ICONIC CHOICE

In Tests, Kenworth, August 202138 MinutesBy Dave McCoidSeptember 28, 2021

Kenworth launched its T410 in March 2019. The T410 was a shift in market placement for the 400 series badge, aligning it more towards metro and regional distribution. It meant the model lost the big ‘oomph’ 15-litre option, available with PACCAR’s MX-13 powerplant only. Dunedin’s slick Icon Logistics recently commissioned a 6×4 and an 8×4 T410 pitched at that exact role. So, six months in, are K’Dub’s light-heavyweights warming the hearts of all those around them on those cold Otago winter days?

Meteorologically speaking, few places do ‘bracing’ in June and July like good old Dunedin. Sometimes, even using the adjective ‘bracing’ is akin to using ‘high’ to describe Mount Everest. Standing outside Icon Logistics on Parry Street at 7.30am, the gods were looking kindly upon us with not a hint of breeze. Although if diamonds are a girl’s best friend, the footpath, roads, signs, and trees would have garnered an excited gasp from Marilyn, no question. Yet we were frigidly happy because a sea of glistening winter diamonds meant the Edinburgh of the South would likely turn on a glorious blue-sky day. And that it did – two, in fact.

Happy as we were, we bordered on elation with the familiar sound of a PACCAR MX-13, followed momentarily by one member of our journey’s quest rolling into view around the ice-encrusted corner. A bedazzling Icon Logistics Kenworth T410 6×4 tractor and three-axle skeletal semi. We knew the Icon Kenworths would be ‘bedazzling’, and not just from the photos we’d seen. Like its parents, this is a company that uses trucks as both facilitators of a core function and as a key part of its marketing. In their distinctive two-tone blue, and orange livery, Icon’s trucks make a statement in all the right ways.

Grant leaves Port Chalmers with a full container.

“Yeah, they look real smart, and have really given us a lift,” said general manager, container transport and dry fleet, Tony Gare, on the phone the evening before. “They came with two new Euro-6 DAFs, and they look the part, too. The drivers love them, and I had the chance to drive one of the 410s up from Edendale not long after they arrived. They’re bloody nice to drive.”

The T410 turned into the company’s container handling yard, also located on Parry Street, and out jumped Grant Keen.

“G’day, you’re the trucking guys?” he says, smiling. “I’ll stop on the way out, and when I do, jump in. But wait until you hear the park brake come on. Otherwise, the alarm will deafen us all.” He then burst out laughing.

“You’re all good to take your photos in that safe zone. No problem.”

And so set the tone of helpfulness and co-operation that was the hallmark of our two days in the company’s keep. My introduction to the driver of the 8×4 T410, Neil Whalley, was more like a Chris Angel magic show, a lot more impromptu, mildly embarrassing, and moderately funny if you’re the sort who doesn’t get too overcome with life’s complexities. But we’ll save that for a couple of paragraphs hence.

Heading to Everitts

Here, there, and everywhere

The Icon T410s will spend much of their life between Mosgiel’s southern boundary and the top of Pine Hill to the north of town. Besides container pick-up and drop- offs between the company’s transitional facilities, customer sites, and a myriad of other locations within the city proper, there’s also the constant flow of import and export traffic moving in and out of Port Chalmers, 13.5km down the harbour. It’s not all downtown though, there are regular runs out into wider Otago, north to Timaru, and also into Southland. In fact, Grant had taken his 410 as far as Blenheim, delivering a Clean in Place (CPI) plant to a location for parent company Dynes Transport, and Neil has crossed the ditch once already and dealt with that trucking nirvana, Auckland.

“I loved the run up to Blenheim,” says Grant as we pull out of Parry Street and aim Fleet No29 Ventura Highway towards Fonterra Mosgiel. “The truck performed so well and really had a chance to stretch out and show me what it could do.”

Talking as we motored through the city, Grant was your classic slick operator in city bounds, chatting away happily, but his eyes were everywhere. It’s instinctive; he probably had no idea that in the past 10 seconds, he’d looked in each of the mirrors three times, the dash once, all the while positioning the truck impeccably in the snake-like lanes of Dunedin’s compact centre. What it also brought home is how much the AMT transmission has revolutionised city driving. He’s fully able to look after his charge’s welfare, keeping it away from bollards and boneheads, not having to worry at all about the next cog. As Brian Aitchison in the UltraSHIFT-equipped MMM Cartage International ProStar says resolutely, “You’d never consider a manual in the city anymore.” (New Zealand Trucking, June 2019.)

Neil loads a full box ex the Parry Street yard.

Ready for the ball at last

When we were at the launch of the T360 and T410s in 2019, we were smitten with the look of the little 360 with its shiny grille surround and bug you could still see from the helm, even with its incredibly steep bonnet rake. It was a proper pint-sized Kenworth. The 410 didn’t ‘polish our alloy’ quite as much. It had a T400 throwback colour-coded grille surround, and you couldn’t see the back of the bug from the driver’s seat. ‘Hmmmm, we thought.’

Now here we are a couple of years later, looking at an Icon T410 while a straddle plonked a box on its back at Fonterra’s Mosgiel stores. Few would argue painting a truck blue is a safe bet in the quest to enhance looks, but it’s also incredible what a huge impact small things can have. Tony Gare had bug deflectors made for the T410s at a local supplier of theirs called Siteweld, the impact of which lifts the value of the overall aesthetics well beyond the outlay. You still can’t see the bug from the cab, but fixing that would take an angle- grinder and… yeah, na. Suffice to say, we were well pleased with the look of the trucks, and would gladly bounce out of the yurt each morning to helm one.

Neil rolls into Port Chalmers.

The nose? What nose?

Some of you might remember Blair Chambers in the Eden Haulage K200 story (New Zealand Trucking, October 2019), and Richard Seeley in the Moving Company MAN (New Zealand Trucking, April 2020). Both were experienced furniture men, and both rated Dunedin as one of the toughest gigs in terms of accessing customer homes for placing or removing chattels. The elephant in the room is, therefore, two bonneted US trucks working in a city not renowned for its excess real estate.

“Honestly,” says Grant. “I was worried at the start. I came out of a UD into this, and the nose was front of mind. But there’s nowhere I got the UD – and there are some shitty places – that I haven’t been able to put this. Apart from the fact it’s there, you don’t know it’s there,” he laughed. “It’s got a great lock, and yeah… It’s not been an issue at all.”

The T410 has a bumper-to-back-of-cab measure of 2850mm. In set-back front-axle trim, as we have here, its front-axle centre-to-bumper measure is 1240mm, which wouldn’t be much different in a forward- control lorry, like the UD. Because GCM is determined by overall length and axle placement, Grant is not actually dealing with any more truck frontage per se, or in fact, a truck that’s much different in terms of where its feet are. The only thing that’s slightly altered is that in the UD, he was sitting in front of the lead axle, and in the Kenworth he’s behind it.


The T410 is at home both in and out of town.

Catching up fast

With the box on, we headed for Port Chalmers. The UltraShift PLUS picked its way through the gears, skipping away happily.

“They’re calibrated to lift off in third as a rule, and they’ll do a maximum of fifth if in manual. I drive it in auto; there’s no reason not to. We’ve just had some training on them, that was really great. If it’s greasy, we put the power-divider in – that’s recommended.”

When PACCAR first put the MX-13 into the Kenworth product, it garnered the normal public bar ‘piffle’, but those days are gone, thank goodness. Pull the hood on K’Dubs and Petes Stateside and you’ll find the MX everywhere.

We’ve always liked the 12.9-litre MX-13 motor – it’s as honest as the day is long, and given the right acoustics, it makes a lovely sound. The 410s were no exception, with a lovely throaty grumble coming from somewhere upfront. The engine in the T410 is the Euro-5 variant with altered electrical architecture to accommodate 12 volts and, therefore, the Bendix Wingman safety suite. Max power output is 381kW (510hp), and 2508Nm (1850 lb/ft) of torque. It’s always been a tenacious wee fella that likes the low life, with max torque from 1000rpm to 1400rpm, and power from 1500rpm up to 1900rpm. It is an engine that punches well above its weight in varied applications all over the country.

Side profile, the T410 has the T610’s large car style of look.

Behind MX is the Eaton FO-20E318A-MXP UltraShift PLUS 18-speed AMT with ‘urge to move’ function. Essentially it means that at lift-off, Eaton has programmed in a human’s clutch finesse. Put the trans in gear, take your hoof off the brake, and the clutch will slowly close, allowing the lorry to begin creeping away on its own.

There’s no question that Eaton is closing the gap on the best Euro AMTs in terms of driveability. These 410s were, without doubt, the slickest we’ve encountered. Gone are the days of a million mindless downshifts as you approach a stop. Now, just as the truck glides to a stop, the gearbox slips into neutral at the right moment, and the instant Grant touches the throttle, there’s a gear, slick as you like. I’m not saying with the UltraShift PLUS Eaton’s on the go-line alongside the likes of Volvo’s I-Shift, Scania’s Opticuise, Benz’s PowerShift, or ZF’s TraXon, but let’s say the US product has certainly stopped eating their dust.

Of course, there is the much-vaunted PACCAR 12-speed, present in the launch trucks and touted as one of the key reasons you’d write the cheque. The transmission is, of course, Eaton’s new purpose-built automated transmission, the Endurant, and it is a real bobby-dazzler. Its Achille’s heel for now, though, is a low GCM rating. It is fine if you’re a US 80,000-pounder; not so good with real loads on down under.

Behind the box, Meritor GP46-160GP axles with power divider, and dual diff locks ride on Kenworth’s venerable AG400 airbag suspension. Up-front, one MFS66-122 axle on taper springs and shock absorbers is enough to satisfy the 6×4, while two share the load – literally – on the 8×4, again on taper leaf springs and ‘shocks’.

It’s all very much an Antipodean spec that has stood the test of time for many operators. Pay-up, sleep well.

It may be a bonneted Kenworth in Dunedin, but getting around is proving no issue.

Port anyone?

Climbing Saddle Hill from the south, the MX-13 and UltraShift PLUS were a great tag team and complemented each other well. Grant’s good for 44 tonne, and we were on the dot at 43 plus change. The steepest pinch was cut out in 11th at 1500rpm and 28kph, while Lookout Point further in towards town required 10th and 24kph at the same rpm.

“I do love it,” says Grant. “It’s great to drive. It’s spacious, comfortable, and the dash is fantastic with everything right there. And I love the big fuel tank, too. That’s awesome. If I’m local, I only fill up once a week.

“I had a drive of a 909 the other week. That’s not me. There’s just too much truck for in here [Dunedin]. They just don’t have the visibility. This is just perfect.”

It’s all go on the narrow, winding dual carriage road that links the port with its city. There are road works and a cycle lane going in, something Grant is all for. “It’ll get the cyclists that do brave the journey off the road.”

Turning off King Edward Street into Percy Road is your classic ‘all in a day’s work’ for a metro skele or side-lifter operator.

We were keen to sample both trucks over the course of our stay. The 6×4 was lovely to ride in, and the cab was sound with few extraneous noises. It was also unbothered by its three-axle fixed tri-skele and 29-tonne box. There was no vying for who was in charge in terms of bullying from the rear. The truck’s undercarriage was solid as a rock.

At the port, we jump out. “I won’t be long,” says Grant.

There is certainly an air of history at Port Chalmers, one of the birthplaces of commerce in this country. The plaques and embossed letters on the walls of buildings convey a rich history, and you certainly get the sense that back in the day, it might have had a Peaky Blinders feel to it, with all manner of skulduggery going on amidst those earning an honest farthing.

After a wonder, some pics, and a chat to the locals, a blue T410 bonnet appears through the gates and glides up to the stop grid. My keen eye, sharpened from some 40 years in and around trucks, fails to pick up this one had another steer axle and a four- axle semi in tow. I walk up, open the door, and there, staring at me, is an entirely different human.

The container tipper at Everitts is a cool gizmo to watch working if you’ve never seen one before.

“’Ello. Who are you?”

“Oh, shit. Who are you?”

“Neil.”

“G’day Neil, I’m Dave. I think we’re meeting later.”

And that was our introduction to the captivating Mr Whalley (see sidebar, Right on cue).

When Grant comes back, he laughs like hell. “I saw Neil heading out, and I thought, ‘Oh hell, I bet I know what’s going to happen here.’”

Moving on. Our next mission was one that tested the T410s’ manoeuvrability when they first arrived. One of Icon’s regular calls is Everitt Scrap Metals on Wilkie Road. You get in through the back gate via a turn into narrow Percy Street off an extremely busy King Edward Street. Grant’s been here too many times to think about. He whipped the 410 into Percy Street, missing all the kerbs and cars in sublime fashion. If you were a stranger to the fair city, it’s one of those places where you put the hazards on and go for a walk first.

Once in, you wriggle past the obstacles – the Everitt crew do their best to keep the truck lanes clear, so big props to them. It’s a fascinating operation. The containers are held and upended by a big contraption, and the grapple loader fills them up with scrap. Once loaded, the machine shuts the doors and then rights the box again, holding it in place while Grant backs under with inches on either side. It’s all pretty impressive and seemed over in a jiffy. Locks twisted, we were back at the Parry Street yard in no time.

Back under the container tipper, and ‘twisting the locks’.

The wizard of ‘Aus’

One of the big pluses at the launch of the T410 and its little sibling was the next deployment of Kenworth’s 2.1m cab. It’s a classic case of measure twice and cut once, meaning the years that went into it at both the propeller-head and talking- to-customers level has today given drivers a superb work shed. Obviously, it wasn’t all looks and utility; the 2.1 is safer than houses and had significant smarts built into it with bang-up-to-date CANbus architecture making life among the electrons much easier to manage and remedy.

Back to us, though. It’s comfortable and airy, and the placement of those single- arm mirrors is still easily the yardstick for a bonneted US conventional.

The Icon trucks came with more of a fleet spec in terms of appointments with vinyl and plastic trim in charcoal and grey, along with Kenworth’s legendary easy-to-maintain and durable floor. However, the trucks don’t lose any of their appeal, nor do they feel bland. The proof is, both men love their workstation. Neil was even quoted as saying: “It’s fun to drive.”

There is ‘gobs’ of room in and around the driver with all the driving adjustment a ‘Sapien’ could possibly wish for. Access to – and through the cab, in the event you’re just passing – is a breeze, and if you can’t see the yellow grab handles, please don’t drive it.

Grant on his way.

From the driver’s seat, the view is faultless. The A-pillars on the 2.1m do have to be considered when clearing left and right, but those mirrors… they certainly don’t, at least not to the same degree mirrors on almost all other trucks do.

What Kenworth did do with the 2.1 is acknowledge what makes them … them. Firstly, they’re not overly quiet… Actually, forget the pleasantries; they’re not quiet. But they’re not noisy either. It’s a Kenworth; it wants to tell you how it is. A DAF tells you via a digital read-out, a Kenworth has a yarn. Grant thought the low 70s decibel was maybe a little too vocal, and Neil liked it just the way it was. “I love hearing the grunt as it pulls away from down low.” There you have it. Personal preference.

Secondly, the binnacle has an eight-gauge cluster, and there are another seven on the wrap with room for five more if you want to go full 70s-80s throwback.

It’s 2021, so there is a telematics, trip, and driver performance display in the binnacle also, adjusted via the DAF-like knob on the lower- left dash beside the steering column.

The smart wheel is basic and easy to operate, with audio stuff on the left and cruise control on the right. The left column wand is Kenworth’s all-in-one indicator, wipers, and dip, and on the right, the new gear-change and auxiliary brake controller that came with the T360/410. (Where it should be at last).

           
The snug MX-13. Like all the ‘no bonnet’ bonneted trucks, there’s a pay-off to all that visibility.

Being a green-field project, the 2.1’s binnacle and wrap are one injection-moulded item, regionalised by design language. It looks great. The wrap is home to additional gauging as we said, plus entertainment, atmospheric comfort, brake valves, and switchgear – which is big and logically placed. There is a trailer control in the line-up located close to the steering column on the left. It’s quirky in terms of shape – think Bulldog clip. On the right of the steering column is the headlight knob, a couple more switches, and the crank [ignition key].

There is an option for a 7” infotainment set-up if you’re techy.

Speaking from an operational standpoint, we do love the chunky feel of the 2.1m operations area. Big soft-grip tiller, big buttons, and the heater, telematics, and headlight controls are also big, uniform in shape and function, and sympathetic to less dexterous digits. It’s an easy truck to operate.

Again, it’s a day-cab bonneted truck, so you won’t get the kitchen or even the camper’s sink in it.

There’s a stow in the overhead left, storage in the door, and a godsend console between the seats sourced from Southpac’s parts. There are also oddments cubbies and cup-holders front and centre at the base of the wrap. Obviously, being a 2.1m, Neil could get the snooker cue along behind the seats if he ever needed to. Don’t worry, that will be made clear soon.

Lastly, thank you Kenworth design team for making a cab that doesn’t need two-thirds of the controls mounted on the driver’s door sill.

     
The 2.1m cab dash and wrap are a superb place to effect a day’s trucking, and a beautiful insight in how to produce a bang up-to-date cab while retaining and honouring crucial elements of legacy.

Blooming heck!

Assignment No.3! (How much fun is this?) This time, we stretch the 8×4’s legs south with Neil Whalley.

The things that go on in this fair land, the enterprise we find in every corner, astound us constantly. The tulip season in Southland is a big thing, and we are off to Haakman New Zealand Bulbs in Edendale to unload a container of imported tulip bulbs and equipment. We were lucky because it’s the tail end of the season, and the two Icon DAFs we passed heading north had the last export boxes on, and we pretty much had the last import.

Drive through the sprawling fields southeast of Edendale and you’d never know that many are dedicated to what’s under the surface, not on top. Each year, to synchronise Northern and Southern Hemisphere seasonality, there’s a vast trade in growing and finishing tulips. New Zealand even sends tulips to Holland! Bulbs that are started in our fields are exported, replanted, and finished in theirs.

Neil’s T410 runs as an 8×4 and quad-skele configuration, good for 48-tonne GCM. It tows a slick Patchell Industries trailer.

“Yes, it’s definitely Patchell gear here,” says Tony Gare when asked about the trailer situation.

Access is as easy as it gets. Yellow means ‘grab here’.

The 40’ container had us around 45 tonne, and the Kenworth left the city bounds rolling south past Waihola with little effort.

The two trucks sport a good wad of safety features via the Bendix Wingman Fusion suite that includes active cruise braking with collision mitigation, and stationary vehicle alerts.

“The active cruise is great and highlights how erratic and annoying people who drive on the pedal are,” says Neil. “You soon learn how to set it so you can drive along without catching them up and triggering your proximity warning. The lane departure you can turn off via a button on the dash.”

Like Grant, Neil says it isn’t all traffic lights and roundabouts, and trips like this out of town are regular enough.

“It’s all about seasons or jobs. When the tulips are on, then this is regular. Likewise, jobs come up and, suddenly, you might be off somewhere. We did a new chairlift to Coronet Peak a couple of years back. There were 30-odd truck and trailer loads, so we were up there all the time. It was incredible watching the engineers progressively piece it together.”

Traditionally, Icon ran a lot of gear handed down from the high-kilometre Dynes fleet, so the new arrivals have been warmly received and, in terms of service life, it’s going to be a bit of ‘suck it and see’ according to Tony.

Width, glorious width.

“Yeah, it’s a bit of an unknown. We have a 2015 DAF that’s been a brilliant truck. It starts every morning and motors off, does its thing, comes home, and turns off. We’ve certainly seen the impact of the new gear on the R&M cost. We’ll just see how they go. Our kilometres aren’t big, but it’s not easy work; by the time these trucks are done, they’ll have a lot of stops and starts under their belts and changed a lot of gears.”

The nature of the work certainly makes the life-to-date fuel consumption impressive. In its 60,000 odd kilometres, Neil’s truck has achieved 1.95kpl (5.51mpg). Yes, it might be around the 50% load factor, but so much is ultra- short lead and stop/start at its worst; for example, no-option loaded hill starts at lights. For such a young truck, we thought that fuel number was worthy of a chocolate fish.

The T410 rolled into Southland’s beautiful flowing country on a glorious day, the note of the MX-13 rising and falling, easily maintaining pace with the traffic around it. Like Grant, Neil just lets it do its thing gear change wise.

The vision out over the almost non- existent bonnet is superb; you’ll lose nothing from your sightline in front of the bug … assuming it’s there (LOL). The combined exhaust/engine brake was well able to keep things rounded up on the descents, and because all the city work is low speed, it’s a perfectly adequate set- up.


Neil backs onto the dock at Haakman NZ Bulbs in Southland.

When comparing the trucks, there was no question that second axle in the 8×4 gave things a little kick-along; it certainly wasn’t the same ride as we’d experienced in the 6×4, and we think related to that, the 8×4 had a few more squeaks and creeks. In terms of stability and surefootedness, however, it was exemplary and Kenworth to the T.

“It’s not bad, is it?” says Neil. “I love it. I really do.”

We arrived at the Haakman facility on Matai Road East and backed onto the dock. Manager Darren Cripps welcomed us and gave us free rein to get our snaps. Just like the crew at Rainbow Park in April, it appears flowers make people happy.

It has to be said Grant and Neil are both great Icon account managers, as well as drivers. Whether Grant at Fonterra, and the scrap yard, or Neil here at Haakman, they were both polite, engaging, and professional.

Rolling home through Waihola.

Summary

With the end of the day a couple of hours up the road, Neil and the 410 headed away from the setting sun.

We love having a look at trucks pitched exactly where the vendor intended, and in terms of the T410, this was perfect placement. It’s a mantra we’re well-known for voicing, but correct truck specification in 2021 is more critical than it’s ever been if optimal returns are to be met. The T410 is a regional/ metro haulier, and the validity of PACCAR Australia sales director Brad May’s comments at the launch in March 2019, about a recalibration of the range, are borne out in these machines. Power-to-weight- wise, they’re bang on, fuel- economy wise they’re bang on, and in terms of being a delight to operate … they’re bang on. With the Icon 410s in the hands of two very convivial and sensible blokes, that should all equate to a balance sheet that’s … bang on.

Acknowledgement

Once again, Kiwis can’t be beaten. Thanks so much to Tony Gare, Grant Keen, Neil Whalley, and the Icon Logistics team for accommodating us and being so obliging for two great days. Thanks also to Dynes HWR for allowing us to feature two perfectly placed T410s. Thanks as always to Southpac – Steve Herring and Richard Smart – for your enthusiastic help and always- rapid replies.

And to whoever turned on two glorious days in Dunedin in winter? Thank you, too!