Life saver

48 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineAugust 26, 2020

In CR Taylor‘s world, ‘can‘t‘ is never an option. Their key attribute of dogged persistence proved its value beyond measure when Dave Taylor decided it was time for the truck he‘d been mulling over for years.

Where on earth do you start a story on CR Taylor Ltd in Gisborne – with owners Dave and Glen Taylor as the central characters? There‘s managing director, full of energy and enthusiasm, “love a challenge” Dave, and stand back, watch, say little, Glen Taylor, his immensely capable brother and crane manager. Putting this one together made us think what a shame it is that cities and regions don‘t know more about the talents, abilities, wisdom, and rich stories within their bounds – like the one that lies behind the humble CR Taylor building on Stanley Road in Gisborne. When there‘s a crisis, ‘experts‘ are often flown in, but the truth is they‘re probably already there; there‘s just no register at the local council titled ‘history of talent and local knowledge, a.k.a. who to call when it hits the fan‘.

What‘s brought us here is sitting in the yard outside the office and workshop. A beautifully presented Hino FY3248 Air 10×4 crane truck. Not necessarily an earthshattering discovery, until you look a little closer. Under the rear-mounted Palfinger 63002 EH-D PJ170C crane is a steering axle shod with super-singles, still nothing too mind-bending – the refuse truck industry hasn‘t lifted an eyebrow yet – but behind that rearmost axle, sitting happily between the chassis rails, is a trailer coupling. Yes, now it just got interesting. “It‘s a Gisborne thing,” says Dave. “Here it‘s always about versatility; you have to think outside the box. There‘s not the work here for super specialist gear, and it costs so much to get in. Here we think about it, solve it, and then do it. It‘s about having tools that do everything.” It was a philosophy we heard time and time again from many and varied people while we were once again in New Zealand‘s remotest city! Like South Westland, it‘s a place where people still innovate, adapt, and modify, because there‘s no other choice. Gisborne, to use the PM‘s Covid catch-cry, is actually a team of 35,000.

Photos: There‘s the requirement right there! Super-single caster steer high lift axle and a trailer coupling.

What I really want is…
Dave Taylor‘s need seemed simple enough, and he‘d been seeing the exact thing for years on the internet. A 10×4 crane truck with a rear axle that steered and lifted up out of the way: not just a little bit out of the way, a lot. A dual-wheeled lifting axle was not an option as the lift clearance he was after meant when lifted, the wheels would clash with the ‘coffin‘ the crane is mounted in. Oh, and there was a trailer to tow from time to time, not often, but sometimes. As it turns out, a couple of those requirements eliminate the word simple from the radar. Firstly, there weren‘t any rear lift axles available in New Zealand that cleared to the distance he wanted, and then there was the wee issue of the trailer requirement. The NZTA rules stated he couldn‘t have a rear castor steer axle on the truck and tow a trailer. Enquiries to an engineering friend resulted in a reply along the lines of, ‘Yep, been trying to get that over the line for five years. Given up! If it‘s not in their rulebook they don‘t want to know about it‘. Dave went home, a little deflated, but kept seeing them online working around the world. “Bugger it. I‘m going to give this a go.” To understand the significance of that thought, you first need to know a little more about CR Taylor Ltd, and what they do..

Photo: Gisborne‘s tight roundabouts pose no issue.

You think you‘re persistent?
“Dave is an energetic and clever guy,” said Peter Wilkinson, proprietor of Wilkinson Transport Engineers in Cambridge. “But it‘s his persistence that got this over the line. He just keeps going and going, and won‘t give in. He would drive from Gisborne to Cambridge on a Saturday, just to discuss the project.” If turning up to work day after day knowing exactly what it is you‘ll be doing is your gig, then CR Taylor is definitely not your place. But if you‘re smart on your feet, a problem solver, skilled in many of the machinery and construction arts, and just revel in adventure and challenge, then Taylors just might be your utopia. The combing rail on the truck says ‘crane hire, house removal, bridge repair, heavy haulage, certified piloting‘. Dave himself is a builder and so there‘s a bit of that also, and we‘ve not even touched on things like pipe laying, tank moving…

The point is, at Taylors you simply can‘t give up. If there‘s a house that needs relocating to the top of a hill up a valley in the backblocks, with a new pipeline and utilities trench to the site as well, plus three bridges that need constructing and placing in order to make it all happen, then that‘s it. That‘s what the customer wants. You might be halfway through the job and it‘s been raining for four days, there‘s a slip that‘s destroyed half the access road, the ‘bully‘s‘ stuck, and your foot‘s just sunk in the mud and half-filled your boot with shitty water. It‘s just a case of remain calm, assess, make a plan, carry on. “I just love the challenge in it all,” said Dave. Glen grins, rolls his eyes, says nothing. So, you can imagine in Dave‘s world, putting a lifting steer axle in the back of a truck that can also tow a trailer should be about as difficult as asking Graham Dingle to stand on the kitchen chair.

730 days ago, to now…
“It all got serious just under two years ago really. I guess one of the things about the whole thing is how busy trailer and body builders have been over the past few years, The one-off special jobs either haven‘t been on the radar, too hard, or there‘s just no time. I‘m asking about this thing and what I want to do, and it was just in the ‘too hard‘ basket for a lot of them,” Dave chuckled. “My original plan was actually to have the axle modular like on a transporter. Give the axle its own hubbo and rego and just pop it in if you‘ve got a big concrete tank or heavy container, and leave it off when you don‘t, but I was told in no uncertain terms, ‘No! You can‘t have that‘.” Dave illustrates the level of decisiveness in the exchange with a pointed and wagging finger gesture. We can only assume he must have had a good go at it, but ‘poked the bear‘ so to speak, one too many times… LOL. “I have a mate in Christchurch in the same business and he reckoned Adams and Currie were the ones to fit the crane and build the deck, so I flew down and met with them. They were keen, and did a great job. Did what we wanted.

Then I was pointed towards Peter Wilkinson in Cambridge by one of the bigger builders who didn‘t have the time for a specialist build. They said he‘d be the man for the axle and getting it over the line. Man I can‘t say enough about Peter. He was really keen and so helpful. It wouldn‘t have happened without him.” Interestingly, both are humble men and both said the same of each other‘s resolve. Dave continues. “The certifying engineer, Marin Vujcich, is in the same building as Peter and he also said it could be done, that certificates and exemptions should be doable, but we first needed to find the axle we want to put in there. So I searched online for the axle, and I found the Composilite on the Hendrickson website. It was just what I wanted, able to take a super-single, steer, and clear the ground to 9” [230mm].

With all the steering and lift gear it was heavier than other options, it weighed 615kg, but they lift right out of the way so if we‘re on a boggy track or lumpy ground, it‘s not causing as many issues. Problem was, they weren‘t available here. Getting the axle has been the longest part of the whole thing.” Dave contacted Dave Jarrett, regional sales manager at Hendrickson in New Zealand. After a briefing on the requirement and then looking at some other options sourced ex Asia, they arrived back at the Composilite SCT20 Steerable Lift Axle rated at 9066kg, ex the USA. “It turns out the axle had to go to Melbourne to be certified as there wasn‘t anyone in New Zealand able to do it, so that all took time. While that was going on I bought the truck and the crane, and Adams and Currie got going.” Dave and Glen chose a Hino 700 Series FY3248 Air. They had two Hinos in the fleet already, another 700 series 8×4 crane truck and a smaller 500 series with a low flat deck used for tanks and things. “We‘ve had a good run from Hino and when I was asking around about the best truck for the project, the 700 Series Hino was one of a couple that kept coming up. The builders I talked to said it‘s a simple truck, not full of electronics that can often complicate jobs like this.

That suited us, plus they were the best value for money.” The brothers would have liked the retarder that came with the ZF AS-Tronic AMT but it wasn‘t available on the 8×4 due to available space in the truck‘s bowels, and Glen wasn‘t too keen on the AMT, with the business having had trouble with them previously. “I think gears are best thing for around here anyway,” said Dave. The truck was sourced from Hino New Zealand‘s Scott Hadabora in Napier. It was delivered to Gisborne, painted, sign-written, and sent to Peter Wilkinson at Wilkinson Transport Engineers where they moved the drive wheels back a tad. Then it was sent to Peter Laurenson at Adams and Currie in Christchurch to have the deck built and crane fitted. “It‘s a fantastic project, a one-off,” said Scott. “We didn‘t have too much to do, the truck was already a great fit for Taylor‘s requirements.

There are many ‘Taylorisms‘ in the deck build.

Photo: Toolbox on the stabiliser leg towers with tank lifting gear.

Photo: Deck lockers with the central one also having a false floor so the gearbox can be accessed.

Photo: Dunnage rack is modular so it can come out, allowing the deck to be used.

Photo: The tail gate is rear mounted to allow more load room and less rake on longer lengths.

An Ali Arc XH2090 bumper and rerouting the tailpipe for forestry work, but we‘re certainly getting lots of enquiries about the finished truck.” Adams and Currie made a lovely job of the deck. There were lots of ‘Taylorisms‘ in the build. The bearer rack at the rear of the deck is completely modular so loads just longer than the deck‘s base 6.5m can be accommodated. The rear tailboard and pole rack is mounted behind the crane rather than in front; this reduces rake on long items, and again allows use of the life-saving half a metre between deck-end and crane. The housing that protects the front landing leg towers is home to a toolbox where the attachments for spreader beams used on concrete tanks live, and even the in-deck chain locker has a false floor so the gearbox can be easily accessed. Lessons learned over the years. The truck and crane were ready, now they just needed the axle. As it was the unit was legal, although a little odd to behold with the crane perched way out back and nothing under it.

“To weigh in the fly jib had to be on the deck up by the headboard,” said Dave‘s son, Logan, who was sent to Christchurch to bring the truck home. “It got some looks like that.” There was an air of tense excitement. Yes, the truck was built, but the axle hadn‘t turned up, and the permitting to operate it all was still in progress. We asked Dave Jarrett about sourcing and prepping the axle at the time. “The SCT20 was coming as a new model in our lineup, which caused some delay. It went through the application approval process at our engineering department in Melbourne. This process checks out if the axle/ suspension will physically fit, and considers the best product for the application. “The product is truly state of the art and worth the wait. Dave was the first in New Zealand to get it, and we have high hopes for its potential in the marketplace. We think the product is ideal for New Zealand truck configurations and conditions.” And then one day, there it was, the crate with the axle in it.

“It was very stressful because the axle had been built from measurements supplied and you know how that goes sometimes,” laughed Dave. “I ripped open the box, and measured the gap between the mounting brackets … it was 1mm different! I was so happy I went and got a feed of fish and chips! I was rapt.” Dave was instructed by Peter Wilkinson to bring it all straight to Cambridge. “Peter had the axle up and in place within a day. “All this was going on and we still didn‘t have the exemptions and certifications. It really was a stressful time,” said Dave. “Our local NZTA lady, Lynn Williams, has been very helpful all the way through, and she directed us to Don Hutchinson, NZTA principal engineer for heavy vehicles.” Dave‘s dealings with Don reflect that of TTE‘s Craig Gordon in the development of the 27m long four TEU B-train for Napier Port (New Zealand Trucking magazine October 2019). A can-do guy, Don has a track record of willingness to understand the needs of both the operator and the communities they live in, finding solutions that work for both. His proactivity was again key in all this. “Don was really helpful, enthusiastic, and positive.

He required some things to be done – ‘do this, this, and this‘ – and we did them.” Of course the other bigticket item was the need to tow a trailer, and that was never going to happen with a castor rear-steer. The solution the team came up with was a mechanism that locks the rear axle in place when the coupling pin drops, rendering the back end a fixed tri. In doing so it also moved the wheelbase back 663mm, bringing the rear axis to coupling length into the green zone. Finished, resplendent, certified, the Hino was ready to roll. Permitted to 35 tonne GVM, the truck can cart 13 tonne, coming in at just on 22 tonne tare without the fly jib in place. “We‘re rapt. I really would have loved the axle to unclip, because losing that and the fly jib would get rid of almost 2 tonne. You don‘t need them for every job, but hey, it‘s awesome. And man, it‘s caused some interest.”

Photo: Logan swings the beam into place and holds it there so the chippies can secure it permanently. 

Photo: The back axles lift up to 230mm.

Photo: In place and ready to lift.

Does it work?
Does it ever!
How often do the little jobs in trucking ‘dag‘ you, to use classic Kiwi vernacular. Imagining the axle coming into its own, your mind instantly turns to boggy forest roads or a construction site in the wet, but ask any trucker and they‘ll tell you time and time again it‘s the wolf in sheep‘s clothing that has the potential to ruin your day. A classic case in point was our first job, a 90km run out to a residential building site in Mahia, with a long laminated lintel and steel support beams. Dave came out for a look, but official driver on the day was Dave‘s son, Logan. We say ‘driver on the day‘, because Dave, Glen, and Logan drive whatever‘s best suited to whatever job is on the go. Both Dave and Logan said the truck takes a little getting used to on the road. “You can feel the back axle. It makes it very direct,” said Logan.

At the destination, the truck had to be located so the stabiliser legs were in good placement, but with the unit close enough to the construction so Logan could place and hold the laminated beam while the chippies attached it. Backing in off the road there was a small bund fronted by a surface drain that could have been an issue when locating the Hino in its ideal possie. Had the rear axle not been able to lift as far it may have caught the bund and taken some of the truck‘s weight, leaving the drive wheels scratching for grip. “It‘s working really well. See how far it comes up?” Dave pointed as the axle lifted. He showed us a patch of netting over a hole in the rear alloy guard. “It‘s there because the wheels poke through when they‘re right up.” Logan fired up the Palfinger 63002 EH-D PJ170C and in no time flat the lintel was off, in place, and the builders went to work.

“I went for Palfinger again. There are two things I like about them. When the boom‘s travelling on the deck they have good clearance at the rear for carrying long lengths, and the other is their parts warehouse. It‘s like Santa‘s cave,” laughed Dave. “If something happens and we need any part, it‘s always there the next day. We could have had a longer boom with this one, but it‘s always a trade-off between tare and payload, so this setup with the fly jib is ideal.” At full stretch with the fly jib, the crane will place 1320kg just over 22m away, and without, 3700kg at 13.75m. Tare is 6236kg for the crane plus 1395kg when the jib‘s on, so she‘s a fair old chunk of kit.

Photos: Lift the Detroit motor into the refurbished hauler, inside a building. Finesse is really the key here.

T‘ for team, ‘T‘ for Taylors
Working together is obviously part and parcel on the day, and although this was a simple job on the face of it, there was still plenty of cooperation and signalling. A true sign that people are comfortable in their own skillsets is when someone is happy to take cues and guidance even when backing into somewhere they think they can see clearly. Likewise, it‘s when someone is willing to step in and help direct a workmate rather than stand back and see if the other guy stuffs it up. In this context, it was great to watch the family work and it helps explain why none of the gear has bent panels or guards etc. They‘re all in this together. The steel beams got two rides on the Hino and were delivered back to the supplier for reasons we won‘t elaborate on. Back at the yard the next task was a 20‘ container relocation from an engineering workshop to the proprietor‘s new location on the outskirts of town. It gave us the opportunity to talk to 24-yearold Logan. “I‘ve been working for Dad for about three years. I‘ve been in the bush all my working life, starting on the skid with a chainsaw, tape, and can of paint, working my way to cross-cutter, and then on the machines. I enjoyed the life. “I came back to help Dad and Glen out; like everyone they were finding it hard to get people.” Quizzed about succession, Logan was still leaving his options open.

“Yeah maybe, I‘m not sure though, eh? Dad‘s got endless energy, just won‘t stop. We all say ‘you‘ve got nothing left to prove, you should take it easier‘, but he‘s full-on,” he laughed. Soon we were onsite, and Logan manoeuvred the Hino off a service lane into position, sidling carefully alongside the box amid the shrapnel that typically comes with a half-moved business. Having the steering lift axle certainly helps manoeuvring in the tight spaces. Obviously going forward the rear axle is keen to help and Logan says it‘ll go around Gisborne‘s many tight roundabout intersections with no trouble, cutting a much tighter line than the 8×4 700 Series. “The first time I came up to one I thought ‘how‘s this going to go?‘ I took a wide entrance like I would in the other truck but it didn‘t need it, it just whipped around. You can really feel the back axle doing its thing.”

Going backwards the axle locks, but lifting it reduces the wheelbase from 7118mm, to 6455mm, still 500mm longer than the standard truck, but it improves turning immeasurably. Once again the Palfinger made short work of the job, and Logan placed the load carefully on the twist locks. It was a short haul to the destination, and as our customer‘s new neighbour wandered around his paddock randomly shooting passing ducks with a shotgun, the container was placed on a lovely concrete pad, a far better home than the dirt yard it had been in. Owner happy, and we were off. Mission number three was inside a shed, lifting a Detroit motor and transmission into a refurbished log hauler. Backed into position, the engine had to be kept level so that when placed, all the mounting holes lined up. As such, extra time was taken with strops, and chain pulleys, followed by some small test lifts to get things just so and make sure all the stars aligned. Job done, back to base.

Photo: Container on and container off. Some days the Hino‘s so busy darting from one job to the next around Gizzy a casual observer might think there‘s two or three of them.

“It‘s a great project,” said Peter Wilkinson. “That axle lifts so far, it‘s really impressive. We fit a lot of Hendrickson HLM lifting tag axles and they come up about 80mm, but this thing is really impressive. I think it‘s got real potential.” CR Taylor – no two days, no two jobs are the same, and in all reality we were barely scratching the surface. There‘s nothing this family won‘t have a crack at, and their combination of experience and innovative gear makes them such an incredible asset in a difficult region. But the real story here is Dave not walking away at the first ‘No‘. As New Zealanders, giving up at the first hurdle is not supposed to be in our DNA, and it‘s so refreshing to find such resilience alive and well. It‘s how we push the boundaries on development, it‘s how we get the machines we need, it‘s how we get a 10×4 Hino with a lifting castor-steer tag axle that happily tows a trailer. How appropriate it is that New Zealand‘s only commercial rocket launch facility is out in this part of the woods, it‘s a great metaphor for the region. It‘s equally fitting CR Taylor supplies craning services to Rocket Lab when called upon. In their own unique way they‘re both superb examples of can-do innovation, and a belief that nothing‘s impossible.

Acknowledgements Thanks so much to Dave, Glen, Logan, Claire and Marylin for their help and accommodating all our wishes while in Gisborne. A fantastic crew. Thanks also to all the suppliers and people involved in the Hino project for their enthusiastic help.

What‘s not already been said about the Hino 700 Series? It‘s featured a number of times through the years so this is not a road test in our normal guise, it‘s obviously the story of a successful collaborative project and one family‘s persistence to see it through. The 700‘s longevity in our tough market speaks for itself and it‘s a truck that rarely elicits a negative comment from those who have handed over the pingas for one. Obviously in terms of modern tech-based, safety-focused driver aids it‘s now coming up short, and it‘s not alone in that issue; Japanese stablemate Isuzu is the same. Although things are unlikely to stay that way, both marques prove there‘s still a strong demand for a good, affordable truck with less technology and a larger displacement motor, and Rising Sun peers UD and Fuso have pretty much left Hino and Isuzu to it. Outside of applications like the Taylor truck, Hino – and Isuzu – are also filling that stepping stone role to bigger things for many operators, a role trucks like International‘s T- and S-Line filled years back.

Being part of the Sime Darby family here in New Zealand, those bigger things are potentially visible to Hino operators looking ahead, so it gives the truck a definite place or role in Sime Darby‘s suite of offerings. Powering the 700 Series is the overhead camshaft turbo intercooled 12.9-litre E13CVG motor with electronic common rail with Euro 5 clean air via EGR and SCR. It develops 353kW (480PS) at 1800rpm, and peak torque of 2157Nm (1590lb/ft) at 1100rpm. Behind the motor is an Eaton Roadranger RTLO18918B 18-speed manual transmission. Two MF781 front axles at 15,000kg combined rating are up front on semi-elliptical taper leaf springs and shocks, and out back a THD18 rear bogie at 21,000kg rating rides on Hendrickson HAS 460 air suspension, with doubleacting shock absorbers. Way out back is Hendrickson‘s Composilite SCT20 Steerable Lift Axle bearing some of the load, helping steer clear in the tight spots, and getting well out of the way when needed. The 700 Series rides well, steers well, brakes well; we know that.

Photo: The 700 series has been a such a trooper for operators everywhere. Its interior is functional, however the cockpit is a little ‘cosy‘.

Regular readers will also know we think it‘s a well designed cockpit, with a clear dash and nice wrap set-up in the usual manner, with gauges and warning lights in the binnacle, and infotainment, climate, the bulk of switches, and comms on the wrap. Shifter is well placed on a tower, and the handbrake and minor switchgear like loading lights sit behind it in a console. The left wand manages the wipers, and the right indicator, dip, and cruise. The trailer brake is a bit horrendous in terms of visual appeal, rearing out of the dash just under the binnacle like a snakecharmer‘s Cobra, and the binnacle and the wrap are a bit disconnected in terms of design language. The negative has always been and still is the ‘cosiness‘ of the cockpit for big Kiwi blokes. It works, but it‘s all extremely ‘close‘. As Dave said unprompted in the course of conversation, “I have to move the wheel up, my belly doesn‘t really fit in here. I don‘t drive it a lot.” There‘s plenty of light, but it‘s light on storage, with no cab-side lockers even though the cab‘s fat enough to be home to a small bunk. Materials are mainly plastic and vinyl, with felt panels in the ceiling and a bit of imitation woodgrain on the wrap. Cleanability is great. Fit and finish is fine, although there are some big gaps that appear to come as standard, not in terms of workmanship, but looking up into the truck from the ground when you open the door and look in. Some additional panelling under the dash to close it up nicely and give the entrant a feeling they‘re climbing into a first-rate environment would do wonders. Getting in is not a difficult task, with four good steps and grab handles. As Hino works its way through the range we look forward to the 700‘s leap forward. It‘s served the brand so well, and deserves the respect.

“Glen and I were around the business from day dot. I remember a crane in the yard and Dad saying to us ‘if you kids can get it going you can play with it‘. We were off! It needed a battery so we flogged one from one of the other trucks and put in it, but we dropped the crescent across the terminals and blew the battery up! Dad was not happy I tell you!” Dave Taylor laughs out loud. “Our uncle owned a farm and had a bulldozer, so if we weren‘t here we were out there driving that around. It‘s so sad kids today can‘t do that. Can‘t learn from the older guys. It‘s still the best way I reckon. Gets them interested. “Dad was a very clever man. He could do so much. Glen‘s like Dad, really clever, knows lots of stuff, knows all about steel and engineering, what to use where. I‘m a builder so I‘m useful there, and I do a lot of the pricing and planning, meetings, and making it all come together.” Just over 50 years ago, Robbie Taylor founded the business his sons Dave (55) and Glen (54) run today. Initially a building company, Robbie quickly realised other things were needed to get a building finished, and in Gisborne he had to be that guy, so cranes, removals, amenities to builds, crept in where the opportunity presented. That diversification led to more opportunities, and things like municipal pipelines, bridge relocation, and heavy haulage were all soon part of the portfolio.

Photo: David Taylor is managing director of CR Taylor. The ‘never say die‘ attitude it takes he and brother Glen to run their business, got them the unique crane truck they wanted.

“It‘s just thinking about solutions. I remember a bridge years ago, a 40m span, and they were going to get in two big cranes from Napier at huge cost. The spans were welded up on the bank and we built a big pontoon to support them. We then pushed with the bully, and winched from the other side with the house truck. Easy!” But no Kiwi start-up is without character-building moments and tragedy. “We had the depot burn to the ground, that had to be rebuilt from scratch, and 26 years ago Dad died of a heart attack,” said Dave. “Glen and I hadn‘t been in the game that long and you could say we were thrown in at the deep end.” But as we‘ve said, persistence is in the family genes, and again it saw them through. Dave is heavily involved in surf lifesaving in the local area, himself a national and world titleholder, and son Cory has gone on to international notoriety. “It‘s no different from everything else,” said Dave. “I wanted to be a world champion, so I just thought ‘right, who do I have to see to learn how, what do I have to do‘, and I just started ticking the boxes. Eventually you‘ll get there.” Business in the region has never been easy and adaption has been the key. When different industries have been flourishing, Taylors has moulded itself.

Photo: Logan is Dave‘s son. He‘s working in the business currently; succession is still an open question.

around the opportunities: wine, horticulture, forestry, infrastructure; they support whatever needs their skills. “In the heyday we had 25 staff, today there‘s five: me, Glen, Logan, Claire and Marylin, who‘s been with us 24 years. She‘s an integral part of the Taylor team, keeping the office side of the business in order and even piloting the odd load. Anyone els