Star struck: John Treloar and his new ProS­tar

A self-con­fessed In­ter­na­tional ‘tragic’, it was prob­a­bly short odds that Tas­ma­nia’s John Treloar would be first in Aus­tralia to buy a new ProS­tar. Even so, he’s also a re­al­ist who knows the brand’s long-term fu­ture here hinges as much on the re­solve and c

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

The way John Treloar sees it, there’s no struc­tural or me­chan­i­cal rea­son why In­ter­na­tional ProS­tar shouldn’t suc­ceed in Aus­tralia. None at all! It is, as he suc­cinctly puts it, “Sim­ply a strong, prac­ti­cal work­horse. The same things that made S-line such a good truck are all there in this truck, too.”

In fact, with­out putting too fine a point on it, Cum­mins-pow­ered S-lines are the rea­son John Treloar not only ranks among the top tier of In­ter­na­tional ‘trag­ics’, but also the rea­son why the prospect of a ProS­tar with a 15-litre Cum­mins en­gine lit the fires of in­ter­est like a flamethrower on fuel.

The story goes like this: John is manag­ing direc­tor of Treloar Trans­port – a busy truck­ing, civil con­struc­tion and quar­ry­ing com­pany based at Sh­effield in north­ern Tas­ma­nia, nes­tled be­neath the stark, im­pos­ing stature of Mt Roland. The com­pany’s roots date back to the mid-50s, with his fa­ther Cliff haul­ing fuel in drums be­fore ven­tur­ing into log­ging in the 1970s, and ul­ti­mately mov­ing into civil con­struc­tion and quar­ry­ing oper­a­tions as op­por­tu­ni­ties emerged. Th­ese days,

I don’t see why In­ter­na­tional and Iveco can’t go on to big­ger and bet­ter things.

a big chunk of the com­pany’s work­load is in the con­struc­tion and main­te­nance of forestry haulage roads, in­vari­ably in steep and dif­fi­cult ter­rain. More on that later!

Any­way, it’s a busi­ness that to­day op­er­ates a size­able in­ven­tory of around 60 pieces of con­struc­tion and earth­mov­ing equip­ment, ac­com­pa­nied by what John de­scribes as “a dozen main­stream trucks – mainly tip­per and dog but also a cou­ple of prime movers for dif­fer­ent jobs like haul­ing ma­chin­ery.”

All but two of the ‘main­stream’ trucks carry the In­ter­na­tional brand – from five Ea­gle 9900s, to a cou­ple of Transtars, a pair of seem­ingly age­less S-lines, and now a sin­gle ProS­tar. The only ex­cep­tions to the In­ter­na­tional in­dul­gence are two Iveco Pow­er­stars but, for rea­sons that in­clude is­sues with fit and fin­ish of the cab and oc­ca­sional elec­tri­cal glitches, John says it’s un­likely there will be any more. Be­sides, he’s not obliv­i­ous to spec­u­la­tion that Pow­er­star may soon be a thing of the past for Iveco, with the com­pany ap­par­ently putting its con­ven­tional hopes in ProS­tar while its own Stralis range con­tin­ues to con­test a bur­geon­ing heavy-duty cab-over class.

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL CON­VERT

Any­way, tak­ing a few steps back, John Treloar con­cedes that sev­eral brands of truck have oc­cu­pied the com­pany’s evo­lu­tion over the decades. “Some bet­ter than oth­ers,” he says with a smirk. John is, how­ever, quick to con­firm that the pur­chase of a sec­ond-hand In­ter­na­tional S-line with a Cum­mins 350 Big Cam en­gine in 1984 was the foun­da­tion of a re­gard that has en­dured and strength­ened for well over 30 years.

That orig­i­nal S-line, John ex­plained, had al­ready clocked close to 500,000 kilo­me­tres as a log­ging prime mover by the time it joined the Treloar op­er­a­tion, where it was duly con­verted to a tip­per haul­ing a pig trailer and con­tin­ued to pro­vide faith­ful ser­vice for the next half-mil­lion kilo­me­tres.

Yet it wasn’t just the fun­da­men­tal in­tegrity of the truck that won his ad­mi­ra­tion. Af­ter about four years in the Treloar busi­ness, the 14-litre Big Cam 350 was ready for a re­build and, with a price tag of just $1500 for the en­tire parts kit, he quickly re­alised the eco­nomics of the S-line and Cum­mins com­bi­na­tion were as ap­peal­ing as the dura­bil­ity.

“As far as en­gines go, that sealed the fu­ture with Cum­mins, for sure,” he re­marks. “And for me, that’s the thing that re­ally stands out – the abil­ity of the truck and en­gine to be re­built for rel­a­tively low cost.”

In­ci­den­tally, that first S-line and Cum­mins com­bi­na­tion went on to notch 3.5 mil­lion kilo­me­tres be­fore be­ing sold, and it’s an adamant John Treloar who again as­serts it laid the ground­work for an as­so­ci­a­tion that has sur­vived de­spite sev­eral bouts of In­ter­na­tional tur­moil and the well-pub­li­cised prob­lems of Cum­mins EGR en­gines.

Mean­time, it soon be­comes ob­vi­ous that John Treloar’s in­dul­gence for all things In­ter­na­tional goes well be­yond the day-to-day grind. Tucked away safely in the fam­ily garage, for ex­am­ple, are a faith­fully re­stored 1950 In­ter­na­tional AR110 light truck and a 1977 D1100 pick-up, while un­der restora­tion in a Sh­effield work­shop are a clas­sic R-se­ries prime mover and even an In­ter­na­tional

not only a for­mi­da­ble ad­junct to Iveco’s own range of Euro­pean mod­els, but their lo­cal assem­bly also pro­vided valu­able vi­a­bil­ity to the vast Dan­de­nong fa­cil­ity.

What’s more, a great deal of work had been done at Dan­de­nong to en­sure the ex­er­cise was both fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble and op­er­a­tionally sound, and, with the var­i­ous mod­els suc­cess­fully en­dur­ing on­go­ing tests at the An­gle­sea (Vic) proving ground cre­ated decades ear­lier by In­ter­na­tional Har­vester, ev­ery­thing seemed to be go­ing along rea­son­ably well.

Then the wheels fell off. Big time! The first set­back came when Cat pulled the pin on the truck en­gine busi­ness, ef­fec­tively bring­ing the short-lived Aus­tralian ca­reer of the ver­sa­tile 7600 to a shud­der­ing, pre­ma­ture end. Then, in what hind­sight re­veals as one of the most ill-con­sid­ered and pos­si­bly inane cor­po­rate get-to­geth­ers in the mod­ern era, In­ter­na­tional par­ent Nav­is­tar closed the door on its re­la­tion­ship with Iveco in Aus­tralia, opt­ing in­stead for a much-ma­ligned deal with Cater­pil­lar to create the world’s first Cat-branded high­way truck.

It didn’t take a ge­nius to re­alise the so-called

Cat truck was sim­ply a re­badged ProS­tar, sport­ing Cat’s 15-litre en­gine, a hon­ey­comb grille to de­liver a vis­ual dif­fer­ence, and the en­tire ex­er­cise pred­i­cated on the mas­sive as­sump­tion that Cat en­gine ad­dicts would jump at the chance to pay big bucks for a truck un­tried on the Aus­tralian mar­ket. Even­tu­ally, it all fell apart when Cat de­cided to end its in­volve­ment in the truck in­dus­try al­to­gether, ba­si­cally leav­ing Nav­is­tar to pick up the pieces.

EA­GLE EYED

John Treloar re­mem­bers those days well, par­tic­u­larly when it be­came ob­vi­ous there would be no more In­ter­na­tion­als com­ing out of the Dan­de­nong fac­tory. “It was a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment and, to be hon­est, for a while

I was won­der­ing what I’d end up buy­ing in the fu­ture,” he de­clares.

Even so, in a de­ci­sive bid to shore up his In­ter­na­tional stocks, he made a point of buy­ing the last 9900 Ea­gle to roll out of Dan­de­nong as well as snap­ping up a cou­ple of sec­ond-hand Ea­gles in ex­cep­tion­ally good con­di­tion.

Like their S-line and Transtar coun­ter­parts, the big-beaked Ea­gles have stood the test of time ex­cep­tion­ally well but it’s a def­i­nite John Treloar who says he had real con­cerns about how he could pos­si­bly main­tain an en­trenched pref­er­ence for In­ter­na­tional in the after­math of the Cat deal.

“There were a few peo­ple sug­gest­ing I should buy a Cat truck be­cause it was based on a ProS­tar any­way,” he re­marks.

“But I wanted Cum­mins, not Cat, so that idea didn’t get too far.”

There was, of course, also the op­tion of an­other brand of truck. Top of the heap, es­pe­cially with some driv­ers, was Ken­worth and, to a lesser ex­tent, Mack.

“To be hon­est, I didn’t want to be forced into con­sid­er­ing ei­ther of them,” he as­serts, “but I

knew I could do a lot worse than Ken­worth.”

Then came the first whis­pers that, in the wake of the Cat col­lapse, Iveco and In­ter­na­tional were talk­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity of a Cum­min­spow­ered ProS­tar join­ing Iveco’s Aus­tralian sta­ble. Yet as relieved and keen as he was about the In­ter­na­tional brand re-en­ter­ing the Aus­tralian mar­ket, a forth­right John Treloar says he wasn’t overly im­pressed with ProS­tar at the 2015 Bris­bane Truck Show.

“I don’t know what it was, maybe be­cause it looked so dif­fer­ent to any ear­lier In­ter­na­tion­als, but it didn’t ex­cite me too much at first,” he re­marked.

“Even so, I wanted In­ter­na­tional back in the mar­ket, so for that rea­son I was happy enough to place an or­der for the first one.”

Of course, the long de­lay af­ter sign­ing the or­der didn’t do a lot for his con­fi­dence but, for­tu­nately, time and toil have since eased his con­cerns, par­tic­u­larly re­gard­ing prod­uct in­tegrity.

“It’s an In­ter­na­tional through and through,” John says earnestly of ProS­tar. “A real work­horse. I sup­pose there’s noth­ing par­tic­u­larly flash about it but it’s a prac­ti­cal, strong truck. Ex­actly what I want and need for our work.”

As for the fu­ture, John Treloar says he’s not in the mar­ket for an­other new truck just yet, but given ProS­tar’s per­for­mance to date and what he states is “a gen­uine be­lief” that Iveco and In­ter­na­tional are com­mit­ted to their agree­ment, ProS­tar will con­tinue to be his first choice for a new truck.

“There’s no doubt in my mind there’s a real mar­ket for this truck,” he em­pha­sises, adding there has been sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est from other op­er­a­tors about ProS­tar’s per­for­mance to date. “I can only tell any­one what I know, and that is the truck’s do­ing a good job. At first I thought the front end might be too low for some of the tracks we run on, but it hasn’t had any dra­mas at all.”

Gath­er­ing his thoughts, he con­tin­ues: “I must ad­mit I was a bit sur­prised that it weighs about

900 kilo­grams more than the Ea­gles, but it’s a big­ger en­gine and a heav­ier driv­e­line, so the ex­tra weight doesn’t re­ally con­cern me be­cause, with the work we do, we’re chas­ing dura­bil­ity more than tare weight. That’s why all the tip­pers use Har­dox steel bod­ies.”

He does, how­ever, cite a cou­ple of ar­eas where he be­lieves ProS­tar’s ap­peal could be fur­ther en­hanced. On the in­side, for in­stance, John sug­gests an up­graded trim pack­age – maybe a touch of wood­grain around the dash and gauges – would al­most cer­tainly el­e­vate the truck’s ap­peal with driv­ers. “Some­thing sim­i­lar to the Ea­gle dash,” he quips. “Surely it couldn’t be too hard to achieve.”

Most of all, how­ever, he sees the po­ten­tial of a Cum­mins X12 en­gine as a ma­jor at­tribute for ProS­tar’s pro­gres­sion in the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

Like many op­er­a­tors, he’s heard and read (al­most all in this mag­a­zine) plenty of pos­i­tives about the light and lively X12 with up to 500hp and 1700ftlb of torque, and a tare weight more than half a tonne less than its 15-litre brother. John also knows it’s an en­gine still look­ing for a truck to call

Surely, it couldn’t be too hard to make it more ap­peal­ing on the in­side.

‘home’ and he isn’t shy about ex­press­ing the view that, if ProS­tar was first to of­fer an X12, it would be a sig­nif­i­cant asset for the model’s, and in­deed In­ter­na­tional’s, ad­vance­ment.

“It’d be a case of giv­ing the mar­ket some­thing it wants and no one else of­fers,” he rea­sons. “It would def­i­nitely ap­peal to me be­cause we do a lot of 10-yard (rigid tip­per) work and a 12-litre Cum­mins would be ideal. No doubt at all.”

For now, though, John Treloar is sim­ply con­tent to let ProS­tar do what all his In­ter­na­tion­als do: go to work ev­ery day, do­ing the job with­out fuss or furore. Asked if he’d like to see ProS­tar as­sem­bled at Iveco’s Dan­de­nong fac­tory, he sim­ply smiles and says: “Yes, I reckon that’d be a good thing, for sure, but that’s for oth­ers to de­cide, not me.”

Quiet for a few mo­ments, he quips: “Look, I know I have all my eggs in the In­ter­na­tional bas­ket, and I’m cer­tainly well aware of things that have hap­pened in the past. But you can’t live in the past ei­ther, and I’m def­i­nitely con­fi­dent this is the right truck for our mar­ket. “We get good ser­vice from Peter White at W & B Trucks in Burnie, so while ever the truck’s do­ing the job well, I re­ally don’t have much to worry about,” John con­cludes.

AT THE WHEEL

In an age when tech­nol­ogy is grad­u­ally erod­ing many of the skill sets once con­sid­ered com­mon­place, it’s good to spend time in the cab with driv­ers like An­thony ‘Franky’ Frankcombe. Friendly in a re­served, even cau­tious way, Franky is a man to­tally at ease at the con­trols of a truck. The way he ca­su­ally guides it through sharp bends on steep, skinny roads, the im­pec­ca­ble co-or­di­na­tion of en­gine and gear­stick, free of any snicks and sud­den snaps, and the smooth pulse of power when and where it’s needed; in th­ese hands, the truck be­comes a sin­gle, seam­less en­tity rather than a col­lec­tion of com­po­nents on sep­a­rate mis­sions. Sweet, re­ally sweet.

Like I said, in an era when the rapid rise of au­to­mated trans­mis­sions and com­put­er­con­trolled driv­e­lines is in­creas­ingly com­pen­sat­ing for the dis­so­lu­tion of tra­di­tional skill sets, it’s truly sat­is­fy­ing to find pro­fes­sional pride and op­er­a­tional fi­nesse still firmly en­trenched in driv­ers like An­thony Frankcombe – driv­ers who treat and tai­lor the truck as their own, and re­spect only those of sim­i­lar stan­dard.

For Franky, it’s just a case of do­ing the job well and, be­yond the out­skirts of Sh­effield where the roads come tight and twisted, the hills sharp and sud­den, there’s plenty of op­por­tu­nity to put those abil­i­ties to good use. With Treloar Trans­port for 14 years, he spent seven years and more than 700,000km con­tent at the wheel of a 9900 Ea­gle tip­per pulling a dog trailer be­fore step­ping into the new ProS­tar last Christ­mas.

SIG­NA­TURE SOUND

Franky makes no se­cret of the fact that, in the long wait for the ProS­tar, he was push­ing John Treloar for a new Ken­worth – prefer­ably a T909. It wasn’t to be, of course, and with more than 30,000km now be­hind the wheel of the In­ter­na­tional,

cou­pled to a three-axle dog trailer, he con­cedes the truck isn’t short of op­er­a­tional as­sets.

How­ever, the stan­dard 550hp and 1850ft-lb out­puts of the Cum­mins X15 weren’t ap­peal­ing from the start. Not at all, says Franky, par­tic­u­larly af­ter step­ping out of the Ea­gle with a 620hp Sig­na­ture en­gine bark­ing un­der the big, broad snout. While on pa­per it’d be fair to ar­gue that 550hp and 1850ft-lb of torque would or­di­nar­ily be am­ple for a truck and three-axle dog role where gross weights are gen­er­ally around 48 tonnes, it doesn’t take long in th­ese parts to see why both John Treloar and Franky were happy to have the en­gine pumped up to 600hp and 2050ft-lb once it reached 20,000km.

“There’s no short­age of re­ally big, long hills and, at 550, the truck just wasn’t pulling all that well,” Franky says suc­cinctly. But what about now, with the Cum­mins re-rated to 600hp? “Yeah, it’s do­ing it a lot eas­ier, a lot bet­ter, and get­ting bet­ter all the time as the en­gine gets more work un­der its belt.”

On the fuel front, a Cum­mins down­load re­vealed an av­er­age fig­ure of 2km/litre (5.65mpg) over the first 20,000km. For John Treloar, it’s a sat­is­fac­tory re­turn which he ex­pects to im­prove as mileage ac­cu­mu­lates, even with the power in­crease. Mean­time, ac­cord­ing to Franky, there has been no dis­cernible in­crease in fuel con­sump­tion at the bowser since the en­gine was boosted to 600hp.

“It’s do­ing the work just that bit eas­ier, so I’d be sur­prised if the next down­load shows the en­gine us­ing any more fuel,” he con­tends.

As for his over­all opin­ion of ProS­tar, Franky can’t hide the fact that the slat­ted grille and slop­ing snout of the aero­dy­nam­i­cally in­spired In­ter­na­tional didn’t ini­tially light his fire, es­pe­cially af­ter the square-jawed, manly stature of the Ea­gle. Time be­hind the wheel has, how­ever, soft­ened the at­ti­tude to a firm­ing re­gard for ProS­tar’s in­her­ent at­tributes, not least the ex­cep­tional vi­sion over the droop­ing hood and a sig­nif­i­cant gain in ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity over the Ea­gle.

In fact, as he steers the In­ter­na­tional down a nar­row forestry road with a se­verely tight area to re­verse for the run out, it’s a def­i­nite Franky who cites th­ese two at­tributes as “real ben­e­fits” of the ProS­tar on the bush tracks where so much of Treloar’s work takes place.

Sur­pris­ingly, he says it’s a marginally nois­ier in-cab en­vi­ron­ment than the Ea­gle but cites good seats and im­pres­sive ride qual­ity high on the list of likes. There’s also a pro­nounced lik­ing for the gearshift of the 18-speed Ea­ton, the gauge lay­out, and the prac­ti­cal­ity of switches and con­trol func­tions.

Like his boss, how­ever, it’s an adamant Franky who in­sists more could be done to en­hance the ap­peal of the truck, no­tably with an up­graded in­te­rior trim pack­age. “Some­thing like the in­side of the Ea­gle,” Franky sug­gests. “It’s a good cab in a lot of ways but it just needs some­thing to trick it up a bit.”

As for the fu­ture, he just shrugs and, much like John Treloar, says sim­ply: “It’s a good, hon­est truck do­ing the job pretty well; so while ever it’s do­ing that, I’m happy to keep driv­ing it.”

Above: In­ter­na­tional ‘tragic’. John Treloar at home in the shadow of Mt Roland, with two trea­sured pick-ups of the past, a 1950 In­ter­na­tional AR110 model and a D1100 from 1977

Above: Bush work. Tight tracks are com­mon con­di­tions for Treloar trucks, with ProS­tar’s short snout and tight turn­ing cir­cle pro­vid­ing big gains in ma­noeu­vra­bie

Above: Top driver. An­thony ‘Franky’ Frankcombe has been in ProS­tar from day one. In op­er­a­tional terms, he finds plenty to like

Above: Franky in­side the ProS­tar. Ride, road man­ners and op­er­a­tional lay­out are all good but it’s a bland in­te­rior. An up­graded trim pack­age would cer­tainly im­prove ap­peal while John Treloar says he’d also like to see the op­tion of a Cum­mins X12 en­gine

Above: Flash­back to the An­gle­sea proving ground in 2007 when In­ter­na­tion­als were as­sem­bled by Iveco in Dan­de­nong, Vic. Left to right: a 9200 model, a 9900 Ea­gle and a 7600. It was a good ar­range­ment while it lasted

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