Fuso’s new range of rugged and vocational workhorses has been here for a few months now, doing a bit of pre-season training. New Zealand Trucking went for a look to see how a couple of members of the team are shaping up.
Readers will recall our recent trip to Daimler’s assembly plant in Chennai, India (September 2017 issue – ‘More skin in the game’), to check out the new range of vocational Fuso models coming our way in 2018.
As we said at the time, some examples were due here in the second half of the year for field trials, evaluation and fine-tuning, and that’s exactly what’s been going on.
A cross-section of trucks have found their way into all manner of duties including general tip truck operation, local distribution, site work and rural contracting. The response from operators invited to trial one ranged from reluctance, to cautious willingness, to enthusiastically in, boots and all.
Post-trial the mood has been positive across the board as participants contributed ideas to the development pool, but in general most realised quickly just how well constructed and put together these trucks are. Their sentiment has pretty much followed what we concluded in the September article, that pitched well, and sold well, they’ll add some strategic and valuable players to Fuso’s New Zealand squad.
Fuso New Zealand, fully aware of the Kiwi propensity to turn a length of wire intended to restrain cows and sheep into a new set of harrows for the tractor, or ask the local dealer if the Smart City Car they’ve just brought can have a towbar fitted, has cleverly ring-fenced the new players to deter those with aspirations beyond the trucks’ intended operational envelope.
One of those moves is to limit the GCM on the FJ rigid line to 36 tonne, allowing a small dog or simple trailer but not a 5-axle curtainsider. The FZ tractor has a GCM of 40 tonne. Ken Jones at Cambridge Welding Services has been assisting Fuso New Zealand on body fit-out and chassis set-ups for the incoming range. “They’re a good truck. Nothing like I was expecting. We’ve seen this sort of thing tried here in New Zealand before, but what works in other places hasn’t always worked here. These are different. The quality on these is exceptional. They’re robustand well built, and the torque is a real plus. They’re not a line haul truck, no, but priced right and marketed right they’ll be a winner. The 36 tonne GCM allows a 22 tonne payload in some applications and that’s very favourable.”
So let’s have a look at a couple on trial.
Auckland-based Carr & Haslam have been trialling a 10 tonne GCM FA 4x2 on metro deliveries, a key target market for the trucks. Managing director Chris Carr told New Zealand Trucking that they’ve fed information and suggestions back to Fuso New Zealand, which were acted on, and as a result the truck’s suitability to the application has continuously improved.
“They’re keen to get them right. Everything we’ve suggested they’ve listened to and done. We’ve been able to give them pre- change and post-change data so we can quantify the changes that improved the truck.”
Two key improvement areas on the FA were a more suitable suspended driver’s seat and a tweak to give the truck a bit more power.
“Initially there was a reluctance on the part of the drivers, but now everyone’s happy to take it out on a round,” said Chris.
The Blue Grass Contracting placement is a superb example of intended application on almost every level. The Matamata-based agricultural contracting company has clear designs on what they want the trucks for. Managing director Brook Nettleton explains.
“Too much on-highway work buggers tractors and trailers. Their bearings and brakes aren’t designed to cope with big loads at speed. Two to five kilometres they’re fine, but 15 to 20 they’re not. I was looking for a rugged on/off-highway truck and Ken [Ken Jones – Cambridge Welding Services] said ‘have a look at these, they’re ideal’, so we’re trialling one.”
Some of the attributes of the trucks suit Brook’s operation perfectly, like brake pots mounted on top of the axles significantly improving ground clearance, the punchy 1120Nm (826lb/ft) torque of the 6S20 motor, and the ease of use of the G131 gearbox.
“We just need a simple robust solid truck, one that’s easily cleaned, one that seasonal workers with the right licences can drive easily, not something with a Roadranger,” said Brook.
At the time New Zealand Trucking caught up with the Blue Grass FJ it was having its hungry sides fitted. The company will run the trucks in 6x4 and 2-axle simple trailer configuration operating at the 36 tonne GCM, allowing a 22 tonne payload.
“I drove it the other day with a load of herd-home cleanings, it would have had about 20 tonne on. It went really well andit climbs phenomenally well. I put it in crawler on a reallysteep gravel drive and it just plugged its way to the top. Very impressive.
“I will say that they could do with some longer legs in top. At the moment the gearing is a little low, although they’d make a great spreader. With the crawlers there they could afford to give them some legs without affecting the really tough going. At 90km/h she’s at about 2,000rpm. It’s fine for short leads around here, but for some of our work in places further awaywe just need to cruise a bit easier,” said Brook.
Blue Grass’s intention is to eventually fit larger single floatation tyres for in-paddock work when required, and then change back in the off-season.
Photo: Like the rest of the truck the FJ’s interior is built to take the worst work conditions. A scrubbing brush and a hose will soon sort this out.
“The beauty of them is that during the off-season they can whip the toppers off and there’s no reason they couldn’t do race metal or something,” said Brook.
From a Fuso New Zealand perspective, the trials have also gone well. Managing director Kurtis Andrews said,
“The customer trials of the New Fuso product have gone very well. We have tested the product in a range of applications and it has exceeded our initial expectations.
“The evaluation has allowed us to make some tweaks to the final specification on some models, which will increase their appeal.
“We are very happy with the way the new range dovetails into our existing line-up. As a workhorse model it will offer excellent value and some unique features that will make the purchase decision easy for many customers.
“As with any new Fuso, the new range will come with a 36-month warranty, which we think will be compelling for traditional used truck buyers.”
It looks as though everything is on track and Fuso New Zealand is listening to its customers and the feedback they’re giving on improvements to the range for the local market. It’s a fascinating story and one we’ll be following with interest.