‘Containers are chaotic’

The fleet of orange and black container movers belonging to Wiri-based Reliance Transport is a common sight around Auckland, and increasingly so between major ports throughout the upper North Island.

The company runs an almost full Daimler fleet. Operations manager Grant Darrah counts 26 Mercedes- Benzes, two Fusos, one Freightliner, a couple of lingering DAFs, and a terminal tractor. Of the Mercedes- Benz, currently half are equipped with MirrorCam.

“Buying the mirrorless units was just part of our natural buying pattern. As we replace the older, mirrored versions according to our usual fourto- five-year cycle, we’ve brought on the MirrorCam units,” Grant explains.

Assistant transport manager Mac Moradi has number 366 at the ready – one of the company’s Arocs 3246 8x4s with quad-axle steering Swinglift – to demonstrate the truck in Reliance’s operation. Our first task is to head to the back of the yard where a reach stacker is waiting to pop a 40” container onto the trailer.

As we manoeuvre around the yard and Mac lines up his unit to accept the container, he says: “Containers are chaotic. The sites we visit are tight – there are containers stacked everywhere. This is where MirrorCam helps a lot.”

Mac explains that the biggest advantage is the system’s ability to adjust the camera’s view as the unit articulates within a yard. He pulls forward and begins to turn sharply to the left. The picture on the left-hand screen quickly changes with the main mirror changing to a wider angle and the wide-angle portion effectively zooming in on the rear but still clearly showing a wider view. As the unit articulates, the rear of the trailer comes into view and stays there to the point of jack-knife.

“It will continually show the back of the trailer, and I can clearly see the back axle. At this angle, a normal mirror will only show the side of the container,” he says, as he switches the camera back to its standard view, and the screen fills with the side of a yellow 40-footer. “We go to a lot of tight sites where we have to move the truck around containers, even jack-knifing it, and having that view of the rear axle of the trailer is something you’ll never get with a conventional mirror.”

Mac then flicks the Arocs into reverse, and the guidelines on the screen extend out. “It allows me to know how close I am to a wall or objects behind.”

Later, as we pull out of the yard, the system’s view adaption is demonstrated again. As Mac pulls into the street and begins turning to the left, the camera’s picture switches, and he can easily judge the position of the rear axles relative to parked cars and other objects inside the turn.

But first, a demonstration on how to adjust and set the view. “It adjusts like a normal mirror, and it indicates when its best positioned to have all MirrorCam functions working properly,” he says. What if you’re hooking up to a longer unit, like a B-train? “You just need to reset the camera,” says Mac as he descends from the cab and heads to the rear of the trailer to position a cone in view. “Just place an object at the back of the camera, select the driver’s screen, move the blue line to the object at the back of the trailer, save, and the camera knows where the back end of the trailer is…”

Mac says that the drivers at Reliance don’t often muck around with the system. While most are now comfortable with using a screen to keep tabs on what’s happening behind them, at first some didn’t like the change. “It’s just a matter of getting used to it. We train our drivers, go for a drive and sign them off, get them back in a few weeks and review, take their feedback and see what we need to do for them,” says Mac. “It’s easy to get used to it if you don’t fight it.”

Nonetheless, with any new system there will be niggles. There are a few for Mac and many of the drivers at Reliance. At first, they noticed that some drivers struggled to judge distance behind the trailer. Of course, the indicator lines on the screen help, indicating gaps of 30m, 50m and 100m behind the driver. “Depending on the length of the unit, it changes. Working on a 20m truck and trailer, and it’s pretty close at the first line.”

Mac says the night-shift drivers probably took more time getting used to the system. “We go into some dark sites, and it could help to improve the quality and resolution of the screens. It’s fine during the day, and it does well with changing light conditions or with the sun directly behind.”

Grant agrees that the cameras could have more definition at night and in the rain. “But a standard mirror is not much different. And these are magic on the open road,” he says.

Interestingly, Mac comments that the length of the camera arm needs to be kept in mind. “In a tight site where you have to go hard against a wall to make a corner, you have to be aware of how far it sticks out. When you’re driving a mirrored truck, you can see where the mirror housing is, but I can’t see the camera’s arm from the driver’s seat.” Luckily, none have been lost or damaged yet.

Finally, says Grant, the more recent trucks seem to be a little more finicky than the older ones when going into the maneuvering mode.


The Mercedes-Benz models in the Reliance Transport fleet vary and include 4×2, 6×4 and 8×4 in rigid and truck tractor configurations. According to Grant, the MirrorCam units are all Euro-6 with full safety systems and extended servicing periods.

I ask if there’s been any noticeable difference in fuel consumption between mirrored and MirrorCam units. “It’s not really noticeable in our operation,” says Grant. “It’s very hard to work it out on what we do.”

The business runs mainly in the Auckland metro. Lately, however, it increasingly runs out of town because of the chaos at the ports. Mac says the drivers tend to use the inbuilt navigation because it’s truck-specific and shows up on the instrument screen. “It doesn’t send you where the truck can’t go,” he says.

The adaptive cruise control comes into its own on the highway. “It’s one of the best things about the truck,” Mac reckons. The safety suite also features automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection.

Mac reckons the central touchscreen works well. Even though many of the truck’s functions have been moved into the system, the shortcut buttons allow for quick operation. He especially likes the ability to call up the axle weights and tyre pressures on the screen.

“They are really comfy to drive,” says Mac. “On a 12- or 13-hour shift, you still feel fresh at the end.”