantry, or you’re climbing aboard the Titan variant Being the outstanding people they are, those crazy kids at MTD Trucks Palmerston North, renowned for maverick number 8 wire exploits on their precious pups, wanted to do something a little bit more for Shane, so ‘The Last Stand’ – that’s the truck’s name – got a Southern Cross special edition grille to boot. The result? Well, look for yourself; the drool will flow quickly.


Photo: An extra 50mm in cab height and the Southern Cross grille set this truck apart visually.

It’s official!

The lands that governments forget
Northland is a shit of a place on trucks. We always complain about the roads in Auckland’s northern hinterland but there’s no disputing the fact that as you continue up, the road quality pretty much continues down. You’d think with only one cruddy under-cooked railway line winding its way from Auckland to Whangarei the bitumen arteries and veins would be topnotch. Wrong. There’s no question part of Northland’s longsuffering economy is directly correlated to its lack of transport infrastructure. Like the South Island’s West Coasters, in Northland you’ll find so many genuine people battling their guts out to make a go of it, and feeling pretty abandoned by central government. The fact that it was a Northland operator who stood up at the recent RTF conference and gave Transport Minister Phil Twyford the most impassioned summation on the administration’s shortcomings says it all.

To make matters worse, if you’re going to log in the north, there’s even less on the plus side. Although the Pouto forests are built on the sand dunes like Woodhill, others, like Opouteke and Mangakahia, are the equal of anything you’ll find on the Coromandel, East Cape and Nelson, not to mention the private woodlot work that goes on. Switch-back roads and single lane bridges that take four or five bites to get on to. They maybe the basis of great work stories but it can certainly be character building stuff at the time. Because of work profile and infrastructure, the Aysha Titan – like its Super Liner siblings – is set up as a classic 6x4 and 4-axle trailer, stickered at 45 tonne. It’s always cool when you see this configuration in a log truck nowadays, especially when they have central tyre inflation (CTI), because you instantly know that at some point, life for this man-machine duo gets very real. So let’s see who is …




Photos: One of Northland’s main arteries linking service towns and its biggest city. You’d have to wonder where the RUCs all went.

The big dog’s master
So you have a tortuous task and track, but one mother of a dog. If the dog’s not going to run amok then you’ll need a master ‘musher’, or in our speak, operator. Enter the scene 62-year-old Geoff Heywood. To gauge the respect Shane holds Geoff in, when Geoff had a wee health issue that parked him up for a bit recently, his dog was pretty much parked for a lot of the time too. “Buggered if I’m going to be the first one to put a mark on it,” Shane told us a couple of months back. The Titan is called ‘The Last Stand’, a subtle hint from Geoff that this may be the last one. “Yeah, that’s the idea,” Geoff laughed, “but Shane reckons I’ve got at least two more left in me. We’ll see.” Keeping 20m and 45 tonne upright in Northland requires a certain ‘demeanour’ shall we say, and Geoff has it in absolute spades. Geoff is so calm and unflustered he makes the Dalai Lama look like a raving halfwit. Here’s an interesting comparison: the last 6x4 and 4-axle log truck carting out of a tortuous region we ran in was Shane McFarlane in the Satherley Legend, and from our observations on respective days, Geoff and Shane are two peas in a log truck pod. Both men make such a mockery of the broader public’s ignorant belief structures in regard to truck drivers that they should be paid ambassadors of the industry. If truck driving means your kids turn out like either of these two men, then get them in the cab as soon as you can.

Wheel dog!
The wheel dogs are the biggest and strongest in the sled team, closest to the load, and first to take the weight on starts and climbs. Yep, the Titan’s a wheel dog all right. When we’re talking about aerobic fitness, the Titan packs one of the biggest lungs in the game. The 16.1-litre, 6-cylinder Mack MP10 has been around every block you can imagine and is a more than well-respected engine capable of bewildering performance figures. It’s a Euro 5 motor using SCR to effect the clean outcome. Sporting a single head with overhead cam and multi valve layout, unit injectors, and a variable vein turbo charger, there are obvious bloodlines to the D16 Volvo family, but like all products of this nature, it’s tuned and developed by Mack for Mack. Physically she’s a whopping piece of iron, especially when you’ve got into the groove of staring at 13-litre and smaller engines.

It’s certainly worthy of sitting under a bonnet with a Titan name badge. In fact, when specced to its highest settings, the MP10 makes the Super Liner and Titan the most powerful off-the-shelf bonneted trucks your coin can buy. The MP10 is in that ‘it doesn’t matter’ family, meaning put whatever you like behind me I’ll get it to where it needs to go in a timeframe equalled by only a select few. The peak power of 511kW (685hp) hangs around from 1500 to 1800rpm and the torque peak of 3150Nm (2300lb/ft) turns up at 1000rpm and is there until 1550rpm. Mack say the sweet spot economy-wise is 1250 to 1450rpm, and that’s exactly where Geoff drives it – hour after hour after hour. It’s a great comparison with last month’s test truck, the UD QUON with the 11-litre GH11 rated at 343kW (460hp) and 2200Nm (1623lb/ ft). When we say comparison we’re not in any way demeaning the QUON, they’re utterly different machines for completely different roles. What we mean is it’s a demonstration of how much easier it is to get a big bore motor to hang around the critical numbers for longer. UD among others have done great things eking performance out of their smaller burners, but the peak stats are often a moment in time. Not so the big bangers. In the MP10 the whole time you’re churning out 3150Nm you’re never under 336kW (450hp). Four hundred and fifty horsepower was a kick-arse truck in 1985. The MP10’s a real blacksmith in its ability to bend steel and for that reason it does have something in common with its more modest Volvo group stablemate in that you can’t get the MP10 in 685 trim with a manual stirrer (you can in 600 spec).


Photo: Tapping it out into Northport.

It’s a driveline preservation thing. The company’s mDRIVE TmD12O23 12-speed transmission is where you’ll need to be, but if you want crawler gears you’ll need an auxiliary, as there’s no hint yet from the big Vikings at the front of the longboat re crawler gears in the mDRIVE. When it comes to useable, fall-in-love-with AMTs, the Volvo Group I-SHIFT derivatives are near the top of the pops. Owner Shane is not a convert as yet, and said in a classic booming crack-up ‘Shane’ kind of way, “It’s a retirement truck!” Geoff on the other hand laughed – in an understated ‘Geoff ’ sort of way – and said, “My knees and shoulders are a decade older than his”. Behind the mDRIVE are a set of Meritor RT46-160GP axles at 20,900kg capacity, 3.58:1 final drive, and locks on both axles. The front axle is the 7500kg Mack FXL 16.5 on parabolic springs and shocks, and in the rear is Mack AP460 Air Suspension at 20,900kg capacity also. Other ‘forward no matter what’ features include traction control, Mack’s Grade Gripper hill start assist, and a Big Foot CTI installation.


Photo: The MP10’s a big lump of grunt.

Trees and a windy road
We jumped in with Geoff at Ruakaka. The drive-in weigh, trailer gantry, tyre shed, Caltex diesel stop, and coffee facility on Marsden Point Road just off SH15A is a fantastic set up with plans afoot to take it many levels better. We’re heading for Pouto forest on the dunes at the southernmost tip of the Kaipara Harbour’s northern arm. State Highway 14 is the main artery from one of Northland’s largest service towns, Dargaville, to the region’s only city, Whangarei. By Northland standards it’s a motorway on account of it having dual fog lines almost the whole way. That’s the ‘pros’ list done. As far as ‘cons’ go, it’s narrow – very in some places – shoulderless, twisting, has many camber-less or off-camber corners, and undulates with the contours of the land. In the 50-odd kilometres between Maungatapere and Dargaville there’s only one passing lane and a slow vehicle bay. The road has log truck traffic on it constantly as well as workers commuting to and from Whangarei in the morning and afternoon, plus all the other usuals like freight trucks, school buses, and those gems of motoring mayhem, tourists. After Dargaville things change. The 66km regional highway to the forest gates is narrower still, steeper, more undulating, and windier. Ironically, once through the gates, the situation gets a little more docile, thanks to the forest’s sand dunes home. The 160km from the gantry to our skid took us two hours and forty minutes, and that’s with 685hp and no hold-ups.

Interestingly, the power of the Titan is as evident when it’s empty as it is when loaded. Geoff and I were chatting, and we came upon a tractor in a steep winding section just south of the forest. The farmer pulled over in a patch where we could see far enough in front and Geoff gave the big dog a flick on the throttle. We kept chatting but then we realised we’d just been baulked and passed a tractor on a steep pinch of road in 16 tonnes of log truck that took off in a way no Hillman Hunter could ever have dreamed of. It was contemporary car-like liftoff, and on reflection we’d felt the acceleration push us back in the seat. A rattly ride into the skid – you’d never sneak up on anyone in a log truck. The Titan is kitted out with Kraft log gear, the truck has new bolsters and the trailer was fully refurbished in preparation for the truck’s arrival. It’s a typical Aysher-looking outfit…mint.
Commence the modern log skid loading procedure. Trailer down and hooked up, driver back in cab and looking at his tablet that’s Bluetoothed to the scales. Two heel boom grapple loaders fire on the load. There’s no egress from the cab until the wood’s on, and with grapples grounded, the driver checks to make sure he’s happy. Once she’s all kapai, pull away up the road to chain while the next in line backs into position.


Photo: The bush is a tough gig as the heat of summer comes; the heat haze is rising up north already.

Unleash the beast
Actually no. Lights, camera (us, not Geoff ), action, and we’re away with no fanfare whatsoever. Geoff jumped in, pressed ‘D’ on the dash, gave the throttle a brush, and the Titan just buggered off. Admittedly the road and skid were as dry as an Arab’s gym shoe, but in 2018, leaving a skid with threequarters of a thousand horsepower and ‘cleverness’ conducting operations means efficiency replaces theatre. Dialogue like ‘C’mon girl’, is now replaced with ‘Man, what a lovely day’. The MP10 is less ‘unleash the beast’ and more of a ‘strong silent type’. While it appears to be docile the bitumen is disappearing under its tyres at a deceptively rapid rate. “It was right up there on trip times from the first load,” said Geoff. “You just can’t tell.” And he’s right. Considering we’re in a bonneted truck, the engine note is lazy and subdued, made even more apparent by the quietness of Mack’s PowerLeash engine brake.


Photo: A man and his best friend. The last stand? We’ll see.

Case in point, Mosquito Gully on the Pouto road. In-cab noise under load climbing, 71dB. In-cab noise on the other side descending with the PowerLeash ‘ablaze’… 71dB. On the flat at 90km/h and 1450rpm, 69 – 70dB. It might be a Super Liner Titan, but it’s not going to scare the wildlife any time soon. Back to Mosquito Gully. It’s always frustrating in turf that’s on the roads less travelled. Mosquito Gully is typical in these parts, a one-kilometre snake up out of a gully…think Tarawera on the western side with a bit more venom maybe? Something like that.

Geoff never took a lunge at it; that’s pointless here, there are a zillion of them to climb and you’re not going to get that extra load in anyway, two’s it. The Titan bored into it, and hooking up and around the climbing right hander where the steepest pinch is, it got to 33km/h, in 8th gear and 1300rpm for but a moment, and then it just hauled arse with the speed increase kept in check by the wisest of right feet. We noticed the mDRIVE would downshift at 1200rpm in the guts and glory of a pull, but hang on to 1000rpm if the end was in sight. That’ll be down to throttle finesse. Geoff said the engine brake on the MP10 has impressed him, in terms of noise, or lack thereof, and retardation. “It’s really good eh, it holds you back all right. Bloody impressive.” (That’s the Geoff equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo combined.) It’s no surprise the MP10’s got a good engine brake; it’s another benefit of displacement. At 2000rpm the retardation is 375kW (503hp), and being an overhead cam, if you let her spin up to 2300rpm, she’ll give you 435kW (570hp). Power’s a wonderful thing. It’s safer because you don’t have to worry about cornering speeds. You just slow down to the appropriate posted speed, and then accelerate back up to cruise once you’re clear. The Titan’s ability to do just that is mindnumbing. However, it’s certainly not a truck for anyone even showing a hint of over-zealous hammer lane antics, especially in this neck of the woods.


Photo: Two of Aysha’s big hounds. Terry Trubshoe in Geoff’s previous truck about to pass Geoff waiting in the turn bay.

But none of that appears to be the MP10’s number one party trick. That honour goes to consumption, and its numbers will sit the big displacement, big power knockers back on their haunches. Yes, the truck runs 50 percent loaded at what is a modest weight for this league of wagon. But the roads are as unforgiving as you can imagine and a crankshaft speed variation graph would resemble a Richter scale gone mad; and yet Geoff ’s average fuel burn is 1.95kpl (5.50mpg). Again, it comes back to the driver, and in that regard, you couldn’t handpick a better match to the machine if you tried. “The mDRIVE helps you keep it in the sweet range,” said Geoff. But that’s modesty speaking also. You have to be the sort of guy who has the outright discipline to keep all this energy in check.
On the DEF side of the ledger, Geoff says the tank holds about 150 litres and he puts a hundred in a week. Daily distance is about 550 to 600km. There’s one word that describes the Titan’s ride: firm. The cab’s on rear bag and shocks, and rubber up front. It’s absolutely flat through corners, and communicates the road’s story with little subediting up to the ISRI Big Boy driver’s saddle. It’s a slightly more robust ride than the Legend was, probably on account of the front axle being a bit more under you and not right out front; come to think of it, there’s shades of T610 about it. The air suspension seat allows Geoff to float along. “It’s smoother and quieter than the last Super Liner,” he said. For us, bonneted US trucks are ‘home’ in the sense that they’re our yardstick trucks by which all other rides are subliminally referenced. In this Northland country your truck has to communicate back to the driver exactly where it is and how it’s feeling, and in that sense there’d be few if any that are better.


Photo: Gone are the days of standing on the log frame placing the logs by hand signal. Geoff will get a chance to check things once the loading's done.

Handling and braking was on point, as you’d expect in a bonneted US gig, with the silver dog (silver due to Meritor diffs) poking his nose exactly where Geoff pointed him. The modern steering wheel is so small it looks almost odd; however modern steering and front end geometry is truly a wonderful thing. There are drum brakes all round with ABS. It’s a pendulum brake pedal.
For us the Titan has all the real tenets to qualify it as one of the safest trucks you could buy for this operation. Mack gets the fundamentals absolutely bang-on. It’s strong, powerful, and communicative – through seat of the pants feel, not via some gadget. It’s an old-school driver’s truck. If you’re the kind of driver who sees a truck as a glorified computer game on wheels, then you might struggle. This machine speaks in different ways.

We arrived back at the intersection of State Highways 15 and 1 at the Otaika Valley. This, ladies and gentlemen, has to be one of the worst intersections on the national network. According to Geoff she’s about to get the roundabout treatment, but only after a local uprising following the original decision by the NZTA not to do anything as the benefitcost ratio didn’t stack up. Two minutes here trying to get out can have beads of sweat forming on the brow. The fact that 50-plus heavy trucks a day execute the right-hand turn makes a mockery of the safety BS proffered from the political pulpit. It should have been gone a decade ago. The fact the benefit-cost ratio didn’t stack up speaks volumes of the men and women driving the trucks who have to deal with it. Once free of that nightmare, the run into Ruakaka seems surreal in its ease compared with the last four hours. Another indication of the Titan’s ability is Smeaton’s Hill on SH1 that was crested in top at 70km/h and 1200rpm. All you can do is smile.

Summary
So where are we left with the Super Liner Titan? Is it too much truck for the job? Nope, certainly not. Is it too much truck for some drivers? Yes, it most certainly would be. Like we said at the start, it’s an endurance race up here, survival of the fittest machine, and like sled dogs, the most capable machines will perform to their optimum in the hands of the best handlers. There’s a decade or more of racking, twisting, braking, and hauling on roads that will continue to be our representation of a Third World transport network for some time to come. At the end of any endurance event there needs to be a winner and in that regard Shane Laurence’s decision to back the biggest, strongest dog with one of the best dog handlers in the game should most definitely pay off.

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Behind the Silver Bulldog
The Mack cab’s a wonderful place; well, we think it is. It’s snug, serviceable, and above all else, cool. Bonneted American trucks have come an extraordinary distance in terms of ambience, in no small part due to the influence of European partners or owners, but in the Mack, and the Kenworth for that matter, all that makes the US brethren gravitate to Uncle Sam’s machines is still there. There’s no point in trying to ascertain whose philosophy is ‘better’, that’s like saying apple pies are better or worse than crème brulees – it’s pointless, they’re both puddings; which one you like is up to you. As apple pies go though, this is an extremely good one. Inside it’s finished in burgundy with pleated and button Ultraleather vinyl, and colour-coded paint on the door frames.



Photos: The perfect representation of a modern US-style dash. They still work just fine for drivers.

The main dash is a heavy grey plastic wrap with a woodgrain finish. Being the mDRIVE there’s no gear stick, so it’s all clear space between driver and occupant. There’s an upholstered storage unit with a hinged lid between the seats, a cubby in the back wall, under-seat storage on the passenger side, door pockets, and little storage compartments above the windscreen and in the hood lining. It sounds a lot and it’s ample, but this is a bonneted US truck with a day cab – if you’re away for a few days you’d need to be frugal. The lighting is superb. OEMs seem to know the global driving demographic is aging and need the light when doing the admin in the evening. Dash-wise it’s all American. The austerity club in the dashboard design department at Volvo HQ must look and shake their heads, but it’s a thing of true beauty. All the gauges are in front of Geoff with Mack’s Co-Pilot telemetry and diagnostic screen top and centre, and the warning lights in a pair of screens either side that sort of look like a Bulldog’s deep droopy eyes. Shift buttons, switches, climate, and the ‘wireless’ are on the wrap, as is the CB and CTI controller. Huge bouquets to the Big Foot guys for the job they did installing the CTI box. There’s no entertainment, navigation/phone control display as yet. We’d imagine it won’t be far away if you know what we mean. Would be cool if cruise and wipers were built into the steering column wands but they’re fine right where they are.


Photo: Burgundy interior and buttoned diamond pattern. Nowadays there’s plenty of lighting.

Being a log truck, every available space overhead has an RT or bush radio. Indicator and dip are on the left wand, and on the right is the menu selector for Co-Pilot. The steering adjusts for telescope and rake and its only function is directional control of the machine…praise be. Entry’s an interesting thing. It’s a haul into the Titan cab, three steps with the last one into the cab proper a real haul. The view from the summit is worth the climb. The bonnet rakes away and is remarkably absent from the visual field; nothing like the Super Liner of olden times. The elevated air intakes are well tucked away, far better than say a T6 or 9 series Kenworth, and the mirrors are classic West Coasters, heated and electrically adjustable, with spotters for stump and logend detection. You’d think she’d be a visibility landmine, but not so. It’s an open and airy cab, and with normal ‘look twice, act once’ protocols, you’ll be fine at intersections.


It’s definitely a Titan when you’re talking entry.

From the front!
You’re sitting in the ute and into the fuel stop wheels a Mack Super Liner to die for. Brakes on, the door swings open and out jumps six-foot-something of Shane Laurence. He sees you walking his way… “Dave! Sorry mate, she’s all bloody go. I’ve had a hell of a day. Trucks, drivers, she’s a battle. What do you think? She’s a retirement truck isn’t she? No gear lever! I don’t know. Geoff loves it.” Straight away you can see why Aysha Logging has 20 trucks, many of which are blinged up. If Shane were in the army he’d be SAS. No middle ground. We’re not here to play tiddly-winks, he’d scream for the biggest machine gun and be over the top, headlong into the fray. He has a plan and will execute it no matter what. He’s a do as I do leader and fools have no place in his regiment. Twenty minutes later you’re in the company hut; he’s knocked off. “Do you want a beer?” “Yep.” There are notes on paper, notes on the back of the hand, cell phones, questions coming from all directions. They’re all answered.

Instructions are issued clearly; there’s a formidable intellect driving the inner workings. It’s like we said – he’s a lead from the front guy. There’s an air of the late Matt Purvis about it all. Matt was the co-founder of Taupo icon Total Transport Ltd and was the consummate director of people, trucks, and loads – all with a positive mindset. That’s how you’d describe Shane. He’ll listen to what a driver has to offer, and as big as he is, he’s not too big to alter course if the suggestion makes sense. That’s respect for staff right there; not some ridiculous certificate for walking in the marked paths faultlessly for a month. But he’s not from driving stock. Born in Auckland, Shane is the son of a rigger/scaffolder. He left school at 15 and while working for the Waipu Timber Company he was instructed to get his HT so he could move the company bulldozer.


Photo: Shane Laurence, cast from the old school mould.

Following that he did a stint on stock trucks for Somners Waipu Ltd. United Carriers brought out Somners where he transferred from stock to logs. He then brought his own log truck and contracted to Paragon. Aysha Logging Ltd was formed with the work comprising both corporates and woodlot. Today he’s 52 and the fleet comprises 20 trucks of mixed breed, including Macks, Freightliners, Scanias and a Kenworth. That’s an impressive achievement for a standing start in the industry. Half the company’s work is their own, and half is contracted. “Drivers are the issue in the industry. Getting good drivers. It’s a bloody problem Dave. Shit! I’ve got to go and organise some guys for tomorrow.” And with that, the glass half full, charismatic, and good Kiwi bloke that is Shane Laurence jumped in his ute and was gone. Gone to sort the troops for another day.


Partners in pups
Mack salesman Carl Capstick has sold Shane all his Macks. “My observation of Shane is his work ethic. To see what he has built the fleet into with sheer hard work and determination, attracting drivers who work with him rather than for him. Shane is a driver, mechanic, engineer, mentor. A business owner and one of this world’s down to earth good blokes. He’s always got time in his busy world to talk to you. He’s a true survivor of the industry, weathering the highs and lows and volatility.”

The MP10 man. Quiet and immensely capable.
How often is it you meet a quiet unassuming guy or gal, going about their work diligently, without fuss or bluster, or an ‘I am’ sign hanging around their necks, only to find out they are ones who are the real deal. You couldn’t level that observation on anyone with more accuracy than Geoff Heywood. Our minds went back to the unassuming and humble Troy Bellamy at Uhlenberg’s and his Peterbilt Crazy Horse. Geoff’s that kind of guy. Once again we thought about exclusive clubs, and Geoff too has hewn out a pretty cool niche in trucking folklore. Firstly, there are not that many drivers wheeling a Titan badge around the main arteries, and secondly, it’s not his first big hound. Geoff’s on his third Mack in the Aysha colours; prior to this truck were a pair of Cummins powered Super Liners. It’s an interesting observation that not only are both men – Geoff and Troy, and let’s throw Shane back in again – remarkably similar in demeanour, but also all three of their trucks are kept in immaculate condition. You can’t help but realise there’s a pattern forming here. So, what makes a Geoff Heywood? Sixty-two-year-old Geoff is a true man of the north. One of three boys, he was born in Mangawhai to dairy farming parents. Geoff wasn’t overly interested in farming and could often be found going for rides in the Europa fuel tanker following deliveries to the farm.


Photo: Geoff Heywood. The perfect match to a truck of this calibre. Calmness and discipline are natural traits; temptation is not in his vocab.

Postschool he did his time as a mechanic at the local Ford dealer in Wellsford, and after that, with the driving bug seriously irritating him, he took a job on a Ford Trader spreader, progressing on to a D Series in time. “Spreading is certainly a great grounding in traction, and just what a truck can and can’t do,” said Geoff. Following that he set off for Australia where he spent two years on the spanners again before coming home and into another stint driving spreaders. From there it was into International Trucks in Whangarei, again as a mechanic. “That was when Northland Dairy had all the Internationals, T-Lines and S-Lines; it was a busy workshop. There was always something going on.” Twenty years ago, Geoff climbed back in the cab and has been there ever since.

He started with Tahunabased Scott Transport, based up north. After Scott’s he went to Paragon Log Haulage and into the log trucks, where he’s pretty much stayed ever since. Geoff’s been with Shane a total of seven and a bit years, a two-year stint that was followed by a break when the work died off, and he’s now been back into it five and half years. When he’s not working Geoff is tinkering away on the ongoing restoration of his ‘84 Chevy pick-up. He and wife Diana enjoy taking it for runs on a Sunday and going out to the coast for a coffee and to relax. “It’s not immaculate, but it’s cool,” said Geoff. “We’ll get there.” They have two girls, Jodie and Katrina. They’re both grown up and do not appear to have any trace of diesel in their veins…but wait…all is not lost. Grandson Lucas most certainly does. “He can’t get enough of the truck. He helped me wash up on the weekend,” said Geoff with a grin. Can you imagine having Geoff Heywood to mentor you into the industry? Some kids have it made from the start!