Medium size, big spirit
This year, it was the turn of trucks in the medium commercial vehicle (MCV) segment to enjoy the Truck Test treatment. They may have been the smallest yet to be put through the test regime, but dynamite, GAVIN MYERS notes, comes in small packages
Size counts, they say; and in the world of trucks, that holds true more than most people realise. Not outright size, mind you, but choosing the right size vehicle for the job. There’s no “one size fits all” option. If there were, our vibrant, passionate, wide-ranging, far-reaching industry would be rather plain and dull. And events like Truck Test 2014 pointless.
Happily, though, the sheer diversity our market requires from vehicle manufacturers, means that, each year, we can focus on a different, application-specific segment. City-bound MCVs from Fuso, Hino, Hyundai and Isuzu took to the test head-on, on April 8.
In actual fact, one could say that the test began a week earlier, on April 2. For the first time in the three years the Truck Test programme has been running, it was a requirement for all participating vehicles to assemble a week before the start, in order to check conformity to the rules.
This took place at the Engen Highveld One-Stop on the R21 northbound, a relatively central venue. Along with one of the final Highveld thunderstorms for the season, the nine participant vehicles thundered in – drivers, co-drivers and technicians anxious to see what their compatriots were bringing to the party.
As event administrators Martin Dammann, from Hellberg Transport Management (HTM); Adrian van Tonder, from Barloworld Solutions; and Vic Oliver, from Vic Oliver & Associates, took their time confirming each measurement in finite detail, technicians from Ctrack took the opportunity to dismantle the vehicles’ dashboards and fit them with satellite tracking units.
The slowly increasing mound of interior panels did nothing to perturb the vehicles’ minders – they were too busy scrutinising the “competition”; the excitement over the forthcoming event clear on everyone’s face.
Of course, as Truck Test participants know only too well, the idea behind the event is not to be a competition that reveals an outright winner – it is to produce an accurate representation of what each specific vehicle is capable of, in real-world conditions, compared to what their ideal performance should be, as generated by HTM’s TransSolve vehicle simulation software.
In doing so, the organisers of Truck Test 2014 worked in several checks and balances, beginning with the aforementioned pre-test inspection. An important addition to the rules this year was the mandatory fitting of a clear sight tube to the vehicles’ fuel tanks. This allowed the precise amount of fuel to be added when topping up the vehicles and noting bowser readings, further enhancing the accuracy of the results.
This basic requirement allowed the first day to kick off swiftly. Following a drivers’ briefing by Van Tonder – that included a respectful moment of silence for Fritz Hellberg – and a scrumptious Wimpy breakfast, sponsored by Engen, the four Isuzu vehicles (NMR 250 Smoother AMT, NPR 300 Smoother AMT, NPR 400 Smoother AMT and NQR 500 Smoother AMT); three Hino vehicles (300 714 LWB, 300 815 Auto LWB and 300 915 LWB); single Fuso Canter FE7-136 and Hyundai HD72, made a swift departure for the N4 highway.
Barloworld Solutions supplied a technical-assistance vehicle that followed close behind as the participants made their way along the freeway in almost tight formation (of course, no slipstreaming was permitted and safe following distances had to be adhered to at all times). Tolls were sponsored by the N4 east-bound’s management company, TRAC.
In a mere three hours, the vehicles had pulled into the Belfast Engen and their tanks had been refuelled to the required levels. This was a particularly interesting exercise, as the tank-fitted sight tubes had the entrants checking out all the tanks to gauge how each vehicle had done!
It was then time for drivers and co-drivers (and, of course, a hungry crew of organisers and writers/photographers …) to refuel with another Wimpy meal – again sponsored by Engen. The participants were lucky enough to have their meals sponsored by the company on the third day as well.
Returning to Hartebeespoort required the participants to pull into the Donkerhook weighbridge to have their gross vehicle masses (GVM) confirmed. With the kind permission, once again, of TRAC, the entrants rolled through in quick succession, their weighbridge certificates printed.
An early rise on day two saw the entrants collecting their vehicles from Engen Hartebeespoort at 06:30, where they had been parked overnight. Engen again came to the party, providing security to keep a watchful eye. Having been refuelled the previous day on their return, it was a quick “get in and go” to the Gerotek testing facility outside Pretoria.
As with Truck Test 2013, the facility’s Concrete Ride and Handling Track was used to simulate a punishing stop-start, inner-city-like route. Another amendment to the rules was the allowance for participants to complete two practise laps, before being set off at two-minute intervals, in their respective weight categories (as illustrated in the results) for the laps that counted.
There were a few terrified facial expressions from drivers and co-drivers, who had not yet experienced the track’s steep ascents and descents and sharp bends, but pretty soon all the vehicles were returning similar times. Again, it was not the fastest time that counted, but the best balance between time taken and fuel used for the load carried.
The participants and organisers were so efficient that a “wrap” was called on the second day’s testing as early as 14:00. It was then back to Engen Hartebeespoort to note the fuel used, before each participant returned home to off-load.
This signalled the third and final leg of the test – an unladen run on the same route from Engen Hartebeespoort to Belfast and back. Yet again, the vehicles completed the journey, with a mandatory fill-up and a weighbridge stop (this time to confirm the empty chassis plus body weights), in easy time; the day’s proceedings coming to an end by 15:30.
Weary travellers they might have been, but each participant was still eager to see how they, and their counterparts, had
fared … for those results, turn to page 18.
FOCUS and the Truck Test 2014 organisers would like to thank each of the participants, who attacked this year’s test with excitement and smiles all round, as well as all the sponsors and partners who happily supported this year’s event: Aero Truck, Barloworld Solutions, Ctrack, Engen, Hellberg Transport Management, Sub-Saharan Tyre Services and TRAC.