THE RIGHT MIX | Truck Review – Hino 500 forms a solid foundation for the Mini-Mix fleet.

Hino 500 forms a solid foundation for the Mini-Mix fleet in Coffs Harbour – Words and images by Ed Higginson

Hino launched its new 500-Series early last year, subsequently making inroads into many fleets across the country. One such fleet that has decided to go all-in after seeing the new Hino was Mini-Mix of Coffs Harbour.

The business has been operating for 15 years, with the current owner, Robert (Ripper) Hall, being at the helm for the past 10. Its yard is based just off the Pacific Highway in Coffs Harbour, and in the past decade the company has carved out a niche in the area for providing flexible concrete supply into areas where the big concrete mixers simply can’t go.

Mini-Mix previously had a fleet of five old UD MK 4×2 trucks, but after seeing the new Hino 500-Series at Coffs Harbour Hino, its local dealer, it decided to replace the old mixers with three new FE 1426 trucks fitted with the Allison 2500 five-speed overdrive automatic transmission.

With a GVM of 14,000 kg and one of the lowest tare weights available, the new trucks now carry an impressive 3.5 cubic metres, or 8.2 tonne of concrete, which is roughly a 30 percent increase over the outgoing UD trucks.

Even with this increase in payload, the new Hinos are just as manoeuvrable as before, with a front wheel track width of just 1760 mm and overall cab height of 2490 mm. These are critical requirements for Mini-Mix, which needs to access places many others can’t.

Mini-Mix’s operations manager of the past four years, Wayne Tarkata, explained, “We service all of the Bellingen Shire area, up to Dorrigo, down to Nambucca, then inland towards Glenugie for the large blueberry farms, which have tight access. We don’t travel big kilometres, but the trucks are constantly running during the day. Our specialty is for the smaller jobs such as farms, driveways, pipe laying, plus into the hills that have some small bridges the bigger trucks can’t cross.

“Our trucks unload 95 percent of the concrete from the rear chute, whereas the bigger guys are now doing 95 percent of the unloading through the concrete pumps”.

The three Hino 500s each have similar specs. The FE 1426 is fitted with the Hino J07E-TN engine, using EGR and DPR emission controls to meet ADR 80/03 (Euro 5). The diesels are turbocharged and intercooled, five-cylinder, in-line engines with an overhead camshaft.

Rated to 191 kW (260 hp) of power at 2400 rpm and torque of 794 Nm at 1500 rpm, the FE can run with a GCM up to 21,000 kg on the auto. So, with the Mini-Mix fleet only operating up to the GVM of 14,000 kg without any trailers, the units are more than up to the challenge running through the local hills.

The trucks came from the factory fitted with the live-drive 1:1.08 PTO ready for the mixing barrels, with one of the concrete barrels and equipment being fitted by Mixes Australia, while the other two trucks received Davcron barrels. The setup allows the drivers to control the engine revs from the rear of the barrel, with Mixes Australia units using a button and the Davcron units running with a remote control.

When asked about some of the benefits of their new Hinos, Wayne commented, “The best feature is the Allison auto, because, if the concrete is a bit wet, you need smoothness on road to ensure no concrete splashes out of the rear chute. It’s also easier to drive along smoothly when concreting kerbs and guttering.

“With the higher rear springs, the 4x2s are also better for working on the larger pumps too, as they are just the right height now”.

Their height has also been helped by going from 17.5 tyres on the old UDs, to 19.5 on the Hinos, which gives a 200 mm ground clearance, helping with the off-road access.

All the routine maintenance is completed by the Coffs Harbour Hino dealership, with service intervals of every 500 hours rather than with kilometres. Troy Atchinson, the dealership general manager, commented, “Concrete mixers are running their engines constantly to keep the barrels rolling through their direct-drive PTOs, so we have to monitor their engine hours rather than kilometres”.

As well as running a small fleet of concrete mixers, Mini-Mix also runs its own mixing plant, which enables it to mix concrete to each customer’s requirements, plus it can control the timing of the loads, so its trucks can set off early in the morning without having to wait.

Wayne said, “As well as buying the new trucks this year, we have also set up the new mixing plant and bought a new Agrison loader, which has been going great”.

PowerTorque reviewed the FG1628 and GH1832, which use the wider 500-Series cab and the Allison six-speed automatic box back in the July/August 2017 issue, and was impressed by the ability of the Hino’s driveline.

The Hino 500-Series now numbers 53 models, with two widths of cabs offered in day-cab form, rest-area-cab and crew-cab.

The cab interior and materials are typically Japanese style, which are perfect for dirty tasks such as concrete mixers, and the multi-adjustable ISRI 6860/870 seats with air suspension give them an added feel of luxury.

The Hino has a lot of safety functions that drivers may not be aware of. These include a driver’s SRS airbag, vehicle stability control (VSC) as standard (which incorporates roll-over stability along with ABS), cruise control and a cab strength certified to ECE R-29.

They also come with the option of fitting up to three cameras within the touchscreen infotainment system, for reversing or for monitoring special equipment if required. The same 6.1-inch touchscreen incorporates the DAB+ digital radio, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, CD, DVD, USB and SD access for navigation.

“Drivers love the built-in navigation system, along with the Bluetooth, because we don’t have two-ways anymore. We have four main drivers, plus myself and Ripper drive if we need to, and we all enjoy the trucks,” said Wayne.

Like Mini-Mix, the local Coffs Harbour Hino dealership has strong competition in the area, but has found a niche supporting customers and being flexible. Since moving into its new premises in mid-2017, the dealership has been busy expanding its activities with the Hino, Iveco and LDV brands across Northern NSW.

“We have been servicing the needs of the Coffs and the surrounding area for approximately eight years under the AHG banner,” said Troy Atchinson.

“We moved to our new purpose-built premises in July 2017, with 4 x 26 metre drive-through workshop bays. We have an 8.0-tonne rated four-post hoist, roll-on brake tester, weigh ridge, laser wheel aligner, a 24-hour breakdown response vehicle, diagnostic computers to service each brand and most other manufacturers, plus an afternoon shift till 8:00 p.m.

“In terms of the new Hino range, they have been going great with all of the safety features, but particularly the payload, which is market leading for the small 4×2 at 10-tonne as a cab/chassis,” Troy added.

Small businesses often struggle to spend the capital on new equipment, but Mini-Mix shows that investing in efficient new equipment pays off, especially for niche operations such as theirs.

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