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TAKING A TILT AT TOWING AND TIMBER | Truck Review – IVECO

IVECO has the breadth of truck range to find the right vehicle for any application. 

There’s nothing more welcome when you are marooned on the side of the highway than to see the approaching amber flashing strobe lights of a recovery vehicle coming to your assistance.

Times have certainly changed since the roadside mechanic could fix everything with just the aid of his toolkit. These days the benefits of efficiency and sophistication is often measured in how much diagnostic work has to be completed to locate and fix a fault.

A1 Towing is Bathurst’s largest towing and specialised transport provider. Although it concentrates most of its efforts around Bathurst, Orange and the Central West, the business also works further afield, covering larger metropolitan centres and also running interstate.

Apart from towing of all types of vehicles and motorcycles, the company also offers breakdown pickups, as well as a forklift hire service, and container sales and hire.

“Our major clients are NRMA, Coates Hire, Toyota Materials Handling, and Royal Wolf,” explained A1 Towing Director, Grant Inwood.

When we were looking for a new medium-duty dual cab truck to join our towing fleet we chose a European-made IVECO Eurocargo ML140.

“As a family business, we take pride in everything we do,” said Grant.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a special heavy load project you need handled or an urgent breakdown pickup. Our team has the experience and equipment to get the job done.”

The Eurocargo ML140 dual cab is the latest of the three IVECO’s within the fleet of nine vehicles. It’s fitted with a customised body manufactured by Hervey Bay-based Bozmac Tilt Tray Specialists and is equipped with custom features including stainless-steel infill panels and a 9-tonne towbar/cradle assemble.

Bozmac also fitted an additional underslung rear carrier, along with airbrakes and hydraulic connections mounted on the rear of the truck. This can be extended to tow another vehicle, such as a caravan or boat, which is very useful in addition to the standard tow ball option.

There’s a lot to commend the Eurocargo, which is winning an increasing number of converts to the Italian brand.

As a factory-built dual cab it provides the extra space and comfort to carry additional passengers away from the scene of a break down or accident. This can be a major benefit for families that have suffered the considerable inconvenience of not making their planned destination and the extra flexibility it provides to carry passengers in comfort is also a winning factor in its appeal.

“There were several factors behind our decision to go with the Eurocargo ML140, including reduced maintenance requirements and extra comfort. That last point is particularly important for a business like ours, which can undertake long haul work,” Grant said.

“The 5175 mm wheelbase dual cab we chose covers this requirement nicely. The extra level of comfort just makes things easier all-round for our drivers. As a business owner, I see it as one of several factors that help ensure they get the job done safely and efficiently.”

Powering the ML140 is a Euro5 Environmentally Enhanced Vehicle (EEV) turbocharged and intercooled engine which features high-pressure common-rail electronic injection and provides 250 hp at 2700 rpm. Euro6 engine variants are also available across the Eurocargo range and service intervals can run out to 80,000 km periods, dependent on model and application.

“The Eurocargo gives us more power than similar vehicles I’ve used in the past,” Grant said.

“The other feature we chose, which the Japanese trucks in this class don’t have, is the rear diff lock. We need to get off-road a fair bit, on farms and things like that and the rear diff gives us the extra traction we need for this type of work.

“We have two Stralis trucks in our fleet as well and, in general, I would say that the IVECO vehicles handle the heavy-duty stuff really well. That’s important, considering some of the harsh conditions we come up against.”

While the ML140 is available with several transmission options, A1 Towing chose the fully-automatic Allison S3000 five-speed unit. It’s easy and stress-free to operate and, according to Grant, his drivers are also very happy with the choice.

The latest Eurocargo ML140 was supplied through the team at IVECO Brisbane.

“The service I received was first rate. They met me at the airport and did everything they could to help me in any way I needed. No question was too difficult, and no effort was spared,” he said.

While looking at the advantages of the Eurocargo PowerTorque came across an interesting application for another model in the IVECO stable, the Astra.

Not that well known in the Australian market, it’s a product line that has been available for over 65 years globally as specialist equipment for the building and construction industry.

Available in four distinctly different product lines, the Astra HD9 is available in two, three or four-axle heavy-duty vehicles designed for the most difficult off-road scenarios.

The HHD9 takes these strengths further with a highly specialised vehicle dedicated to extra heavy-duty operations in niche sectors such as mining, oil and gas and off-road haulage. Gross vehicle weights reach 50 tonne for the 6×6 model and 63 tonne for the 8×6 versions.

The ADT models are more aligned to off-road, end-over tippers for rock haulage on muddy or uneven terrain. The Astra RD models are 4×2 dump truck versions with payloads from 28 tonne up to 50 tonne. These are aimed at working environments such as quarries, blasting sites, crushers or large-scale excavation.

For the Astra application in this feature we looked at the requirements of Plantation Logging Company of Bunbury, Western Australia.

Harvesting timber requires a unique type of vehicle, especially when the plantation tracks are steep, slippery and muddy after rain. It’s an environment where 8×8 traction makes a world of difference.

It was for these demanding conditions that last year, Plantation Logging purchased an IVECO Astra 8×8. Now, with around 120,000 kilometres on the clock, the company couldn’t be happier with its performance.

Started by Jeff Loton in 1994, Plantation Logging has expanded to become the largest pine tree harvesting and log haulage contracting company in the state, employing around 100 people.

“The shift to Astra came about due to some problems arising with the current fleet,” Managing Director, Jeff Loton said.

“We’d been using another European brand truck for this short lead application – 80 kilometres from headquarters to the plantation sites – but began having some longevity issues with them.

“This led us to start taking a look at the alternatives. We wanted to see what else was out there that could do the job and the Astra looked like it had everything we needed – it’s performed very well in the time we’ve had it. The Astra is excellent at dragging a heavy dog trailer around.”

Set up as a rigid, towing a low profile six axle dog trailer, the Astra works 10 to 12 hours a day, five days per week. The combination normally operates at 68 tonne (concessional loading on trailer applies), delivering the logs from a range of pine and blue gum plantations to sawmills in Bunbury.

According to Jeff, the Astra has several benefits over the other vehicles on fleet being used for this same application.

“With a 520 hp (2400 Nm) engine, the Astra has an extra 40 hp available compared to the other trucks we use. Despite having more power, fuel efficiency is on par. Our driver really enjoys having access to additional power and it’s noticeable in how the truck performs,” he said.

“The Astra’s transmission (16-speed Eurotronic AMT) also has another four gears to provide better spread of ratios for the conditions,” he added.

When conditions around the worksite deteriorate, the Astra features hub reduction to all axles. These combined with a high tensile steel chassis and parabolic spring suspension provide superior articulation and traction.

The interior of the cabin of the Astra features many of the benefits of its road-going IVECO counterparts to provide a comfortable ride both on and off the road. These include a spring-suspended cabin, electric windows, air conditioning, a detailed multifunction instrument cluster, ergonomically-designed dashboard and three-way adjustable, air-suspended driver’s seat.

The Astra was purchased from Perth-based IVECO dealership, AV Trucks and is maintained by Plantation Logging’s in-house workshop.

“A lot of our work is done on a contract basis and a couple of these contracts are due for renewal within the next 12 months,” said Jeff.

“If we’re successful we’ll certainly be looking at bringing more Astras into the business.”

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