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Set in cement
Mark Golder followed his father in the cement haulage industry, moving from driver to owner-driver. Peter and Di Schlenk write
Owner-driver Mark Golder was introduced to the cement haulage game by his father John Golder.
Based in Brisbane and driving a 2011 model Mack Super-Liner, Mark subbies for a major cement company, is runs taking him up to far north Queensland and south as far as Canberra.
Mark was unloading in Tamworth when Owner//Driver caught up with him.
It’s a noisy operation as the blower on the tanker pushes the powder out of the tanker and into the silo.
It’s a 40 minute job with Mark changing compartments, and knocking the barrel with a rubber mallet to loosen any cement that remains stuck to the sides.
"My father, John, had trucks and worked for Pioneer for years, operating cement mixers," he explains.
"He had a couple of ACCOs and then Louisvilles.
"He has passed on, but that’s where it all started. I drove his trucks for a while and just went on from there."
Mark has spent 25 years behind the wheel, the last 10 in his own truck.
"We can go to any depot and be based there for anything up to four weeks," he continues.
"I’ve been down at the Newcastle depot for two weeks and will return at the end of the week. It depends on the work.
"If the work is down here, they will load us down here for two to three weeks."
Mark says at one stage he was working out of the Cairns depot for three months.
"I don’t mind north Queensland. I have been right up to Cooktown, out to Normington and over to Hamilton Island a few times on the barge.
"We get to see a bit of the countryside and get paid for it," he smiles.
Before his Tamworth run, Mark did a load out to the copper mine at Cobar.
"The countryside is nice out there and very green. You go through Nyngan and the causeway."
After Tamworth is back to Newcastle to take a load down to the power station at Bayswater.
Mark likes hauling cement because he says it’s relatively clean work with OH&S laws ensuring that no dust escapes the system and it is quick to load and easy to unload.
Mark has now been a subbie with the cement company for nine years and is happy with the arrangement.
"It is a very good company to work for and they look after me."
Mark’s Super-Liner has a 600hp Cummins EGR engine and 18 speed Roadranger gearbox, clocking up over one million kilometres. It’s a working truck, but like a lot of his fellow subbies, he keeps his rig looking the goods, entering in events such as Lights on the Hill and the Sylvia’s Gap run.
However, Mark’s first truck was a Kenworth but Mark is happy with the ‘Bulldog’.
The Cummins had a rebuild at 500,000km but that was when the rig was under warranty. It has been good ever since."
He says the Mack has a good cab on it, a good ride and steering in addition to a good turning circle.
With the rough roads around New South Wales, Mark also adds that the Mack rides and handles well.
"The roads around here are very ordinary, especially the secondary ones. They just patch them up, that’s all they do.
"I would rather the north Queensland roads myself."
Mark says his next truck will most likely be another Mack.
"I don’t mind the new bunks on them either; they look really good," he remarks.
But he’ll be looking at one with an MP engine, plus an automated gearbox.
"People who drive automatics don’t go back to anything else," Mark smiles.
Man survives jump from out-of-control truck at 125km/h
Jumping from a truck travelling at well over 100km/h is a nightmare for most, but one truckie had no other choice.
New Zealand truckie Phillip Gotty experienced a brake failure and ended up jumping from his truck at 125km/h, surviving but at the time thinking 'That's it, I am gone, I am finished'.
In a Stuff.co.nz video, 53-year-old Gotty talks of the nightmare experience saying he’d tried all backup options to slow the truck before realising he may have to jump.
The truck accident happened along Napier/Taihape Road, near Kuripapango.
"I started to push on my brakes, and there was no brakes coming on. So what I did was, I started trying to chop through the gears to try and slow the truck down, but the gears weren’t working at all. So then I tried the handbrake, the handbrake wouldn’t work at all as well."
"By then I had built up speed of about 60km/h."
Survival instincts kicked in, and Gotty planned his escape from the quickening truck.
"So what I did was, I started to line up the paddock down below.
"I planned to jump into the paddock and let the truck go.
"By the time I got towards the paddock I saw a big barbed wire fence, so I decided to go back onto the road and jump on the road, push the wheel of the truck to the left towards the bank, let the truck go left and I’ll go right.
"So a leap of faith, really."
According to reports, a passer-by pulled over and helped Gotty, who was airlifted by the Lower Corporation Rescue Helicopter Service to Hawke’s Bay Regional Hospital with a punctured lung and leg, shoulder and head wounds.
Following surgery, he awoke three days later and according to reports, plans to get back to work.
Precision and Knowledge Required
One of the things about truck drivers which impresses the ordinary punter, is when they show off their close control of a big bit of machinery in a tight space. The level of precision and knowledge required, alongside the confidence to do the job right, shows the general public just how skillful drivers are, doing something they could never do themselves.
Elsewhere in the world, truck drivers are dealing with fewer trailers but seem to try and fit them through smaller and smaller gaps. This timber truck in the mountains somewhere in France is squeezing through between two houses on a road designed for a donkey cart:
This is very impressive. The entrance to this mill in Gournay en Bray town centre in France would be impossible for any semi. However, this driver has been here before and is geared up for the task, with two steering axles at the rear of the trailer. Even so, it is still quite a feat, even with the technology helping, to get the truck into the courtyard
Again, in this example the driver has millimetres to spare. How did the truck get i there in the first place, is the first question? Again it’s 21st century technology functioning in a world build in the 18th century. He seems pretty pleased with himself for getting out of there without a scratch:
Even in the US, a country we associate with wide open spaces and a relatively low skill set for the average truck driver, the skills shown are impressive. This driver gets it right, by planning ahead and getting the truck and trailer in the right position before attempting to get the truck though the tight gap. He is not helped by the tandem axles and the extra wide axle spacing the Americans prefer. Don’t forget, the post is on the blindside for the left hand drive truck:
NSW brake testing transition period extended
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and Road and Maritime Services have extended the current brake testing transition arrangements in NSW until 30 June.
NHVR Safety Director, Daniel Elkins said the NHVR, in conjunction with Roads and Maritime are working together to determine the best approach to achieve national consistency in regards to brake testing requirements in the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual.
“We are continuing to review national brake test results collected by Roads and Maritime and industry to determine the most appropriate way to test types of trailer brakes,” he said.
“We need to better understand why some types of trailers are not able to meet the brake performance standard. It is applicable that we extend the current transition period in NSW to 30 June.”
The initial transition period in NSW allowed heavy vehicles that achieved a brake test result greater than 3kN/t, but less than 4.5kN/t, to be given an official warning on first time detection. The NHVR and Roads and Maritime have agreed that during the extended transition further official warnings will be issued for intercepted vehicles that do not conform to the brake performance standard.
The current transition period was due to end on 31 January. “The NHVR encourages operators to regularly maintain their vehicles and take appropriate steps to ensure they exceed the standards in the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual, which was implemented in NSW on 1 July last year,” Elkins said.
The National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual provides a nationally consistent approach to assessing compliance to the vehicle standards across participating states and territories.
Nominations now open for 2017 trucking industry election
Nominations are now open for the owner driver and small fleet operator representative positions on the General Council of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).
ATA Chair Noelene Watson said the election was an opportunity for owner drivers with one truck and small fleet operators with 2-5 trucks to put up their hands to deal with the critical issues affecting the trucking industry.
“The ATA Council sets our strategic policy direction, and the owner driver and small fleet representatives have a direct say in Council and on our policy committees,” Mrs Watson said.
To nominate as a candidate for the owner driver position, you must own, be purchasing or leasing one truck over 4.5 tonnes and drive it, be registered as a voter in ATA elections, and be a member of an ATA member organisation.
To nominate as a candidate for the small fleet position, you must own, be purchasing or leasing 2 to 5 trucks over 4.5 tonnes, be registered as a voter in ATA elections, and be a member of an ATA member organisation.
If more than one nomination is received in a category an election will be conducted in March 2017.
Mrs Watson said there was still time to register to vote in the election.
“Registrations to vote are still open. Now is the time to register to have your say, or to nominate to represent the industry,” she said.
Candidate nominations and voter registrations will close on 22 February. The election will be conducted entirely online, using a secure voting system.
The ATA has appointed distinguished former public servant Phil Potterton as the Independent Returning Officer to conduct the election.
New facility kicks off DHL’s 2017 expansion plans
Sydney facility will operate on pay-per-use model to keep costs in check
It has been a busy start to the year for DHL, with the company launching a new online freight platform in Europe and a new facility in Australia to support the growing e-commerce business.
While its new digital freight platform, Cillox, is aimed to improve connectivity between shippers and transport providers in Germany, the company’s new Sydney-based fulfilment centre will provide overseas merchants with fast and flexible shipping options that integrate inbound freight, inventory and last-mile delivery in a single consolidated service.
"The launch of our Australian fulfilment centre gives our customers immediate access to one of the world’s most mature and fastest growing e-commerce markets, with the scalability and quality needed to reach Australia’s highly savvy online shoppers," DHL e-commerce MD Australia Damien Sheehan says. New
The company states that with e-commerce growth expected to remain at an average of 29 per cent until 2020, it saw the need to streamline the process of order fulfilment with the online shopping boom in Australia.
Matching the same service levels as its global network, the new fulfilment centre will allow "existing customers to expand their sales into Australia with minimal boarding time and hassle" and remove the need for e-commerce merchants to search for logistics partners as they plan to expand their international footprint, DHL says.
"Our Australian facility adds another node to our standardised global network of fulfilment centres located in US, Mexico, India, Hong Kong and Central Europe, eliminating the need for e-commerce merchants to hunt for new logistics partners as they look to expand their global reach," DHL e-commerce CEO Charles Brewer says.
All services at the new centre operate on a pay-per-use model with no capital spend or fixed costs.
DHL Cillox CEO Amadou Diallo is confident the new technology will "simplify" the shipping process for road freight within Germany or from Germany throughout Europe.
It will include pricing information based on the shipment characteristics, availability of trucks and last-booked rates.
Cillox will also consolidate processes such as tracking, documentation and payment across a single platform.
Other benefits of the new technology include real-time notifications related to deliveries, simplified navigation suggestions for drivers, document scanning using mobile phone, among others.
DHL says the technology is ready for use after a successful trial between September 2016 and January 2017.
Melbourne increases daily cap for trucks by 225pc
VTA says increased toll costs will result in more heavy vehicles using smaller arterial roads
The upcoming toll charge increase for heavy vehicles travelling through metropolitan Melbourne is "discriminatory", the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) states.
The state government and CityLink operator Transurban have revised the toll costs by up to 225 per cent for heavy vehicles and up to 5 per cent for smaller vehicles.
Part of the cost recovery strategy for the CityLink Tullamarine Widening (CTW) works, the revised rates will see heavy vehicle operators pay more than other road users.
"There has also been little justification from Transurban or the government for such a large increase," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.
"The benefits associated with this widening project will have greater benefit to car users, which have had only a moderate 5 per cent increase in their tolls.
"The change in the multiple of heavy vehicle costing to cars has also had no explanation."
Anderson says the new pricing will result in more number of heavy vehicle using smaller, arterial roads in an attempt to bypass toll roads and while it is not a preferred option, "it is inevitably one that operators who cannot absorb the higher tolls will consider".
"The new pricing agreed by the current government reflects huge increases in the tolling values, and does nothing to discourage heavy vehicles from using smaller arterial roads," he says.
"For the heavy vehicle industry these increases will lead to unprecedented percentage increases in direct operating costs, which will be exacerbated through difficulty recovering costs from customers on fixed contracts," he says.
VTA has recommended operators to "integrate the direct operating cost of the increase into their cost model and to inform their customers of the need to accept what is an uncontrollable cost.
"Other options include re-routing vehicles away from CityLink, applying a congestion levy to invoices, and disputing mistakes on every Transurban invoice."
Anderson says the association was disappointed that the state government and Transurban did not consider its suggestions when making this decision.
"Regrettably, little can be done now to revert the changes as the business case on which they were made was put forward to the government years ago."
The changes will be effective from April 1.
Summary of the changes based on Tuesday’s toll rate, as provided by the VTA:
VTA is currently in discussion with the government and Transurban on the pricing regime for the proposed Western Distributor, for which it recommends offering multi-user discounts and rebates for the benefit of the industry.
New trailer cameras nab 600 road users in three weeks
The new QPS trailer speed cameras have detected 647 speeding road users across South East Queensland since being rolled out three weeks ago.
The five camera trailers launched as part of the Christmas Road Safety Campaign have been deployed to Queensland’s busiest road networks since December 23.
One driver was detected travelling at 161km/h zone in a 110km/h zone on the Bruce Highway at Mons on the Sunshine Coast while another driver was captured travelling at 148km/h in a 100km/h zone on the Gympie Arterial Road at Bald Hills.
The camera trailers, which are managed remotely and used in high-risk areas not safe or practical to deploy a police officer, have monitored more than 2.8 million vehicles at the various locations.
Road Policing Command Assistant Commissioner Mike Keating said tolerance levels would be reduced when the introductory period ended on Sunday.
"When we launched the camera trailers last month, we gave an undertaking they would be introduced with a considerably high speed margin while road users became familiar with the new equipment over the Christmas break," he said.
"With students across Queensland heading back to school next week, we are now advising motorists that the introductory phase will end and standard speed camera tolerance levels will apply from Monday.
"During the first few weeks of operation, the camera trailers have proven to be effective, especially targeting speeding motorists in locations where police enforcement has been limited in the past.
"Importantly, road users will continue to see a mix of speed detection strategies including high visibility police patrols, overt and covert mobile speed camera deployments and fixed camera systems."
Assistant Commissioner Keating said excessive speeds continued to be a major contributing factor to road trauma.
"We know speeding is a leading cause for approximately one in four road fatalities in Queensland and that is why we will continue to explore new road safety initiatives to prevent the carnage on our roads."
Country music's big guns to fire at Penrith Truck Show
The 2017 Penrith Working Truck, held on March 19, will be jam-packed with trucks, entertainment and live country music.
This year’s Penrith Working Truck Show held on March 19 will be the 30th running of the event. And the stage is set for it to be the biggest show on record.
The show had its origins back in 1988 when a group of locals decided to launch a show aimed at the road transport industry around Penrith. It has grown to the point where it attracts truck owners and drivers from not only the greater Sydney area, but interstate as well.
To mark this significant milestone in the show’s history, organisers have announced a stellar line-up of country music artists to entertain the crowd throughout the day, including Country Music Association of Australia award (Golden Guitar) winners Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole, Amber Lawrence and Catherine Britt. In addition, exciting Sydney brother-sister duo Kaylens Rain will be showcasing songs from their latest album In Our Blood.
Harvey, a former truck driver, has been one of Australian country music’s top-line acts since the late 1990s. He was won numerous Golden Guitar awards, the most recent being for the album Falling Into Place in 2012.
Harvey is in the running again this year, his song ‘Bartender Blues’, lifted from his latest album Harvey’s Bar – The Backyard Sessions.
Cole has been in the country spotlight since winning the Tamworth Star Maker award in 1993, winning nine Golden Guitar awards, including the Female Artist of the Year Golden Guitar trophy in 2012.
Coinciding with Harvey and Cole’s appearance at the 2017 Penrith Working Truck Show is the news that the pair will release a duet album, The Great Country Songbook Volume 2, on April 21.
Mack Trucks ambassador Amber Lawrence, formerly a qualified chartered accountant for Qantas, proved her country credentials in 2015, winning the Female Artist of the Year Golden Guitar on the back of her hit album Superheroes.
Last year it was Britt’s turn to strike gold. A breast cancer survivor, was voted Female Artist of the Year in 2016 at the Toyota Golden Guitar awards last year on the strength of her album Boneshaker. It was Britt’s fourth Golden Guitar trophy.
The Penrith Working Truck Show takes place in the grounds of Penrith’s Museum of Fire. Although aimed at the trucking industry, it is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, including free amusement rides for kids.
A registered charity event, all funds raised from the show are used for the education of families in fire safety and the preservation of history.
For further information on the Penrith Working Truck Show, see the website at www.pwts.com.au.
The Timber Industry’s Strength in South Australia
The timber industry’s strength in South Australia is one of the mainstays of the economy of the South Eastern corner of the state. The vast flat plains are home to an area, about 250 km across, dotted with plantation timber, both pine and blue gum.
The timber pulled out of these plantations, either as wood chip or logs, is either destined for export or the array of local or regional mills putting out a variety of timber products. This industry is supported by a large group of businesses, Tabeel Trading is one of them.
The timber hauling industry is a specialist segment of the road freight sector but struggles with, and is searching for solutions to, many of the ongoing problems which beset trucking as a whole. Low rates, last mile access, long unloading queues, finding vehicles robust enough and keeping staff, at the same time as running a safe and professional operation, all of this keeps, owner, Steve Witherow and his team on their toes.
The company now runs 25 of its own trucks as well as using the services of a further 25 trucks as subcontractors. There is also a considerable number of teams felling and chipping in the forests in the hinterland of the operation’s hometown Mount Gambier.
Work is divided between blue gum (about 45 per cent) and pine at 55 per cent. The pine is all moved as logs but the blue gum is processed and transported as logs and as wood chip. In all, Tabeel shifts 1.2 million tonnes of timber products every year, 800,000 tonnes in the form of logs and 400,000 in the form of wood chip.
From their base in Mount Gambier the trucks work within a 250 km radius of the town. The longest run for the trucks is to the timber processing facilities in Geelong, Victoria, 350 km away. 70 per cent of the timber handled is destined for export and is delivered into the port in nearby Portland.
An area of blue gums will be this team’s home for four months, as they work their way though swathes of blue gum, make it into chip and transport the product 200 km to Portland on the Victorian coast, where it is loaded on ships bound for Japan, China and Korea, the destination for most of the wood chip.
Like many of the Tabeel teams working these woods, the one Diesel News visited is, what is called, an integrated operation. Basically, the company handles both felling and transport of the product to its eventual destination. This team is expected to process up to 1200 tonnes of wood chip every day. With each B-double unit able to handle a maximum payload of between 40 and 49 tonnes, this equates to around 25-27 loads a day.
As each truck takes at least 20 minutes to load, this leaves very little leeway for the operation working a shift which starts at 5am and finishes off at 1am the following morning. Add in time waiting for trucks or while equipment in this harsh environment is repaired, and the margin for error is pretty small.
Two Truckline resellers open in Tasmania
CMF Solutions director Michael Coleman.
TASMANIA has gotten two new stores chock full with truck and trailer parts thanks to a partnership that led to the formation of CMF Solutions.
The new stores sprang from a partnership between Truckline and Minecorp Tasmania. The first store to open was in Spreyton, which opened its doors as a Truckline reseller in October 2016.
The second store opened in Hobart earlier in January.
Both outlets will serve the whole of the small island state.
CMF Solutions director Michael Coleman said in a statement market research showed was the lack of stock available at short notice.
"Our market research showed the biggest problem for truck and trailer customers in Tasmania is no one holds enough stock to meet their needs at short notice - which leads to down time and losses," he said.
"Our aim is to turn that around.
"Truckline keeps more than 80% of its huge inventory in stock in each branch."
Truckline terrority business manager for Victoria and Tasmania Casey Stewart said Minecorp Tasmania was initially a client of Truckline before forming CMF Solutions to become a reseller.
Toll’s new boss prioritises growth amid pressure
Reflecting on his recent appointment to Managing Director of Australia’s largest transport company, the Toll Group, Michael Byrne has pledged to improve the company’s bottom line in 2017.
Following the retirement of his predecessor, Brian Kruger, the former Chief Executive of Coates Hire and Linfox told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) that he was “looking forward to working with Toll's customers to understand how we can improve our business and continue to evolve”.
Byrne officially took over as Toll’s head man at the start of the New Year after Kruger announced his retirement in December 2016, ending an eight-year run with the transport and logistics giant.
According to AFR’s Jenny Liggins, Byrne and the new Toll CEO, John Mullen, are under pressure to turn around the trucking and logistics group as profits tumble following its $6.5 billion acquisition by Japan Post in 2015.
Japan Post Co, which is owned by financial services conglomerate Japan Post Holdings, reported in November that earnings before interest and taxation in its international logistics business – the division formed to hold the Toll businesses – fell 56 per cent in the six months to September to $68 million, while operating income slid by eight per cent to $3.9 billion.
According to research company, IBISWorld, Toll has a 9.6 per cent market share of the national road freight industry, while rival Linfox boasts a 4.8 per cent share, followed by the K&S Group with a 1.1 per cent share.
Celebrate Australia Day safely while everyone is on the road
The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is urging everyone on the road to make safety the priority and share the road safely over the Australia Day long weekend.
“The Australia Day long weekend is a great opportunity to visit friends and family, but it’s important to stay safe on the roads while you are away”, Chief Executive Officer of the ATA, Ben Maguire, said.
“There is an increased number of vehicles on the road, so make common sense and caution a priority and manage your fatigue. If you don’t feel up to driving, if you’re tired or feeling unwell take a break, or let another driver takeover”, Mr. Maguire said.
The ATA has developed a short animated video of the Volvo ATA Safety Truck that will be played on TV stations around Australia over the long weekend.
The video recommends a few simple tips for motorists to help make everyone’s trips safer.
Volvo ATA Safety Truck wins Koroit Show award
The safety truck educates people about safety on the road
The Volvo ATA Safety Truck won the Best Trade Show award for the best overall presentation, easy access to information and best public interaction at the Koroit Truck Show on Saturday.
The trophy was presented to Volvo ATA Safety Truck advocate Glen Schmidtke, who said he was pleased to receive the recognition during the truck’s maiden trip this year.
The Volvo ATA Safety Truck teaches visitors about safety in and around trucks and demonstrates key safety concepts such as avoiding blind spots, cutting in (braking distances) and turning vehicles, and underlines the importance of other safety issues such as driver distraction and seatbelts.
"Trucks behave differently when accelerating, braking, climbing hills, switching lanes or turning," Volvo ATA Safety Truck advocate Glen Schmidtke says.
"The more the community understands how trucks behave, the better prepared drivers will be to share the road safely."
Koroit Truck Show secretary Julie Houlihan says the show committee says the Volvo ATA Safety Truck "not only provides those truck drivers present to review their driving and safety standards, it also allows the general public to see what dangers and safety concerns truck drivers encounter on the roads, and hopefully they can adjust their driving to allow for trucks."
A Benz for the ‘burbs and beyond
Given the scale and scope of Mercedes-Benz’s bold new range of trucks and the broad coverage already applied to its big bore models, it’s perhaps easy to overlook the potential impact of shorthaul and regional specialists such as the 2643.
Yet just a day behind the wheel leaves little doubt this quiet, comfortable 11-litre livewire will play a major role in the resurrection of the Benz brand in a vast array of single trailer distribution roles.
Punched by the relatively modest displacement of an OM470 10.7-litre in-line six cylinder engine, the tandem-drive 2643 offers peak figures of 315 kW (428 hp) at 1600 rpm and 2100 Nm (1549 lb ft) of torque from 1100 to 1400 rpm.
Its bigger brother is the 2646, with the same engine producing 335 kW (455 hp) and 2200 Nm (1623 lb ft) at the same engine speeds.
The OM470 is, however, an engine also powering three 4x2 prime mover models (1840, 1843 and 1846) as well as a 6x2 derivative called the 2543, making it the most widely used engine in the entire range of new Benz trucks.
Even so, the 10.7-litre displacement is one point of a four-pronged Daimler engine family (7.7, 10.7, 12.8 and 15.6 litres) powering the new line-up. All engines are in-line six cylinder designs employing a combination of SCR, EGR and a diesel particulate filter to achieve the Euro 6 emissions standard deemed so desirable by those major freight customers keen to be green in the eyes of consumers. Giant supermarket chains, for instance, which are an obvious and potentially lucrative target market for the 2643 and its close kin.
Meantime, there’s not much separating the 2643 and the 2646 other than different performance figures and the fact that the ’43 has a gross combination mass (GCM) rating of 45 tonnes whereas the ’46 is rated up to B-double weights of 62.5 tonnes.
Each drives through a 12-speed PowerShift automated transmission into a hypoid drive tandem with diff locks, mounted on an eight-bag air suspension, running a tall 2.846:1 rear axle ratio.
Built on a 3250 mm wheelbase, they come with a typically high level of standard features starting with electronic disc brakes, ABS anti-lock and ASR anti-skid functions, and the incredibly handy hill-hold feature which does so much to ease stress on sharp lift-offs for driver and driveline alike. Gratefully, an effective engine brake is also part of the package.
In standard format, diesel capacity is 290 litres in a single tank mounted on the passenger side, with a second tank of the same size optionally available for the driver’s side. AdBlue capacity is 60 litres on the passenger side.
In both models the 2.3-metre-wide cab has the floor raised 320 mm above the engine tunnel, making it the lowest profile cab in the range.
There’s the choice of a day cab layout or a sleeper version with a 750 mm wide inner-spring mattress and a respectable sleeping area for overnight stops. Importantly, floor height over the engine tunnel is a surprisingly small impediment to sleeper access.
At the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz family several months ago, the 2643 was a real surprise packet during relatively short stints behind the wheel between Cairns and Townsville in Far North Queensland. Asked if the model could be made available for a test run in the more likely environs of country and suburban roads around Melbourne, confident Benz executives were quick to agree.
Consequently, the same sleeper model used at the launch program was provided for this exercise, hooked to a curtain-sided trailer and with a further 12,000 km on the clock following trials with fleet operators.
Gross weight wasn’t great at just 30 tonnes but then, it’s not uncommon for trucks pulling single trailers around the ‘burbs to spend much of the day at weights significantly less than max anyway.
Looking for a mix of roads and traffic conditions, the truck was pointed south-east towards Leongatha from the Whitehorse Trucks dealership in Dandenong, then across secondary roads to Gippsland’s Warragul before heading back through snarling suburbs to Dandenong. All up, 210 km of vastly different conditions starting with sodden freeways and fierce winds, and ending with a still, hot afternoon in congested traffic.
Yet just as it had done in Cairns, there was much to like about this truck from the get-go. For starters, it’s a short, easy climb into a cab that’s extremely practical and entirely comfortable. In fact, if there’s one thing that stands out in all the new Benz cabs, it’s the ease of familiarity. Switchgear and control functions are quickly understood and generally well placed, enhancing an internal cab design which is smart, neat, well-appointed and definitely driver friendly.