Top Truck – The manor house

In Top Truck17 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 23, 2018

Bryan Menefy is well known for adding highly specced trucks to his Menefy Trucking Ltd fleet in Palmerston North, and the two latest additions are certainly impressive – a Mack Super Liner with a 60” sleeper cab, and the world‘s first 8-wheeler Volvo 750 tractor unit. 

Bryan says as he got older he wanted a few more creature comforts and decided to look for a little more luxury in his next truck.

“I needed to retire my Ultra Liner. Lee‘s [Bryan‘s son] Super Liner was supposed to be mine; I built it and lost that because it had to go into the fleet. That went on the road in January 2014 and I figured I was never getting that back.”

A trip to the States last October coincided with the release of the Mack Anthem, which Bryan got to drive. “ That was a 72” sleeper and it was something else again. Me being me, I had it in my head and decided I was going to get one that ‘s smaller – the 72” just would not have worked.” While chatting to MTD Trucks general manager Murray Sowerby about other planned projects, Bryan told him he wanted to do something different for his next truck. “I didn‘t think it was going to be a 60”, but it was interesting how that came about. Murray said he knew the location of one in Australia that had been built as a Mack demonstrator. Mack had dropped the truck off with one of their good customers for a week or so to have a look and see if they liked the new style sleepers. Everybody then forgot about it, and the person it was left with rang Mack up after three months and asked when they were coming to pick their truck up! How can somebody forget about a truck that size?

“It was brand spanking new and it was a good price too, although I didn‘t care what it was going to be. I got sent photos of it, it had a bulldog on the front so I was doomed from the start, wasn‘t I!”

The Super Liner is the first 60” USA-style Mack sleeper in the country, and is made from aluminium rather than fibreglass. It arrived in New Zealand in February and was modified at MTD Trucks to Bryan‘s requirements. “It had to get the chassis painted, and the wheelbase done on it – it was actually even longer than that again,” says Bryan. “ There were all sorts of things done to suit me. Australia‘s are all on 11Rs, their diff ratios are all different over there, so before it came here it got a ratio change as well, to suit 275 tyres rather than the 11Rs. It‘s got an MP10 engine obviously, and mDRIVE transmission. It‘s huge!”

The truck was ready for Bryan at the beginning of May, and the trailer a week later.

“Gary Douglas in Palmerston North made the trailer – there‘s just no need to go anywhere else. It‘s a custom-built trailer for that truck – it‘s only 14 metres long. All my other trailers are 15.2 metres but to get a decent deck on it and compensate for the sheer size of the truck, something had to give, and it‘s always the trailer. To gain a bit of deck length back I‘ve put the truck onto an over-length permit, otherwise the trailer would have only been 13.5.” Bryan says a special request had to go through the NZ Transport Agency because of the wheelbase of the tractor unit and there was a fair bit of banter back and forth between NZTA and Gary Douglas Engineering‘s design engineer Dwayne Zander.

“ They were asking who would be doing something like this and why. I‘m not sure about word-for-word, but Dwayne told him, ‘our client does all these weird and wonderful things because he wants to and he can‘ or something to that effect.” Bryan says the size of the truck does mean it‘s a bit of a different beast to drive compared with the rest of his fleet. “It‘s huge. Because of the long wheelbase [5.8m] it‘s going to be a lot harder on tight corners, even the tractor unit in general, by itself, even though the trailer is shorter. I drove Lee‘s one for a year and then the 8-wheeler Super Liner that ‘s now based in Morrinsville for a wee while, so I already know how comfortable and easy to control they are.”

Photo: Bryan Menefy thinks that one day he‘ll have to stop doing these out of the ordinary projects he‘s known for… We‘d like to hope not. 

Bryan works long hours – “Don‘t get me wrong, I‘m not complaining, I‘m doing something that I like” – and the Super Liner is just reward for that. Apart from the mural painted on the back of the cab, the huge truck is very understated; just the way Bryan likes it.

“I haven‘t a need – or a want – to advertise myself in that vehicle. I don‘t need to, especially on my one. The reason I got that truck is the line that I‘ve said forever: ‘because I can‘.” Tony Walton of Custom Art painted the Pink Floyd-themed mural on the rear of the cab, a nod to Bryan‘s love of the band and its music.

The Mack has a different fleet number from the rest of the Menefy trucks.

“ This is number 306, which was my original fleet number of my very first truck as an owner-driver with Owens Tankers. All the others are four-digit numbers that start with 1,” says Bryan.

…moving right along
Not content with persuading MTD Trucks in Palmerston North to build the world‘s first 8-wheeler Mack Super Liner for him about two years ago, Bryan also talked them into building him the world‘s first 8-wheeler FH16 Volvo 750 tractor unit.

“ They weren‘t keen on doing it, but I needed another 8-wheeler in the fleet, another 8-axle semi unit. It only needed to be a 540, but once again, it‘s me you‘re talking to, eh!” Bryan says one day he‘ ll have to stop doing these “silly things”. “ Well, maybe not silly, but these out of the ordinary things. Is it ridiculous to have a 750 when you can only go to 44 tonne? Of course it is, but that 750 is actually 100-odd kilos lighter than the 540. That truck is never even going to get a sweat up.”

Photo: The Menefy Pink Floyd theme continues on in the latest acquisition.

Photo: Up front it‘s a familiar Mack look but turn around and it‘s a whole new world. Even room to walk around.

Bryan says originally he planned to put the unit on a 48.8 tonne HPMV permit, but when he did the maths, it didn‘t stack up.

“ We might be on a unit rate not a tonne rate, so because we‘re not heavy all the time, it doesn‘t actually stack up. That extra four tonne is not worth it. So until it is worth it, it will stay at 44 tonne.”

The Volvo only had 8kms on the clock when it was handed over to driver Phillip Brown (commonly referred to as Dr Phil due to his likeness to the television doctor), who has been with Menefy‘s for about two years.

“I knew there was a new one coming, but exactly what it was I didn‘t know until it arrived,” says Dr Phil. “I was on the road with a new driver when Bryan sent me a couple of photos, with a smart comment about the badge being the wrong way, it should have been 570 not 750!”

Dr Phil was previously driving a 2012 Freightliner Argosy and says there is no comparison between the two trucks. “ The Volvo has so much comfort. It ‘s got a 12-speed auto, TV, fridge, Bluetooth and USB ports, heated seats – all the bits and pieces that help you keep dry and warm and comfortable.” When you climb into the cab you‘re confronted with more storage than most homes – there are pull-out trays on the centre console, a glovebox, shelves above the doors and along the back wall of the cab next to the bed, as well as overhead lockers.

The cab has all the mod cons such as an under-bunk fridge with freezer, fridge and chiller compartments, and a TV with remote. The bed is a decent size and the flat floor cab makes it easy to move around inside the truck. There are blackout curtains as well as a blackout cover for the sunroof. The sunroof also features an insect screen so it can be left open when sleeping. Outside there are two deep storage lockers on each side of the truck for tools and equipment. Dr Phil says the Volvo has great visibility from the cab too, and that he can see what the trailer‘s doing all the time. It‘s also incredibly smooth on the road and has unbelievable pick-up.

“ With 750 horsepower it just instantly responds. Once you get yourself up to a certain speed you set the cruise control and cruise along with it. The power on it just makes everything so easy, you just glide along, and you‘re not physically drained when you finish. You do a full day ‘s work and you get out at the end of it and you‘re so relaxed.”

Based in Palmerston North, Dr Phil goes wherever the load needs to go.

Photo: If power‘s your thing then the FH16 750 is pretty much where it‘s at…globally.

Photo: Phillip Brown, a.k.a Dr Phil, drives the Menefy 750. “The power just makes everything so easy, you just glide along, and you‘re not physically drained when you finish.” 

Photo: Bryan Menefy had the semis for both trucks built by local engineer Gary Douglas. “There‘s no need to go anywhere else.” 

“ That can be anywhere from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and anywhere in between. The loads I‘m carrying vary all the time. It can be concrete, steel, scrap steel, containers. On that trailer I did two jet boat motors that were about 19 tonne out of Christchurch to Auckland. Today I‘ve got a load of scrap cars heading for Te Puke.” The Volvo has a new Gary Douglas flat deck trailer that went on the road in January, initially being towed behind the Freightliner to break it in.

Dr Phil has been driving trucks for 21 years and says he has done a bit of produce work, and on transporters moving houses. He has also done a lot of trombone work, shifting long loads like crane gantries.

“I like that with this job every day is different – different roads, different loads, different challenges, no two days are ever the same. You go somewhere different and see different faces.” Bryan says Dr Phil is an excellent operator. “He is very clever when it comes to operating our specialised step-deck trombone trailer so he does lots of my oversize work.” When the Volvo was purchased it did not have the Swedish flag painted on it.

“ That ‘s me being different again, and putting different things on,” Bryan says. “I saw that blue one [with the same flag paint job] and I thought ‘man, that looks really striking‘, and I thought ‘that ‘s what I want on mine‘, so that ‘s where the idea came from.”