WORLD FIRST Fat-cab! Long rails! Eight feet!

In Kenworth, Tests42 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJanuary 8, 2019

New Zealand is home to a Kenworth world first. A 2.8m Fat- Cab Aerodyne on an 8×4 rigid truck. What makes the story even better is that it couldn‘t have gone to a more appropriate first time new truck owner, or for that matter, been painted in a more fitting livery.

Photo: Powering off the bottom of the Mangawekas. Looking the part.

We‘ve done it again. A Hillary, Rutherford, Britten, Quincy, Hamilton, Jackson, Beck, sort of moment. When the rest of the world was saying “Yeah nah”, we just said, “Actually, yeah”. And there it was, a gleaming new Kenworth K200 8×4 2.8m Fat-Cab Aerodyne, sitting with all the Mainfreight line haul trucks being loaded in ‘01‘, the affectionate nickname Big Blue gives to their Otahuhu head office and terminal complex.

True blue Kiwi
It‘s fitting that fleet number 20058, registration LPU627, has found its first home with a Mainfreight owner-driver. As Kiwis we‘re quite adept at challenging the rest of the world‘s beliefs and boundaries, but we can be hard on those attempting to shine from within our own ranks. If there was ever a national symbol for not letting the knockers, naysayers, and underminers stand between your dreams, aspirations and what you think is possible, it‘s Mainfreight. Born out of one man‘s energy and vision it‘s now a global brand. Achieving that in any field is a mesmerising act of tenacity; doing it in trucking simply boggles the mind. Like anything with a soul, Mainfreight is made up of thousands of individual autonomous cells, all contributing to create a single giant being. Duggan Transport 2015 Ltd is one of those, and like any living cell, it‘s a minute representation of the company whose livery the Kenworth is adorned in.

A one-man, one-truck operation, he‘s driven, energetic, smart, with a well-formulated plan he‘s enacting day by day. We‘ve never had the privilege of meeting Mainfreight founder Bruce Plested, but we‘d hazard a guess that the early 1970‘s version wasn‘t too far removed from a Cory Duggan type, customer focused, and opinionated with no room or time for idiots, and in Cory‘s case all framed in everything that‘s great about a rural Kiwi upbringing. There are no airs or graces and he‘ll shake the hand of a King while helping someone out of the gutter, and call them both “Mate!” Actually, if you read last month‘s main test, a Shane Laurence kind of pea in a very different pod.

Photo: Truck and trailer backed into the dock at the Aotea Quay terminal.

Photo: The clean lines of the whole unit are best exemplified in the smooth back doors.

Five a fortnight
Duggan Transport Ltd 2015 Ltd runs on the classic five returns a fortnight between Auckland and Wellington, mirrored by another unit doing the same. We weren‘t far into the world of deregulated road transport, but regulated driving hours, when five a fortnight between the big show in the north and the capital started to represent a consistently doable roster for linehaul freight trucks running end-to-end with a single driver. Cory will roll out of 01 around the 6pm mark, give or take, and roll onto the Mainfreight Aotea Quay terminal in ‘Jacindaville‘ at around 3am to 4am.
It‘s then a case of back the trailer onto the dock, unhook, back the truck in alongside the trolley, open all the doors, pin them back, and then retire to the small apartment building between the driver‘s seat and headboard. Rest, and repeat. Two one week, three the next. Five a fortnight.

Photo: All loaded up with somewhere to go. ‘Bustin‘ outta Dodge!‘

Photos: Two famous trucking scenes on Kiwi roads we‘re about to lose. The Paremata Bridge and Pukerua Bay/Kapiti section of SH1.

From barge to trolley
Prior to the Fat-Cab Cory ran on the same roster with a K108E 2.3m Aerodyne 8×4 tractor and 15.1m hard-side quad semi. His original intention was to replace like with like, but Mainfreight were keen to switch to truck and trailer. Negotiations between two robust business entities commenced, and the result is what you see adorning the cover. “I‘ve ended up spending a bit more than I‘d planned, but plans can change, and this has worked out fine. As long as you do your homework, it‘s all good. I can see the logic from a freight volume point of view for sure, and all going well I‘ll get two truck lives out of the bodies. We‘ll see.”

Photos: Access in and around the engine is easy. Plenty of room for big red under the enormous shed, although it almost looked a little lonely.

There‘s no disputing that at this juncture in New Zealand‘s weights and dimensions history the truck and trailer is top of the pops in all but a few applications. Even with the ‘Grand Hotel Duggan‘ along for the nightly ride, the 7.1m and 11.250m internal truck and trailer body measurements mean Cory can still put 36 CHEP on the deck. The racking in the trailer unit allows for pallets up top, or long freight. All up there‘s 160 cubic metres of cavity available for freight. The truck tares at 14,700kg with two full diesel tanks and a full DEF tank, and the aluminium 5-axle trailer tips the scales at a striking six and three-quarter tonnes. The unit runs at straight 50MAX. It‘s pointless going any higher as cube more often than not rules the roost, as is often the case on this style of work.

Hard decisions (not really)
One of the most striking and unashamedly beautiful things about the unit is the magnificent Jackson Enterprises hard-side set-up. If you‘re into clean lines and no clutter, then this would surely be a utopic combination. No buckles and no curtains to fade, rip, discolour and get generally tatty, but no side access either. Initially you think Cory must work in a specialist division, but no, he‘s in the general freight circuit. “Some of Mainfreight‘s top brass were in the States a while back and looking at how they did it over there. It‘s all pretty much hard-side there. The more they looked the more they liked what they saw, so decided to start rolling it out here in places,” said Cory. “Volume‘s not an issue for us, there is always plenty of palletised and other suitable product moving. The ramps connect the dock to the truck, the forks load us up. Just like the refrigerated boys really, it‘s great.”

And Cory was right, anything goes. On arrival in Wellington in the early morning, amidst the plethora of shrink-wrapped pallets on board was a huge steel thing strapped to a base that looked like something out of a Mad-Max movie – we still don‘t know what it was exactly. It was palletised and fitted, so it went on. The body system saves a lot of time. Again, no curtains to close and far less faffing around with restraints. Like a reefer, shoring bars can be placed almost anywhere you like. It‘s a tightly sealed box of bits and pieces that aren‘t going anywhere but the consigned destination. In fact, with the container lock arms running top to bottom inside the door skins, the untrained transport eye would wonder how you got in at all.

Into the wild blue yonder
Loaded, shut, locked, hooked-up, chocks out, and in gear. Cory dipped the clutch, did the old half-release so the gear level slotted into its first gear home, a full dip and release and the garden fresh X15 gave a slight grumble, protesting the load placed upon it, and slowly LPU627‘s 23 metres of magnificence rolled out of the terminal into a glorious setting sun. Does it get much better? We‘d say probably not. Reality replaced romance at this point, and Cory eased the unit over the weighbridge to ensure everyone in the axle and gross weight departments was happy. “There‘s no use giving money to the government that you don‘t have to. The trailers have scales via the WABCO SmartBoard, and there are scales going onto the truck, but it‘s still a good precaution to check weigh.” Cory‘s loader guessed we‘d be right, and he was bang on. The truck was well under the 50 tonne GCM it‘s permitted for.
Out through industrial Auckland we merged into the Southern Motorway traffic at Mt Wellington. The Kenworth joined the flow effortlessly and somewhere under the immense floor area the X15 burbled away happily in its beautiful throaty note as Cory worked his way up the Roadranger‘s shift chart. Just over the crest of the Manurewa hill at 7.10pm we passed his opposite, Glen Searle, in the Freightliner Argosy owned by Kevin Aldridge. “Bloody hell he‘s early! He must have left about 11.30 this morning,” said Cory. Sure enough the phone rang shortly after with a happy sounding fellow passing vital road information and wishing us well on the journey he‘d almost completed.

Photo: Hard to fault. The hard-side set-up works a treat.

Like Gary Ngatai in the Gundesen DAF we reviewed in July, Cory opts for the National Park route as his regular track to hack between the cities. “There‘s just too much going on down number one now. Around the lake, and through the Desert there are some interesting antics. Keeping to your own side of the road seems to be an increasingly challenging thing for some. The Park‘s quieter and those who use it know it. I‘d far, far rather come down here.” A right turn at Otorohanga and down through Te Kuiti, past one of our ‘favourite‘ pieces of road, the subsiding SH3 on the Te Kuiti hill. We are a first world country, people. We must be.
Just look at all the orange cones and rails we‘ve been able to buy in the past 20 years. Anyway, a run down State Highway 4 at night, through the King Country to Taumarunui, is always a good cause for a discussion on New Zealand‘s own haunted highway, and Cory remembers one deathly calm night about 18 months ago running down through here in the K108E when he saw a tree on the side of the road just south of Mapiu that was waving around and going nuts, all by itself, like it was in a gale force wind. “I don‘t know, but it was bloody weird at the time as nothing else was moving at all, it was as calm as anything.” As the Kenworth charged on we looked into the mirrors; the lights on ‘Big Jacko‘ hooked up to the rear told us he was following the truck‘s line up past the Piriaki lookout impeccably.

Photo: Cory laments the increasing loss of on-road camaraderie.

A house built on rock, not sand
This month‘s test is really all about the shed. Under the floorboards it‘s all well proven spec for a big bug. Yes, in some ways it‘s a shame that the days are gone when you had the option of speccing your new K‘dub with either a Caterpillar or Detroit as well, but this is the era we live in and let‘s not take anything away from one of internal combustion‘s greatest brands. We know the Cummins X15 Euro 5 engine well and have been over its vitals a multitude of times. Cory‘s is set at 448kW (600hp) at 1600rpm and 2780Nm (2050lb/ ft) of torque from 1,150rpm to 1.500rpm. Behind it is the Roadranger RTLO20918B manual gearbox. Front axles are Meritor FG941 on parabolic leaves and shocks, and out back are RT46-160GP axles at 3.91:1 on AG460 steel pedestal 8-bag air suspension.
It‘s worth noting Cory‘s not necessarily opposed to the AMT option when it comes to changing gears. “There‘s still a considerable price difference in favour of the manual,” he said. “It‘s all I‘ve ever known so it‘s no biggie, just take what you know and bank the money. I‘ll certainly reassess things next time around and see where it‘s all at. I‘ve got no big beef either way.”
Brakes are drum with EBS and ABS. Also present as standard are Drag Torque Control (DTC) which prevents wheels locking under auxiliary braking (the old seat-foamsucking ‘Jake brake‘ lock-up), and Automatic Traction Control (ATC). Today‘s Kenworth can be specified with Electronic Brake Safety Systems (EBSS), which is essentially the full Monty of modern safety features including stability programmes, trailer response management, and active cruise with brakes.
It‘s a bullet-proof spec for sure and there‘s nothing in there that‘s going to keep Cory awake at night (or day, depending on when he leaves).

On the way down the Kenworth romped up the north side of the Mangawekas in 6th high split at 1300rpm and just under 50km/h. Coming home with the weight much closer to 50 tonne, the Taihape Deviation had her down to 5th high split, 1750rpm and about 42km/h. It‘s an interesting conversation with Cory on the ERG versus the X15. Cory‘s journey down the EGR path was pretty much a mirror of most. An immensely capable engine performancewise: “Went like a rocket”, but with a copybook blotted with “Oh, ya bloody joking” moments. EGR coolers, turbos, and other annoying things ‘interrupted play‘ on a semi-regular basis. “It was a totally different engine to this eh? When the EGR ran out of steam it ran out of steam! If you thought ‘Yeah she‘ll make it over the crest‘ and then it didn‘t, you were scrambling. Best bet was to keep her humming. This is different. It‘s got a lot more hold in the bottom end, and I‘m getting used to it; I‘ve been changing down at about 1300rpm. I‘m not in the groove of seeing the important gauges where they tend to be when she‘s hanging on down low,” he laughs. One area the X15 doesn‘t score higher than its predecessor in Cory‘s mind is engine braking.
“It certainly doesn‘t have the hold-back of the Jake in the old motor.” That said, there‘s still plenty of assistance with a peak retardation of 447kW (600hp) at the top end of the tachometer. It‘s nothing like the retarders in some of the European gear nowadays, but we still have a safety concern regarding some aspects of high-performance retardation in terms of operator behaviour. We‘re more comfortable seeing big gear on steep declines at speeds allowing them to stop in one or two times their length, rather than speeds that have them over the top of the obstruction before the foot‘s even on the brake.
You could still smell the plastic wrapping the X15 came in, she‘s that new, only just on the cusp of ticking off her first dozen runs up and down the line. At that stage Cory hadn‘t done a download of metrics to date. Given the work and run, we‘d like to think a burn around the low 2.0kpl could be expected in time with settling and familiarisation.

OMGoodness – what a ride
The National Park route is always a good track to sort out your truck‘s ride. The high-speed dips, rises and corners, along with its patched and uneven surface, will test the engineering algorithms of any design team. Quite frankly the ride in the Fat-Cab 8×4 is among the best we‘ve ever encountered. The sheer length in the cab and wheelbase of the truck means the bumps and jostling the road attempts to inflict on you have zero impact. As it is, since the arrival of the K200 with its engine relocated slightly further back among other embellishments, the ‘Kenworth ride knockers club‘ have largely been telling the world more about themselves whenever they speak than the ride in a cabover Kenworth. A series of ruts and bumps will approach, and you‘ll only feel a gentle rise and fall. Like the higher end 4-bag Euro rides, you can sense the various layers of suspension doing the work below, but air seat or not, the occupants, along with all the gear in the lockers, simply glide over the top, and all at about 68 to 70dB depending on workload.
As for cornering, the cab mounts with cantilever and shock set-up in the front all hold the big shed firm. Cory said it‘s certainly not as flat through the corners as the old girl and that‘s taking some getting used to. “She leans over more than the old girl.” With the heavier weight, longer wheelbase, and 8-bag set-up, an adjustment period is inevitable. It‘s a sublime environment for the midnight march up or down the island, comparable to the ride in the Ranui Actros – with a tad less roll in the bends, and a touch more rumble in the cab. Now that‘s saying something. Cory simply said this: “It‘s bloody great isn‘t it? The ride in itself is worth the extra.”

‘Looks aren‘t everything.‘ Yeah right!
The overall look of the truck is stunning. The length of the body carries the cab length and it will be interesting to see what some of the others in the pipeline look like with shorter bodies. The 6640mm wheelbase does mean the truck has the turning circle of a grader, but in this application that won‘t really be an issue.
Cory‘s been restrained on what went on it in terms of quantity of extras, but the impact of what he has done is significant. The biggest visual statements are the deep Kent Weld front bumper, the stainless drop visor, and the Superchrome alloy wheels. Two hundred-odd lights are placed in traditional locations following body, roof and cab lines, with a line lower on the diesel tanks also. We loved the use of black Kenworth mud flaps that help the whole unit blend with its bitumen playground rather than reflecting off it. Helping Cory put the whole rig together was Southpac‘s Mark O‘Hara, who Cory said couldn‘t do enough from the outset. Cory said he‘d like to thank Mark for all he‘s done; it‘s been a great experience. Likewise, the much-anticipated Fat- Cab 8×4 that Mark‘s been lobbying for is at last here. “It‘s been a great build, when you think of the journey we‘ve been on to get it here (see sidebar). Cory‘s a great customer too, enthusiastic and he knows what he wants. The truck‘s going to work for its keep and it‘s come up looking superb,” said Mark.

It‘s almost scandalous how easy it is to slip from Auckland to Wellington or vice-versa in a top end line haul truck in 2018.
When you think back to the likes of RFL, Modern Freighters, and even Matt Thompson‘s fledgling Car Haulaways back in the day, the gear they had, and the roads they plied; it‘s little wonder a culture of camaraderie evolved between men from all companies. Sadly, although the gear has come light years and the old timers would find the weights we cart incomprehensible, the price we‘ve paid for it all is the flame slowly diming on ‘roadsmanship‘ – a word of our own sculpting that refers to the etiquette of driving. Booking times, logbooks, and KPIs have brought a sterility to the industry. An ‘I would stop if I could, but I can‘t‘ approach in many. Cory certainly laments what‘s happening, and believes one driver acknowledging another is something we should fight to keep alive.
“What‘s wrong with just offering a friendly wave or flash of the lights to someone else ploughing through the day or night on their own? There‘s enough against us at the moment. I‘ll always do it.”
We rolled across the Manawatu and down the Kapiti Coast. The Kenworth devoured the kilometres with consummate ease. Into the Mainfreight Aotea Quay terminal and Cory backed into the unload/reload position on the docks and opened the doors on both units. His night was over; however the Kenworth‘s certainly wasn‘t. Effortlessly hauling a load south was only the start of the truck‘s ROI for that night. The next task was to assume the role of upmarket accommodation, and as we sloped off to our average motel, Cory settled in for a rock solid sleep.

There‘s no doubt Kiwis ‘own‘ the 8×4 configuration in this part of the world. If anyone‘s going to snap up the 2.8 Fat-Cab Kenworth on an 8×4 chassis it‘s going to be us, and at the rate interest is increasing you might as well say the horse has well and truly bolted. But a truck at the end of the day is still a tool of utility. The sole purpose of its existence is putting food on the tables of those who own and drive them. Since the moment the road transport industry was deregulated, and oceans became our only boundaries, the sleeper cab has found relevance here in New Zealand. Once upon a time packing for a week away on a truck was not the common form of the job; now it‘s a prerequisite of literally thousands of driving positions. For many, living in a cab like this is preferable to some seedy motel. To guys like Cory Duggan it‘s all that, and a business decision too. It‘s dollars and cents. He‘ll tell you his reasoning for every box ticked in the specifying of this machine, and how it affects his business for the better, be it now or in a few years‘ time. This truck is no indulgence; it‘s part of a plan belonging to someone who sees its role in achieving a broader goal. This truck works…in every conceivable way.


The birth of a Fat-Cab 8×4 rigid
Cory deals with Southpac‘s Mark O‘Hara for sales and account management. Mark was kind enough to give us some time and explain how the 8×4 Fat-Cab arrived on the scene.
“It‘s been a four-year process all told I guess. We had a lower North Island client approach us about that long ago wanting one. We approached Bayswater at the time but there was a lot that needed doing to make it work. It‘s not an easy thing to do; there‘s all kinds of production and tooling considerations,” said Mark. “Essentially the issue was the location of the second steer in relation to the cab and guards when the suspension was at full deflection and wheels at full lock. There was a ‘coming together‘. We kept asking the question, and put forward ideas. It‘s not uncommon for us [Southpac] to undertake extensive finishing work. New Zealand‘s requirements with things like the body‘s proximity to the cab mean we do a lot of air ducting fabrication. But in this instance the fix was quite big and you‘ve got to have a business case that stacks up for all parties.” Time went on and eventually a large Tasmanian client embarked on a PBS project that involved a number of 8×4 rigid trucks and they wanted the 2.8m cab also. This bolstered the business case considerably.

Many readers will know Melbourne-based Phil Webb, PACCAR‘s off-highway manager for special projects. “Phil worked in New Zealand for quite some time and knows the country and major clients well. He‘s still often involved in the building of the off-highway log trucks,” explained Mark. “He‘s a fantastic guy. He‘s been with PACCAR since 1971, and what he doesn‘t know about a Kenworth isn‘t worth knowing, and he‘s so knowledgeable about New Zealand. Phil was involved in the Tasmanian project but in the end that didn‘t come to anything even though a lot of groundwork was done. We kept our foot on the gas pedal and said there‘s certainly a market here, and Phil was very supportive of our case.” One of the keys to nailing it was the decision to put 295/60 22.5 tyres on the steer and 275/70 22.5 on the drive. “Not only has this helped with clearance, but it‘s also aided in levelling the lines of the truck also,” said Mark. “And ya know, I think we‘ll be proven right, there‘s four in the pipeline behind Cory‘s.”

A view with a room
The sheer size of the 2.8m Aerodyne (Fat-Cab‘s a colloquial name for the biggest cab) is a bit to take in and comprehend in all reality. It‘s not so much a room with a view, as a view with a room. Sit in the driver‘s seat and look forward, it‘s a K200; the view‘s no different, it looks the same. Turn around however, and look at what‘s travelling with you, and it‘s quite daunting. The cavernous nature of the space affects you more on account of Cory opting for the twin single beds, one up and one down, rather than a double. “I don‘t need a double, I‘d rather have the space. I can get up, stretch, sort stuff out, move around. It‘s a little home. For me a double bed would have been a waste of space. I went for the top bunk as that‘ll enhance the resale, but nah, I prefer it this way…with one minor drawback. With the single bed there‘s not a hope in hell of reaching the pull-out fridge or storage locker located under the bunk from the driver‘s seat. DOH! Bugger!”

Photo: An efficient workspace is low on crap, high on efficiency. Note example ‘A‘. Even with a Smart Wheel.

The K model Kenworth has come such a long way in its 60-plus years of existence. It‘s unrecognisable, in a recognisable way. On the inside it bears little resemblance to even its recent forbearers. Without even looking aft, there‘s room to burn. The driving position and access to the vitals is the equal of anything and better than many. Yes it‘s a gauge-based US dash, heavy on tradition with its woodgrain backdrop, and yes, it‘s not going to get anyone from Europe leaping out of their skins with enthusiasm, but who cares. What matters is it works fantastically well, and uptake of the model in recent years should be sending the message to cab designers everywhere that we may not want to march headlong into a sterile, lifeless, boring, monitored, screendriven, 10-past-10 world. Having said that, and without wanting to sound contradictory, a lack of any form of telematics screen, and no entertainment/coms/navigation interface is probably signalling a facelift won‘t be far away. Hey, it‘s all good. Flank them in gold bezels and have a bug graphic as the screen saver. Take a look at the 610 cockpit and we‘ll likely get a glimpse into the K‘s future.

Photo: Note the dipstick door under the external locker.

There‘s a Smart Wheel, with pass-lights, cruise, and engine brake functions. Trailer brake is on the right wand and the big all-purpose wiper, dip, indicator jobbie is on the left. Now turn and look behind. The external measurement of the cab‘s depth is 2.815mm. Between the back of the seats and front of the bunk, there‘s room to wander around without banging your head. Cory‘s machine is finished in ox-blood red diamond leather and the floor covering is a durable black rubber. There‘s tough black plastic on surfaces that come under daily attack, and woodgrain panels on surfaces that shouldn‘t. Where you start with storage is hard to know. Lockers and shelves overhead, glovebox on top of the console, and caddies, cup, and knick-knack holders in and around the dash. There‘s additional stowage under the passenger seat. Sleeper side, there‘s a wardrobe, pull-out table, locker with a stack of flip-out storage totes, under-bunk drawer, fridge, and external lockers on both sides; it‘s endless. The options available are extensive.

Photo: Entry to the K200 bears no resemblance to its predecessors. Bayswater did a masterly job of re-engineering entry and exit at the time this cab was born…mind you, they needed to.

“The curtains are made of this lighter material now,” said Cory. “Evidently they had issues with driver abuse on the old heavy ones. These work great. When I have the screen curtains and sleeper dividers drawn you can‘t see your hand in front of you.” Cory chose not to go for sleeper doors opening to the outside. “The only thing that‘s disappointing is the scriber marks on the inside aluminium face of the wardrobe door. It‘s more irritating because the wardrobe, lockers, and tables don‘t come cheap. Sure a bit of vinyl glued on it would fix it but should you have to in a Kenworth? Pre-delivery should pick that stuff up.” Yeah, that‘s a bit disappointing.

One of the biggest attacks made on the K‘s design with the genesis of the K108e and K200 cab was the entry steps. If you‘ve spent any time in K models prior you‘ll know what a revolution it was. They essentially built an outside deck just above the front wheel, running the full length of the cab and gave us a ladder the NYPD would be proud of. We have absolutely no gripes with getting in and out of a K200. The rear of the wheel ladder facilitates a compulsory three points of contact and the whole time your entire weight is borne by your feet. If you slip off the catwalk and blame anyone but yourself…well, let‘s leave it at that. Likewise, exiting is turn and climb down backwards. Loading the cab with a week‘s gear couldn‘t be simpler. We‘ll defend it to the end. Daily checks are under the bug and via a side-flap on the rear driver‘s side of the sleeper. It may look optically impossible, but yes, the big cab flips over without fouling the body.

Come on a tour.
Wardrobe behind the driver‘s seat, bed (the top bunk‘s folded up) with climate controls and lighting in the corner.On the left higher up a locker with pull-out totes and another wee locker right up top.

Lower on the left a fold-down table and desk light.

Fridge and storage under the bunk and dancefloor in the foreground.

A man with a plan
“You‘ve got to have a plan. Without a plan you‘re buggered. You can change bits