The hack truck
Reinhard Windbichler makes short work of branches, trunks and tree tops. His mission, says FLORIAN ENGEL from Austria’s leading commercial vehicle magazine, 1Truck, is to produce woodchips… His truck: A very special Mercedes-Benz Arocs 3363
In Austria’s Brixental valley, just a few kilometers west of the Tyrolean skiing town Kitzbühel, high up on the Sonnberg, Windbichler powers through the forest with his “wood terminator”, from the traditional Austrian manufacturer Mus-Max. Wild branches, trunks and peaks have become wedged and interlocked; they cannot escape the steel gripping jaws of Windbichler’s crane.
Trunk after trunk, branch after branch, a continuous stream of wood goes into the wood chipper on the Arocs 3363, and what is fed forwards over the intake roller of the Mus-Max, comes back at high speed a few seconds later as wood chips.
According to the manufacturer, the highly effective blade and knife system can fill up to 200 shovel tractors per hour, which corresponds to approximately four to five truck containers.
“This is a real workhorse,” says company manager Adam Aigner. “Once on the run, there is no stopping it!”
The Mus-Max chopper – which has a feed width of 114 cm and a feed height of 75 cm – is powered directly by the auxiliary drive of the 15,6-litre truck engine with a single cooled reversing gearbox. “The competition usually makes use of three transmissions, but this always involves cooling problems and is often less efficient,” says Aigner.
Windbichler sits like a battle pilot in the driver’s seat of his machine. With tight, fluid movements he controls the intake with a foot pedal, via two joysticks and gripper arms. On the left, a display provides information on speed, feed speed and working time. The wood-hacker in front of him shakes the truck again and again, but not even the strongest of trees can stop the “wood terminator”.
The machine has something in common with Aigner: the bigger the challenge, the stronger his action. In the midst of the economic recession, he was faced with the decision to either give up his job as a farmer, or to “eat grass” as a result of the ever-falling milk prices.
In the spring of 2007, he placed an “ex” before his professional designation, combined his Fendt 930 Vario with a wood chopper and entered the wood-chip production business.
Two years later, Aigner bought his first truck – a used Actros. Today, the fleet includes seven units. He plays a hands-on role in his company – in the daily business as well as in the conversion of the vehicles.
We ask whether the new Actros model is also converted by the company. “Of course,” says Aigner, grinning. “Why should I spend a lot of money on the set-up and conversion if we can do it ourselves? We now have the experience of three such modifications.” Sounds logical.
When doing the conversion, the bulk of the back wall, the bed and the right-side wall are all removed and replaced with electronic components and a camera. The passenger seat is turned, a crane is placed behind the driver’s cab and some protective panels are placed around the wood-chipper.
“Twelve-millimetre-thick aircraft glass allows perfect visibility and provides dust-free work and noise protection in all weather conditions,” confirms Windbichler. The truck took six weeks to convert.
The machine has been in operation for 26 minutes, but the wood pile next to the forest road is barely recognisable. The driver fine-tunes the joysticks with his fingertips and tries to master the last remnants with crane and gripper. There are still some trunks and a few branches.
A colleague supports Windbichler and throws some remnants on the heap, so that all wood finds its way into the hacker. Windbichler finally fills two containers with wood chips. While his colleague cleans the hacker’s table and the pick-up roll of wood remnants, he takes his tablet from the front of the truck.
“I’ve saved all the orders, including the routes, which saves me a lot of time in the mountains,” he explains. It is well known that time is money – especially in the wood-chip business – and even more so recently, since violent storm damage in Bavaria hiked the prices.
Just goes to show, it’s always the right time for the next mission. As regular readers of FOCUS know, this magazine has been appointed an associate member of the International Truck of the Year (IToY)! FOCUS is the sole South African magazine to have joined this prestigious body. One of the advantages of this association is access to exclusive articles, specially written for FOCUS by ITOY jury members. This is one such article.