Tough Act

Tough act

Even more rugged, the new Kerax boasts powerful engines and masses of ground clearance. CHARLEEN CLARKE meets a vehicle specifically designed to operate under the most challenging of conditions.

In ready-mix concrete transport, a reliable truck is essential. We all know the consequences of a breakdown: the contents of the drum can be lost and even solidify, leading to the loss of the mixer. Vehicle reliability is therefore essential.

When it comes to waste collection and recycling, hauliers need vehicles that are both sturdy and manoeuvrable. They must be able to carry heavy, bulky loads in narrow and confined spaces. The driver, who may have to get in and out of the vehicle as many as 30 times a day, must also be taken into consideration.

In the construction game, operators must be capable of providing rapid, reliable deliveries directly to the site. The variety of site locations calls for vehicles capable of making eight to 10 round trips a day, every day of the year, under all types of conditions and over every type of terrain.

For road maintenance works, vehicles must be multifunctional and offer high maximum loads. And, turning to earthmoving and demolition applications, operators must be able to carry a maximum amount of materials (both in terms of volume and weight), and have a vehicle capable of manoeuvring under difficult conditions – which include being heavily overloaded on closed sites.

Why do I mention all these applications and operators’ various requirements? Well, because Sébastien Delépine, general manager of Renault Trucks, reckons that he has the perfect tool for the job. It’s the new Kerax – and he reckons that it’s ultra-tough, reliable, manoeuvrable and multifunctional. “The best solution for worksite operation is, unquestionably, the Kerax,” he maintains.

On paper and in the metal, it certainly does look like a good all-round package. Comprising rigids and tractors in 4×2, 6×4 and 6×6 configurations, plus a 4×4 and 8×4 rigid, the Kerax is equipped with the DXi11 Euro 3 engine

Alan Caugant, head of network development Africa, French Indies and key accounts at Renault Trucks Southern Africa, tells FOCUS that the new engines are more powerful and deliver more torque. “The new range is available with two power ratings: 279 kW/380 hp (1 800 Nm) and 321 kW/440 hp (2 000 Nm). This engine is 9 to 18 % more powerful and delivers 14 to 43% more torque than the previous dCi11 powerplant,” he points out.

The new Kerax trucks come with an exhaust brake as standard, offering a retardation power of 175 kW at 2 300 r/min at the wheel. However the big news is that the Optibrake exhaust brake, the most powerful compression brake on the market, is available as an optional extra.

The range boasts a choice of 16-speed manual gearboxes or robotised Optidriver+ gearboxes. The manual gearboxes coupled to the Dxi11 engine are all equipped with the Servoshift control as standard. According to Delépine, Servoshift implements a cable-driven system with pneumatic assistance to reduce gear-changing time and effort. “The control is lighter than linkage rods and better integrated into the vehicle architecture. Servoshift prevents gears jumping out and filters vibrations much better,” he maintains.

The gearboxes are all fitted with the Super H (superimposed gear pattern) that delivers more precise shifting control through the use of a solenoid valve to protect the system against faulty gear changes and engine overspeeds. The Optidriver+ gearbox is also offered. This lighter, more compact gearbox is the ideal choice for a wide range of uses and especially worksite applications up to 70 t gross combination weight (GCW).

The entire Kerax range is equipped with a new generation of drive axles. “The new axle allows for maximum ground clearance,” notes Caugant. Also up for grabs is a comprehensive range of power take-off units that can be coupled to the gearbox, the engine, or between the engine and the gearbox as required, turning the vehicle into a real tool carrier (tipper, crane or mixer).

The new width measurements – 1 080 mm in front and 850 mm in back – give greater stability and better road holding. The forward overhang on the chassis frame measures 1 120 mm. The Kerax is available in a wide range of wheelbases in both rigid and tractor configurations – from 3 200 to 5 800 mm.

Caugant notes that the brakes on the Kerax combine conventional drum brakes, a proven solution on construction sites, with the sophistication of EBS (electronic braking system) technology. “This blend of robustness and innovation provides the most effective answer to the needs of the construction sector. Wear distribution is improved and the simplified air circuit reduces vulnerability to guarantee longer service life of the brake linings. The system delivers even greater safety in case of emergency braking,” he points out. The brake lining actuator has an automatic slack adjustment.

When it comes to the suspension, the Kerax 4×2, 4×4, 6×4 and 6×6 versions have twin-leaf parabolic mechanical suspensions (8 t) up front or two reinforced leaf suspensions (9 t). The 4×2 and 6×4 tractors can be fitted with a 7.1-t suspension in the front for greater comfort.

The cab offers car-like levels of comfort. Delépine notes that it affords exceptional visibility and there are lots of storage areas. The dashboard is also new and all the controls are exceptionally easy to reach.

Significantly, the cab is more than just a pretty face. For instance, it features a new radiator grille for better air flow as well as side anti-splash deflectors to reduce dirt projections onto the door and to improve the vehicle’s aerodynamic qualities.

Nice-to-have interior features include 12- and 24-V sockets, cup holders, heated seats (optional), an outside temperature reading, a tyre pressure display and cruise control (operated from the dashboard). The controls for the retarders, radio, headlights, wipers and the display drop-down menu are all located on the steering wheel.

I have saved the best news for last: the truck is also economical. Caugant says that the engine/transmission/tyre package has resulted in some customers enjoying an eight to 12% fuel saving overseas. “We have calculated that an operator with 10 trucks that each does 250 000 km per year can save
R900 000 on an annual basis,” he notes.

There can be little doubt that, with common “cents” buying reasons like this one, the Kerax is bound to be a hit with local operators…

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