It is now possible to get a cabover tipper which ticks all of the boxes. It is fit for purpose in terms of handling the work and also comes with all of the safety systems which help in PBS assessments. At the same time the larger, more mature tipper fleets are looking to realign the sector’s image and distance themselves from a more cowboy past.
There are also developments in city authorities like Melbourne, where they are looking to raise the bar on safety specification for trucks tendering for the next round of major infrastructure projects.
This is where the Scania G500 XT comes in, as a state-of-the-art truck with all of the bells and whistles, but also a truck built to live the rugged life in quarries, construction sites and on infrastructure sites. It is a mix of two, formerly, diametrically opposed ideas, cutting edge technology and electronics, and a tool which can take the hammer meted out in the real world of vocational trucks.
Once loaded it was simply a matter of bringing the load home to Sydney. On the winding roads out through the Southern Highlands countryside, the truck felt surefooted and had enough grunt to handle the ups and downs on the road.
Coming out onto the Hume Highway, the truck quickly got itself up to highway speed and could be left to its own devices. This is a very relaxing situation for a driver, knowing the truck will pick the correct gear as it climbs the grades and will introduce retardation on the downgrades to keep speed in check and to keep the truck secure.
The combination runs very smoothly with the dog trailer tucked in neatly behind and behaving well, this truly is a cabover tipper which ticks all of the boxes. This is an opportunity to look more closely at the controls and instrumentation, to get an even better idea about what exactly is going on with this track.
Looking at the display directly in front of the driver with speed, odometer and fuel levels on the left and tachometer, time, temperature and adblue level on the right. In the middle is a graphical display which can be customised by the driver to suit their own tastes.
The most important part of this part of the display is all of the driving settings the driver has activated. On the left is the speed the driver has set on the cruise control. To the right three bars indicate the distance that the driver had set between the truck itself and the vehicle in front using the active cruise control, with each bar representing something approximating to one or on-and-a-half seconds.
On the right hand side there is a figure out which is the maximum speed set at which the engine brakee will kick in to try and maintain that speed when the truck is overrunning on a downward grade.
Next to this we have the driver scoring system. This is where the computer on board analyses brake application, accelerator application, anticipation of events etc. It is monitoring all of the systems and looking out for tell-tale behaviours which will use excess fuel. Sharp braking applications are frowned upon as are sharp accelerations. The system will mark a driver highly if they treat the truck gently using the accelerator to smoothly move away from a stationary position and anticipating any slowdown ahead by removing the foot from the accelerator and not applying the brake immediately after. It is looking for the driver to take their foot of the power and then use the engine brake to slow the vehicle in anticipation of any potential stop. All of these behaviours have a significant effect on improving fuel consumption.
In the past, many experienced drivers have baulked at the idea of handing over some of the essential control to an automatic computerised system in the truck. It is easy to assume that 30 years experience behind the wheel cannot be replicated by some black box behind the dashboard.
The developments in recent years have now reached the point where, not only does the computer have a better idea about what is going on in the driveline, but it can also make decisions on what to do better and faster than that driver. The subtlety of the sensors and the speed of the processing available from the ECU is able to, at least, replicate 30 years of driving experience.
There is something in the psychology of the truck driver to want to be involved in every single decision that is keeping the truck on the road and keeping it making progress, but now is probably the time for those old school drivers to let it go.
The system available in trucks like these are that good that the driver can trust them and then use their own intelligence and observation to look out for those things which the truck’s systems cannot monitor and make decisions about. The computer cannot see the caravan driver starting to lose control, it cannot see the kangaroo about to cross the road, it cannot see that there are roadworks just around the corner. This is what the modern truck driver needs to be doing, not worrying about which gear the truck is in and how far it is from the vehicle in front.
If the driver turns on all the automatics they are handing over quite a lot of the control to the system, but the fact of the matter is they are still in the driving seat and can override any system at any point they choose.
At the end of the day even more parts of the traditional industry like the truck and dog segment are going to have to introduce these kinds of modern trucks, a cabover tipper which ticks all of the boxes. The fact of the matter is these businesses are faced with higher standards in terms of workplace health and safety, on road safety and compliance, at the same time as there is a decline in the number of highly skilled drivers available on the market to do the work.
This suggests that it is a combination of factors which is driving the changing emphasis for transport operations involved with infrastructure and construction. The reliance on older North American trucks and skilled drivers still exists, but into the future we can expect see a much more modern fleet hauling aggregate up and down our highways.