Filling big shoes

In Kenworth, Tests29 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 13, 2018

Kenworth’s latest model is taking on the responsibility of representing the iconic brand in an operation for the first time. The expectation on the part of the new owner is high.

Waiau Pa Bulk Haulage (WPBH) – it‘s one of those companies you know, but you don‘t know. The trucks are always late model, normally Japanese, but there‘s one, maybe two DAFs around also – it‘s hard to tell. ‘It‘s hard to tell how many trucks there are,‘ you think to yourself. They‘re a smart fleet, well presented, and that sets them apart from many in and around the Auckland tip scene for a start. In terms of livery they‘re not over the top, you couldn‘t say spectacular, but then sometimes attempting to take the reserved path instantly makes your brand identifiable. It‘s not hard to spot a WPBH truck on the road – they just always seem to be there…then not there.

As it happens that ‘s just the way founder and managing director Grant Reid likes it. That ‘s exactly the plan he and partner Alison Hancock work to when it comes to running their business, and New Zealand Trucking magazine thank both Grant and Alison for letting us bring this test to our pages. It was step outside the comfort zone for them.
To set the record straight there are 14 trucks in the WPBH fleet at the time of writing, and yes, there are two DAF CF85s, not one really busy one. But it ‘s the arrival of a pair of Kenworth T610s into the South Auckland-based fleet that ‘s really created a buzz. That ‘ll certainly raise your profile for sure.

WPBH is not a trucking company; it ‘s a bulk earthworks, civil engineering and materials processing company with a fleet of trucks to ensure supply chain continuity (see sidebar). The Kenworths have arrived for two reasons.

Firstly, the era of high productivity trucks has opened up doors right across the trucking spectrum, including regional tip work. Reducing the number of tip trucks in and around Auckland has to be a good thing any way you look at it, and under route specific HPMV permitting the Kenworths will join others in the WPBH and broader Auckland tipping fleet currently operating at around 50 tonne on seven or more axles. The second reason is fleet continuity in terms of maintenance streamlining and longevity, and for that reason WPBH is settling on PACCAR product as their go-to brands. “ The DAFs have been outstanding trucks. I see them as a 10-year machine and with the Kenworths we‘re aiming for 20,” said Grant.

Photo: The new members of the WPBH fleet will have no trouble turning heads, especially running like this.

To the core
So, the T610s are certainly going to be around for a while in the WPBH colours. The first is in the hands of Len Allport, and the second with company veteran Toko Whare. “ The Kenworths are about the power and durability for us.
They‘ll be pitched at work like the Puhoi Northern extension as the lead out there is quite long, 54km, on a route where both those traits will make a difference,” said Grant.

The 610‘s a new Kenworth all right, there‘s no mistaking that. The initial impact on entering the cab is space – fore, aft, but most of all between passenger and driver. Impact two the sweep on the A pillars. Look across the cab at Toko or Len and you‘d think they were in a big car. Impact three … lift-off. One of the hardest things to get right when designing a new member of an old family is retaining the X-factor that makes the brand all that it is. There have been some tragic misses in this department in regard to trucks. After driving Mack Ultra Liners, thinking of the Mack Mid Liner still wakes you up screaming in the night. But top marks to the boys and girls at Bayswater. If you were blindfolded and sat in the cab of the 610, you‘d know without even moving – by smell alone – you were in a Kenworth, and the second the clutch pedal was let out, any minute trace of doubt you may have harboured would be gone – the feel, the sound, it‘s all there.

Photos: There‘s a family resemblance but the gene pool is far enough removed to avoid the entertainment music.

‘Our best truck yet‘
Such was the marketing slug line at the time of the Australian release in December 2016. Like all trucks, time will tell, but there‘s no doubt Kenworth Australia put in many reputationpreserving development hours. The roots of the T610 go back to 2010 and feasibility studies on a new truck, a collaborative effort between Australian and US engineers. In mid 2012 that project was given the green light. What resulted had a other models in the line-up so it‘s happy keeping big bangers cool when the sun‘s over the yard arm in February, and it‘s good for GCMs up to 140 tonne. It may look more of a club sandwich, but it‘s a burger most definitely! So where does it fit in? Initially the T610 has just been crowbarred into the line-up. Lessons learned as far back as the T600A days taught the value of persuasion over denial.

Medium-term the T409 will be relegated to the 13-litre engine bracket [read MX], and in time don‘t be surprised to see it and the T609 slip off the perch completely. All entirely logical, and given the extra cab space, why wouldn‘t you? We can understand gritting your teeth as you walked away from a classic bonnet, but a T609? It‘s a no-brainer.

Uptake on the new buggy to date? We spoke to Richard Smart, general sales manager, Southpac Trucks.
“ T610 is doing a great job of replacing T409 in the same sector; we have seen tippers, tractors, fuel haul, and logging applications going into service across New Zealand. “It remains the backbone of KW‘s range in New Zealand after the K200 and T659. We expect to see KW launching a MX powered T610 cab next year, most likely called T410. “ There are close to 95 either in service or soon to be on the road.”

Welcome to the new 20-year club…house

Grant Reid won‘t be the only person buying the T610 with a double-decade outlook; such is the reputation its predecessors have forged. The base cab was a $US400m development spend at PACCAR and the Australian variant came at a further $A20m R&D………. READ MORE


A man‘s errand
Anyone not familiar with Auckland‘s hinterland doesn‘t appreciate how crap the regional roads are. Just over year after we spent a day with Roger Prictor in Warwick Rhodes‘ new Fuso, we‘re once again reminded of the hideous network of narrow shoulder-less bitumen, viciously steep and twisting in places, that pretty much surrounds our biggest metropolis. It‘s in this world that the Kenworths will spend the bulk of their next million-plus kilometres. There‘s no doubt, these trucks will be tested as much as any logger, transporter, or stock unit.

Photos: The work is varied. Above: Len loading at Millbrook and below Toko loading harbour dredgings downtown.

Changing landscapes

One of the great things about this work is the inspirational people you encounter along the way. The true battlers who have shown courage, grasped opportunity, and risked it all as they‘ve spent a lifetime working their proverbial arses off in order to build something truly worthwhile… READ MORE

Stripped bare
Not in the exposing rock sense, more the exposing a Kenworth sense. If you were going to buy a 20-year gravel workhorse you‘d be hard-pressed to put a buck on a better gallop than the WPBH set-up. Risk – low. Reward – high. Aftersale? Once upon a time it was a sure-fire ‘high‘ for a diesel powered KW, but 20 years from now? Best to just work the buggery out of it and see what happens.
Running gear-wise it‘s pretty much the Satherley T900 Legend. Up front is the 15-litre Cummins X15 producing 459kW (615hp) at 1600rpm with a peak torque of 2780Nm (2050lb/ft) at 1150rpm.

It‘s a Euro 5 unit via SCR with Cummins‘ XPI (Extreme Pressure Injection) common rail system that manages injection independent of engine speed, with injection pressures north of 30,000psi.
Behind the big red firebox is the bulletproof Eaton Fuller RTLO20918B manual transmission. Front axle is the Meritor MFS73 7.3 tonne capacity axle on taper leaf springs and shocks. Out back is a Meritor RT46-160GP 20.9 tonne axle set with diff locks at 4.3:1 on Airglide 460 suspension. The rails are 270mm x 89mm x 8mm with rear suspension insert and the whole show comes to a halt on drum brakes with ABS and EBSS (First ‘S‘ – Safety). Tare for the unit with two tanks of fuel, Transfleet body and trailer, ready to load, is 17 tonne.
Let ‘s go!

Photo: There‘s no question these trucks will earn their keep in the next two decades. Toko arrives at Millbrook, and climbs to the load-out site.

Photo: Len hits the northern side of the Dome Valley and lets the X15 get stuck in..

Photo: The bodies and trailers are designed to survive the punishment and stay looking good.

A well thought out and pondered quote from Jeremy Clarkson.
In the right hands there‘s no substitute, it is a wonderful thing, and the Cummins X15 has it in spades. It is, however, a lot better when its flatmate ‘torque‘ is home also – ‘flat ‘ being the operative word – and again, in the X15 they ‘re a beautiful union.

Take One
Toko‘s an old hand and it ‘s immediately apparent. The WPBH Kenworths have gear levers, and in the hands of operators like this, technology is humbled in the face of feel and intuition. You could argue technology has things like SmartCoast and SmartTorque2 up its sleeve, and lessons the job interview requirement, but in this application? Well, in fairness, nowadays it‘s a case of ‘Gentlemen choose your weapon‘, but personally I‘d still rather hear half a million necessary gear changes in a day than the necessary half million plus a million extra decorative ones. “I love the way in a bonneted truck the gear lever is straight down into the top of the gearbox, no lag or delay, really positive shifting,” said Toko. Keeping the channels of trade open is important and in Toko‘s case on the morning we were with him that ‘s literally what he was doing, carting dredgings from the Ports of Auckland to a dumpsite. It‘s not the nicest of gloop texturewise, but remarkably benign in composition. Although the load only had the T610 and trailer grossing a scant 41 tonne, it ‘s a wet mess making smooth operation an imperative. Toko‘s just the man. The X15 ‘munched it up and spat out the bones‘ so to speak, able to keep pace with Auckland‘s motorway traffic no trouble at all. Toko‘s truck education from grass roots shows aplenty as the gear lever and truck under his seat are almost an extension of himself. When it comes to gear changing, think of a hot knife through butter and you have Toko Whare.

Not all the company‘s product is so easy on the gear, meaning bodies and trailers in this instance. The WPBH trucks cart nasty old stuff too like run-of-pit with its hidden ‘rocky bandits‘. For this reason the Transfleet bodies are beefed up. The floors are double-skinned and sidewalls ribbed reinforced. Grant said going the extra mile in this area pays huge dividends.
The northern side of the Bombays was dispatched in highsplit at 71 km/h and 1150rpm – yawn! Deeper in, on the south side of Paparimu Road in the South Auckland rural region, things got a bit more serious on the steepest pinches, with the KW getting to the bottom of the high box, 1200rpm and 28km/h. That figure was as much, terrain, lane width and magnificently cautious and considerate driving on Toko‘s part as anything else, but it also demonstrated the X15‘s ability to hang on and live with the situation in the high box. It‘s a testament to Big Red‘s abilities…even at this tender age. On these roads the difference between a half-life and whole life for things like pins, bushes, and for that matter anything that wears out, is the driver. You‘re never going to get that extra load on a lead like this. A truck this capable in the wrong hands is either going to end up in the paddock or over the pit every weekend. It‘s that simple. The truck‘s life span in Toko‘s hands? Twenty productive years we‘d guess.

Take Two
We meet Len Allport, at Warkworth. He was on his way to pick up his second load of the day for delivery to the northern extension. The loading point was Wharahine Contractors‘ quarry at Millbrook in Whangaripo, out toward the coast between Warkworth and Wellsford.
WPBH loader driver Tristan quickly threw the GAP150 in the bodies. The Metso Lokotrack LT 110 crusher was doing its thing like there was no tomorrow so keeping it clear kept him and his Komatsu WA 480 well occupied. Toko arrived just as we left. The lead from the quarry to the job took Len through the Dome Valley, Warkworth, and on up to the top of the Pohuehue Viaduct on State Highway 1. It‘s a stretch of road that ‘s not necessarily bad, but one that destroys many families as a result of appalling driving. So, from the quarry out, it ‘s roughly 25km of narrow, twisting, off-cambered, poorly surfaced roads, followed by 25km of rolling, winding state highway, broken by steep pinches, and populated by the lunatic fringe on wheels. Glorious – not.

Photo: A classic WPBH scene.

The combination left the quarry at just over 49 tonne GCM. That gave 32 tonne of product on board, although you certainly wouldn‘t have picked it. Len eased the truck out onto Whangaripo Valley Road, chose a few gears here and there, and we ambled up to a safe speed. “It‘s just patience up here, that ‘s all it is,” he said. “ You can‘t force it.” Turning out onto State Highway 1 just north of the Dome and things got a bit more focused. On through the valley and around and over the 55km/h corner and bridge at the southern end, then into the climb. The Kenworth gave a bark and leapt over the first pinch in sixth high split. Down the southern flanks the Jacobs engine brake – that other unbeatable trooper in the world of trucking – did its job, holding proceedings up, able to deliver 447kW (600hp) worth of braking at peak revs, and even 335kW (450hp) in the mid-range.

Through the bottleneck that is Warkworth and on up onto the Pohuehue Viaduct. Another marvel of Northland roading: a passing lane on a steady climb that narrows to a dual carriageway bridge and then opens up again into two lanes.
The power of the X15 came into its own again as a swarm of cars all trying to beat a slower truck entering the bridge section resulted in the typical Kiwi manic jam-up that rippled back to us, balking progress instantly. Len grabbed the take-up gear and the truck started clawing back ground. This was the unison of big power and the 18-speed transmission at its best. Every time the Cummins got to peak power Len took another half gear and in no time we were back in the climbing cog.
“ Wasn‘t that long ago, you‘d have been in the gear you ended up in back there,” said Len. “ That ‘s what power does for you.” On round two the run up the viaduct was unimpeded and the lowest number we saw on the odo was 40km/h, again in sixth high split, at 1350rpm.

In comparison with the act of getting through the public mayhem, the trip to the drop-off stockpile at the end of Moir Hill Road was almost boring. The professionalism, and orderly nature of the gargantuan Puhoi extension project, was a welcome respite. Through the checkpoint Charlie the haul roads were well groomed, although recent rain had made them slick on top. Gradients are nothing like the outside world, and log drivers would likely be the only ones who felt right at home. Len approached with caution, selected the appropriate gear – third high split – with the diff locks in, and attacked the short sharp pinch up to the tip pad.

Freddy frugal in fierce terrain
Fuel economy and the world of WPBH aren‘t necessarily the closest bed-fellows. Short haul, stop, start, twisting, winding, steep, heavy – it‘s all fuel sapping. Having said that, the X15s are making a good fist of a bad situation, recording an average of 1.97kpl in the rugged work like the Puhoi job. There are a couple of things in that though. Firstly, on that job they‘re 50% loaded and that ‘s not always the case at WPBH. Secondly, style is everything and Toko and Len have it in spades when it comes to coercing a big motor into doing something without it knowing. Put a boof-head in the cab with something to prove to the world and that figure will be 1.4kpl in a heartbeat.

A journey, an adventure

Toko Whare greets us with a warm and sincere welcome as we climb aboard his new Kenworth T610. As Toko eases the empty unit out of the yard and on to the road you very quickly become aware of his smooth and…….READ MORE

“If I got to that stage…
… I wouldn‘t want to do it.” That ‘s Grant Reid‘s view on accepting a shoddy image when it comes to his plant. “ Yes, they ‘re workhorses, and I know in this job it ‘s impossible to keep them looking clean all the time, they are here to do a job after all, they ‘re not show ponies. But I like them to look right.
I hate things like mud flaps off, lights broken, bent guards. You have to be constantly on top of it and present a professional image.” That generally goes for the entire operation. The weather leading up to both outings had been rubbish but all the loaders and crushers we saw looked more than respectable. There‘s obviously an underlying culture here.
Outside of warranty, the equipment is all serviced at the company workshops and their maintenance is regular and fastidious. In the dust and grit-filled world they all work in, it has to be. Tip the hood on the T610, which incidentally a five-year-old could do, and there‘s the X15. It‘s nothing like a T909, or even a 409 installation. Although it looks well down and back, it‘s actually a case of the new cab coming forward 300mm on the chassis against the comparative T680 model in the US. This was to meet Aussie length laws (length and law are two things not that well correlated in the US). Daily checks aren‘t an issue, but you wouldn‘t want to be heading for major work on the back two pots very often.
One interesting aspect of the buy is WPBH‘s decision not to go with the SAR variant that sports the external air cleaners.
Incoming air is ducted through the hood, which has integrated pre-cleaners removing 80% of dust and debris. That being the case, and with a good servicing programme, it‘s probably of little consequence, and removing any appendages will make the aero boffins rejoice.
The trucks do look very slick in the WPBH white with gold and green, with the lines flowing onto the Transfleet body and trailer. It‘s a smart professional image – exactly the Reid philosophy.

Bringing a new Kenworth to market is a big deal. A real big deal. The name brings with it an expectation. Yes, there will be the knockers, there always are, but stand in the most arduous locations trucks can be found in Australasia and do a badge count. That ‘ll get you your answer. It would appear Kenworth have put in the hard preparation yards prior to the T610‘s arrival, and that ‘s absolutely how it had to be. Bayswater know full well what comprises the Kenworth look and feel, the X-factor, because the T610 is without doubt, unmistakeably and gloriously Kenworth. Yes, it‘s been updated on so many fronts it‘s uncountable but there‘s no doubting whose truck it is.

What ‘s not on its side at the moment is time, but on what we‘ve seen there‘s no reason for WPBH or the wider customer base to have any concerns. It doesn‘t matter who built it, there‘s always a suck it and see aspect on any new truck, and yes, there will be tweaks and improvements over time, but that ‘s all they ‘ll be. What is on the T610‘s side, something the T600A never had, is bonnets, big square classic bonnets, if that ‘s still what you really want. Choice is king and this time they have the field well covered.