Having your cake

In March 2023, Iveco, Features19 MinutesBy Cark Kirkbeck and Gavin MyersApril 17, 2023

A new company with a young owner-driver needing a truck to act as a rolling billboard while fulfilling specific day-to-day requirements with aplomb – it’s one of those trucking scenarios that may require compromise and have many saying, ‘Well, you can’t have your cake and eat it.’ Hi Tech Environmental Waste Solutions’ Iveco Eurocargo proves otherwise.

We first caught wind of this unique Eurocargo ML160-280 early in 2022. In the May 2022 issue of New Zealand Trucking it appeared in the New Rigs on the Road section, having been handed over to its enthusiastic young owner- driver Liam Sullivan just the month before. Its journey into Liam’s hands, in the colours of Hi Tech Environmental Waste Solutions, was one of inspired opportunity and impeccable timing. Most importantly, within its first year of operation, it’s proved to be the exact solution to meet Liam’s requirements.

“A lot of people were unsure of why I bought this truck,” Liam says. “But I absolutely love it.”

Liam will be familiar to long-time readers. We featured him in a Driven to Succeed article in the April 2020 issue – a then-22-year-old truckie in his first full-time driving job, moving skip bins around the City of Sails for Green Gorilla in his Fuso Fighter FK1425. It was clear back then that Liam had a good head on his shoulders, and we had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last time we’d cross paths. Two years later, we were not surprised to learn Liam had branched out to follow his own ambition, having spotted various open niches in the Auckland waste-removal market.

Some enquiries with a thoughtful mutual supplier led him to Jono Staines, owner of Hi Tech Security Disposals, a Penrose- based company providing document destruction and specialised, secure waste disposal. Jono had been interested in expanding into general skip bin hire, and it was clear he and Liam could make great partners. After a year of operation, the pair currently has just over 200 bins in circulation, supplied by Pioneer Bins in Whangarei. Jono takes care of the Auckland region south of ‘the Bridge’ from his Penrose depot, and Liam services the northern areas from his Silverdale yard.

Among the needs Liam identified was the push north by residential builders, and, as such, he services clients up to the Wellsford/Kaiwaka area. The second was asbestos removal, Hi Tech being one of just two companies in the Auckland area supplying it. Finally, it was offering same-day service and, perhaps most importantly, a real focus on customer relationships.

“The thing about skip bin hire is if you can’t service a customer, they go somewhere else, so you really have to give good customer service and have the relationships. Within the past 12 months, we’ve more than doubled the customers we started with; a lot of our work has come from word of mouth. Our main focus is customer service,” Liam says.

“There’s great fulfilment in it. It’s totally different from being handed the work by a dispatcher. You build a different customer relationship with people, too,” Liam adds.

Meeting needs and wants

Just as fortune and good timing brought Liam and Jono together to form a mutually beneficial partnership, so it was that Liam found himself signing on the dotted line for the Iveco Eurocargo we’re featuring here. “From running the Fuso with Green Gorilla, I knew what worked and what didn’t,” says Liam. “I knew I’d be doing more long-distance jobs, so I wanted something with more comfort and space. I also needed good aftersales service to minimise downtime. I spent five months researching what I wanted – what would be good for the job.”

A fan of European gear, Liam began his search with these OEMs. A look-in at Scania, Volvo and DAF revealed the P-Series cab was too wide for the narrow residential driveways Liam would find himself squeezing down, the FE’s weights didn’t stack up despite having a narrower cab, and the LF wasn’t an option through Southpac. Over at Iveco, the Eurocargo was an appealing prospect, though Liam had his sights set on a sleeper- cab variant – the day cab left very little interior room and the shallow cab profile wouldn’t work with a skip body.

“Iveco didn’t have a sleeper in stock, so we were looking at doing a factory order. Then I got a text from salesman Pieter Theron with photos of this truck. It was a cancelled order which had just come off the boat. It was good timing, pure luck really, and I said yes then and there. That was mid-2021, and I took delivery in April 2022,” says Liam.

Some engineering was required to adapt the Eurocargo to metro skip-carting duties. Liam knew the 4.1m wheelbase of his old Fuso was ideal for the job, so the Eurocargo was cut down from the 5.8m wheelbase it landed with to 4.185m. “The good thing about the Iveco’s chassis is that the chassis holes are all pre-drilled, so they were able to easily shorten it, add an off-the-shelf driveshaft for the 4.185m wheelbase and cut off the overhang. Simple.”

With that done, it was off to Harry Wheelans and his team at MF King Industries in Petone for the fit-out of the skip bin body. Here again, Liam knew exactly what he wanted.

“The first thing was a headboard behind the cab for safety. To that, we added the shovel and broom holders. I also wanted two L-sections in the deck that would stop the bin from moving side to side – that’s a problem I had with the old truck, being a flat steel deck the bin would want to move. All our bins are by Pioneer, so we took the measurement off the bottom of the bin and added 50mm either side in case there’s one that’s a bit out of shape,” Liam explains.

MF King also installed six-tonne rams and four-tonne top arms. “They’re more heavy-duty than standard. MF King tends to fit these because it’s good for longevity, as the rams aren’t working as hard every time you’re lifting,” says Liam. To easily control the system, Liam had a 10-function Lodar crane remote installed.

“It’s a real solid body. MF King adds extra cross members and sandblasts it before they paint it. The prep work is good. We also weren’t too sure if we could fit toolboxes to the shortened chassis, but MF King made it work. I’m really happy with their job, even keeping me up to date through the build and asking questions.”

A competent performer

As a metro-based, short- to medium-haul vehicle, the Eurocargo ML160-280 acquits itself well. As the name suggests, it’s 16-tonne GVM rated with 205kW/279hp (rounded up to 280). Liam has registered it as a 12-tonner “because we don’t need that much weight”.

Although maximum power from the 5.9-litre Tector 6 F4A engine comes on stream at a heady 2500rpm, maximum torque of 950Nm (700lb/ft) arrives at 1250rpm. The six-speed ZF AMT does a good job keeping the motor on the boil. It pulls through the gears with a refined but grunty tone, especially under load. Liam ordinarily uses the right-hand steering column wand to shift as desired, and the AMT quickly responds to his demands and shifts with a refined crispness. Some drivers might need to get used to the split transmission controls, with the R-N-D buttons on the lower centre console (and in reverse order to the norm – D, N, then R).

A particular drivetrain feature that counted in the Eurocargo’s favour when Liam was shopping is the fitment of a diff lock. “It does help in tricky situations,” he notes.

It’s not often we get to sample a lightweight Euro model. But as we make our way along the motorway to Auckland’s North Shore suburbs, the Eurocargo lopes along with all the ride comfort and refinement we’d expect from its larger siblings.

“The handling is good on the open road. It’s perfectly capable of going from here to Wellsford every day,” Liam comments. Through the tight suburban streets, it’s nimble and manoeuvrable.

“The turning circle is good – the steering has a tight lock. Though the stability control can kick in when taking a hard turn,” he adds as we circle a roundabout.

The thing with skip bins is they often need to be deposited in awkward locations. They can’t just be left on the sidewalk. Liam’s philosophy on threading a truck down a tight residential driveway has remained unchanged: “Just take your time and if it takes two minutes to stop outside and walk down the drive to check, then that’s fine. Take it easy, slow and double-check, and there will be no problems.”

Liam adds that despite the Eurocargo being 100mm wider than his old Fuso, he’s had no issues with access. “It looks bigger, but it’s not that much, really. It fits down every driveway.” On one of our stops for the day, Liam puts the Eurocargo’s manoeuvrability to the test by squeezing it into and out of a tight, awkwardly angled section. The short wheelbase, minimal rear overhang and tight steering lock aiding his ‘easy does it’ approach to get the job done.

One feature with which Liam’s particularly smitten is the variable PTO speed. “When you turn it on, it revs up to 1000rpm, but you can also reduce the revs if you’re outside a residence early in the morning and don’t want to be a disturbance.” The adjustable rear air suspension adds further flexibility when lifting bins or coupling the 3.5-tonne braked trailer Liam recently had built by All-Road Adventures in Palmerston North.

“The trailer is handy, especially when going up north. It makes sense to be able to move more than one bin at a time. It features wireless brake control through a Bluetooth mobile app, so I can change the braking levels depending on load.”

Other than the enthusiastic electronic stability control, Liam’s only criticism of the Eurocargo is that the two- stage exhaust brake is not as strong as he’d like. Even at the relatively light weights he runs, it requires additional service brake application. On the other hand, Iveco’s unique Hi-SCR system is a boon, offering Euro-5 emission standards without the need for EGR. “And it uses hardly any AdBlue. I only need to fill the 25-litre AdBlue tank once a month,” says Liam. Speaking of consumption, fuel economy has been good, the Eurocargo averaging 4km/l in its first year on the road.

On the job early morning

Adding a personal touch

“I’m quite into European style. I like that. You see it with Scanias over here now,” Liam says. The application of Hi Tech’s blue-and-white colour scheme has been done in such a way as to highlight the Eurocargo’s bold frontal design. To that, Liam has added a considered application of marker lights, chrome-look mirror covers and door handles, and chrome wheel trim to the Eurocargo’s alloys. Chris Stanly from Custom Truck and Chrome did the stainless work and added chrome mudflap weights and the stainless light panels under the sleeper. Such was his attention to detail that for the front wheel covers, Liam turned to Acitoinox Truck Parts in Italy, while he was able to find the last eight-stud set of rear hub covers on the shelf at Mikes Transport Warehouse.

An easy two steps through the 90°-opening doors and you’re in the Eurocargo’s sleeper cab. It’s a surprisingly roomy area made to feel even more spacious by a low-set dash and lightly coloured upper trim. While it offers good storage, the dash is flat, meaning the climate control and row of 10 rocker switches in the centre could be a stretch, though a set of 22 buttons to the left of the binnacle is easily at hand. The binnacle itself consists of large, clear dials with a central LCD information display. Overhead are four radio slots, housing the tachograph, CB radio and Alpine touchscreen infotainment unit with reversing camera and phone connectivity.

Alongside the driver is another console with cupholders, the park brake lever, air duster gun and diff- lock control. Alongside that is the slide-out fridge/freezer. This Eurocargo also features an electrically operated roof hatch and retractable side-window blinds. Liam’s European-inspired interior treatment includes a windscreen curtain and a lit Perspex ‘Iveco’ sign on the dash. Finally, Liam had RVE work its magic and reupholster the Isringhausen seats – the driver’s air-suspended and featuring heating and cooling.

“I wanted something comfortable. I like my gear looking sharp all the time. It’s a nice truck and it gets comments daily. For me, that’s advertising too. It’s good for marketing to have something a bit nicer,” Liam comments.

Right moves

Liam’s experience with the Eurocargo is synonymous with the journey of Hi Tech Environmental Waste Solutions over the past year. A considered, methodical operation and focus on its core principle of customer service has made the first year of offering a skip bin hire service a success for this established company. Likewise, the Eurocargo has proved itself the right choice for Liam.

He estimated the truck would cover 50,000km a year when business was in full swing, and in its first year, it’s at the 40,000km mark. Not a bad start at all. “Everything is going well. There have been no issues with the truck over the year,” says Liam. “And the team at Iveco’s been nothing but awesome – Pieter, the workshop, all the way to the top.

“When even I was a kid, you wouldn’t have given Iveco much thought. But they’re on par with any other. It’s all perception, and it’s still out there. I have people questioning me now still. ‘Why would you buy that?’ and I say, ‘Hey, it works for the job it’s doing’.”

And very well, too, from what we can see.