Mount Gambier owner-driver Matt Winterfield surprised his friends when he bought a Scania R730 – it wasn’t second-hand and it wasn’t a Kenworth. He tells Tamara Whitsed why he made the switch
Matt Winterfield is a qualified diesel mechanic and third-generation truck driver. And since 2010 he has been an owner-driver trading as Winterfields Float Hire.
His wife Narelle helps with the bookkeeping and their valued employee Peter O’Dea drives their second truck.
Based at Mount Gambier, South Australia, the company’s two trucks both clock up about 120,000km annually carting logging, earthmoving and farm machinery on their Drake steering widener low loader with self-tracking rear axles. Most of their work is within a 300km radius of home but they also travel as far as Adelaide, Melbourne and occasionally Queensland.
Matt has climbed in and out of second-hand Kenworths more times than most people have had hot dinners. And he has chewed plenty of ears in praise of Cummins, Detroit and Caterpillar engines. So he raised a few eyebrows in July when he traded in the 2004 Kenworth K104 Peter was driving for a new Scania R730.
If their friends were surprised to see Peter driving a Scania, they were astounded when Matt sold his 2007 T904 and ordered a second Scania for himself. “The first one was going so well that the second one was just an automatic decision, really,” Matt explains.
But he understands why his friends are surprised. Matt has operated second-hand American trucks since he became an ownerdriver in 2010. Most of these were Kenworths.
“Our trucks were impeccable, but to keep them in that condition you’ve got a constant inflow of bills every month,” Matt says.
He decided it was time to buy his first new truck
to reduce the time and money being spent on maintenance.
“You’ve got to forget the sentimentality of it when it comes to making business decisions. We looked at every single truck that was on the market and we test drove everything,” he says.
The Scania ticked all the boxes. Matt loved the comfort, easy access, visibility, power, 12-speed Opticruise, safety features, driver support system, and maintenance and repair plan.
“The retarder I think probably sold the truck as much as anything else,” he says.
In July Peter began driving a Scania R730 with ‘Winterfields Float Hire’ painted on the door.
The truck is maroon-on-white with old-school scroll work. It has been customised with a polished chequer plate catwalk between the fuel tanks and polished aluminium mudguards manufactured by Chris Barron Engineering.
These make it easier for Peter to walk around the turntable and rear chassis.
Matt’s second Scania was undergoing predelivery customisation when we spoke to him recently, and he had been driving Peter’s Scania while Peter enjoyed a five-week holiday.
It didn’t take Matt long to understand why Peter had been raving about the truck. Driving in Scania comfort leaves them with more energy at the end of each long day. Matt says there is enough room in the cab to comfortably stand up while changing clothes. The bunk is 900mm wide and the insulation passed the test when Peter was caught in Melbourne during a cold snap.
“He said he woke up in the morning and it
We looked at every single truck that was on the market.
was the same temperature as when he went to sleep.”
Climbing into the Scania is much easier than getting into a cab-over Kenworth, Matt says. “Cab-over Kenworths really haven’t changed since the 1970s – you still have to swing into them like a gorilla.”
He says the 730hp engine is so powerful climbing through hills that the Scania has overtaken empty singles while loaded with a 25-tonne excavator. The powerful engine and retarder combine to enable the Scania to travel at a consistent speed when carting heavy machinery over mountains.
“It’s quicker going down hills than an American truck by a long way because the Scania retarder will hold you a lot better than what an engine brake ever will,” he says.
The Scania has even challenged Matt’s preference for spring suspension. “It’s got really good [airbag] suspension travel. It doesn’t skip the wheels like most airbags do. It does keep its feet really well in the bush.”
Matt and Peter regularly cart logging machinery into logging areas like Digby, Hotspur, Kentbruck and Dartmoor. Manoeuvrability is important. “Being a Kenworth man – they’re pretty good on manoeuvrability as well. But they don’t have the visibility that the Scania’s got,” Matt says. “We’re finding that we can back [the Scania] around a left hand corner, which is usually blind, but you can back around there and see everything that’s happening in the Scania. It’s just that good.”
“We’ve gone for the full maintenance and repairs
package, because that was the main reason why we’ve done what we’ve done. Any repairs and maintenance, we take it straight to Scania and they do all of that. All we’ve got to do is put fuel and tyres on the truck and put some grease in it. We know exactly what our repairs and maintenance [costs] are going to be every 12 months,” Matt says.
Matt is impressed 60-year-old Peter enjoys the challenge of improving his driving with the tips and feedback appearing on the driver support system display panel.
Six weeks after the first R730 arrived, Scania sent a driver-trainer to Mount Gambier to help Peter fine-tune his use of the truck and to ensure he was making use of all of its features.
“Scania is focused on getting every driver up to speed with how to operate that vehicle as good as what it can be operated,” Matt says. This is one of the reasons he is impressed with Paul Riddell and the team at Scania Wingfield.
Matt predicts Scanias will become more popular in the bush, especially around Mount Gambier.
“Everyone knows that I’ve just been Kenworth and American forever. For me to buy Scanias with airbag suspension is actually starting to make a lot of people think,” he says.
Matt says anyone who gets a chance to test drive a Scania should test it in the most challenging situation they can find.
“The worst possible hill. The worst possible corner. Anything you can possibly think of that would be atrocious or horrendous – go and do it,” he says. “I still like Kenworth but they’re not even close to the Scania. I probably should have done this three years ago.”
Everyone knows that I’ve just been Kenworth and American forever.
1. Owner-operator Matt Winterfield challenges American truck purists to test-drive a Scania: “You’ll change your mind. I didn’t think I would, but I did.” 2. Peter O’Dea has decades of experience but uses the driver support system display panel to fine-tune his skills.
3. Close to home: most of Winterfields Float Hire work is within a 300km radius of Mount Gambier.
4. The Scania pulls a Drake steering widener low loader with self-tracking rear axles.
5. Winterfields carts logging, earthmoving
and farm machinery.
6. Uncomplicated access: Matt reckons
it’s an easy climb up the Scania stairs. 7. Winterfields has been hauling logging, earthmoving and farm machinery since 2010.