The GRS Towing fleet expands its footprint in Sydney – Words by Warren Caves and images by Torque it Up

When it comes to publicising the performance of individual companies, it’s not often that PowerTorque magazine provides a repeat round of additional exposure, after having previously showcased a company’s performance in an earlier edition. That idea certainly changed, though, when the subject of the editorial is Sydney heavy haulage recovery specialists, Greystanes Towing Service (GRS).

It was exactly two years ago, in the August 2016 issue of PowerTorque, that PowerTorque first profiled the GRS fleet, which at that time totalled eleven vehicles.

Two of the heavy tow trucks featured detachable underlifts, ensuring great fleet diversity by enabling them to be used as prime movers. A further two were fitted with integrated underlifts, incorporating an extendable recovery boom within the overall vehicle to achieve maximum versatility. Also present in the fleet were flattop, drop-deck extendable widening and drop-well trailers – all of which had a winching and tilt facility.

Greystanes Towing Service (GRS) is again on the front foot with two new fleet inductees recently, keeping the company ahead of the game.

For Barry Hunt, the owner of GRS Towing Service, this philosophy is evident in the equipment choices he makes, aided by keeping a keen eye on equipment developments both here and overseas to ensure his operation is at the forefront of efficiency.

As our previous editorial quoted: “The strikingly bright, orange, yellow and blue livery of the GRS fleet is hard to miss out on the road. It’s a bit like WH&S hi-vis for trucks, with the exception of the rotator recovery unit nick named ‘The Hulk’, which was always destined to be nothing but green”.

The two latest vehicles to join the fleet are an 8X4, four-winch, heavy side-recovery unit based on a Kenworth K200 truck, and a Hino low-chassis 8X4 tilt-tray.

The Hino FW actually originated in 1997 in Japan and was a low volume import, which was first complied into Australia some ten years later in 2007. A pantech body was originally fitted to the truck and GRS has just completed a major refurbish, kitting the truck out as a tilt-tray.

“We were looking for a suitable truck to utilise as an extended-deck tilt-tray. We required a vehicle that fitted our budget, had a long low chassis, heavy payload capability and was a genuine 8X4. Most of the Hino’s in Australia are only 8X2, having subsequently had a lazy axle added at a later date prior to sale,” explained Barry.

“The Hino FW was exactly what we needed. It has a 20-litre, naturally aspirated, V8 Hino diesel engine, rated at 400 hp, and drives through a seven-speed synchromesh transmission.

“It’s a genuine 8X4 truck with twin differentials running 19.5-inch tyres on the drive and a second steer axle, that gives us the low chassis height we required of 1000 mm. This low deck gives us the capability to legally carry equipment up to 3.6 metres in height and at weights of up to 13.6 tonnes”.

Barry had every intention of utilising every inch of the Hino’s length for maximum benefit, and contacted Charlie Borg of Mulgoa Bodies to manufacture the tilt-tray body. What eventuated was a tray length of 9.7 metres from the winch to the rear of the deck.

“In terms of industrial tilt-trays, that’s quite long. Most tray decks would be around the 9.0-metre mark,” said Barry.

“We had the tilt-tray fitted up with all the equipment you’d expect to see on any new unit. It has full remote control via a hand-held control box, a retractable air hose to resupply and recharge air systems on stricken trucks or trailers, hideaway deck access ladders, a reverse camera, container pins and a container pusher cylinder,” said Barry.

“What this completed build design does for us now means that we can utilise the Hino in situations where we might have had to use a truck and step-deck trailer because of height restrictions and the weight of the machine, such as when operating in a restricted access city building site. It’s (the Hino) quite manoeuvrable, despite its length. With the 13.6-tonne payload capability, and the low deck height, we envisage that it will be more capable in accessing some of the tighter locations than a traditional truck and trailer combination can’t.

“The Hino’s long deck length obviously enables us to carry longer loads, and we can accommodate two medium-sized cars, such as Commodores etc., nose to tail within legal limits. We expect this uniquely designed truck to be a very busy member of our fleet,” added Barry.

Building up the “big gun” side of the fleet is GRS’s new side-puller recovery unit. The Kenworth K200 base truck is a 2011 model that spent the first 800,000 km of its life on road train work.

After being purchased by GRS as a factory built 8X4, it underwent a full refurbish, including a new interior, new suspension and air bags, brakes, wheel bearings and more.

To accommodate the tow body, it was necessary to extend the chassis by 1420 mm, subsequently increasing the wheelbase in the process. Steering geometry modifications were also carried out to pull back the turning circle after the length extension work, but the overall length remains 500 mm shorter than the 6X4 units.

The latest side-puller brings the total to six heavy tow trucks in the GRS fleet. This truck has been fitted with a Vulcan recovery body manufactured by Miller Industries in the USA, and purchased through Truckworks in Adelaide. Barry says he has become familiar with the work of Miller Industries through his trips to American tow truck shows.

The latest side-puller is fitted with two 35,000 lb winches fitted above the second steer axle, and two 50,000 lb winches mounted on the integrated tow truck body. All four winches can be operated off the tail of the truck for extra pulling power on salvage work.

The recovery boom on the rear has a 13-tonne extended lifting capacity and approximately a 5-metre reach. All these functions can be controlled through a wireless remote connection via the mobile control unit or from the traditional levers at the rear of the truck.

The long stinger arm at the rear allows for extended underlift hook-up to access solid componentry for lifting, such as on coaches.

“By setting up our equipment correctly from the start we are streamlining the hook and drop procedure and minimising the number of times our operators have to jump up and down into the cab of the truck,” explained Barry.

“Whilst all this pulling and lifting grunt is all very good, a stable anchor is also required. This is where the four hydraulic stabilisers come into play. With their spade attachments they firmly burrow into the ground like a frightened echidna to provide a rock-solid anchor point for salvage work.

“This truck has been on my wish list for a while, and it’s going to be a great complement to our existing rotator truck, giving our clients the availability of two side-pullers.

“What we can do with these trucks is to effectively recover vehicles from the side of a road or motorway when operating from only one lane. In the past, this type of recovery would have required (in the case of a motorway) the use of three lanes to position the truck at 90 degrees to road.

“Using this latest technology and equipment reduces unnecessary congestion and inconvenience and enables us to act immediately, rather than being required by the relevant authorities to postpone the recovery operation until after the peak period. Being able to act swiftly combats the traffic flow restrictions suffering from the rubber-neck syndrome of people slowing to take a look, which often creates another minor accident through being distracted.

“There have, in the past, been occasions that required the use of two trucks for recovery, tying up resources. Now, with the side-puller and its extreme winching ability, we can send out this “big dog” and recover the casualty vehicle quickly and efficiently.

“We aim to respond as quickly as we can to an incident or accident and have the best equipment available. With these latest additions to our fleet we believe these two new recruits will help us to serve our clients more efficiently,” concluded Barry.

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