MAIN TEST - No grey areas

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Ben and Leisa Reed are big Volvo fans. A year ago their FH13 540 got some company in the form of a mountaincrushing FH16 750 bush special. Now, from experience with the two, they’ve ordered what they think is the perfect truck for their line of work.

Photo: The Reed machines haul into the Brynderwyn Hills on the southern side.

“The reason they’re grey is because that’s the colour of my Hilux,” said Ruakaka-based log transport operator Ben Reed. It was an entirely voluntary insight. The universe certainly acts in mysterious ways. Although the colour choice has its roots in typical Reed practicality, it is an utterly appropriate hue in which to present this immaculate wee fleet to the world. Why? Well, in photographic circles the grey scale is a determiner of clarity, the result of the intensity and weighting of light. That’s exactly what Ben and Leisa Reed have done in their pursuit of clarity on the subject of log carting perfection. They’ve used intensity and weighting to determine what the next truck in their fleet will look like. A truck they consider will be bang on point.

No place for the hasty hearted
Reed Enterprises 2006 Ltd isn’t your normal log truck operation fronting up every morning amidst a plethora of other trucks working in the corporate plantation cycles. Ben’s his own man. A woodlot man. Reed trucks travel anywhere and everywhere north of the coathanger (Auckland Harbour Bridge) to retrieve wood from private stands of every size, shape, and location you can imagine, delivering it for export or to local mills. Ben’s brigade rarely has a ‘sweet’ skid site, and even the more innocuous looking load-out locations often harbour a trick or two for the unwary. His trucks are set up for their line of work, and the drivers masters in the art of patience. What that means is make a plan on what you intend to achieve for the day, but if it turns to custard on some remote farm skid site or track, then abort plan ‘A’ in preference of stopping, thinking, and acting methodically. In this game stuff gets bent and people get hurt if haste appears anywhere in problem solving.

Photo: The FH16 (above) stands head and shoulders above the FH13 540.

If you want it big, it’ll need to be really big
“That’s a bloody good truck,” said Ben pointing to the FH13 sitting happily in the yard after 343,000 gruelling Northland kilometres. “Don’t get me wrong, but I thought I could make it better for our work. I’d always wanted one of those,” he said, gesturing at the FH16, “and man, it took some getting.” So, what needed tweaking on the first truck to make it better suited to the Reed operation? “Well, firstly the I-Shift. Low gear isn’t anywhere near low enough for us and it’s not uncommon for the clutch heat warning light to come on. I wanted the crawlers,” said Ben. “Second, clearance. I needed more ground clearance so I wanted straight-beam front axles.” So that’s what the 750 was specced with, but it certainly did take some getting. Ben said Motor Truck Distributors were cautious about a 750 working in log cartage in Northland, and he credits his salesman Carl Capstick for the work he did getting the truck across the line. “There’s always a way, and I really wanted one. Carl was great and in the end it came down to me agreeing on hub reduction diffs. They cost me 325kg, but it’s all good.”

Photo: The average possum dreams of catching a break like this! Clearance plus!

Overall the FH16 comes with a 700kg penalty over the 540, made up of the big diffs, a bigger engine, crawler gear transmission, and spring suspension. But the truck wasn’t all about bucket lists; there’s certainly commercial sense to the 750. When the wood’s running, so are the trucks. Pete Hardie takes the wheel of the big fella by day, and then in the twilight Ben jumps in and heads to the Far North and does a load from one of the customers he services up there. Runs with a much longer lead that would otherwise tie the truck up all day. “It loves that night work and really comes into its own. The roads are clear of traffic so there are no hold-ups on the hills. We never work under pressure; it’s how we are, and with this I just trundle up and trundle back. It’s working out perfectly for the distance work and hey, it’s still good for over thirty-one tonne.”

When one and one make three
However, and there’s always a however, everything in life is a compromise. Ben’s learned that his monster from the north of the planet is not the machine for everyone. Aside from a tare penalty, the sheer power and torque means, as the owner, your stewardship over who’s behind the wheel at any one time has to be exemplary. “Shit, you have to be careful. You couldn’t just put anyone in it. We’re lucky with the team we have at the moment but it’s an owner’s truck, and the drivers I select personally.” So now number three is on the way, a truck Ben reckons ticks every box for the owner who may not always be the one behind the wheel, and a truck that will bring all the benefits of the 16 yet put a smile on the face of the company bean counter. A truck that’s a hybrid of the two. Due sometime next year is an FH13 540 with straight-beam front axles and crawler gears. Obviously, having the more diminutive burner up front means it doesn’t require the hub reduction rear end so almost the entire 700kg lost in the 16’s overall spec is back, hence the happy bean counter. “I went to the launch of the double-clutch, and that’s an amazing feature but you can’t get it with crawler gears yet, so that rules it out for us at the moment.”

Photo: Pulling off the Puhoi into a steep climb out. The power and the crawler gears means the FH16 can launch and get enough speed on to blast out.

The high and the mighty
It was time to reacquaint ourselves with Volvo’s big bopper and in terms of presence the Reed truck is bigger than most. The straight-beam axles under the front lift it by 70mm and although that may not sound much, it transforms the look, not to mention some of the more daily dimensions. It sits head and shoulders above its 540 workmate and when you open the door the flat floor is even further from terra firma than it is on a big Benz. It’s a four-step entry that in most situations is more than ample, but in this case, it just makes the grade. None of us had any problem but if you’re someone who could happily have a face-to-face with Danny DeVito, getting in the Reed 16 might be a scramble. “We’ve got a load to grab from Puhoi. It looks a simple skid just off the road but it’s a bloody steep climb out,” said Ben.

“I’m glad it’s on steel suspension and not air. It’s got more articulation in the axles. If this thing was on air that traction control would be busy as!” Leaving the yard, the FH16 was oblivious to the fact it weighed 18,500kg empty, and simply took off like a car. It didn’t matter where it was, moving away from a green traffic light, or road works that had it stopped aiming upward, the truck was merely playing. An hour and half or so down the road we glided slowly through historic Puhoi. Ben is extra-cautious as the locals are fragile and easily annoyed, evidently oblivious to the fact the trucks are actually in the act of collecting export product our fair country sells in order to earn money. The huge grey and blue giant snuck through town with only the occasional rattle of a pin in a bolster, and then headed on up the winding gravel Ahuroa Road to the skid. Ben reversed down off the road to the precarious skid crowbarred into the bank, and loaded the truck to 50 tonne GCM. “We run at 50MAX. It’s just not economical trying to go any more. Councils won’t let us run any heavier off the state highways.”

Like most other occupations, logging has certainly benefited from the tech revolution. Ben can stand well clear and monitor the load going on via a tablet using a Wi-Fi connection to the SI Lodec weigh scales. “These are great, especially when you’re loading yourself. You can get it bang on. “This skid is a classic case of what sets the 750 apart. With the crawlers it can get into third gear pretty much in its own length, and has enough pace on up the climb to get through the soft bits. The 540 can’t do that,” said Ben. As is often the case though, the best laid plans… Morning rain had compromised the incline and Ben needed a little nudge from the digger at the halfway point. He crawled down the gravel road into town, inching around the corners. It’s a case of the guy driving the 50-tonne truck accommodating the absent-mindedness of the car drivers not considering what might be around the bend. Once out on SH1 again and heading north, the difference between the in-cab experience of the journey south compared with the northbound journey 31-plus tonne heavier was negligible. “It’s not really truck driving, is it?’ Ben smiled. “It’s just effortless.” ‘Effortless’ is becoming a bit of a clichéd word in and around the modern truck, but the FH16 750 does actually define it.

Photo: Winding out toward the Puhoi from the skid on Ahuroa Road.

The truck rolled in at the bottom of Schedways Hill in amongst the traffic and easily kept up with the flow in 8th gear at 40kph and 1450rpm. Around the 35kph bend Ben peeled another 4kph off in line with the cars ahead, and when everyone else accelerated away, so did he, the truck picking up gears easily, then just before the top the traffic balked again for no visible reason. “I’ll leave it in this one [10th] and let it pull back,” said Ben. The Volvo got down to 1000rpm with not so much as a single uncomfortable note to the engine, just a mild silky rumble, and then it accelerated smoothly away again with the traffic. The car in front maybe put 100m on us for a moment. “If I’d let it make the downshift it would have been faster,” said Ben. We were glad the hub reduction diffs were out back absorbing all that effort. Rolling on the truck was more than a surprise to the occasional motorist who thought the log truck would hold them up on the hills. The ride in the 750 was firmer compared with the Baillie machine we tested in March, and we liked it a lot. It’s still a magic carpet and the chiropractor certainly won’t be upgrading Chrissy holiday plans on the back of it.

Obviously being an 8x4 with heftier undercarriage capabilities transpires up top into a ride of a slightly more purposeful feel. It was great, and it goes without saying that steering was fingertip accurate, and cornering dynamics sublime. ‘To A or not to A?’ as William Shakespeare would have put it. Ben leaves the I-Shift in auto unless the going is really gnarly in the off-road bits where gradient and underfoot conditions conspire to foil the big Viking’s talents. “There’s no need. It knows what it’s doing.” Not a truer word spoken when you’re talking the output figures the Volvo’s 16-litre motor produces. Power and torque maketh the AMT is certainly a valid mantra. On that note…

Photo: Volvo’s dash, a dash like no other. Hugely efficient, and its appeal is entirely down to personal taste. Beautifully built and high quality.

Photos: Cool light inserts for the mirrors by SLS from Rutherford in New South Wales. Plenty of storage at hand.

Motion master
Under the floor is the D16G 16-litre Euro 5 engine producing a power figure of 560kW (750hp) at 1600rpm and 3550Nm (2618lb/ft) of torque from 1050 to 1400rpm. Yes, there is a wee void between the two peak outputs, but the numbers are so absurd that it doesn’t matter. When torque starts to slip away, power is sitting at about 534kW (715hp), and when power peaks torque is still about 3300Nm (2434lb/ft). Behind the engine is the venerable I-Shift 12-speed transmission with crawler gears. Axle-wise up front is a pair of FA-XHIGH straight jobbies rated at 13 tonne for the pair, sitting on two-leaf parabolic springs and shocks. Rearward RTH2610F hub reduction axles with diff and cross-locks rated at 26 tonne sit on RADD-BR parabolic spring suspension at 26 tonne rating also. The whole unit runs disc brakes with EBS/ABS, traction and ESC, and of course the automated wizardry in the transmission allows helpmates like launch control. “Drivers today love power,” said Ben. “But it comes at a cost in terms of purchase price, fuel burn, and weight, because it usually means a bigger engine. It’s all very well having it, but it has to be used properly. I use the I-Roll constantly; it’s in and out of it all the time, but all you need to do is have someone not lifting that right pedal and you miss all the benefit. If you give this thing the berries it’ll drink, don’t you worry about that.”

In its 12 months and 140,000km the 750 has returned a life to date average of about 1.72km/l. On the particular run we were on the truck was achieving 1.85kpl, and by comparison the 540’s life to date is 1.89kpl. They’re not figures that would have some cartwheeling for joy, but they’re a testament to the life that logging in Northland delivers to a truck. From our observations, Ben’s style was as docile and relaxed as we’ve ever seen, and my goodness in a truck like this it has to be. Arrival at the Dome Valley saw the inevitable mad scrambling as we crested the steepest part of the climb on the south side at 38kph in 8th and 1400rpm. The descent on the northern flanks was executed at 75kph with the Volvo Engine Brake (VEB+) keeping proceedings orderly. The VEB+ is an effective tool, combining both an exhaust and compression brake in one via some additional lobing on the cam. At 2200rpm it’ll deliver 425kW (570hp) of hold-back and either operates automatically, blending with the I-Shift and service brakes, or via three-stage manual operation. Ben’s got some great views on auxiliary braking. “There is the option of the retarder, and they are great, I’ve had them before in trucks I’ve driven, but they cost a lot to buy and fix and it’s just more weight.

Photo: The height of the Volvo floor is clearly evident. Ben with company VP for security and pest control, Ollie Reed.

In the life of a truck the brakes shouldn’t cost you what a replacement retarder will. Especially not now with discs, they’re just so good. And they’re meant to be used. I don’t buy into the ‘I never touch the brakes’ thing. They’re the guys who have trouble come CoF time because they don’t get used.” We met Pete Hardie in the 540 at Te Hana. He’d been loading at the skid on SH16 south of Wellsford. Standing on the side of the road near the summit of the Brynderwyn Hills 10 minutes later, it was a stark comparison as the two trucks rolled by just how easy life is for the 750 even compared with the 540, a truck that would have been considered a monster itself 30 years ago.

Housing pressure
Not in the sense of availability, in the sense of quality. If you drive an FH Volvo for a living then there’s a good chance the ambience of home might be somewhat of a comedown. Like the Kenworth last month, we won’t go bonkers on the cab explanations; the FH house is a well-known place of refuge from the world, a phrase chosen wisely we might add, because that’s exactly what it is, a refuge. There are not many places that offer the quality of work environment the FH does. There’s space, storage, comfort, and amenities. Things once thought impossible are now musts. “I’ll never own another truck that doesn’t have a fridge,” said Ben resolutely. In exactly the same vein as the Kenworth last month, it’s pointless trying to show preference for this over that.

They are the North and South Pole in terms of approach, completely opposite. If you love one, you’ll likely not consider the other. Inside the Volvo there are grey and taupe sort of tones. The quality of assembly is as you’d expect from a Volvo, and the vinyl, rubber, and plastic that lines the cavity is high on quality, serviceability, and ease of cleaning. The dash is a modern tech fest in appearance with a long thin binnacle overlapping/blending with a wrap in an all-inone continuation sort of thing – pictures people, look at the pictures. There’s one consolatory round gauge that’s a speedo and tachometer in one, the rest are bar style gauges with warning lights top and bottom, as well as telemetry data. Switchgear, navigation/coms/Dynafleet data screen, and climate management call the wrap section home, as does the park brake valve.

‘It’s the thing that looks like an oddments holder on the left! Right there! No…there!’ And then the smart wheel; it accommodates the phone, cruise, and menu controls for the diagnostics interface. The wands take care of indicators, dip, wipers, I-Roll and engine brake, and the moveable I-Shift mount sits politely at Ben’s side like Ollie the family foxy. There are suspension seats for both driver and conductor and the mirrors are well placed, although that heavily bevelled top line has a familiarisation phase to it as we’ve said previously.

On the subject of mirrors, Ben’s had some snazzy-as stainless light assemblies fitted, sourced from SLS in Rutherford, New South Wales. They’re made for Volvos and just fit neatly on the inside of the mirror housing. “They provide extra marker lights without hacking into the mirrors. We don’t do the indicator flick thing when passing other trucks at night, we flash these instead.” There’s a pull-out drawer and fridge under the bunk, as well as flip-out bottle holders. As we said in the Baillie test, you could run a storage business sideline in the FH cab. If it looks like it could possibly open and hold something, then it will. They’re like a castle full of hidden corridors. And the birdbath moveable dash-top tray…it’s the cutest thing in trucking by far. External ‘lockering’ is abundant and there’s that integral hand-washer bottle too. What a boon that is. Someone at Volvo drove a truck once, no doubt about that. Access is ‘fine’ but don’t fall; you’ll have time to think on the way down.

Said and done
Our second load was north of Whangarei out toward the Pacific coast on Whananaki North Road. The skid site was right on the road’s edge; it had been further away but the gang had worked its way forward. “Even this one’s been a bugger on occasions. It’s all about the surface, and how much it’s been disturbed by trucks and machines,” said Ben. Albie the digger driver was a maestro too, one of those guys who sets the machine at a comfortable rev and gets productivity from smoothness. A dead giveaway is always how much grapple clunking and bolster rattling you hear during loading; suffice to say the morning bird chorus was clearly audible over the noise of Albie working. It seems the woodlot fraternity all operate on the same basis. Chained and loaded, Ben meandered along the rural road leading back toward SH1 just north of Hikurangi.

A thin black ribbon of bitumen with no fog lines, painted with a white centreline that divided it into two completely inadequate lanes. The road dipped and rose with the valleys and found its way through a narrow gorge section. Again, we couldn’t help but admire Ben’s control of the situation; a truck of gargantuan capability simply trundling along, and we shuddered at the thought of how long its life would be on this work in the hands of a muppet. Ben’s a Volvo man, you won’t change that, and he and wife Leisa consider their purchases carefully. Following the FH13 540, the FH16 was certainly a combination of the truck his work requires, with just a pinch of the truck he ‘wanted’ thrown in. Its normal work profile certainly lends itself to optimising its huge appetite for graft. But the next truck, the one we’ll make a point of catching up with in a couple of years, that will deliver the perfect compromise between capability, capacity, and constraint.


“If you’re a worker you’ll make it work.”
It doesn’t matter where we go or which way we turn, at the coalface of this industry all we find are glass-halffull Kiwis, and 48-year-old Ben Reed is certainly no exception. A living manifestation of every quality it takes to keep New Zealand’s economy moving. Ben grew up only a stone’s throw from Auckland in one of the country’s more remote locations. Sounds like a contradiction? Well, that’s what happens when you plonk one of the world’s largest harbours between you and the big smoke. Roughly a third of the way down the northern arm of the 947sqkm Kaipara Harbour on the infamous road to the Pouto Forest lies the wee hamlet of Te Kopuru, and it was there that Ben grew up with his sister on their parents’ farm. “The folks grew kumara and greens. It was a great place; no one went hungry. The pay rate for the workers may not have been huge, but no one was ever hungry.” As soon as he was 18 Ben uprooted and headed on up the line. His first job was driving diggers for Waipapa-based Northland Transport.

“I’d always liked diggers as a kid but I soon realised I liked driving trucks more than diggers. There was too much precision stuff,” laughs Ben. “Septic tanks, and drains and all that. I just wanted to get in and dig shit!” So he moved off the mechanical spade, and went to the mechanical wheelbarrow instead. His first real truck was an N Series Ford 5036 drop-sider. “The opportunity came up to get into logs and I’d always wanted to drive a logging truck so I said ‘Yep I’ll do it’.” Although the N Series had a set of bolt-on bolsters, it was replaced by a 5032 tractor towing a Mills-Tui Bailey bridge semi.

“That was all good, we were carting for Carter Holt out of Pipiwai and then after changes in the market the work started to dry up. They asked us if we wanted to go to Napier and work there. I didn’t even know where the hell Napier was, I’d never been south of Hamilton.” Again, the cab fills with laughter. So, to the Hawke’s Bay it was with the 5032. During the 13 months he spent in the Bay, that truck was replaced by a Hino FY 5036, essentially the same truck as the big ‘Henry’ he’d started out on. “I loved it down there. I got to know many of the old legends.” The sale of Carter Holt Harvey changed the landscape of log transport in the region and ended the work in the Hawke’s Bay. It was back to Northland carting out of Waipoua and Pouto.

In total Ben had spent four years at Northland Transport and he moved on from there to United Carriers where he drove an International T-Line drop-sider for a couple of years. “It was a truck I’d seen go past school in Te Kopuru and I remember thinking it was a real cool truck. Now I was driving it! I did mainly fert and metal, but in the season we’d take mandarins to Auckland. I hated that because when you were empty you did freight pick-ups. I had no idea where the hell anything was. I just came home with what I had managed to get done,” said Ben.

After United came a spell with Roading and Asphalts in Whangarei before starting with Stokes Transport on an EC ERF self-loading log truck. “That was great, I really enjoyed that. It’s such a neat job. You have to have half a brain to do that work. It’s challenging at times.” Two years at Stokes and it was time to move on again, this time a six-year spell working at Paragon Log Haulage on both regular and floating work, “Anywhere and everywhere.” It was at Paragon that Ben’s preference for Patchell log gear began. “Once you’ve worked with the best gear you wouldn’t have anything else, and Patchells have been bloody good to me, they really have.” Paragon also happened to be the inspiration for the blue chassis colour on the Reed machines. While living in Kerikeri and on the promise of a potential owner-driver position, Ben went to work for Dan Carter driving a Freightliner Argosy bulk unit. The self-employment opportunity didn’t eventuate, but spurred on by the leap of faith required to do his own thing, Ben bought a Hino 700 Series log truck in 2006. “Nothing like a challenge,” said Ben. “If you’re a worker, you’ll make it work.”

The Hino was a great truck to Ben, giving him 10 years and a million largely trouble-free kilometres carting out of the worst Northland could throw at it. The first four years were spent in the RFH system, followed by a couple of years with Steve Bachelor’s Aotearoa Haulage before cutting out completely and doing his own thing. “I replaced the Hino with the first Volvo and soon after the first 5-axle trailer. When the new truck arrives, the original Volvo will get the Hino’s 4-axle trailer and we’ll run like that for a while.” Interestingly the Reeds’ life is all about forestry and trees. Ben’s wife Leisa is a resource forester for Hancock Forest Management, and understands the finer details of all aspects of the forest industry. It’s a job that takes her all over the upper North Island. The couple live in Ruakaka, working just as hard outside of work to develop their 4-hectare block into a yard and house complex every bit the quality of the immaculate Volvos that live just down from the house. They have five kids between them, with Charlie (8) looking like the one with the most diesel in the veins and Conor (10) the one with the business sense. Oh, and Ollie the miniature foxy is responsible for security and pest control…mustn’t forget him.

Wood for the trees
If you’re a manufacturer of high-vis vests or orange cones you’re probably not reading this, you’ll be busy in your helicopter or yacht. That’s a shame, because real safety, applied safety, comes from the minds of those who understand their workplace implicitly. Ben Reed comes across as an easy-going funny bloke, and he certainly is that on account of loving what he does. But he’s also uncompromising when it comes to setting up the safest, most efficient log trucks he can for himself and his staff. A walk around the Reed trucks will reveal many clever things. Starting at the front with the King Bars two-post bull bar fitted after the truck’s assembly in Brisbane. “They’re built to hit shit,” said Ben. “I was coming out of a nasty load-out site in the 540 a few months back and there was a greasy gateway, with a strainer post of course. The truck slid sideways into the post and the bull bar just snapped it off. There’s just a tiny smudge mark on the end of the bar, it’s not bent or anything.

Photo: Ben demonstrates the step system that allows clear, safe access to all critical tasks when securing the trailer to the truck.

The truck was untouched. There you go, it paid for itself right then. The amount of ’meat’ in them is huge. It might cost a bit of weight but saves you thousands in this work. “You can also tow with them no trouble at all. The tow pin is located behind the number plate, which is neat. “Lights are a big thing for us. Lighting on woodlot skids is usually not the best, they’re just smaller operations. I wanted to be able to see everything like broad daylight.” LED floodlights on the cab guard, rear of the truck, and mounted on both sides the trailer chassis just behind the dolly certainly achieve what Ben wanted. Night becomes day. Ben designed the step system on the trucks used when detaching gantry hooks. “I hate climbing up the outside of wheels and bolsters, stepping over and reaching up for the hook. All we do is duck under the dropped bolster, then there are two steps and you’re right there.

Photo: The middle chock is on a pivot, so all trailers are accommodated.

Instead of the folded-down bolster being a hindrance to climb around, it’s acts like a safety cage. I just thought about all the things on a log truck I hated,” said Ben. Increasing the efficiency of movement further, Ben put the chains that hold the trailer on right where the gantry hook steps are located also. “That way the driver doesn’t have to go anywhere else.” In fact, they can unhook the gantry, chain on the trailer, apply the trailer brakes, dump the airbags on the trailer, and hook up the lights, all from one position.The middle wheel chocks on the trailer cradles are also on a pivot so the 4- and 5-axle trailers are carried with equal safety. There’s even a set of extension pin handles on both sides of the trailer so they don’t have to take the one handle back to its holder from the other side of the rig, and it means there’s always a spare in the event one is lost or broken. But, as they say, the best we’ll leave to last. “I hate holding the drawbar when hooking up,“ said Ben. “I wanted some kind of mechanism that holds the empty trailer’s drawbar straight when the loader’s attaching it to the truck’s Ringfeder instead of the bloody drawbar flapping around.

Photo: The ‘Elphick pin’ designed to hold a drawbar straight when hooking up, but not inhibit the dolly’s ability to work if it’s left in the ‘lock’ position. Ingenious!

I wanted the person swinging the drawbar to be able to stand clear. They’re the most at-risk person on the skid. I asked Pete Elphick at Patchell’s to come up with something, and that’s just what he did. It’s bloody awesome.” Essentially, a spring-loaded pin on the front of the gooseneck locates into a shallow saucer-like recess on the dolly, holding the drawbar dead straight. Once the trailer is located you simply release the pin. Because the pin is springloaded and the recess it locates into is shallow and saucerlike, should the driver forget to release it, the pin will simply slide in and out of the recess as the truck trundles along. If there were a national award for safety, efficiency, and risk mitigation in industry, the ‘Elphick pin’ would surely be a prime contender.

A word of warning
The FH16 750’s in-cab experience is in some ways a bit of a Hansel and Gretel story. You have no concept you’re sitting in a 50 tonne truck and trailer combination. Life inside occurs at a library-like 67-odd decibels, the I-Shift’s changes are barely detectable, it’s running on I-Roll a lot of the time, and neither is there a startling awakening when the engine brake ‘lights up’. Add to this the fact that unlike most big bore motors, the D16G has little in the way of a deep, menacing engine note. It sounds like the family S60. It’s a tranquil experience…as you arrive at the 65kph bend and realise in a frantic moment the truck may be doing 90kph. We’re an animal who works on stimulus. The Volvo provides serenity.

It’s interesting that Volvo took some convincing when Ben registered his interest in buying the truck, and required him to meet some mechanical specification requirements in order to protect the driveline. One of the reasons Ben chose the business model he did was to avoid the high-paced life of the plantation scene. We know in our heart of hearts that this truck will have an extremely happy and safe life with its fastidious Ruakaka owners. It’s been bought for a specific outcome by a skilled, considered business. As you read above, Ben’s well aware ‘this ain’t anyone’s’ wagon. We’d say that specifying an FH16 750 without all the safety and stopping fruit should be an absolute no-no…just in case.

Emissions update
Given the march toward Euro 6 of its European competitor OEMs in this part of the world, we asked Clive Jones, general manager Motor Truck Distributors NZ Ltd, what the plan was for Volvo. “We are able to obtain some Euro 6 models now for customers who require them, but for the most part we have little demand. Because the majority of our trucks are assembled in Australia, which remains a Euro 5 market, we will continue to be able to offer Euro 5 until either, or both, markets legislate otherwise. Of course, some other European manufacturers don’t have the luxury of that choice, but we do for the foreseeable future; I guess a benefit of local manufacturing, specific for market. “The Aussies build a very good Volvo truck for our market needs, and we are able to adapt for New Zealand far easier than if we had to build in Europe, given the peculiarities of our legislation and the wishes of our customers. “The mandated intro date is still unknown so our intention is to build Euro 5 for the most part, and then to accommodate customers looking to adopt Euro 6 early where we can, subject to demand. “With customer appetite very limited currently, as well as likely higher cost, more tare, challenging chassis packaging etc, I guess operators are not seeing a tangible benefit in the current environment. The reality is we appear to be taking some business from those who have no option any longer, particularly in the high horsepower segments.”