In Tests, Mack, December 201949 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 17, 2019

Life‘s a journey to be savoured, and the reality is at times it will challenge us to the extreme. The most important thing is knowing we‘re all in it together and when traction‘s an issue, help is never far away. TR Group, in conjunction with Mike King‘s ‘I Am Hope‘ charity, have come together to get that message out in a spectacular fashion, and it‘s working in every way imaginable.

Photo: Mack the The Hopeful Black Dog digs its teeth into the the Titiokuras.

All for one
“Can you just bring it and park it in the school grounds for an afternoon please?” That was the request from one Waikato School principal on seeing Mack The Hopeful Black Dog. “Its impact has been immediate and that‘s not the first time something like that has happened in the few short weeks the truck‘s been out and about,” said Mark Harvey from the TR Group fleet operations team. “We had people walking up cold at the Hampton Downs ‘Mike King Cruise for Hope‘ event, asking who they should contact for help. It‘s been huge already.” This month‘s main test is a little different. Yes, we‘ll take you aboard the safest Mack on New Zealand‘s roads and give you the diesel-head‘s dossier on the Bulldog‘s bark, but we‘ll also home in on the underlying message conveyed in every inch of this tuck.

The truth is our time on the planet has never been at a more significant crossroads, nor have our answers been so hopelessly outweighed by questions. And it shows in the mental health stats. The 2017/18 New Zealand Health Survey found that one in six adult New Zealanders had been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some point in their lives, including depression, bipolar, and anxiety disorders, and around 16.6 percent have at some point been diagnosed with depression alone. Add to all that the tragic irony of the added occupational and domestic pressure that comes on people at this time of year, and you‘re left in no doubt this is one truck that‘s met its booking time.

Photo: Loaded at Whitehall and checking to make sure all‘s well for inclusion on the nation‘s carriageways, and then cruising off.

Helpful, that‘s what dogs are
One of life‘s sad ironies is that depression‘s metaphor is one of man‘s most loyal, trusted, and devoted servants. We all know that when it seems no one else loves you, your dog‘s devotion is unconditional. “It was always going to be a Mack,” said Mark. “But we wanted it to be more representative of the solution rather than the situation, and ask the question ‘what are we doing to support our mate?‘ A hopeful black dog. A positive message. We chose a Super Liner with the biggest motor to represent inner strength and presence. There‘s two of everything: stacks, air cleaners etc. That‘s intended to convey stability and balance. Stu Wynd and the team at Mack, Murray Sowerby on the lead-up to his retirement, and the Brisbane plant, were just epic throughout the journey. Mike Stevenson and Greg Cornes at Transport and General Transport Trailers did such a great job of…well, not hiding, but making the truck and trailer less obvious during the body and trailer build. It allowed us to present it with as minimal leakage through the likes of social media as you could hope for.

“And again, Jasen Matara at Oosh graphics in Hamilton was integral in how we delivered the message, as well as wrapping the truck for us. He did the ANZAC truck and is an absolute legend with his passion and enthusiasm. No matter who we approached, everyone wanted to be part of this and it was really only ‘out there‘ once it was actually out there. Paul Livsey [TR Group national fleet manager] and I even picked it up from Hamilton late one weekday evening and snuck up to Auckland and hid it in the refurb shed. The staff didn‘t know it was there and we were able to have a big reveal with them first. It was great.”

All you can be
The reality is the Hopeful Black Dog is a truck and it will spend the bulk of its life doing what trucks do. Carting stuff. A home has already been found for it at Winstone Aggregates Ltd, and speaking on behalf of the customer, head of transport Lee Thorburn said, “The importance of this truck is to open the conversation with all the people in our lives, those we work with as well as our family and friends.” Day to day the Hopeful Black Dog will run Winstone Transport‘s Auckland fleet under Paul Morrison. The fact it will spend its life working hard is all part of the symbolism. Life goes on and sometimes winding it right back to doing the simple things, the things you know how to do, something that gives you a sense of meaningful achievement, helps the climb out of adversity.

Photo: When you can‘t see the wood for the trees and it seems like an uphill battle, just keep chugging away.

Trucking is great for that. A customer needs a pile of rubble – where there was a space, there is now rubble. ‘You‘re welcome.‘ But first things first. If happiness is a decision rather than a condition, then the TR Group team influenced our next decision immeasurably when they made the offer of a day out truckin‘ with Mark Harvey in the Hopeful Black Dog prior to its official handover to Winstones. We were sprinting for the cab door. Dean East, Winstone‘s national fleet performance and development manager, was assigned the task of keeping us busy – no trouble there. We arrived at Winstone‘s Whitehall Quarry at Karapiro at 8.30am ready to load aggregate for Firth Taupo. From there we would shoot over the hill to the Roy‘s Hill site in Hastings for more rubble back to Hamilton. Easy peasy, but there was much talking and testing to be done along the way also.

Photo: Next load on at Roy‘s Hill and this time there‘s hills.

Mechanically speaking the Mack‘s a close cousin to last month‘s Volvo FH16 of Ben and Leisa Reed, and again there are messages there also in terms of there‘s more than one way to skin a cat, and not everyone likes the same shirt. Looking at the broader platform picture it would be hard to find an OEM that provided a more contrasting route to resolve the issue of vehicle preference, almost to the point of being a step too far nowadays maybe. Even the upcoming Actros/Cascadia family ties will be far more evident than an FH and a Super Liner, and you could argue it‘s time for a new ‘Anthem‘ in terms of refinement influences and architecture.

That‘s not to say for one moment the Super Liner‘s not a quiet and comfortable truck, especially with a load on, and this big dog is extra special as dogs go. It‘s the third big Mack here to be fitted with the Bendix Wingman Fusion safety pack; again an intentional move on the part of the TR team, not just from the view of wanting to provide customers a safe truck, but also in terms of the theme. It‘s about recognising the warnings and acting, not to mention understanding there‘s help all around, even if it‘s not patently obvious. Loaded at Whitehall we put our truckers‘ hats on again and bid farewell to the ever-jovial Mr East. How much more trucking Kiwiana does it get? A long nose Mack and Transport and General Transport Trailers bulk body and trailer.

Immediately the cab was full of reminiscing on our respective careers in and around trucks without the underlying pressure of a seasoned old sorcerer scrutinising your gear-changing – the good mDRIVE took away all that tension. What was blatantly obvious was the ease with which this truck got its 46 tonne GCM ‘boogying‘; our minds immediately went back to Northland last month. Under the snout is the MP10 16.1-litre 6-cylinder engine with single overhead cam, unit injectors, and variable vein turbocharger. It‘s a Euro 5 power plant via SCR. Peak power is 511kW (685hp), and max torque is 3150Nm (2300lb/ ft). Yes, all the numbers are less than the FH16 – 49kW (65hp) and 400Nm (318lb/ft) to be precise – but that‘s like grizzling over the fact you only have Hulk Hogan to lift the drawbar off your foot rather than Andre the Giant. It‘s all semantics really.

Photo: How‘s he getting those changes so smooth?‘ Oh yeah! mDRIVE. Mark Harvey at the helm.

Behind the engine is the 12-speed mDRIVE TmD12A023 AMT, a bulletproof piece of kit whose origins we all know well and whose performance is sublime. The solitary front axle is Mack‘s FXL 16.5 with unitised hubs and 7500kg capacity and it rides on parabolic springs with shocks. Rearward is a Mack 2370B single reduction bogey at 3.78:1 and 23 tonne rating that comes with diff locks on both axles and is carried along by proprietary 8-bag air suspension at 21 tonnes. Yes, it‘s a golden dog, meaning all proprietary driveline, but no it isn‘t: the Bulldog on the snout of the Hopeful Black Dog is in fact – black, produced by our very own magnificent mavericks of Mack manipulation MTD! This is a black dog with a golden heart. The truck‘s kitted out with full disc brakes, ABS, ESP, and traction control. It doesn‘t have the Grade Gripper hill start assist.

As we said above, the inclusion of Bendix Wingman Fusion means it‘s a big US brute with safety features you‘d expect to find in something from the continent. Adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, lane departure, blind spot protection and additional dynamic control in the form of Mack RSA (Road Stability Advantage) that mitigates rollover and loss of control on wet and dry surfaces. All in all it‘s a pretty hunky-dory set-up for carting aggregate and pretty much anything else you can imagine…unless the bonnet‘s in the way that is. Maybe not metro freight, ha ha.

Photo: Tipping off at Taupo in one of the prettiest settings any Firth plant could find itself.

Talents unlimited – we all have them
Coffee in hand – No! Holder…sorry – at the Tirau Wild Bean and all roads from there led to Taupo. The Hopeful Black Dog was certainly a good luck charm as the minute we fronted up at the exit with our nose on the edge of State Highway 1 a miraculous gap opened up and off we went. Much of the talk and energy around safety features in trucks tends to be focused on braking and stopping, with little thought for how much safety is actually encompassed in the driver‘s true best friends, power and torque. We guess you could say always back your talents over your limitations. Imagine being in an older 350hp Mack with a 12-speed Maxitorque back in the day at 39 or 44 tonne and attempting to safely make the leap into such a gap from a standing start.

The acceleration just wasn‘t there, and it was always those times when the tension of the moment meant you jumped on the throttle just a smidgen early after splitting gears and there you were – cast with a box full of rattles in the middle of the road. Glory days. But nope, that‘s all history and the Super Liner just took off and we were instantly part of the flow south. Unlike the Aysha Logging Super Liner Titan we checked out last year, this unit won‘t have the luxury of a 14.9hp/ tonne power to weight ratio for all of its life. Dean has a 53 tonne permit planned for the truck soon after it kicks off life at Winstones and that will bring the ratio back to 12.9hp/tonne – heaven forbid! How will it cope? The Mack kept pace in the queue effortlessly and making sure the trolley was there and happy in the mirrors required a corner more often than not, such was its clean crisp lines.

You can drive this truck with the lightest of touches on the throttle. Ninety kilometres an hour happens at about 1450rpm, but we often saw the tachometer bobbing around the 1100rpm mark or less as it crested hills. The big torque numeral is there from 1000rpm to 1550rpm and its power counterpart from 1500rpm to 1800rpm. The ideal spot is 1250rpm to 1450rpm according the dog‘s breeders, and that‘s where we drove it. Zipping forward to day‘s end for a moment, we ended up with 2.3km/l out of the truck. That‘s with a couple of old ‘Larrys‘ at the wheel reliving their past, a strange truck with only 1450km on the odometer, and the Napier-Taupo Road. A pretty good number we thought.

Again, it‘s very much a Jekyll and Hyde truck though, and like the Reed machine last month, put the wrong helmsperson on the tiller and my goodness, the accountant will not be happy, but the tow truck driver might. Push the ‘Mack-cellerator‘ through the gate at the bottom of the travel and a whole new world of performance – and consumption – opens up. Heading across the plateaux at the top of Atiamuri past Tutukau Road, we gave it a dab through the gate as we climbed the next rise. The truck dropped a gear, jumped in revs, and all of a sudden there was 511kW with impetus. It just stormed over the hill and fought for every rpm. Most certainly impressive and dangerously addictive.

Once insurmountable, now just a hill
Having tipped off in Taupo on what was a glorious day, we were more than happy the old trailer backing skillsets aren‘t too cobwebbed up at all. A quick rag around the wheels and other shiny bits, and east we headed. Jump forward a couple of hours and Andrew Petterson, the central region transport supervisor for Winstones, sent us on our way from the Roy‘s Hill site with another 27 tonne of concrete aggregate. ‘Hopeful‘ is a chunky fella, tipping the scales at 11,240kg, and with the trolley in tow the all-up tare is 19,000kg. Once the real ticket to ride comes, it‘ll be able to accommodate 34 tonne of product. The truck‘s shod with 295/80 R22.5 tyres on the front and 11 R22.5 tyres aft, and that was done to convey solid and significant grounding, a right of place.

With fewer than 2000km under its belt the tyres still had the vent spews on their tread surface so they were certainly not used to their new role under load, and as such the truck felt a little fidgety in both ends. Looking past all that newness, directional control was superb, and with such big solid feet there was no hint of anything untoward when you were hunting it along through corners. We think it‘ll settle down just fine. As you‘d expect the brakes were superb even with a pendulum brake pedal…it‘s a personal thing, we get it. ‘Hopeful‘ certainly stopped in the length of a dog biscuit. Now it was time to head west. The trucking stories that could be written about the Napier-Taupo Road would fill a library and their content would keep even non-truck types captivated with the level of adventure this carriageway has provided over time.

It‘s one of those sections of road that exemplifies the adage that it‘s not the destination but the journey that teaches us most. Listening to people like the late John ‘Jumbo‘ Mettam tell tales from almost six decades ago of having the engine cover off in the cab of his Leyland and squirting ether into the air cleaner to get the old girl over the Titiokura Summit is the stuff of trucking folklore. Over time we‘ve seen man conquer the beast with ever more capable machinery, until today when the Hopeful Black Dog lopes over in well under two hours. But rest assured, if your destiny is to traverse the Napier-Taupo Road on a regular basis, it will have an adventure that‘s all yours somewhere in its crystal ball.

Like life, how that adventure goes will be determined by the choices you make at the time. So, into the Glengarrys we charged and they were summarily despatched at a rate of 32km/h in 7th gear at 1600rpm, followed by Titiokura in the same gear at 36km/h and 1850rpm – that was a power trip for sure. More interesting was the descent and the PowerLeash engine brake that held the Super Liner easily at 46km/h in 8th gear and 1950rpm. In fact Mark was alternating the engine brake between half and full because full would slow the truck up too much and half wasn‘t quite able to hold it without help from the service brakes. At a full 2300rpm the PowerLeash will supply 435kW (570hp) worth of deterrent, so that‘ll do the job on 46 tonne for sure. No review would be complete without mention of the noise. The MP10 is such a superb sounding engine. The cab‘s not as ‘full‘ as it is if there‘s an X15 out front, but it‘s rich, and ever-present, and forms the backdrop to extraordinarily satisfying days.

Simply glorious. It was one of the frustrations of the FH16, that there‘s a monster under the floor with a gob-stopper that‘s a shade too big. For all its gloriousness, you‘d have to say time is marching on in certain areas for the big dogs. One thing that stood out was the lack of bits and pieces that make the modern truck the ever more compelling proposition it is, particularly in a machine of this mechanical set-up and genealogy: things like a coasting function and full blended controlled descending. The Mack‘s MP series engines and mDRIVE transmission were really the breakthrough combination in terms of delivering a modern AMT option that worked sublimely well in the US bonneted market. But it‘s sort of stalled a tad, which is a bit frustrating when you consider this truck‘s bloodlines. On big descents like the Titis and Turangakumu you can blend the crusie control and auxiliary brake but it won‘t implicate the service brakes, that‘s still your gig. We left the big bopper in auto most of the day, which is ‘D‘ on the mDRIVE controller (Drive).

As we said last month, with this amount of power it‘s easy motoring. Mark was saying that he‘d heard the reason Mack have never offered the mDRIVE shift control as a paddle or I-Shift type arrangement sitting ‘at the master‘s side‘, so to speak, is to deter the desire to dabble. Shifting the mDRIVE requires a conscious thought and then a reach. Makes sense to us. We can see how that would save on meddlesome intervention. With Tarawera behind us the Mack popped out of the Waipunga and blasted across the Rangitaiki into a setting sun. You‘d have to ask if trucking got any better. Sadly, the level of adventure encompassed in this road today is more about the deterioration of its surface due to neglect; a tragedy considering the work previous generations put into making it safer.

The ride over the crude surface was great – as you‘d expect in a bonneted 6×4 rigid – when loaded, and ‘lively‘ when empty. Visibility was fine. Although the big dog‘s snout is just that – big – it does fall away from the eye nicely and the raised air intakes are not as meddlesome in terms of vision as you‘d think. That‘s probably due to modern cabovers having horrendously thick A pillars; you‘re used to it. With a visible bonnet and one of trucking‘s most famous emblems standing at the end, if you‘re having trouble placing the Mack on the road, then maybe conventional trucks aren‘t for you.

Safe as houses
Three in a row. Like the Kenworth in October and the Volvo last month, we‘re not going into exhaustive detail on the cab. The Mack cab is one we feel extremely comfortable in for reasons of personal history. It‘s a far quieter place today, with the noise meter bobbing around 69dBA. There was an annoying squeak in the dash panel separating the wrap from the passenger door, but hey, we‘re not even at the 5000km health check and tighten up everything. Dash-wise it‘s an all-US gauge fest out front with the Co-Pilot screen and warning lights there too, and there‘s a big wrap housing the Wingman interface, switches, gear control, entertainment and climate control, as well as brake valves and trailer control.

The notable absence is of course infotainment (we can hear that Anthem playing again). The dash has a woodgrain backing and the rest of the cab is burgundy buttoned Ultraleather and hard grey plastic, with rubber on the floor. The steering wheel adjusts in all planes and has no smarts, it just steers – no issues there for us. Indicator and dip are on the left wand and Co-Pilot navigation on the right. The mirrors heat up, adjust and look traditional. You wouldn‘t say they are state of the art, but neither are we. We‘re not that new breed who are apparently able to maintain exquisite concentration, transfixed on the windscreen with our hands glued at 10 past 10 on the wheel. We come from a time when you kept an active interest looking around the cab, so this type of mirror works fine for us.

The truck had the peep window in the passenger door and a downward spotter mounted on the left lintel – they should be mandatory. Storage is minimal and without the central console it would be abysmal. There are some consolation cubbies and cup holders under the wrap, there are door pockets and a bit more overhead. The hoist controls were beautifully mounted on the front of the central unit. Unless you‘re Brodie Retallick, getting in and out of Mack‘s biggies is a challenge. The grab handle on the A pillar is too high to be useful. But wait! Since Hopeful left the litter to head out and fend for himself Mack has started adding grab handles in places mere mortals will find useful. How about that! We‘re looking forward to sampling. The Bendix Wingman kit is very much an addon with some sensors very apparent, like the ones on interior A-pillars and side of the diesel tank – don‘t throw your foolscap folder across to the passenger side dash top, and careful with those clunky boots.

It was certainly odd being in a Mack that slowed all by itself in order to maintain a safe distance from the car in front; pretty cool really. Like it had been to dog obedience school. We both thought the lane departure was a bit out, as it would blare away when we were plumb in the lane. Again, 1450km old, and maybe someone had chucked a folder across the dash. The user interface was tucked away in the top right-hand corner of the wrap and quite small. Back to a theme from above: there are some gaps starting to open up between OEMs in terms of the modern tech provided and how its information is relayed. We know and understand certain things.

We know and understand the Mack Super Liner is a tough truck designed for the heartiest of applications. We know and understand that when all you can see out the windscreen and in the mirrors is red desert or endless pine trees, then unnecessary complexity can be your nemesis. But we also know and understand that if you‘re in a specific market with a specific product, you‘re in the market, and even though having a manufacturing presence in the region has all the good things in terms of community and bespoke market-specific development, it can‘t be a ball and chain on your ability to stay at the pointy end of the race, be it tech, emissions, anything. There‘s no question OEMs the world over are finding the pace of change we‘re confronted with now tough to keep up with, even when the robots are in the same precinct as the global R&D and admin HQ. If the big dogs are to stay in the on-highway applications, then there‘s a little work to be done shortly.

A feed and away for the night
After a break, walk around, and a chat at Wairakei, we rolled on up to Hamilton through the night. The conversation turned to lights. The Super Liner‘s weren‘t spectacular by today‘s standards, but then we both agreed how much harder driving at night was compared with the days before glaring white modern headlights with auto-dip that flicks full beam back up in your eyes before you‘ve passed. Were they incredible? No. Were they perfectly adequate? Absolutely. Great days in the life book. We have more than we realise, we just let the ‘noise‘ of living get in the way. We won‘t forget this one for a while though. To spend a day with someone of our era doing what it was we loved to do – trucking – in a machine we utterly relate to was, well, joyous. Truck driving is easier than it‘s ever been yet more complex than we could ever have imagined.

The capability of the trucks in the second decade of the century is extreme, both in terms of their ability to move product and to catch us out when we leave the moment. Sometimes it‘s easy to believe the emphasis on what it is we do has changed also. Is it about picking up something from Bob and delivering it to Betsy and sending one of them a bill, or is it now about a swathe of compliance and administration that occurs around that? The answer is ‘Yes‘ to both. How you approach it or let it affect you is just a decision. In terms of the truck, it‘s an interesting machine. A bridge between two eras and if it‘s to stick around as a model, more of the past will inevitably fade from its persona.

When the short BBC model does arrive some way down the track, it‘ll be interesting to see what it brings in terms of man/ machine interface. Will Mack be able to still produce a truck you feel part of? A truck you can talk to, and almost hear it answering? They did it with this model, but time is moving on rapidly. Is it worth their while even trying? You bet. Humans will always be creatures of emotion before anything else, and on that note we‘re again down to two questions. Was it a joy to drive? Yep. Could we have happily stayed and kept loading and tipping stuff off for Dean for the next decade? Absolutely.

“It‘s not the intention, it‘s how it‘s received that matters” – Mike King.
But let‘s peel the layers back a little more. Yes, there‘s no argument whatsoever, the Hopeful Black Dog is a symbol for all, but ours is a unique industry and having this machine floating amongst us is an asset beyond measure. Truck driving is a largely solitary occupation and although some love it that way, it does come with a couple of warning lights. Truck drivers spend their days in a tiny office, ever more isolated from not just work mates, but also family. Where once fleet RT systems buzzed with party line communications, giving everyone a sense of place in the company‘s day, and parents bonded and chatted with kids in the weekends and holidays, there is now largely silence. Issues and problems are worked through with little minuteto- minute support, and just as critical, counterargument. By the time a driver alights from the cab they‘ve often had 13 hours of stewing time. As truck drivers, neither does a solitary life tend to foster great communication skills.

Reaction often forms the basis of any rebuttal, and the ability to counterargue transformative change with those more skilled in persuasive techniques invariably belies the foundation intellect from which a driver‘s argument is derived. Then there‘s the whole succession thing. The general reality today is that handing the skills on to the next generation, once entrusted to a parent, or parent-approved mentor via the mechanisms touched on above, is no longer the norm.

The speed with which that landscape changed and the lack of input those who held skills had in the cultural shift was irreparably damaging to self-esteem. The truck driver‘s perception of their own value and selfworth has been under siege both externally and internally for some time. You could argue via a simple adaptation of one of Churchill‘s great lines, never has a single truck been so needed by so many.

“No one‘s immune but everyone can help” – Carl Kirkbeck.
“Mental health is something we feel strongly about. It is something that as a business we‘ve been touched by its darkest and worst outcomes,” said Brendan King, general manager at TR Group. “As individuals, so many of us have been affected personally, either directly or indirectly. We wanted to do something to extend a message of support, and how could we combine our love of trucks with our love of people. What we want to achieve with ‘Mack the Hopeful Black Dog‘ is give love and support to all who have experienced or are experiencing mental health issues; again, either directly or indirectly, and to raise awareness in the community.” It wasn‘t long into the project that the core team realised the immense complexity and sensitivity of the task at hand.

“We kept bringing it back to ‘What message will encourage, influence, and inspire others to help?‘” said Mark Harvey, who was also part of the project team. Brendan and national fleet manager Paul Livsey contacted Mike King to see if it was something he would be interested in supporting, and helping craft the message for. Mike won New Zealander of the Year in 2019 for his work in the mental health space via his hugely successful ‘I Am Hope‘ charity. The answer was an emphatic “Yes!” The outcome of this collaboration was the Hopeful Black Dog and a message pitched at the friends and loved ones of those suffering.

“For a long time the messaging in the media has been about encouraging people who are struggling to ask for help, messages like ‘it‘s okay to ask for help‘,” said Brendan. “This is largely ineffective and whilst well intended, is misguided. Someone in the depths of depression already feels hopeless and they are not going to make themselves more vulnerable by asking for help. The messaging on our truck is aimed at the friends and loved ones – it is our job to ask our mates if they are okay and to offer them our time, our love, our support. One of the messages is ‘What are you doing to make it okay to ask for help?‘ Another is ‘Have you checked on your mates today?‘ It is our job as humans to look after each other! Love is not an emotion, love is an action; let the action be that you check on your mates and you ask them how they are, how they really are, and go with them to get help if it is needed.”

The vehicle that has resulted from all this is a stunning community contribution. Jasen Matara‘s graphic work has resulted in a spectacular presence with a clear message. The core messages are clear and instantly challenge the reader to act. There are people shaking hands, walking and talking together; the Koru depicting strength, peace, new life, growth, and family, and the silver fern is a metaphor for guidance and direction, not just for those working through, but also for those who can help.

Handover day – 13 November 2019
The forecasts for the 11th and 14th of November were not that flash, yet the maps showed a bright spot on the 13th for Hampton Downs, the day for officially handing over Mack the Hopeful Black Dog to Winstone Aggregates Ltd. Everyone who’d had a part to play in putting together the truck was there, along with invited guests and media. The was an air of excitement, not just because the truck was about to go to work carrying both product and message, but also because it was already working as a messenger. Every time it had been out in the community to date it attracted attention, and at least twice been a catalyst for someone to make the decision to seek help. In fact, on the day we tested it you’ll recall we stopped at the Wild Bean in Tirau for a coffee. By the time we came out, there was a fellow and his wife walking around the truck, reading intently every word on it.

Photo: Mike King engaged with the guests at the handover in his trademark inclusive and realworld manner, pressing home the message of mutual care.

They too had a mental wellbeing journey the truck made them comfortable enough to share with us. Dean East from Winstone Aggregates has also experienced the truck’s power first-hand during the shakedown period prior to the official handover. “I have experienced the effect of the truck first-hand while delivering and the effect on the people at the site was amazing. This will be nothing but a positive for all people who come into contact with the truck and the meaning behind the concept.

It is a great conversation starter.” Speaking at the handover, Mike King said blokes make up 73% of the suicide statistics, and 80% of men having suicidal thoughts never ask for help, ever. “This truck is huge. At ‘I Am Hope’ our job is to change the way messaging around depression is happening. We believe the message should be on people who aren’t struggling right now. Who aren’t in trouble right now, and put pressure on the rest of us, and ask the question ‘What are you doing to make it okay for others to ask for help?’ The fact of the matter is, none of us is doing enough.”

Photo: TR Group general manager Brendan King talked about why they undertook the project, and the 100% percent buy-in from all parties who were involved.

Mike said the biggest onus is on friends and workmates because often family are too close. “Family have to love you, it’s in the contract.” He said mates have a far bigger influence on helping give those who are struggling “their value back”, which he defined as simply conveying their worth in your life. “If you haven’t had a mate come to you in the last year and talk about their feelings, then you’re the problem. You have to ask yourself, ‘What is it about me that makes my mates feel they can’t come to and talk to me without fear of backlash and judgement?’ “That truck is going to change people’s lives.

Those messages on that truck are going to change people’s lives. That’s not just a truck, that’s a symbol that things are changing. That we as men are going to be better men and better parents. That truck is going to give people permission to change, and I think that’s the biggest step forward in mental health we’ve ever had. “It’s the Hopeful Black Dog and I’m hopeful that truck is going to save a lot of lives – and I’m positive it will.”