New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Big Test - Story Wayne Munro Pho­tos Ger­ald Shack­lock

A spec­tac­u­lar a spec­tac­u­lar en­vi­ron­ment:

e FH16 750 hauls a load of stems up a forestry road at Po­hokura

AS THE BIG VOLVO NEGOTIATES SOME VI­CIOUS WASH­BOARD cor­ru­ga­tions on a steep hill in the Po­hokura For­est, north­west of Napier, driver Greg (Scooby) Springer says he’s sorry. Sorry, that is, for the pun­ish­ment it’s tak­ing: “I mean, for this sort of work….it’s a shame re­ally to bring it off-high­way,” he reck­ons.

Then again, he ar­gues aloud with him­self, “I get out at the end of the day and I’m not bent over.” He re­alises that sounds like an in­dict­ment of the Ken­worths he drove be­fore this FH16 and has­tens to add: “But, like, the Ken­worths are good too – don’t get me wrong.”

It’s just that he thinks the king-of-the-road Volvo is bet­ter. Un­beat­ably so.

It’s why, when given the choice by his boss – Pan Pac For­est Prod­ucts con­trac­tor Barry Her­mansen – he elected to go for a Volvo.

Well, to be fair, not just any Volvo, but very specif­i­cally an ex­am­ple of the truck that rates as the world’s most pow­er­ful pro­duc­tion high­way truck – pow­ered by Volvo’s 16-litre, pro­duc­ing a jeal­ousy-in­duc­ing 750-horse­power/551kW and 2618 lb ft/3550Nm of peak torque. It turns out that the B&P Her­mansen Log­ging 8x4 is one of New Zealand’s first two FH16 750s to go into log­ging.

Com­mit­ted Ken­worth cus­tomer that Her­mansen has long been, he had a cou­ple of rea­sons to al­low Scooby the say: For one, he had some bad ex­pe­ri­ences with the Cummins Sig­na­ture EGR en­gines in his last batch of Ken­worths – three K108Es and a T408.

In 2011 he bought the four EGR-en­gined Ken­worths – putting him smack, dab in the mid­dle of liv­ing un­hap­pily with “a prob­lem en­gine.” Says Barry: “Cummins sup­ported them in the end, but I had a few is­sues with them.”

Un­happy as that ex­pe­ri­ence was, he clar­i­fies that it wasn’t the main rea­son for the Volvo pur­chase: “It’s been Scooby’s choice be­cause, you know, I did say that this may be my last round of trucks.” By the time the lat­est pur­chases have done their five years/800,000kms – the typ­i­cal life of a Pan Pac unit – he could be eye­ing re­tire­ment.

And he adds: “I’ll be into my 70s by then and I wanted to know what he was do­ing….maybe he might want to buy it off me af­ter I re­tire,” he reck­ons with a laugh. Scooby, to­tally dead­pan, jok­ingly nixes that idea: “Prob­a­bly wrecked by then.”

Her­mansen also re­ally rates and ap­pre­ci­ates Scooby as a driver – and wanted to en­cour­age him to stay with him. And that was more im­por­tant than ex­er­cis­ing his own pref­er­ences: He has been, he says, “a Ken­worth man….and prob­a­bly deep down I still am. I’ve got a soft spot for them.

“There’s some­thing about the old Ken­worth…. You’ve gotta be able to get up in the morn­ing and look out­side and say ‘mmmhhh, I like that – and that’s why I’m do­ing it.’

“I dunno whether I could do that with a Hino or…..I won’t run other brands down….well, I shouldn’t have said the Hino… But, you know, I was gonna say Mitsi and all that….”

Barry’s truck­ing ca­reer started with a two-decade stint driv­ing for a dairy com­pany in Dan­nevirke and he didn’t get his first taste of logtrucks till the fac­tory closed down in 1988. He shifted from the Manawatu to Napier, to drive a Pan Pac con­trac­tor’s self-load­ing log­ger.

Six years later he started with Pan Pac on his own ac­count, tak­ing over a four-year-old Fo­den. He bought a Volvo FH in 2002, but since

then it’s been Ken­worths – build­ing up to run­ning four of ‘em for Pan Pac.

Last year that dropped back to three units, with the sale of one K108E to nephew Craig Moor­cock. Early this year another K108 was traded on the new Volvo, leav­ing Barry with the FH16, one of the Ken­worth cabovers (ded­i­cated to stem work) and a T408E – “both com­ing up five years old.” A T659 Ken­worth is on the way to re­place the 408.

Run­ning four trucks is “a bit of a hand­ful” – par­tic­u­larly now that “I’m in my re­tire­ment years….so I just want to spend a bit more time en­joy­ing life. I’m 67…you don’t know how long you’re here for.

“I do a lot of my own main­te­nance – the lit­tle stuff – and so our week­ends are pretty full-on, you know. And I just wanted to down­grade a wee bit – to a cou­ple of trucks and have a bit more spare time.”

Whether that de­vel­ops into re­tir­ing any­time soon, he’s re­luc­tant to pre­dict: “You never know. You have trucks in your blood – you’re not too sure how long it’s gonna be.”

There’s a clue to his think­ing though in the name on the Volvo: “The Last of the Sum­mer Wine.”

As for the new FH16, Barry reck­ons that Volvo sales­man Scott Robin­son has al­ways kept in touch, de­spite his his­tory of buy­ing Ken­worths. So one day “I said ‘look Scott, come and see me when I can buy a 750.’ ”

The FH16 750 has been, since it was launched in Europe in early 2012, the world’s most pow­er­ful high­way pro­duc­tion truck. Kiwi op­er­a­tors have bought an ex­traor­di­nar­ily high num­ber of them – 35 to date…..most of them work­ing in line­haul, but some do­ing live­stock and one work­ing as a tip­per.

But, un­til re­cently, the 750 hadn’t made it into log­ging. That’s be­cause, says Volvo Truck na­tional sales man­ager Clive Jones, there’s been a “care­ful ap­proach” to in­tro­duc­ing the 750 into NZ. And that ap­proach, he adds, has “proved worth­while,” as the 750 “has been su­perbly re­li­able.

“Hav­ing the high­est horse­power pro­duc­tion truck in the world is one thing – but our key fo­cus is al­ways on re­li­a­bil­ity and sup­port.”

One day last year, Her­mansen says, he duly got a call from Robin­son: The 750 was now avail­able for log­ging – on ap­pli­ca­tion

(as with ev­ery 750 sale, says Jones, due to high global de­mand and very lim­ited en­gine avail­abil­ity).

The long­time Ken­worth man de­cided: “Oh well, let’s give it a shot.” Sure, says Barry, he could have sim­ply set­tled for a lesspow­er­ful FH16: “Like, we could have had a 700 – no wor­ries at all.” And, he con­cedes, “50hp more is not a lot.”

But, at the same time, he’s a man who be­lieves that there’s no point set­tling for less than what’s avail­able. As he puts it, when you go into a bot­tle store for beers “you don’t go and take a bot­tle out of the crate, do ya! So we’ll just go for the whole hog….”

So what if they’d said no to okay­ing the 750 for log­ging – would he have told Scooby that it was go­ing to be another Ken­worth?

“Nah, I think I would have still given him what he wanted….we’d have gone the next size down.”

It’s a spec­tac­u­lar con­fir­ma­tion of how highly Her­mansen re­gards the 56-year-old who came to drive for him eight years back – “a

cabover man” who’d pre­vi­ously been driv­ing line­haul in Em­mer­son Trans­port Ken­worth K100s.

Why Scooby’s dis­like of con­ven­tion­als? “Just not used to them re­ally – with that bon­net out the front.”

Quiz him on his pref­er­ence for the Volvo and he men­tions its “arm­chair com­fort…its han­dling, how steady it is…how you’re not bumped around.”

Driv­ing this, chimes in Barry (who’s been at the wheel of the new­comer while Scooby’s been on hol­i­day), “you’re not work­ing – you’re just sit­ting there….en­joy­ing the drive.” It’s a log­ger – but it’s also “as good as any­thing on the road.”

Barry warms to the sub­ject: Driv­ing log trucks, he says, “IS a good job. You get out in the back­blocks. But some­times we won­der why we do it – in the mud and crap – eh Scooby.”

This morn­ing it’s all good – foggy but oth­er­wise dry: “Whereas… last Fri­day night, when that storm come through and you’re out in it, and you thought why are you do­ing it!”

But even in those mo­ments (or maybe even more so then), the Volvo shines through: “Nah, it’s pretty good. You’ve got seat-warm­ers and stuff. You know, you get in damp….and straight away you start to feel warm.”

The rig is an eight-axle con­vert­ible unit – an 8x4 truck and a fouraxle Patchell trailer. Slid­ing bol­sters con­vert it from car­ry­ing stems, up to 18-me­tres long…into a shorts unit, han­dling log lengths rang­ing from 4m to 7m on the truck and 5m-11.3m on the trailer.

It op­er­ates on an HPMV per­mit al­low­ing it to run up to a 46-tonne GCM and 23m to­tal length on 50MAX routes – this pri­mar­ily used to cart logs to the Pan Pac mill at Whiri­naki (which is what we’re do­ing to­day – with stems). But if it’s run­ning to the Port of Napier it has to stick to 44t – sim­ply be­cause the scal­ing sheds are on streets that haven’t been ap­proved for HPMV weights by the lo­cal coun­cil.

The slid­ing bol­sters and ex­tra hydraulic stuff on a con­vert­ible means it’s a lit­tle heav­ier (the truck tare is up 500kg, to 12.5t) than ei­ther a ded­i­cated stems or shorts unit – this one tare­ing at 18-tonnes.

Barry would have liked it to be a nine-axle unit, so it could make the most of an HPMV per­mit but, as he ex­plains, Pan Pac likes the ver­sa­til­ity of a unit that can cart stems and also still be put on wood­lot work, which of­ten calls for units to ne­go­ti­ate tight farm tracks.

The sleeper cab Volvo’s work takes it to the steep, rugged coun­try of in­land Hawke’s Bay and Poverty Bay – as far north as the re­mote Ngat­apa For­est, due west of Wairoa…or di­rectly east into the ranges, or south as far as coastal Wairarapa.

Tough as some of that coun­try is, what the FH16 HA brings to the task is for­mi­da­ble: The 5500mm wheel­base truck comes, of course, with the Volvo D16G750 16.1-litre en­gine, which pro­duces its 750hp/551kW of peak power be­tween 1600 and 1800rpm – but has fully 700hp/514kW from be­low 1300rpm, all the way up to 1900 revs.

Its 2618 lb ft/3550Nm of peak torque is avail­able from 1050 to 1400rpm, with 2212 lb ft/3000Nm of that on tap all the way from around 975rpm…up to 1700. The en­gine brak­ing ef­fect from the VEB+ en­gine brake is 570hp/425kW at 2200rpm.

Volvo’s 12-speed I-shift ATO3512D au­to­mated trans­mis­sion with

over­drive does the shift­ing. It has RTH2610 hub-re­duc­tion rear axles, with a com­bined rat­ing of 26,000kg, run­ning on Volvo RADD-GR air sus­pen­sion. Up-front are Volvo FAL 13 axles, to­gether rated at 13t, on two-leaf par­a­bolic springs.

It’s equipped with disc brakes (on the trailer as well), ABS, an elec­tronic brake sys­tem (EBS) and Volvo’s Stretch Brake, which au­to­mat­i­cally calls on the trailer brakes when it senses a po­ten­tial jack-knife sit­u­a­tion. The truck’s telem­at­ics are en­abled for Volvo’s Dy­nafleet fleet man­age­ment sys­tem.

We meet the truck at around 7am at the Pan Pac mill at Whiri­naki, on the coast just north of Napier, where Barry’s just de­liv­ered a load of stems.

Help­fully, he’s re­quested the run out to Po­hokura – to give us a “real test” of the Volvo. Even though he doesn’t like sub­ject­ing the new­comer to the rough roads there…and a re­ally muddy skid-site.

He’s a thought­ful bloke about his trucks and so it’s help­ful too that he’s join­ing us – to give us his per­spec­tive on the 750. So we get in a good chat on the straight­for­ward first 40km of the run – up the Napier-Taupo High­way, to the Waitara Road turnoff.

A cou­ple of key ques­tions, for in­stance. Like, how suited to tough off-high­way work is the 750 – given that its only gear­box op­tion is the fully-au­to­mated I-Shift?

Well, Barry reck­ons, it’s true that a lot of Pan Pac con­trac­tors who bought au­to­mated man­u­als in Ken­worths, Sca­nias and so on a few years back, have now gone back to man­u­als.

It’s a fa­mil­iar story, as he ex­plains that they were too slow-shift­ing for the steep hills: He was do­ing quite a bit of re­lief driv­ing in his Ken­worth K108Es out to par­tic­u­larly steep forestry tracks at Ngat­apa (fur­ther north of Po­hokura), and he reck­ons: “You know, I’d just about have to have a party with my­self when I could come out with­out stalling.

“But they have got so much bet­ter – I can’t knock them be­cause I’m not com­par­ing this to the lat­est (Ea­ton) ones.

“But I did a lot of read­ing on this one here (the I-Shift) and I was ex­cited about it. Be­cause, on paper, and ac­cord­ing to ev­ery­body talk­ing about it, it’s the best on the mar­ket. And I do like it. The

more I drive it, the bet­ter.

“When I first started driv­ing it, I was do­ing a lot in man­ual.” Now he’s at the point where he’s driv­ing it in auto mode all the time when it’s un­loaded – and loaded on-high­way…al­beit in the I-Shift’s Power mode, “be­cause I just feel they (the shifts) get a lit­tle bit too lazy.”

Loaded, in the forests and on back-coun­try gravel roads like this Waitara Road, the I-Shift’s al­ways in man­ual mode, so he can or­der up the shifts: “Be­cause they’ll change up when you feel they shouldn’t change up. Even the sales­men will tell you (that) an au­to­matic truck, no mat­ter what brand it is, doesn’t see a hill com­ing, you know. It waits till it gets to the hill and then does it.”

Ex­cept for, I sug­gest, those equipped with pre­dic­tive cruise con­trol – like Volvo’s I-See, which uses GPS tech­nol­ogy to “see” the road ahead and down­shift ac­cord­ingly: “Yeah well we could have had

I-See in this for another $5500 I think it was, but I couldn’t see the ben­e­fit of it for us. There’s this for­est…and the next one is flat, you know.

“This’d be one of the steep­est ones we’ve got at the mo­ment. This and Putere (north­east of here). This is prob­a­bly the worst.”

Scooby’s in to­tal agree­ment on where the I-Shift can and can’t be left to its own de­vices: “I’ll nor­mally stay in man­ual in the bush. I feel it bet­ter. I tried au­to­matic but it just kept want­ing to change – and you didn’t want it to.”

But he’s im­pressed with how well the I-Shift per­forms in auto mode when the rig’s fully-loaded, once it’s on the Napier-Taupo High­way “on the way home” – even on Ti­tiokura (the well-re­spected Ti­tiokura Sad­dle hill: “Put it in auto, on cruise con­trol, and let it do it. And it does. Yeah it’s cool.

“I don’t touch nothin’ go­ing up there. I’m in cruise con­trol and auto – and I don’t touch it till I get to the top. Set it on 91k…and it’ll drop down in speed, then once it finds it’s pulling gear, it’s away. It’ll do 45, 47k…I think you go up in 8th. In the Ken­worth it’d be 30-odd (km/h), in fifth High.”

At the top he still goes back to man­ual mode (as he does on all de­cent down­hills) – “oth­er­wise it’ll try to change up.”

Barry rates the VEB+ en­gine brake as the equal of his Ken­worths’ Cummins In­te­brake: “I use it all the time – on the most pow­er­ful set­ting.” Well, some­times backed-off to the sec­ond stage, be­cause it’s slow­ing the Volvo down too much.

Fuel-wise, even in th­ese early days of its life (it’s so far clocked-up just 24,500kms), the 750 is do­ing well: “In the last 30 days it’s been do­ing 1.7kms per litre – which is bet­ter than the EGRs (the Ken­worth K108Es). The new EGR I’ve put on is do­ing about 1.5.”

About 10kms along Waitara Rd, past the Glen­falls Camp­site be­side the Mo­haka River, the tar­mac runs out. The camp­site’s a a pretty spot, but one that de­liv­ers logtruck driv­ers an ex­tra haz­ard, when camper­van driv­ers pull out of the camp and de­cide to take the tight and windy road north (it even­tu­ally comes out at Tu­tira, on the Napier-Wairoa High­way).

Once on the gravel Scooby se­lects “off-high­way” mode to put the power di­viders in on the Volvo diffs, ready for the cor­ru­ga­tions. He also uses the Big­foot cen­tral tyre in­fla­tion sys­tem to take the tyre pres­sures down (from their “high­way un­loaded,” 65 PSI) to 31 PSI on the Miche­lin XDY3 11R 22.5 driv­ers (the big Volvo came shod with the Miche­lins – with Miche­lin X Works 295 80R 22.5s on the steer axles).

Says Barry: “You can go a lit­tle bit more, but they’ll come off the

bead at about 25. So if you go side­ways or some­thing like that, there’s chance of blow­ing them off. And it has hap­pened.”

The Big­foot sys­tem (which now runs on all of his trucks), is “good – now I un­der­stand it. When we first got it if some­thing went wrong you’d throw your hands in the air and freeze.”

There’s a lit­tle re­minder of how “back-coun­try” this road is when we come across a “Ki­wis cross­ing” road sign.

For Scooby, com­ing out into this sort of coun­try on a beau­ti­ful morn­ing like this – sunny, but with the val­leys so far still filled with fog – is the best part of the logtruck driv­ing job: “Just see­ing all this. On a nice day it’s re­ally nice – on a shit day it’s re­ally shitty.”

On one of the many climbs, the Volvo shud­ders over some pretty se­vere wash­board. In the Ken­worth, says Scooby, “you’d be rat­tlin’ away there.”

Barry chips in: “If you were in the Ken­worths, the old cab mounts they’d be rockin’ by now.” In them, he adds: “Some­times you get into a cor­ner like that and the steer­ing will lock up on you…be­cause it gets the old thing there (as he waves his hand as if it’s vi­brat­ing). You’ve gotta be a lit­tle bit care­ful.”

What he likes about the Volvo is that, al­though it doesn’t rat­tle or bang, “we are still feel­ing it (the cor­ru­ga­tions)…. which is good too, be­cause if you’re not feel­ing the bumps, you tend to go over them too hard.”

Scooby agrees: “Yeah, you’ve gotta re­mem­ber that ev­ery­thing else is still get­ting rat­tled around. This hill (for in­stance) is shock­ing.” It’s a hill where logtrucks pe­ri­od­i­cally have to tow un­loaded stock trucks that sim­ply can’t get enough trac­tion to make the climb.

Ac­tu­ally, he and Scooby de­cide, the cor­ru­ga­tions in the road are “not too bad to­day….she’s a lot bet­ter than I’ve seen it.” Must have

Above & top left: Scooby reck­ons that the Volvo is ex­cep­tional in that it de­liv­ers the driver cab com­fort and ap­point­ments as good as any­thing on the a truck that’s right at home in rough o road go­ing

Far left: Seat-mounted I-Shift se­lec­tor sits right by the driver’s left hand, mak­ing for easy switch­ing be­tween Man­ual or Auto modes and or­der­ing-up shifts man­u­ally

Left: Roomy sleeper cab in­cludes comfy-look­ing bunk, with roll­out stor­age bin and fridge un­der­neath it

just been graded, they reckon.

There are other re­wards to­day: We pause a mo­ment as Scooby calls our po­si­tion on the ra­dio (which he’s done for the last 20k or so along Waitara and Po­hokura Roads, to warn on­com­ing trucks of our where­abouts), just be­fore turn­ing onto a forestry road that twists and turns its way down a steep ridge, the last few kilo­me­tres to the skid-site.

It’s a stun­ning vista of wild coun­try – one hill af­ter another, bro­ken by mist-filled val­leys – stretch­ing away to­wards the Urew­eras to the north.

Says Barry ap­pre­cia­tively: “This is more ex­cit­ing to me than driv­ing through Kain­garoa. He points out tracks off each side of the ridge, down into the val­leys – we’ve been down all th­ese roads here. They’ve been trou­ble­some roads at times.”

This looks like a hel­luva road to be com­ing back up with an 18m-long load stretch­ing out be­hind, but Barry’s reck­ons that it’s ac­tu­ally “pretty good.” The four-axle trailer, run­ning on in­te­grated Hen­drick­son INTRAAX axles and sus­pen­sion, tracks nicely be­hind. It feels pretty much like you’re driv­ing a long semi-trailer, Barry ex­plains.

At the log stock­pile, there’s a big muddy pud­dle on the turn­around. How deep? Scooby’s about to find out. It’s okay – it doesn’t make the Al­coa al­loys on the rear wheels.

But so much for Barry’s ef­forts yes­ter­day in giv­ing the Volvo “a lit­tle bit of a tickle-up” so it’d be at its best for our pho­tos: “Oh well,” he shrugs, “it’s a work­ing truck.”

He reck­ons he’s al­ready “had a growl­ing” from Scooby be­cause of “all the stuff ev­ery­where in the cab – yes­ter­day’s pa­per­work.”

Worse still, in the heavy rain on a skid-site a few nights ago, he was ma­noeu­vring the rig when the off­side lower guard, by the bot­tom step, clipped a log that “shouldn’t have been there.” The panel there’s go­ing to need re­plac­ing. He and Scooby both worry too about how long the lit­tle lip spoiler be­low the front bumper is go­ing to last once win­ter comes – and the ruts get deep.

As Scooby ex­plains: “If it gets soft, the wheel tracks could be a foot deep.” At that point, he adds, it wouldn’t mat­ter “whether you’re in this or a Ken­worth – they’ll come back with mud all over their bumpers.” He and Barry are se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing pre-emp­tively re­mov­ing the spoiler.

Once the Patchell trailer’s lifted off by the loader, the con­vert­ible’s stems con­fig­u­ra­tion (al­ready set up), prop­erly re­veals it­self: The fixed front bol­ster sits (un­used) ahead of the stems logs – with one side folded down. The truck’s sec­ond bol­ster has been slid and locked in a po­si­tion above the front drive axle. On the trailer, the rear bol­ster is out of use – at its rear­most posi and laid back, hor­i­zon­tally. The front bol­ster has been slid back as far as it will go, and is locked there.

Seven or eight long logs is all it takes to get the load up around 45-tonnes – as dis­played on the SI Lodec on­board scales. The truck is equipped with an I-Pad, with soft­ware con­nected to the scales, so the weight can be mon­i­tored from out­side the truck. It’s per­fect, reck­ons Barry, on the skid-sites he vis­its at night, where he op­er­ates the loader: “I just put it in the loader and you don’t have to keep run­ning back to the truck to see what’s hap­pen­ing.”

The logs carted can be quite a bit big­ger than to­day’s lot: “I think the best we’ve had is some­thing like five logs…18-me­tres long.”

It’s 8.50am when NZ Truck & Driver pub­lisher and tester Trevor Wool­ston climbs up into the 750, with Scooby along­side, to get a first-hand feel­ing of how the big Volvo han­dles this kind of tough ter­rain.

On Scooby’s in­struc­tions the I-Shift goes into man­ual mode and, even though it’s an up­hill start, we’re soon up to sixth and set­tle

at that for the steep climb: “It’s such gen­tle horse­power,” Wool­ston en­thuses. “It’s not bang­ing you around.”

This climb’s not too bad, by Scooby’s reckoning. A few months back, they were cart­ing out of a skid-site fur­ther down the hill and were forced to ne­go­ti­ate a tight hair­pin, right where the log-hauler’s work­ing now.

“This thing,” he says ap­pre­cia­tively of the Volvo, “would romp out of there.” Sure, even if you were forced to a halt in one of the Ken­worths, you’d get them restarted again, no prob­lem.

But the FH16 goes one bet­ter than that: “This has just got an aid for that (the op­tional hill start as­sist)…which is cool. Why try and do what, in a man­ual gear­box, is a three-foot ma­noeu­vre: Brake, clutch, ac­cel­er­ate…”

The 16-litre, usu­ally so quiet you hardly no­tice it, is pro­duc­ing a real throaty ex­haust note now as we slog up the hill.

Not un­ex­pect­edly, the FH16 750 de­liv­ers im­pres­sively all the way back to the main high­way – on the climbs, on the de­scents, over the cor­ru­ga­tions and pot­holes, around tight cor­ners. Noth­ing fazes it. The fog’s lifted too! So it’s a per­fect morn­ing to be a truck driver, on this job…in this truck.

It’s around an hour’s drive on the windy, hilly road be­fore we make it back to the high­way. Now for the chal­lenge of Ti­tiokura.

Sug­gests Scooby to Wool­ston: “Throw your boot up it and that’s us to the top ba­si­cally. All I’ve done is pre­set the cruise con­trol at 91k, so it’s not gonna get up to that. But it will take you to the top of the hill, chang­ing gear when it’s ready. I love it. That’s what it’s de­signed to do – to do the job.”

So we start into the climb at 85km/h in top, the I-Shift crisply down­shift­ing at around 1200rpm, un­til we’re in 8th. And “that’s it,” reck­ons Scooby. He’s right (of course, since he and the Volvo al­ready know this hill well) and, af­ter drop­ping to around 38k, we start pick­ing up speed and revs – back up to 46k and 1700rpm be­fore the sum­mit.

Scooby makes a point: “See now, Barry says he al­ways puts it (the I-Shift) in Power (mode) – and that’s still in Econ­omy. I don’t see the point (of go­ing to Power). It’d just rev it­self out a bit more.”

Wool­ston is moved to rate this “the cruisi­est drive” he’s had over the Ti­tiokuras since he drove a demo 685hp/515kW Mack Su­per-Liner – coin­ci­den­tally, run­ning the same Volvo group 16-litre en­gine and the same AMT (al­beit re­branded as a Mack MP10 and an MDRIVE) – head­ing north, back in 2013.

Now, he adds of the Volvo driv­e­train: “That is pretty bloody im­pres­sive.” Scooby agrees: “Spe­cially when you’re do­ing nothin’ – just sit back and steer it. It’s a pity it couldn’t do that as well!”

Still, when he gets back be­hind the wheel of the FH16 at the Ti­tiokura Sum­mit for the run back to Whiri­naki, he puts the I-Shift

into man­ual mode for the de­scent.

He ini­tially set­tles on 7th at 1400rpm and 30km/h, which he soon reck­ons is prob­a­bly a gear too low – so goes up to 8th and uses an oc­ca­sional touch of the brake pedal to as­sist it: “There’s noth­ing wrong with touch­ing the brake. That’s what it’s for.”

The fun part of the trip over, all that’s left to dis­cuss are Scooby’s opin­ions on var­i­ous fea­tures of the FH16: The stereo ra­dio, he says, has a good range. The air­con sys­tem is “awe­some… you can put the tem­per­a­ture up and aim it where you want it…”

And the lights are great – that’s the driv­ing lights and the in­te­rior light­ing. For night work “it’s like day­light in here” – or you can dim them to suit.

We’re back at the Pan Pac mill af­ter a three hours 40 min­utes round trip. The weigh­bridge puts the weight at 45.24-tonnes and the 27t of logs are lifted off – im­me­di­ately sent to a high-tech scan­ner that comes up with the op­ti­mum cut for each log… even giv­ing it a value.

Within half an hour of our ar­rival, the un­load­ing’s com­pleted, Scooby’s reloaded the trailer at the gantry and there’s time for a cuppa be­fore the truck’s next run – out to Kuri­pa­pango, on the Gen­tle An­nie road to Tai­hape.

Be­fore it goes, we get a chance to tilt the cab (like most things with the FH16, it’s eas­ily done – with an elec­tric/hydraulic lift).

We’ve seen the D16G750 en­gine be­fore, but what im­presses this time around are the lit­tle things – like the lav­ish amount of sound­dead­en­ing in­su­la­tion that shrouds the en­gine bay.

Ev­ery­where you look, it’s all about so­lid­ity, qual­ity and/or look­ing af­ter the driver: The likes of the sturdy high-qual­ity Volvo guard mounts, for in­stance; the sub­stan­tial airbags un­der the rear of the cab… the de­tail work done by Patchell on the log­ging gear and the trailer (which rides on R168 Bridge­stone 265 70R 19.5 tyres, mounted on Al­coa al­loys).

Clever touches there in­clude the chain trays in be­tween the guards, nifty ratchet han­dle stowage, pro­tec­tive shrouds for the fuel tank and the SI Lodec on­board weigh­ing sys­tem gauges.

Clive Jones says that with two log­gers now work­ing “with ex­cep­tional op­er­a­tors…. we’re watch­ing those ve­hi­cles via telem­at­ics as they go about their daily work.”

And, based on their per­for­mance so far, “it’s likely there will be fur­ther sales into the fu­ture in this seg­ment – pro­vided we can ob­tain the en­gines from Swe­den.”

If Barry Her­mansen’s ex­pe­ri­ence is an in­di­ca­tor, there’ll cer­tainly be more de­mand. Al­low­ing Scooby to choose the FH16 750 has been, he says with feel­ing, “a re­ally, re­ally good de­ci­sion. If it was down to the wife we’d have another one!

“I was a lit­tle bit ap­pre­hen­sive af­ter I or­dered it – peo­ple were go­ing ‘awwh, fuel econ­omy’s not very good in it.’ But it’s been awe­some – as good, if not bet­ter than the Cummins, you know.

“Its con­tract main­te­nance and the truck it­self is awe­some. And you know, tare-weight-wise we’ve not lost any­thing on any other unit… .and the ex­tra horse­power makes your day a lit­tle eas­ier. It’s just so cruisy.” T&D

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