I’VE TRIED A COUPLE OF THESE 750HP Volvos out on the highways over the past couple of years but it’s taken until now for one of these big Swedes to make it into the bush.
Barry Hermansen’s truck is working out of Whirinaki, so it’s got plenty of hill country nearby to contend with on a regular basis.
I take up the drive after loading-out way up Pohokura Road, north of the Napier Taupo Highway. In other words, way out the back of beyond.
Barry’s convertible unit is set up to cart 18-metre stems so we’ve got a load of
around eight logs on, weighing-out to about 45-tonne.
Climbing up into the big Volvo cab is a breeze, despite the fact I’m only a few weeks out of shoulder replacement surgery, so a bit weak in the old left arm. The good, wide steps and the full-length grabhandle up the righthand side of the door opening, combined with a nice, wide-opening door make it easy.
Once you’re in the cab it’s easy to forget that you’re in a log truck, with the high-quality interior cab finish in this full sleeper-cab model.
There’s been a bit of rain up here over the past few weeks and there’s not a lot of metal on the forestry road so it looks slippery in places and we do on a few occasions activate the “slippery road” warning on the dash.
Scooby, the truck’s regular driver, has come back from his holidays for the morning to give us his thoughts and advice on the operation of the big Volvo.
He recommends manual for the offroad section of the run, which includes a forestry road and the corrugated gravel of the Pohokura and Waitara Roads. It’s good advice.
I take off in auto but immediately find that the truck’s trying to change up more gears than I really want it to, so I quickly follow Scooby’s advice and drop it back into manual.
There’s a few good climbs on the way out, but they really are a non-event when the power and torque of the 750 engine hits them. I’ve got 3550Nm of torque, constant between 1000 and 1400rpm, so there’s a great rev range available to enjoy the engine’s peak performance.
Going to manual is no big hardship, with a touch on the toggle switch on the side of the gearstick it’s a gear up or a gear down instantly.
On the run out, the lowest gear I need is seventh – and I let it drop down to 1100rpm with no need to grab more gears. On the steepest climbs it drops to 35km/h, which is impressive given that there are some pretty steep climbs.
At the wheel it’s easy to forget you’re on gravel and dirt roads, as the ride in the cab insulates you from the bumpy road surface, but you do have to keep in mind that – while you’re riding along, floating on air – the truck and trailer suspension is working overtime on the many corrugations…so I back off to avoid knocking the gear around too much.
Visibility out of the cab is excellent, with the dash sloping away down to the bottom of the windscreen, giving plenty of forward vision. The excellent mirrors give me great vision down the sides of the truck and trailer on these tight, winding roads.
The ride is great, the seat gives great support and all controls are close at hand. With only two pedals on the floor there’s plenty of legroom – and you need it, because your left leg doesn’t need to do much.
When driving this beast you don’t need to keep your foot hard into it as it really is a bit of a Sunday cruise with so much horsepower and torque on tap.
Noise levels in the cab are excellent despite the rough road surface and the giant engine under us, with normal voice levels easily heard.
The Patchell four-axle trailer tracks well despite the 18m logs on board, but you do need to keep an eye on the insides of the corners, given the slippery conditions.
On the downhills the engine brake keeps us well under control, no matter how steep the drop. I leave it on stage 3, its highest setting, and keep an eye on it just in case it might work too well on this slippery road surface as I feel it could easily lock up a wheel. Scooby confirms that he has had it happen.
Back onto Waitara Road we pick up the pace a bit, but we’re still on a metal road and there are still some very good climbs and tight corners to watch as well as the possibility of some tourist traffic, particularly down by the Mohaka River where there is a DOC campground.
Turning back onto SH5, right at the bottom of the Titiokura Hill, I put the I-Shift into auto mode and, once we’ve built up a bit of speed, I slip it into cruise control. Scooby’s set the cruise control at 91k and while we won’t be doing that speed up here, the engine and gearbox will do all the work for us.
It settles down in 8th, powering up this much-respected steep climb at a respectable 38k at worst.
At the top, It’s time for me to get out and give Scooby his truck back, albeit under duress! I’d be quite happy to do a few more loads in it.
I hop out not feeling at all like I’ve just driven a fully-laden log unit over 20-odd kilometres of often-rough, very windy and very steep forest and back-country gravel roads.
While there’s massive power under your foot, the 750 doesn’t give you that feeling of pushing you back in your seat – the power is delivered so smoothly. As I say to Scooby, it feels a bit like an old man’s truck – where you just sit back and relax. There’s certainly no stress, even on really trying roads. T&D