“Whereas, driv­ing this all day, at the end of the week, your body’s not tired”

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Front Page -

He down­shifts one gear and we climb the hill at 55-65kmh. At the top, the revs at 1700, he hits the Auto but­ton again.

“Now she’ll just do her thing. It’ll come up to 11th gear – 70k, 1500rpm.”

It’s all quite fluid. Chris clearly knows the road well: “I do this trip ev­ery day – Mon­day to Fri­day. It’s about 400 and some­thing Ks one way – so about 800kms r ound trip. And it varies from a 10 to 14-hour day, depend­ing on traf­fic, road­works and what hap­pens at my des­ti­na­tion.”

He seems very re­laxed about it all: “You should be re­laxed in your work­place – that’s the way I look at it. I f you’re do­ing long hours in a v ehi­cle, you re­ally need the com­fort, ‘cos at the end of the day, it’s your body that’s gonna pay for it.

“I’ve had the days of sore backs, where the boss has had to pull me out of the truck be­cause of the con­stant bang­ing of the truck (like in the Isuzus). Your back soon gives out. You’re only hu­man.

“Whereas, driv­ing this all day, at the end of the week, your body’s not tired. My body’s cer­tainly thank­ing me for be­ing in this truck.”

The Sinotruk will re­turn to Taranaki un­loaded so, as he puts it, “I bounce home empty. I don’t need a great deal of horse­power and hence I’ve gone for the com­fort. You can have all the horse­power in the world but when y ou get out, you’re still gonna feel like you’ve been through a wringer.

“Each to their own. The ease of driv­ing the truck – y ou haven’t got too many gad­gets to play with. You just obey the rules and drive. It’s cool.”

We stop at the Mo­bil in Kara­piro for NZTruck&Driver pub­lisher and tester Trevor Wool­ston to get be­hind the wheel for the next stretch – across the Hin­uera straights and over the Kaimai Hill to Tau­riko.

The best part of this test is, of course, the Kaimais climb and de­scent. Trevor has the Sinotruk AMT in Man­ual mode, with the Power set­ting se­lected.

The first part of the hill is tack­led as he works down, one gear at a time, to 8th, where we sit, at around 40km/h and 1800rpm.

We get to the port in Tau­ranga ahead of the Sinotruk’s sched­uled check-in time, but Chris is happy with the wait...and the easy­go­ing na­ture of this con­tainer run

Good grab­han­dles both sides and three well-placed steps make get­ting in and out of the trac­tor unit easy

The mir­rors are among the few neg­a­tives Chris has about the Sinotruk. He reck­ons that the con­vex mir­ror makes it hard to judge where the rear end of the trailer is

Ne­go­ti­at­ing the first right-hand bend the revs start to fall and we’re over­taken by two buses. He’s hard on the throt­tle pedal through a cou­ple of bends but we stay in 8th and the Sinotruk’s en­gine/trans­mis­sion combo feels un­stressed.

When the en­gine revs drop to 1500, he grabs 7th, at 30km/h. It holds this – revving out to 2000rpm at times – till a tight cor­ner within the last K of the climb, when we slow to 25km/h, at 1500rpm.

By the scenic look­out, we’ve edged back up to 28k and he ac­tu­ally eases off the throt­tle pedal to avoid need­ing an up­shift, keep­ing the revs around 1700-1800.

He’s able to pick up a gear at the look­out and the revs drop to 1100, at 30km/h. This in­creases to 50k be­fore he man­ages an­other up­shift as the two-lane road nar­rows to one. We’re in 10th as we crest the hill and be­gin our de­scent – the en­gine at 2000 revs, but hold­ing 80km/h with the ex­haust brake only.

As we be­gin to drop, the re­tarder is en­gaged – pro­gres­sively, up from first to third. The revs stay around 1600, the speed at 60km/h. When the road widens to two lanes, in 10th, Wool­ston al­ter­nates be­tween the sec­ond and fourth stages on the re­tarder.

Head­ing down Can­non­ball hill, we’re in 10th at 1100rpm and 60km/h – on the fourth stage of the re­tarder. We pull into the slow lane to let the traf­fic go by, just as the rain starts. Back in the traf­fic flow, Trevor skip-shifts up to top gear as we head into the 100km/h zone. Just one more hill to go.

Up to­wards the school and into the pass­ing lane ter­ri­tory, the AMT down­shifts to 11th – slowly. It takes fully four sec­onds to make the change.

But it’s just be­fore we start up the Tau­riko hill that things come a lit­tle bit of a crop­per. Forced to a full stop in heavy road­works traf­fic at the foot of the hill there’s a long de­lay in pulling away again. In stop/start traf­fic, on the slope, we end up stalling sev­eral times.

When we stop at Tau­riko for Chris to get back be­hind the wheel, our hic­cup on the hill is quickly ex­plained: “En­gag­ing the park­ing brake gives you a three or four sec­ond de­lay as you gain revs be­fore it re­leases. It’s a sort of hill start as­sist func­tion.”

He reck­ons that, with this Sinotruk, it’s a mat­ter of man and ma­chine work­ing to­gether – rather than man re­ly­ing on the ma­chine to make all the de­ci­sions:

“You need to tell the truck what road or gra­di­ent you’re on – it’s all about get­ting your speed and the revs cor­rect to stop the de­lay from be­ing so long. It’s just ex­pe­ri­ence with the truck, you have to think for the gear­box.

“You’ve got to know your truck to see what per­for­mance it’s work­ing at, at a cer­tain speed to a cer­tain revs. It’s like a Euro­pean truck – where the gear­ing is a lot slower than a full 18-speed man­ual Ken­worth. They have got the one-sec­ond de­lays in all the gear­boxes I find any­way.

“When com­ing up to steeper hills I would keep it up in 1500-1600 revs un­til I get my pull gear (say 7th), then I’ll be away.”

We ar­rive at the port ahead of the truck’s as­signed ar­rival time. Chris seems happy enough to wait – and I take it as a re­in­force­ment of my ‘good things take time’ mantra.

He picks up on the theme: “It’s not a race out there. I’m get­ting paid to drive a truck. I call it a semi-re­tired job – I’ve only got four lit­tle twist­locks to undo and do up ev­ery day.

“The ma­chine does the job for me – I just need to op­er­ate it sen­si­bly.” T&D

Above, left: Above, cen­tre:

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