In Top Truck, International4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 19, 2020

The Kiwi-designed and built International 9870 has found acceptance with operators the length and breadth of New Zealand since its debut in 2015. This month‘s New Zealand Trucking magazine Top Truck hails from the Deep South and has both practicality and good looks in abundance.

Located on the eastern outskirts of Invercargill is the headquarters of family-owned K. G. Richardson Group (KGR), whose diverse portfolio of business interests encompass timber, property, and transport. KGR‘s road transport lineage stretches back several decades to when the family operated trucks carrying sawn timber from its mill at Niagara – 75km east of Invercargill – to market. The group‘s McNeill brand has a strong connection with Southland and Otago. Operating initially in the drilling and pumping industry, McNeill‘s immaculate fleet of bright red truck-mounted drill rigs have been a familiar sight on exploration and civil engineering projects in the south for decades. In 2019, the drilling and pumping business was sold, leaving the McNeill name focused on trucking. McNeill Distribution had its beginnings in 2005, looking after KGR‘s cartage requirements as well as servicing a base of outside customers.

The current McNeill fleet numbers about 70 trucks, with a sizable proportion of the fleet focused on the cartage of logs, timber, and wood residuals. Fleet number 312, an International 9870SFA, entered the fleet in late 2019 and has clocked up 110,000km in the hands of regular driver Jacob Mackenzie, carrying wood chip, growing media, fertiliser, and aggregate around the lower South Island. Jacob has spent most of his driving career with McNeill‘s. He stepped out of a Kenworth K200 prior to taking on the 9870, and although still a staunch Kenworth fan, he is complimentary of the International. “It‘s a good truck, simple and basic,” he said. “Everything in the cab is located where you need it to be, and it‘s an easy office to keep clean.” Jacob also commented how well the International handles on the open road.

Photo: Jacob Mackenzie has spent a large part of his driving career with McNeill Distribution.

Cowan Trailers of Rangiora built the alloy truck body and trailer, which have a joint cubic capacity of 85m3. Bin size and obtainable payload, plus the full-size tailgates, complete with integral grain doors and elliptical covers, make this 9870 a versatile unit in all areas of bulk cartage. Tare combined with the ability to buy a truck utilising standard running gear were the primary reasons Tony Thompson, distribution manager for McNeill‘s, chose the 9870 ahead of its competitors. As the assembly plant is in New Zealand, availability of the truck suited their requirements and Tony mentioned Intertruck Distributors was good to deal with throughout the process. International trucks and Cummins power plants have a lineage stretching back to the ACCO era of the mid 1970s. Tony specced the 9870 with an X-15 E5 SCR Cummins engine producing 430kW (580hp) and 2508Nm (1850lb/ft) of torque. A manual Eaton Fuller RTLO-20918B transmission turns the 275/70 R22.5 size tyres by way of 4.1:1 ratio Meritor RT 46-160GP rear axles that ride on International‘s IROS rear air suspension. Southland has probably harboured the largest number of red trucks per capita for decades, and McNeill‘s tasteful livery combined with some subtle line work and several polished stainless additions make the 9870 a standout on the southern roads.

Photo: The competitive tare offered by International‘s 9870 has seen two join the McNeill Distribution fleet.