Less is best for new T-Liner

Deals on Wheels - - New Truck Test -

It was per­haps ap­pro­pri­ate DAF’s new­est model should be cou­pled to Freighter’s T-Liner Mark II cur­tain-sided trailer.

Af­ter all, DAF says its 510hp CF85 is de­signed specif­i­cally for lo­cal and re­gional dis­tri­bu­tion du­ties where load­ing and un­load­ing a tra­di­tional cur­tain-sided trailer is a reg­u­lar, time-con­sum­ing part of the daily rou­tine for driv­ers.

For­tu­nately, Freighter’s lat­est T-Liner is de­signed to save sub­stan­tial time by us­ing less than a third as many buck­les while main­tain­ing the same equiv­a­lent ver­ti­cal ten­sion on the cur­tain.

The T-Liner Mark II re­duces the num­ber of buck­les over a tra­di­tional de­sign from 22 to six, sav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time at each and every drop while also lim­it­ing the risk of repet­i­tive strain in­juries.

“Less buck­les re­sults in less time spent open­ing and clos­ing cur­tains,” Freighter gen­eral man­ager Mario Colosimo said at the time of the Mark II trailer’s re­lease in the sec­ond half of last year.

“Op­er­a­tors can save up to 10 min­utes per drop.

“Pre­vi­ously it hasn’t been pos­si­ble to re­duce the num­ber of buck­les on a cur­tain with­out loss of ver­ti­cal ten­sion which is vi­tal to en­sur­ing the cur­tains stay closed and don’t flap in the breeze.”

How­ever, Freighter over­came th­ese is­sues by ap­ply­ing its ‘cur­tain arc tech­nol­ogy’, which uses a high-strength ny­lon rope run­ning through a se­ries of arcs at the bot­tom of the cur­tain to cre­ate ver­ti­cal ten­sion, and de­vel­op­ing a new ‘high-force’ buckle mech­a­nism with a unique strap fas­ten­ing point on the tie-rail.


Mak­ing mat­ters even smoother is the 16-speed ver­sion of ZF’s AS-Tronic au­to­mated trans­mis­sion, in­stalled as stan­dard equip­ment (as it is in the top-shelf XF105) to en­hance the op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity of the 510hp CF85.

Opt­ing for the over­drive 16-speeder in­stead of its 12-speed sib­ling was a wise move by DAF, par­tic­u­larly when you con­sider the 510hp CF’s gross com­bi­na­tion mass rat­ing of 70 tonnes and the in­evitabil­ity of op­er­at­ing at B-dou­ble weights in the stop ‘n’ start snarl of metropoli­tan con­di­tions.

Again, with op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity in mind, the stan­dard diff ra­tio in the Mer­i­tor drive tan­dem is 3.73:1. By com­par­i­son, the XF105 em­ploys a faster 3.58:1 ra­tio for line-haul work.


What it all boils down to is an ex­tremely re­spon­sive and highly in­tu­itive com­bi­na­tion across a di­verse range of con­di­tions. Com­pat­i­bil­ity be­tween the MX en­gine and ZF trans­mis­sion is ex­cep­tional, pro­vid­ing smooth and con­sis­tent per­for­mance through quick and en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate shifts, whether haul­ing through sub­ur­ban traf­fic or run­ning up and over the de­mand­ing high-coun­try hills.

It’s also worth not­ing that, de­spite a mod­est gross weight of just 32.5 tonnes, the re­tar­da­tion per­for­mance of the op­tional MX en­gine brake

(an ex­haust brake is the stan­dard re­tarder) on sev­eral steep de­scents was both strong and sur­pris­ingly quiet. Like­wise, an elec­tronic brak­ing sys­tem of discs on the front axle and drums on the drive – com­plete with anti-lock, anti-slip and hill-hold func­tions – pro­vided the smooth, pow­er­ful brak­ing ex­pected of any mod­ern com­bi­na­tion.

Mean­time, on the flat south­bound daw­dle back to Mel­bourne along the Hume Free­way, the DAF

strode to 100km/h at a flick over 1550rpm, and while some minds may fig­ure this a tad high for ef­fi­cient coun­try cruis­ing, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing DAF’s de­sire to pro­vide a driv­e­train with a high level of op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity. All up, it’s a good com­pro­mise.

Be­sides, it’d be a hard marker who would con­sider the fuel re­turn of 2.21km/litre (6.24mpg) at the end of the ex­er­cise to be any­thing other than re­spectable con­sid­er­ing the wildly vary­ing de­mands of ter­rain and traf­fic on a truck with just a few hun­dred kilo­me­tres un­der its belt.

Still on fuel, the test truck was fit­ted with twin rec­tan­gu­lar tanks hold­ing a com­bined ca­pac­ity of 770 litres, along with a 45-litre AdBlue tank.

Not the sort of ca­pac­i­ties you’d like for long-haul work but cer­tainly ad­e­quate for most city and coun­try runs.

Crit­i­cal as they are, though, fuel and per­for­mance fac­tors are far from the only con­sid­er­a­tions in the mod­ern assess­ment of any truck and as ex­pected, DAF’s CF85 typ­i­fies the high stan­dards of com­fort, con­ve­nience and road man­ners found in Euro­pean cab-overs of most per­sua­sions. It doesn’t take long to re­alise why the CF is DAF’s top seller.

The rel­a­tively low-slung cab is avail­able in slim­line and sleeper form, the lat­ter with a stan­dard or raised roofline, and in all cases of­fers the easy en­try and exit qual­i­ties deemed a pre­req­ui­site by most fleets, par­tic­u­larly in the lo­cal and re­gional fleet work DAF in­tends to tar­get.

Mean­while, ride qual­ity is first rate thanks to the com­bined qual­i­ties of a cab mounted on four coil springs, a front axle rid­ing on long par­a­bolic leaf springs and a back-end on Pac­car’s pop­u­lar Air­glide eight-bag air sus­pen­sion.

In fact, in any over­all assess­ment of ride, road man­ners and gen­eral han­dling, in­clud­ing a great turn­ing cir­cle for ma­noeu­vring in tight spots, the qual­i­ties of the CF85 on this ex­er­cise were ex­cep­tional and equal to any in the busi­ness. And I mean any!

Make no mis­take, this is a nice truck to drive. On the in­side, the driver sits on a high-qual­ity seat in a cock­pit-style lay­out where gauges and switchgear are gen­er­ally well placed.

Though, like all trucks, fa­mil­iar­ity takes a lit­tle time. At first glance, the trailer brake lever sticks out like a sore thumb, but its con­ve­nience for mo­men­tar­ily hold­ing the truck at traf­fic lights and the like soon out­weighs first im­pres­sions.

Of course, the rel­a­tively low stature of the cab also means there’s a sub­stan­tial en­gine cowl, so get­ting in and out of the bunk is some­thing of a man­aged move­ment. The bunk it­self, how­ever, is more than ad­e­quate for those oc­ca­sions when you’re caught short of sleep or driv­ing hours, or both.

There are plenty of other as­pects about the

CF85 worth a men­tion, like ex­cel­lent for­ward vi­sion and good mir­rors, and a level of stan­dard and op­tional fea­tures com­pa­ra­ble to most Euro­pean cab-overs com­pet­ing in the same class. Ac­cord­ing to DAF’s in­ner cir­cle, there are also the ben­e­fits of sharp pric­ing, long ser­vice sched­ules, gen­er­ous war­ranty and fi­nan­cial pack­ages all de­signed to give the brand some­thing it has long lacked: ap­peal!

The key for DAF now, as gen­eral man­ager Rob Grif­fin con­sis­tently states, is to get back­sides into the driver’s seat of the 510hp CF85 to not only demon­strate the new model’s mer­its but, per­haps more im­por­tantly, to add mus­cle to the mes­sage that the DAF of yes­ter­day is long gone.

The way he sees it, the truck will do the rest and, af­ter putting this par­tic­u­lar back­side in the seat, it’s a mes­sage that comes through loud and clear.

Above: More mus­cle – with 510hp, the DAF CF85 will tar­get metro and re­gional work in sin­gle trailer, truck ‘n’ dog or B-dou­ble con­fig­u­ra­tion. Line-haul will be left to the flag­ship XF105 model

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