Actions Speaks Louder

In Tests, DAF, February 202252 MinutesBy Dave McCoidMarch 15, 2022

When it came to the CF variant of DAF’s Euro-6 range, we wanted rural, and we got it… literally. In a wonderful location that’s about as heartland as heartland gets, we found a truck that appeared the perfect match for all those around it.

Above and beyond

Every now and then, the international space station probably bobbles its way over the top of Kurow in the South Island’s Waitaki Valley. Inside the tinfoil contraption far above the village are people who went through all sorts of psychometric tests to ensure they had the ‘right stuff’ for the missions they would serve. In the selection process, they were likely challenged with complicated and ever- changing problems, after which their ability to respond calmly and offer workable solutions for all stakeholders would be critiqued to the nth degree.

However, little do humanity’s supposedly finest examples know as they pass overhead, that in the hamlet far below are folk easily capable of handling the crisis management aspects of their stellar situation.

Yes, folks, we’re in rural transport again, among rural transport people. Without doubt, one of our favourite places to be. The level of intellectual property that resides in the operational offices of places such as Rural Transport’s Kurow depot would mangle the brains of the average person. Textbooks on ‘best practice’ are more than likely used to ensure your two computer monitors sit aligned to each other while you ‘figure shit out’.

Crossing the Aviemore Dam

Like those on the final frontier above them, the Kurow crew’s life is all about the reality of actual situations, juggling tasks, equipment, and people, against a backdrop of constantly changing and often extreme physical, behavioural, and meteorological conditions. Like astronauts, the real selection process for people with the right stuff started years ago, and if there’s one thing the two disciplines do have in common, it’s the old biblical chestnut, ‘many are called, few are chosen’. When it comes to transport operations, especially rural transport operations, many talk the talk, few can walk the walk.

Sorting out how you’re going to get 200 tonnes of fert to a bin on an airstrip atop a hill that’s truck-only access, move 1200 hoggets from one farm to another 35km up the Waitaki, get two loads from Te Aakatarawa Station to the Pukeri meatworks near Oamaru, and 380 bales of Lucerne baleage from deep in the Haka Valley to a farm near Luggate all between Tuesday lunchtime and Wednesday knock-off. It is a day’s work for the likes of the legendary Rex Taylor, and his cohort Kent Rowland.

Although a hot coffee, a bag of chips, and a cooked snarler help the problem- solving process immeasurably, like an astronaut, it’s time and practice that are the essence of success. Time and practice learning ‘what’; time and practice learning ‘where’; time and practice learning ‘how’; time and practice learning ‘when’; and time and practice learning ‘who’. Oh, and let’s not forget what is arguably the most important one, time and practice … remaining calm.

Two of New Zealand’s great all-rounders.

What all the time and practice rewards you with is knowing things like, ‘Bob hates the fert tipped on the right side of the hill-top bin because he parks the tractor on that side so the fuel hose from the portable diesel tank can reach; that the key to Len’s tractor when you go to load the bailage is under the hay in the middle egg-tray door of the chook-house, and watch the right side of the soft hands, it sometimes sticks, and don’t load No.8 too far forward, it’ll get stuck coming out the drive, just it keep a bit further back and if we need to move the back row to the front in the yard before you leave we can. And, lastly, don’t send Bruce for those hoggets; he and Phil had a disagreement in a ruck last Saturday, so we’re just waiting for things to calm and for everyone to re-establish speed and position. I see they were still sitting two tables apart in the pub last night. Once we’re at one table, he’ll be good to go up there again.’

“Kurow? It’s a gem!” laughs Mark Wareing when we chat at Rural Transport’s slick Ashburton headquarters. “You never hear from them. They just sort it out and get stuff done. Rex Taylor’s away on holiday now, so that’s a real shame. He’s been there so long and knows the business so well. It’s just amazing.”

Then, of course, you need drivers, but not just any drivers, preferably drivers with the same rural genes. Ideally, locals with their heart in the land. In the stock division, your ideal profile is essentially a shepherd who can drive. Not someone erratic and flighty, rather, someone calm who knows when animals are happy, stressed, or simply being naughty. Someone who also knows the customers, knows farming, an ambassador not just for the brand on the door, but for the community they are a part of. Arriving on farm sensibly rather than in a cloud of mayhem, noise, and dust. You need a person who would likely find filming their own ego on TikTok as abhorrent as mistreating the animals in their keep. Someone just like Kurow-based driver Aaron Tait.

Carrier, driver, and the Inn – hospitality personified.

Loose forwards

It would therefore be fair to say that Rural Transport Kurow is full of intelligent, savvy, reliable, versatile, and above all, humble folk.

None of this should come as any surprise, because sitting in the middle of their town is a triple life-size image of the region’s famous son, a humble local who achieved stellar heights in his chosen field. We are of course talking about one Richie McCaw. Currently Richie’s just a wood backed cut-out while the good folk of the Waitaki and Haka Valleys gather the shekels for a proper statue. Bugger knighthoods – for these people to erect a statue of you in the town centre is an accolade not even Oscar Wilde could have truly conveyed in words.

Yet looking at McCaw’s career, it’s as Kurow as you could get. He played rugby, he did well, and he went and did other things. Aside from a TV ad or two promoting the dairy industry, he’s made no effort to pursue any form of celebrity status on the back of his playing career. It’s almost like Rex or Kent were dispatching him all the way through.

‘Kurow base to 07?’

‘Receiving.’

‘How are you getting on? Have you played those 148 All Black games and won two world cups yet, mate?’

‘Yep, yep, just sorting out my boots and putting the kit away now.’

‘Oh yep, okay. Hey, once you’re clear, can you shoot off and fly helicopters and gliders for 20 years?’

‘Yeah, no probs’.

‘Okay, good on ya. Oh, hey, can you chuck in the occasional insane adventure race?’

‘Yep. No probs.’

‘Okay mate. See ya when you get in.’

‘All good.’

Even McCaw’s No.7 playing position fits the mould. He was just as happy hard on attack as mowing down a line break from the other direction. Temperamental specialists are about as much use as a wheelless Prattley ramp among these folk.

Having established just how high the bar is set in terms of operations and drivers, what about the truck? Is there such a thing as an immensely capable yet humble truck? Which iteration of man’s most successful mechanical invention could possibly find consistent favour with those running a transport business in Kurow? The answer is interesting.

The DAF finds a happy home in the ‘Haka’ Valley.

The instant you turn up at the depot on ‘Main Road’, Kurow (‘Main Road’ – that’s all you need, you’ll work it out), what you’ll see is … DAFs. There’ll be some sitting there in the yard awaiting orders, others will be out pottering around the region doing pretty much anything and everything, and others will be a lot further away on linehaul duties to the likes of Belfast in Christchurch, 274km to the north, or Lorneville near Invercargill, 378km to the south.

Rural Kurow is home to nine DAFs in a fleet of 12; a mix of both Euro-5 CF85s and the newer CF Euro-6s. Wind the lens out over the broader Rural Transport fleet, and the DAF comprises 37 units out of 55. Even wider, to the parent company Philip Wareing Ltd, and there are 92 DAFs in a 240-truck operation. That’s 38% of the entire fleet. Philip Wareing is no slug, that’s a given in New Zealand ‘Transport 101’ education, and neither are his sons Mark and Simon. You, therefore, must ask the question: when one make accounts for over a third of their entire fleet, operating across a vast breadth of rural and primary sector roles, where accolades are rare and reputation only as secure as the last job completed, what is it that DAF brings to the table?

Although a prettier truck than its predecessor, the CF Euro-6 still looks purposeful.

Hills and valleys

Relief despatcher Nick Kelland had apologised for only having local-ish work available during our one-and-a-half days in town, but that was just dandy. Aside from giving us two nights enjoying the first-rate feed and a couple of beers at the Kurow Hotel with owners Ross and Trish, and front-of- house gem Sally, loading up a full barge of critters for a romp up the island to Christchurch would have revealed little in the way of clues as to where the McCaw factor resided in the DAF’s DNA. No, the answers we were searching for lay in the hollows of the Waitaki and Hakataramea (Haka) Valleys, and on the flanks of the Kurow and Kirkliston ranges.

We meet Aaron Tait in the yard on a clear, spring Friday morning. His list of tasks was typical of a ‘local day’ tidying up stuff in the area. With him was his trusty sidekick, Fleet No.503, a 2021 DAF CF530 Euro-6 8×4 FAD flat-roof sleeper, kitted up with Jackson Enterprises deck and 5-axle trolley, complete with Total Stockcrates crates. Aaron had been in the truck about six months, and it had just ticked over 54,000km, so he was well settled in.

The scene instantly gave away our first clue. The DAF was just sitting there, like some enormous heading dog. It wasn’t vying for the limelight with ‘look at me’ radiating from every panel and trinket bolted to it. Harking back to Rod Gunson driving the Rainbow Park Nurseries CF410 in the April 2021 test, we remember being amazed at how quiet the idle was when you were standing alongside it. Likewise, the 530 was quietly ticking over, almost like it had its tongue hanging out to one side, lightly panting, its eyes half shut in the morning sun, waiting for a quiet ‘get in behind’ whisper.

Gliding along the side of Lake Aviemore.

Job one was a split load of four-legged woolly beggars from Te Akatarawa Station on the northern side of Lake Aviemore, some of which were heading to Otematata Station and the rest – 150-odd – to a farm up the Haka Valley following a weigh-up at the yard.

Aaron and the DAF crossed Aviemore Dam and quietly motored the 20-odd kilometres up Te Akatarawa Road, turning right into the station’s cattle- yard entrance about 5km shy of Benmore Dam. The track up to the yards is only about 600- odd metres long, made up of gravel and small river stones. It was narrow and lumpy climbing to a tight right-hand hairpin bend before a flat run to the spin-around and then back to the loading ramp.

“I flick it into manual idling into places like this, otherwise it gets a bit confused and tries to change gears and all that. My previous CF85 was a manual, but I’ve adjusted to this one now and know how it’s going to behave pretty much. It’s all good. I don’t mind it at all.”

Leaving to pick up the second load of wethers.

Backed in and butted up, the through doors are open. We’re met by station shepherd Angus Foster, he and Aaron swinging into action, getting the flock to run onto the unit. In no time, we’re loaded, the units closed and split, handshakes complete, and out we head. With its 21m kerb-to- kerb lock, the DAF negotiated the tight bend mid-track in one swing, both on the way in and out. Thinking back to the MH Mack I once drove, its right and left-hand lock were like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but the DAF seemed more like McCaw and Kaino.

“It’s longer in the wheelbase than in the old truck, so not quite as good on the turn as she was. You notice that 500mm extra. It’s not an issue or anything, but it’s noticeable.”

We ditch all but the Haka Valley crew, who are easily accommodated in the truck, and back in the yard, pull the DAF over the weighbridge in the fert shed.

Barely out of town on SH82, we cross the Waitaki River bridge and turn left onto Hakataramea Valley Road. Along a short flat, we then motor up and over a low saddle and are met with the vast beauty of the Hakataramea Valley laid out in front of us on the most glorious of spring days. An immense valley of green pastoral land and feed crops with both a river and country road bearing its name meandering their way up its 45 or so kilometres length. On days like this, you wonder why you’d drive trucks anywhere else.

Turning into Te Akatarawa Station.

Again, the DAF seemed the perfect fit. In Rural’s red and green livery, its passage up the valley would certainly be seen if you were looking its way but more than likely not heard. While that’s great for serenity and social licence, it has its complications when the local pest is encountered.

“Yeah, interesting,” says Aaron. “I’ve already hit two wallabies in this one. They just never heard it coming. The old truck was just that much louder, but this one sneaks up on them, I think. You just have to be aware of just how quiet it is. Luckily, they’ve not done any real damage, but they can break lights and annoying stuff like that.”

Narrow country roads with no fog lines are the economic capillaries of the nation and the place where today’s modern trucks really come into their own. There was only an element of metaphor in the old-timers referencing steering wheels of their era as ‘tillers’, but today, Aaron could have nipped the wings off a sleeping cicada with the steer tyres of the DAF as he guided it up the road.

The face of modern stock trucks with safety rails up.

Many of the valley systems in this part of the country have alternative access routes, the roads less travelled you might say. The Haka Pass links this valley with Burkes Pass at Dog Kennel Corner, east of Tekapo, and Danseys Pass connects the Waitaki with Naseby in the Maniototo. From there, you can get into the Clutha system in lower mid-Otago via Lake Onslow. In terms of trucking Nirvana, the Haka Pass is certainly summer-friendly, and pick your moments – usually truck-only – at other times. Danseys is definitely truck- only, and Lake Onslow? Well, let’s just say there are better ways.

“Yep, I’ve been through the Haka Pass a few times with the units,” says Aaron. Then, in that typical lower South Island style, he says that thing that strikes fear into your heart. “You just have to be a bit careful in places.” When people from here say things like that, it could possibly mean the route is the truck equivalent of the Red Bull Rampage!

About 25km in, we turn deeper into paradise, onto Highland Farm Settlement Road, motoring a further 5km on gravel to the property of Hamish Kays, where we discharge our passengers. They are now essentially on the opposite side of the Kirkliston Ranges from where they started, but they’re a few million years of evolution and an opposable thumb or four from ever knowing that.

1) The DAF is such an easy vehicle to use.

In rural trucking, visibility is everything. Before you can avoid the fencepost, back blade in the long grass, or surface drain, you must first know it’s there. We’ve always said of the CF DAF cab that it’s a light and airy place, and the company’s latest offering Down Under changes nothing. The reason for the sense of light and space is in no small way down to those huge side windows, with their signature two-piece configuration allowing the opening section to drop fully below the sill. Mirrors are ample and well- placed, and of course, back in the homeland, DAF is the latest Euro OEM to enter the world of cameras as an option over mirrors.

Out of the valley, we pop back into the yard for the trailer. Our next assignment was transferring sheep from one block on the vast Otamatata Station to another – roughly speaking, a 35km cart. Aaron popped into the office to make sure everything was on track. Back in the DAF he updated the situation.

“There’s two loads to do. We’re assigned to one, but if the Isuzu stock unit on its way back from a job up Lilybank Road beside Lake Tekapo is in the vicinity at the right time, he’ll whip in and grab the other, otherwise that one is ours also.”

Otamatata Station is a 40,000ha sheep and beef operation split into five blocks along the southern side of the Waitaki Valley, pretty much across Lake Aviemore from where we’d been that morning. In Aussie outback station vernacular, we were doing some ‘paddock-carting’, but as big as Otamatata might seem when you’re on it, even she can’t hold a candle to likes of Lake Nash over the ditch at 1,200,000ha, Helen Springs at 1,020,000ha, and the absurdly huge Anna Creek, the biggest farm of them all, at 2,367,000ha. The point here being, rather than an intra-station haul on station roads, our paddock shift involved loading at one site, popping out onto the good state highway for a bit, and unloading at another site down the road. The mood felt similar, though. We were into it boots and all.

2 & 3) A low-roof CF cab it might well be, but there’s no shortage of space and room and no mistaking the handle for the fridge.

Aaron arrived at the loading sight, turning in off the road, down over a steepish culvert and into the paddock. The DAF has good clearances under the front bumper, so taken appropriately there’s no issue. Around in a big circle, then back into the ramps, and butt up. It’s a stock set- up of 2021, so pneumatically controlled safety rails on top of the crates rise and click into place with the flick of a valve – a tangible and useful safety apparatus.

Station owner Hugh Cameron was there to help Aaron load, and he shut all the gates so the DAF was paddock-locked for reasons that will become clear in a moment. Hugh’s a lovely bloke, and it was a real treat watching him work his dogs Doug and Jules in the yards, getting the wethers to run in batches, according to Aaron’s needs. The wethers were six-year-olds, which if you know your sheep, will mean something. If, however, like us, you don’t really know one Ovis aries from another, a six-year-old wether is a savvy, old, neutered sheep of the hills not about to willingly follow any instruction given by some human or his pesky mutts. As such, there were a number of escapees over the rails at times, which didn’t do much for Doug and Jules’ mental health, but explains why Hugh closed us in.

“We run about 25,000 stock units,” explains Hugh. “Thirty thousand sheep and 500 cattle. Our point of difference is the number of wethers we run – about 11,000. Not many stations run that level of Merino wethers, and they don’t rate as high in terms of stock units, hence the number. These fellas will go down to another block for eight weeks to fatten up, and then they’ll head off to the works.”

4) She is a bit tight on storage however, and there’s only one external locker.

All in a day’s work

As loading continued, we took a moment to look around the cab. There’s no question DAF’s an evolver of trucks. It’s instantly recognisable as a DAF the moment you arrive indoors – nothing’s really changed in this model in terms of ‘how’ you use it. Just sitting in the CF gives away a lot when you’re looking for answers to DAFs appeal in deployments like this, not to mention its market assault since arriving officially in 1999. Yes, there are all the things we’ve mentioned before – mechanical familiarity, European comfort at a keen price, and a decade of strong economic growth that helped kick them along. But when you sit in them and look around, they’re a bloody easy truck to use, and at the end of the day – or a long hot week for that matter – isn’t that what it’s all about? When you’re knackered in hour 68, complexity is an irritant.

The CF’s super easy to get in and out of; there are grab handles in all the right places – love the one on the A pillar – and once you’re in, it’s a ‘clear’ working environment. Clear, in terms of seeing everything, and clear as to what it all does.

The DAF’s binnacle is elegantly simple in the company’s rendition of the ubiquitous gauges separated by data screen set-up. Odometer, fuel/DEF on the left, tacho and temp on the right. Embedded in the lower part of the odometer are speed control readout stuff, and on the tacho, gear selection. The trip, driver, load, and truck info screen between the gauges is managed via DAF’s neat dash- mounted knob on the lower left of the steering wheel. Love that!

5) That A-pillar grab handle really is a honey.

The binnacle and wrap are one big curvaceous moulding, and although all the usual suspects appear on the wrap, there’s a neat separation in the design language. The brake valves, entertainment (no infotainment on this one), knick-knack stow – all flow in a grey panel that runs around the wrap and through the binnacle, ending to the right of the steering wheel at the headlight switch. Under the grey panel is a black one, housing the forward/reverse controller, park brake, climate management, and switchgear.

The smart wheel sorts out the phone on the left and speed management on the right, with the left column wand home to wipers, dip, and indicator; the right cog swapping and pulling on the reins.

It’s so very DAF: and works a treat.

Being a CF, it comes with a complementary engine tunnel, but that’s not really any sort of payoff for the truck’s low stance. If you do have to shoot over the other side of the house – even this low roof one – and find it difficult, then maybe a gym membership might have been the go for the Chrissy present, or at least start reading Laura’s Truckers’ Health column.

6 & 7) Say ‘Agh’ for top-ups. Being a CF, it really is as easy as pie.

Fleet 503 is a flat roof sleeper, and although the Space-cab would be nice, it’s fine for the “occasional night away” as Aaron says, except on one count. Storage is the cab’s weakest point, really. There’s a fridge under the bunk – with a somewhat agricultural yet incredibly self- explanatory handle – some netted stows in the front overhead, an oddments tray/ cup holder on the engine tunnel, a tray on top of the dash, door pockets, and that was about it for immediate access internal storage. There is one external under- cab locker on the left side of the truck. A ‘little-y’ by today’s standards, and only having the one, it will likely be used for gloves, raincoat, leggings – ‘outdoorsy’ stuff. I’m sure there are endless configurations you can spec, but a standard rear wall locker or two in the day-cab sleeper is probably a goer.

Outside there are some canny fold-out steps in the lower grille for tending to windscreen washing and the like, and the front lifts up and away to reveal top-up points, the topping up of which is done following instruction from the truck … if you get our drift.

Front panel down, stand back and have a look. The CF Euro-6 is a different-looking truck than its forebears, meaning prettier and less ‘dogged’. The 85 was a purposeful-looking truck. The big hips in the lower cab flanks are still very much there, along with the split side windows. They’ve always been grist for the mill of the aesthetics discussion when it comes to the CF. As has been the case through history, looks are a personal thing, and that’s never going to change. I think it’s fine. Maybe the hip still annoys me a wee bit… Maybe.

Doug leaps into fray on Hugh’s command.

Always take the wether with you

Loaded, doors shut, safety rails down, and unit split. Aaron turned the direction wheel to ‘Forward Turtle’ on the dial, engaged the necessary traction aids, and eased the DAF away from the loading ramp with the big trailer from the house of Jackson Enterprises in Pahiatua following gracefully.

Both truck deck and trailer were built at Jackson’s, a long time Wareing group supplier. Looking around the entire unit, both trailer and Total Stockcrates crate confirms again New Zealand gear is at least the equal of anything built around the world. Interestingly, the trailer had inflation management, something that’s rapidly becoming a staple in the industry since we first had a sniff around it on Ricky Musson’s log unit (New Zealand Trucking, February 2020). We knew then if Ricky Musson swore by it, it was about to take off. This trailer was set-up with the SAF Tire- Pilot system supplied through Transpecs.

“The system is becoming increasingly popular on our new builds,” said Transpecs regional sales manager Damien O’Hara. “The benefits include reduced tyre wear, reduced fuel use, along with reduced risk of failure. The SAF Tire-Pilot technology requires our SAF axles to be drilled to enable the axle beam to hold the air required for each Tire-Pilot axle set. These can come pre-drilled or we are able to retrofit this in New Zealand if required.”

It wasn’t goodbye to Hugh, just ‘so long’, as we now knew the second load was ours also. Hugh kindly dons the hi-vis jacket and takes command of traffic management out on SH80, signalling to Aaron when to drive up and out of the paddock and onto the road. The DAF easily exits the paddock, with no issues at all, and we motor off.

“The DAFs are pretty good on traction,” said Aaron. “I haven’t been caught in this one. It still comes back to knowing where you can and can’t go in the first place.”

There’s no denying the PACCAR MX-13 punches above its weight. It’s been put to work in some pretty gnarly missions and has earned a reputation as an honest horse.

In Euro-6 trim, it’s up on power from its previous incarnation at 390kW (530hp), so it hits above that sweet spot of 10hp/tonne for 50Max HPMV and almost gets there at 54-tonne HPMV. Torque peak is 2600Nm (1920lb/ft) from 1000rpm to 1460rpm with power sitting at about 388kW (520hp) when the two curves shake hands at 1675rpm. What that feels like in the cab is a really relaxing low-stress ride, aided in no small way by the smoothness of the 12-speed ZF TaXon transmission. “It took a little bit to familiarise myself with the AMT’s characteristics but, yeah, she’s all good now. I know what it’s going to do and when. Same with the safety kit. That caught me a couple of times early on, but we’ve got it sorted pretty much.”

The MX-13 just mumbles away and at 44 tonne GCM, Lake Aviemore rolls on by while Aaron and I chat in a library-like 68dB, and steady 80 to 90kph depending on the topography.

The first of the spring/ summer cyclists slowing our progress on a gradual rise was no issue, and the CF530 easily regained pace. “Here they come for another summer,” chuckled Aaron.

“Crossing the Alexandra Bridge into the hill on the other side, at full weight, she’ll climb the steepest pinch in sixth, at 1350rpm, and 20kph. And that’s from a near standing start.”

As useable as that may all sound, many see the modest high-end power of the DAF range as its Achille’s heel. There’s no D16G, OM451, D26 or DC16 to trot out for those who desire more thrust in their working week, and that hasn’t changed even with the latest generation recently launched in Europe. To be fair, the trucks are largely pitched at fleet purchasers in this neck of the woods, but even then, the power gap is ever widening between them and the competition. It’s not at all uncommon nowadays to find fleet buyers furnishing their drivers with machines of 448kW (600hp) or more.

Auxiliary braking in the new gig is well ahead of the old truck according to Aaron. The three-stage setup delivers a healthy 375kW (503hp) at full noise (2100rpm), but a commendable 365kW (490hp) at the 1400rpm mark. Aaron’s comments reflect the performance. “This one’s got the three-speed auxiliary brake, which is actually important for us. Being able to descend at a good pace, in control, without using the brakes is a big thing down here. There are lots of big climbs, and big downhills, so if you have to crawl down, you lose a lot. The old truck only had a single-speed engine brake, and it was all right, but you needed to have the revs up and humming along to get the benefit. This is much better.”

Behind the transmission, DAF’s proprietary SR1360T single-reduction axles with inter-axle and cross-lock at 3.40:1 ride on eight-bag electronically controlled air suspension with stabiliser bar and shock absorbers. Up front, twin DAF163N axles sit on parabolic leaf springs again, with stabiliser bar and shocks. The unit’s a full disc- brake setup and, of course, not having the full safety suite is no longer an option, so she’s full of all that trick gear as well. (See specs.)

If you’ve taken the step into the world of Euro-6, you’ll know all about the fuel consumption benefits. We’ve yet to meet a Euro-6 operator who hasn’t enjoyed improved fuel use. To date, the DAF’s sitting on 2.01kpl (5.67mpg). It’s a dedicated stock unit, so always big and cumbersome, with work that includes long runs to Ashburton, Christchurch, or Mataura, as well as days like this. Neither do the elements in the region do much for the preservation of fuel. “Take the run from Twizel to Tekapo,” says Aaron. “It’s a long consistent pull of about 58km and the nor’- wester is always blowing. It’s tough on the fuel. And as for the valley [Waitaki], six months a year, the wind’s blowing up the valley, and for the other six months, it blows down.”

‘Ramps away!’

The great benefit of having a cattleman driver is his concern for the welfare of his cargo plays out on the truck and trailer also. It’s no wonder Aaron’s CF85 ran to 800,000km with minimal issues. He guides the truck along in a way you know is all about passenger comfort and condition. As we’ve always said, good stockies, heavy- haul, and off-highway logging operatives have that naturally gentle approach.

One thing we noticed was the ease of getting 23m of HPMV around the place, and although that’s certainly not always the case, Aaron says it’s generally pretty good.

“It’s all big farms in and around here, so single-pickup loads are really common. The farmers understand the benefit of the big trucks and why they came about so, by and large, they are really accommodating. If a fence has to be dropped so you can get around or something, it’s usually not a problem.”

Destination reached, Aaron turns into the Otamatata block 35km down the road. He rolls up the race, turns hard left through a gate, down though a wee gully, and up into a paddock. Looking on at either driver or truck, they’re both the same. No fuss, no noise and ballyhoo, just getting the job done.

Greeting us is shepherd Darrin Sinclair, who brings the portable loading race with him.

Darrin hand-cranks the ramp up so locaters on the underside of the ramp slot neatly into slots on the trailer. Too easy. Again, butted up, the doors are opened, and the ‘you may now disembark’ order was definitely not required. The four-legged’s virtually unloading themselves while the lads chat away about things happening in the district; farming, families, hunting, whatever needed discussing.

With the load running for the hills, we were back up the road for the second round. This time, Aaron’s son Ryan is along for the ride, super-keen and just in his element being out with Dad. His training appears well underway, not just in trucking, but animal welfare, and customer relations also. This is truly where it starts.

Doug and Jules make short work of getting the balance of the recalcitrant cargo onto the back of the big Dutch wagon for Hugh and Aaron.

Summary – cashing cheques

A great man once said, ‘Never write cheques with your mouth that your ability can’t cash’. It’s one of those sobering bits of advice that always serves as a wonderful caution before an overly ambitious act. There are no surprises for guessing the guy who said it was from Southland originally; it’s just how the folk in the bottom of the country are.

There’s no fanfare or instant gratification in and around the yard at Rural Transport in Kurow. No one’s interested in notoriety. No, these folk are just interested in ensuring the farms in their keep get what they need in the way of transport services when they need it. They’ve been at it a long time, they live in the same community as their customers, drink at the same pub, their kids go to the same schools, they play in the same sports teams. On many occasions, they’ll be able to pre-empt what their farmer clients want long before the phone rings with the request.

When it comes to equipment, they need a machine that’s their equivalent – low on flamboyance, high on capability. They need something versatile, reliable, simple to use, well-supported, and cost-effective to run.

It’s interesting: the first European to set eyes on New Zealand was a Dutchman – old Abel ‘T’. Like those in New Zealand’s south, the Dutch have a reputation for hard work, frugality, and understatement. They, too, are difficult people to impress. In some ways, it’s almost like Abe said, ‘Ang on! I’ll be back in 347 years with just da right truck for you fellas!’

The DAF CF is a machine that rarely screams ‘look at me’, yet it’s seen in every corner of the nation, doing all manner of work.

It’s no real surprise it finds favour with companies down here. So far, it’s done a pretty good job of ‘cashing its cheques’ and adding positively to its purchasers’ reputations and balance sheets.

The 530 Euro-6 version of this most humble machine looks like continuing the trend its forbears have established, retaining all the elements that make it the appealing proposition it is.

Time will tell if this is the model that gets a life-size statue in Kurow.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We were excited to be back in rural transport, and as always, it didn’t disappoint. A huge thanks to Mark Wareing for allowing us to pester the Kurow crew for a couple of days, and thanks too for taking the time on busy day to show us around the Ashburton HQ and have a talk. Thanks to Kent, Nick, and Aaron for the welcome and going out of your way to make it all work. We could easily still be there having a yarn. Thanks to Hugh Cameron, Angus Foster, and Hamish Kays for access to the respective properties.

And if you’re passing through Kurow, please call in and see Ross, Trish, and Sally at the Kurow Hotel. The hospitality and value-for-mony feed is nothing less than what you expect from this part of the country.

Quick reads from the Test