Second Test, November 2016 – Quon provides the solution

10 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJune 13, 2017

Davinder operates two Auckland-based UD trucks, a 4-wheeler in Mainfreight‘s Metro division, and his new CW26-380AS, working in Owens colours delivering general freight from Auckland north to Warkworth and Wellsford and the surrounding areas.

The run the UD does has a variable workload and the truck tows a 2-axle trailer two to five days a week depending on the load.

Davinder spent the first few months after he got the run servicing it with a rental unit while he looked for the ideal truck – a search that proved elusive. Two hundred and eighty horsepower was not enough to comfortably handle the steep route north on SH1,  specially when fully loaded with a trailer behind. On the other hand, trucks above 400hp were overpowered and fuel hungry.
UD Trucks‘ 380hp 26 tonne GVM CW series Quon fitted his needs and filled the gap perfectly.

The truck‘s relatively low full size cab, its power and torque, quality running gear and traditional UD strength combined to make an impossible-to-beat option for Davinder. He wanted an 8.2-metre body and the UD‘s 6530mm wheelbase handled that need comfortably too.

On the day we did the run north in the UD, Davinder started at 5am. It normally takes about an hour and a half to load the truck and it‘s the driver‘s job to stack the load to facilitate unloading at the various delivery points. There‘s a range of general freight from farm gates to truck tyres to tiny loose packets weighing only a couple of kilograms. But the large Elite curtainsider has plenty of room and a removable mezzanine floor enhances load capacity in the front half of the body.

The cab and chassis has a dry tare of 8200kg or a wet tare of 8620kg. UD‘s 300mm deep, 8mm thick chassis is built for permanence, and the long body and Zepro tail lift bring this truck‘s tare up to 11,790kgs. Massive 385/55R22.5 super singles give it an increased front axle load capacity. The truck pulls out of Owens Southdown yard at 7am and it only takes about 10 minutes before we‘re crossing the harbour bridge. We are surprised at how little traffic is heading this way in the rush hour and Davinder points out traffic was an important consideration when he took on the run and he was pleasantly surprised to find that the trip out of town is usually this easy. On the motorway the UD is unexpectedly nimble for a truck of this size.

Gear changes are unnecessary on the first part of the route; we‘re about 20 tonne all up and the UD handles it with no sign of engine stress or down changes. Davinder says that although the UD AMT changes are noisier (there is often an audible clunk, especially at low speeds) than other AMTs he has driven, the transmission changes at more useful engine revs.

He often makes manual changes in the other trucks, but always leaves the UD in auto mode. Shortly after we come off the toll road, we turn into the little settlement of Puhoi to drop a pallet off at a farm. The road up to the farm is steep, narrow, and twisty, and what‘s more it has overhanging branches that can‘t be avoided by the 4.25-metre high body. Both Davinder and the truck are used to this in their rural freight role. Davinder leaves it in auto and the truck doesn‘t complain. He doesn‘t complain about the branches  scratching the body either, although he‘s fussy about a tidy truck and the impression it creates – it‘s all part of the job.

At the end of the road we have to turn around using a steep metal driveway; it‘s clear that four drive wheels are a big asset in a situation like this. Davinder remarks about how good the steering lock is – even with the long wheelbase and wide front tyres, the ruck turns well in the confined space.

With the UD parked on the steep drive, Davinder drops the tail lift and unstraps the neatly mounted pallet jack to offload a heavy piece of machinery on a pallet. A tail lift is essential in the truck‘s role, but given the weight of the delivery and the soft uneven ground, it‘s all he can do to get the delivery clear of the driveway.

The next section of SH1 takes in Schedewys Hill; it‘s a good test of any truck, but the UD hardly notices it. The gearbox drops three or four gears to get around the notoriously tight turn halfway up the hill, but it probably didn‘t need to change down so far with full torque available at only 950rpm and the green zone starting at 900rpm.

On the run from Windy Ridge down the viaduct hill we get a chance to check out the performance of the engine brake.

The body has plenty of capacity and a practical, removeable mezzanine floor in the front section.

It‘s a 4-stage system that operates progressively on the exhaust and engine. It‘s very effective and Davinder usually leaves it in second stage, except when he needs a bit more bite towing a full trailer or coming down steep driveways and farm tracks. Another noticeable feature of the truck is how smooth it rides. UD Trucks‘ 8-bag air suspension may well be as good as any European air suspension. The V-rod system ensures excellent handling and it is probably well over-engineered for this truck‘s role. Davinder finds the adjustable height feature invaluable in some sites too. For a cabover, the comfort is impressive.

In Warkworth there are a number of deliveries to handle, all to commercial sites, and most are handled by forklift. As the country north of Auckland is gradually opened up by better roading, Warkworth is booming, some significant businesses are operating and we‘ll have several biggish loads to return into Auckland. One of Owens‘ customers provides Davinder with 60 full pallets a week to go back to Auckland. But before picking them up, we have to make a couple of deliveries further north in Wellsford.

The UD romps north; it‘s near enough to empty and acceleration is impressive, and there are no rattles from the truck or body. The deliveries are made before Davinder takes a break, and picks up his Auckland return loads. While Davinder likes the calmness long spells behind the wheel provide in line haul work, he thrives on the energy of general freight. He says, “You‘re home at the end of the day – that‘s the best part of it.” He‘s a master of customer service and communication and is warmly greeted at regular sites, where he ensures his customers are well looked after.

Davinder is delighted with the truck and reckons he will own more UDs over time. We agree that it‘s a great truck and we have to agree that it would be hard, if not impossible, to find a better option to fit the young operator‘s practical and inspirational needs.