Every box ticked

In March 2023, Top Truck9 MinutesBy Gavin MyersApril 16, 2023

We know, we know, a DAF Top Truck is long overdue. This one, howver, was certainly worth waiting for.

If you’re familiar with Southpac, especially in the South Island, you probably know the name Steve Herring. Steve’s worked in sales for the local Kenworth and DAF distributor for 18 years but recently stepped back a bit – a move that’s allowed him to pay more attention to his first love, trucking.

“Other than selling for Southpac, I’ve been a truck driver all my life,” Steve says. DGS Bulk Distribution has been around since 2014 and operates three trucks serving a flat store storing grain.

The latest to join the fleet is ‘Blue Hors Matiné’, the DAF CF 530 you see here that started work in June 2022 and operates in the greater Canterbury region – venturing further afield when required. It made a star appearance on the Southpac stand at the TMC Trucking Industry Show in November, where it won the Best DAF of the show.

Living and breathing trucking: Muss (right) and young Logan.

Blue Hors Matiné is an unusual name for a truck, but as these things always do, it has a special significance. Steve explains: “My wife Donna is into dressage horses – that’s her thing. So, all our equipment is named after the world’s best dressage horses. She said, ‘Do whatever you want, but I’m naming the gear’.”

The Danish mare burst onto the European dressage scene in 2006, rapidly rising to fame and becoming a YouTube star. She was humanely put down in 2010 after an accident in the field. The airbrushed image of Blue Hors Matiné on either side of the cab pays tribute. “We sent the truck to Cliff Mannington at Truck Signs in Mt Maunganui to do the signwriting. We just wanted the name on it, but he airbrushed Blue Hors Matiné on without us even knowing. He’s amazing, a real artist!” says Steve.

Naturally, Cliff added his personal touch to the DAF. “What I had in mind was different, but when the truck arrived, I realised it was exactly what I wanted,” Steve comments, adding that the cab chassis came out of the DAF factory in Holland with its coat of silver. The brilliant maroon was added by Transvisual Graphics when the truck arrived in Auckland.

Aaron Headington and his team at Southpac did all the set-up work in Auckland and Chris Stanley did all the stainless, while Transfleet Trailers was commissioned to build the bins and five-axle trailer.

Excellent airbrushing work of ‘Blue Hors Matiné’ by Cliff Mannington.

Symmetry and attention to the finest detail.

“The bins are Roc-Tuff Hardox by Transfleet – the first they’ve done in a long time as a ‘big smoothie’. They have alloy tailgates, topper boards and splash- guards to keep some weight out,” says Steve. “It was built to do everything. It needed to be versatile for what we move – from cold tar and concrete to grain. What you lose in tare with Hardox, you gain in versatility,” he says.

The electric Power Tarps tarps are configured north-south and feature a manual override. “When loading all that big rubbishy stuff, they can get the loader bucket right inside the bin, so they’re not trying to tip over bows,” says Steve. The full wet-weather retractable tarp sits over the coaming rail and features a roll-down flap at the rear to completely cover the load when required.

Attention to detail aptly describes the thought put into this build. “It needed to be neat and tidy,” says Steve. “When we set it up, we wanted it as symmetrical as possible – from the twin air horns to the matching covers over the muffler and DEF tank and fuel and hydraulic tanks.”

Steve is full of praise for everyone involved in the build. “Matthew Gillies and Jared Harnet from Transfleet were absolutely brilliant, but credit goes to everyone involved. Good people all round!”

Not that that’s the end of the extensive spec list that makes this truck what it is. Steve ticked most of the boxes wherever he could. Underpinning the trailer are SAF axles with SAF Tyre Pilot, while Wabco Smartboard helps keep control over trailer functions. The Groeneveld Singleline automatic grease system keeps the rig optimally lubricated, RUC Monkey electronic RUC takes care of that obligation, Narva load lighting and cameras from Cloud Vehicle Technology in the bins help keep an eye on the load, and Lazerlamps driving lights illuminate those night-time trips across the Canterbury Plains.

A convenient handwashing tank is mounted behind the cab – fitting given the obsessively spotless condition in which the DAF is kept by driver Michael ‘Muss’ Pelling. Muss, a driver for 27 years, comes from a trucking family, and his association with Steve goes back to Muss’ early teenage years.

“I used to go on the trucks with him as a youngster, always learning,” says Muss. “I’ve been with Steve most of the way through my career, other than when I went and drove fuel tankers for eight years. More recently, I started my own business and began doing contract work for Steve. Now I’m on this!” he adds with a broad smile.

“Muss has come up in the industry, and I couldn’t ask for a better person on this truck. It’s great to have good, passionate people in the job, who want to do the job and keep their gear looking like this,” says Steve, adding a tip for the industry in general: “People who want to work, you should give them every opportunity, nurture that and say, ‘Away you go’.”

Words that are now ringing true for Muss’ 16-year-old son Logan. “We’ve got him pegged; he’s locked in all right!” laughs Steve.

As spotless as Muss keeps the truck’s exterior, the interior is even more pristine. Towels cover the seat covers and the floor mats. There’s a sheath over the driver-seat armrest, socks cover the pedals, and a microfibre mitt atop the dash is ready for use at a moment’s notice.

Naturally, Steve ticked whatever boxes he could here too.

“It’s the first sleeper cab CF with the Exclusive interior spec, usually only available on the Space Cab. That includes heated leather seats, Agenta cognac dash top and door cards, and aluminium trim.”

To say Blue Hors Matiné got the full treatment could be an understatement, but it wouldn’t be to say it’s all the better for it. Excitingly, a similar second unit, with full alloy bins, is being built.