In Mercedes-Benz, Top Truck8 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 3, 2020

This month‘s Top Truck started life tramping its way through Europe delivering feed hay to farms from its base in the UK, now it is found locally ‘making hay‘ for its proud Kiwi owners.

A little over four years ago business partners Mark Gover, Andrew Williams and Dean Stuart purchased established company Trenchmate. The core business for Trenchmate is the design, supply and hire of shoring and protection systems to the construction industry to keep staff safe while working in open trenches. Speaking with Mark we learn that when they acquired the business the fleet consisted of two Fusos, that although hard-working, were struggling with the tasks asked of them. “We were very aware that most of our clients never ventured to our factory. Instead, the front door to our business was our trucks, arriving at customer worksites to deliver our product,” said Mark. “Understanding this meant we knew we had to invest in this area and put our best foot forward.” A call to an equipment dealer contact in the UK by Mark had the search under way for a suitable rig. It was not long before the dealer contacted the team with a possibility in the form of a 2014 Mercedes-Benz Actros 2545 6×2. The rig had been operated from new by an owner-driver throughout Europe on feed hay deliveries. Because weight was not an issue and it was all about maximum cube, the Actros was specced from factory with fully adjustable air suspension on all axles to achieve the lowest possible ride height. The same requirement was needed here, as the shoring systems Trenchmate delivers are also weight light and cube heavy.

Photos: Trenchmate partner Mark Gover (TOP) and driver Parneel Parkash, team members of a company that truly understands the need for efficient transport solutions as well as a clean and crisp-looking ride.

Mark‘s only concern was whether it was too low for access into some of the extreme sites they visit. A photo showing the Actros suspension at full inflation allayed any doubts by displaying a touch over 400mm between the road surface and the bottom of the front bumper. The next conversation was “Get it on the boat to New Zealand,” Mark said with a laugh. Upon arrival it was time to get it street legal and adorn it with the simple but dramatic Trenchmate fleet colours and livery. First step was down the road to Fruehauf to remove the flat deck so the cab and chassis could be delivered to Fleet Image in Te Awamutu, allowing them to work their magic. While this was happening Fruehauf modified and certified the flat deck, fitting new load anchorage points, rope rails, and lighting. “We also had Fruehauf fit the new trailer couplings and while in the workshop remove the European style plastic guards over the rear wheels and replace them with stainless steel drop guards with mud flaps to finish the low and sleek look,” said Mark.

Photo: It is plain to see that the Mercedes-Benz truck designers drew upon the corporate family‘s other automotive drawing boards for inspiration, as it is easy to imagine you are sitting in a modern S-Class sedan instead of an Actros.

Driver and caretaker of the Actros, Parneel Parkash, has earnt his place at the helm, working his way up through the ranks the right way. Starting his driving career in light commercials on various courier runs was his first step, then migrating up to class 2 and through to 4 within the food distribution chain. It was then an opportunity with Trenchmate that has seen Parneel achieve full class 5, with his regular work requiring a 4-axle Roadmaster flat deck trailer being hooked up to the Actros. Chatting to Parneel about the combination you quickly realise he is very proud of his charge. “We took out best Merc early this year at the Bombay Truck Show,” he said with a grin. Parneel is also quick to describe to us just how well suited the setup is to their application. “When it first went on the road there were many people who doubted the truck‘s traction ability with its 6×2 configuration, but I can tell you, so far I have had it stuck only once, and it was a difficult site that everyone got stuck on, including rigid 6×4 trucks, so you have to be pleased with that,” he said. Mark gives full credit to Parneel for the rig‘s appearance and the level of cleaning detail he applies. “It is a real credit to Parneel,” said Mark.

Photo: Lowest suspension setting results in a finished deck height of a whisker over 1m, this accommodates the largest of Trenchmate‘s
shoring structures.

“It is truly appreciated from the company‘s perspective, as again it goes hand-in-hand with exactly what we said earlier, that the trucks and our drivers are the client‘s front door to Trenchmate.” Who could have imagined that a UK owner-driver six years ago would be ticking the boxes on a spec sheet for his new European-tramping, hay-hauling dream lorry, a Mercedes-Benz Actros 2545 with all the trimmings, the sort of goodies that now make this sharp-looking English immigrant the pride and joy of a South Auckland-based supply company to the construction industry. A company whose core business is in no way involved in providing transport solutions, however the very nature of the service they provide their clients brings about the need to solve their own transport requirements. In doing so, they display a well-educated aptitude for the transport industry and what makes up a well-balanced crisp-looking rig, the kind of rig worthy of New Zealand Trucking magazine‘s Top Truck honour for this month.

Photo: All lit up there is absolutely no missing the Actros at work, and the roof lights turn night into day on those early morning linehaul runs when the call comes in.

Photo: Fresh off the boat and with nearly 500,000km of tramping on the clock, the Actros is seen here still sporting its European personality.