In Iveco, August 20218 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 20, 2021

Italy is a highly mountainous country, with approximately one-third of its terrain home to large peaks. The country contains part or all of Europe’s most notable summits, including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. With this geography in mind, it is no wonder that Iveco has created a mountaineer that has found itself a home in New Zealand’s alpine south.

Operating out of the Queenstown branch of Bidfood Foodservice, this 2018 Eurocargo ML150 4×4 was built with a specific task in mind, namely scale the alpine roads of the local ski fields and withstand the winter-road challenges of ice and snow.

The commission of this build was an investment in servicing these key winter accounts and provides customers with a level of certainty and consistency of delivery that wasn’t possible within the existing fleet, while future-proofing available capacity.

Colder inside than out? Maybe not.

While the truck is used primarily for regular Cardrona deliveries, it sometimes services The Remarkables, Treble Cone and Coronet Peak ski fields in tandem with a smaller Fuso Canter 4×4. Versatility in accessing multiple delivery points and unloading options was critical.

Overseeing the build and sourcing of the chassis fell to the late Dan Magrath, who was Bidfood’s national fleet manager. Dan was an outstanding member of the Bidfood team, with a passion that is sorely missed. He was honoured with the moniker ‘Dan’s Legacy’ painted on the front of the truck.

The Iveco chassis was chosen at the end of March 2018, not through any rigorous analysis of options, but more due to its availability for what was a short window until the truck had to be ready for winter operations in June.

A Monsta delivery for Coronet Peak.

Automated Truck Body Solutions in Tauranga was appointed to build and fit the 5.8m isothermal body. This presented Neil Callaghan and his team with some challenges, as the body would need rear and left-hand side door access and a tail lift, in keeping with the versatility theme. The fuel tank was moved to the right-hand side to accommodate the step up to the side door, and the air tanks were moved further under the chassis to allow the Dhollandia foldaway tail lift a nesting place.

With a re-rated GVM of 14,200kg and an operational capacity of 5660kg, a carrier Supra 550 refrigeration unit was fitted by Transcold Group. Shod with 11R 22.5 rubber, the overall ruggedness and inherently practical nature of the unit is softened nicely with exterior detailing by Write-On Signs. The project was delivered in time for the southern ski season.

Upon arrival at the Queenstown depot, it was fitted with a set of ladder chains for front and rear wheels and was immediately given the moniker of ‘Monsta’ thanks to its size. It towers above the all-Fuso fleet in the yard.

From left: Von Valley views; Remarkables Ski Field delivery; Road to Cardrona – mid-winter. Photos: Bidfood.

The access road to Cardrona is unsealed, and during winter, it handles multiple cars, busses and trucks, which impacts its condition. Added to the challenge is the accumulation of ice and snow. Although the road has a manageable gradient, there are numerous steeper pinches, tight corners and exposure that means confidence in machinery and driver is needed. The Bidfood Queenstown branch only uses drivers who are appropriately skilled in alpine driving to pilot the Monsta. They are generally snow sports enthusiasts themselves, having experience on the roads to the various fields. It is not uncommon for the drivers to park up after a delivery and get a few sneaky runs in – which the branch strongly encourages.

Currently, the two men with this honour are Athol Speden and Philippe Gauthier. Athol joined the Bidfood Queenstown team from Big Chill in mid-2020, established himself quickly as a key team member and is training and mentoring the younger drivers. He’s a Kiwi with a great personality and outstanding work ethic. Philippe has been with the company only a couple of months, having decided he needed to return to his truck-driving roots after working as a butcher in Queenstown for the past two years. He grew up in the French Alps – his parents were involved in the meat industry, and he handled truck deliveries for them in his early years. He moved to New Zealand 14 years ago with his Kiwi wife and their two boys.

The Iveco, not the ideal build for the open road, comes into its own once off the seal. It is torqued to climb all day and would give renowned Italian mountaineer Walter Bonatti a run for his money, with the six-cylinder Tector F4A 5.9-litre diesel and six-speed manual gearbox solidly driving it upwards when fully laden. This Euro-5 unit puts out 208kW (279hp) and 950Nm (701lb/ft), more than sufficient for the task at hand. It may not be the most economical to run, but the consistency it delivers ensures ongoing business for the branch.

Carrying a mix of produce frozen, chilled, and dry goods, the Iveco has a 10-pallet capacity, which is more than adequate for a five-day-a- week delivery schedule.

The Monsta has become synonymous with these peaks.

Near the upper reaches of the access roads, conditions may dictate chains are needed. Generally, the field operator makes the call, but the driver will sometimes err on the side of caution and fit the chains, typically to the rears. However, it is not unusual to fully chain up to ensure maximum manoeuvrability and safety. Doing so takes about 30 minutes.

Although it is an expensive piece of equipment for five months of the year, it has been used during the summer for bespoke deliveries to out-of-the-way places such as Bluff’s South Port and Walter Peak via the back road through the Von Valley.

Over the past three years, the Iveco has been a regular sight around the region and proved itself a solid and reliable performer with no mechanical issues. It is a unique vehicle on some unique alpine roads, with Dan leaving a truly Monsta legacy. The Monsta was also immortalised as the July truck in the New Zealand Trucking 2020 calendar.