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Running Sweet!

The release of Freightliner’s Coronado FL114 in late 2012 more than honed the company’s commitment to the Australian and New Zealand markets. With a few years and more than half a million kilometers under their belts we sent Howard Shanks to see how some of the first FL114s to land down-under are holding up.

The red light at the intersection of Woolcock and Mather Street Townsville was taking an eternity to change. The heat radiating from the pipes of my mildly tweaked 96 cubic inch V-Twin was burning my left leg. I swore at the lights urging them to turn green. In the mirror I caught the glimpse of approaching bikes. The two bikes pulled up beside me and the riders nodded a greeting.

I knew the bikes and riders. One, Mystgold Transport owner, Chris McMurray the other his operations manager Peter Bagetti. They invited me to follow them back to their depot to check out their latest bikes and Freightliner FL114 trucks.

Like many mid size transport fleets in Australia Chris' business Mystgold Transport Pty Ltd, grew from an owner-driver operation that went the extra mile and provided a more reliable operation than his competitors.

Today Mystgold are one of North Queensland's leading specialised refrigeration transport operations. Their reputation for reliability and service has seen them become the preferred transport suppler for many major companies as well as the preferred carrier for Woolworths groceries and fresh produce in the Far North and Western Queensland.

Chris was taking his helmet off as I leant my bike over onto its stand. He greeted me with an extended hand, smiled and asked what I thought of his new bike he’d imported from the states, motioning in the general direction of the glistening chrome Fatboy. It looked great ... but that's another story.

Shortly after the Australian release Chris took delivery of six Freightliner Coronado FL114 prime movers, the first to enter his fleet.

Chris, like many operators working the remote far north Queensland inland routes, had traditionally specified Kenworth trucks for his outback operations and he'd also tested the waters with a couple of Western Stars.

"A Kenworth is hard to beat because their cabs and electrics are so tough and they're so well put together," Chris conceded. "Mind you the Western Stars are not too bad either," he added.

Scared by endless Cummins EGR breakdowns and poor economy from what was available from both Kenworth and Western Star at the time, Chris went looking for something else that would deliver reliability and improvements in economy for his demanding fresh produce runs.

"Much of the decision to go with the new Detroit Diesel DD15 was driven by reading some of your reviews on them about the increased torque and improvements in fuel economy" Chris explained. “And the reassurance Freightliner and Detroit offered when I went on one of their study tours.”

“The Coronado FL114 had not long been released when I visited to the Freightliner factory in Charlotte, North Carolina late in 2012,” Chris recalled. “I was really impressed by the model at first sight. What that meant is we now have the chance of buying, for considerably less than the price of a Kenworth or Western Star, a mildly customised workhorse specifically built to suit Australia's unique bridge formulas.”

“That, all on its own, would be enough to swing it for most people,” Chris continued. “But what makes this truck so desperately appealing to me is not the power or the economy or even that spacious interior. Yes, I love the looks too, but they’re not the issue either. I ordered this truck because it’s the living embodiment of counter culture rock and roll. Today, when most trucks are packaged like James Blunt, or rely on past glories like the Stones, the Freightliner FL114 gets back to basics, just like my Fatboy … more George Thorogood and Steve Earle,” he grinned. “It’s tough, it’s robust !”

And nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in truck-land. At the recent Brisbane Truck Show, I talked with many of the visitors and not one asked about safety or emissions. They wanted to talk stylish good looks, power then economy.

An old ‘Jimmy’ powered White Road Boss could kill a rainforest at 400 paces whereas today’s DD15 powered Freightliner FL114 trundles around with daffodils coming out of its exhaust. For that matter the gas coming out of most modern day diesel engines is actually cleaner than the air that went in.

And, even though Chris is first to admit he’s still a bit of a rock’n-roller at heart, the fact that the Detroit powered Freightliner Coronado’s produce minimal emissions goes a long way to reducing Mystgold’s and their clients’ carbon footprint.

“Nowadays that is something we have to take seriously into consideration when quoting new jobs,” Chris revealed. “We’re part of our customers supply chain so we must do what we can to ensure we’re giving them the best and that includes reducing our carbon footprint as well. Equally we have to look at the safety features of the equipment we are going to purchase and ensure we have the latest for our drivers. The Freightliner Coronado FL114 delivers that as well as the good looks.”

Mystgold’s Freightliner FL114 Coronado’s start with a 5150 mm (203 in.) wheelbase, a cab attached to a 34 inch mid-roof sleeper, and a Detroit DD15 fuelled to deliver maximum outputs of 560 HP and 1850 lb ft into an Eaton RTLO-20918 18-speed overdrive manual shifter. Performance goes to the ground through a Meritor RT46-160GP tandem running a 4.11:1 final drive ratio, riding on Freightliner’s popular AirLiner airbag rear suspension.

Up front, a Meritor FG941 steer axle rides on taper leaf springs while fuel is contained in three cylindrical tanks – twin 378 litres on the driver’s side and a single 567 litre on the passenger side just rearward of the battery box. Alcoa rims shod with Michelin rubber are fitted all-round.

At first glance of these specks it can easily appear that 34-pallet B-Double role was the sole reason for the purchase of these FL114s. But this model has far more flexibility with suitability for everything from long single trailers out to 14.6 and even 14.9 metres (48 ft and 49 ft respectively), to 19 metre ‘pocket’ B-doubles, and truck and quad-dog applications where a set-forward front axle offers maximised weight distribution.

In the Mystgold operation the FL114s predominantly tow 48-foot trailers, up and down the coastal routes and roadtrain combinations on the inland outback routes.

When asked how they’re standing up to the punishing Queensland roads, Chris conceded they’d had some little issues with light weight brackets and poor hose routing in early in the piece, but was hastened to add that Freightliner had been quick to address and monitor the problems to keep the trucks rolling.

While the deep polished Texas bumpers look cool, Chris says if they were two inches shorter they’d have bullbars on them for running out west. “Those bumpers don’t stop a stray cow or big roo.”

In terms of suitability for the job, Chris admits the Freightliner Coronado FL114 have been doing an admirable job. “The drivers like them too which helps,” he added. “They’re very comfortable to drive, with good visibility and there’s plenty of room inside for all the things long haul drivers require.”

More importantly the Detroit DD15 engines have been performing faultlessly, with some of their Freightliners already notching up over half a million kilometers. “The reliability and fuel economy we’re getting from the Detroit’s is what we’d expected,” Chris said. “With margins so tight these days you need your equipment to be reliable and economical and it’s just a bonus when they look cool and run sweet.”

Chris’ Bike: 2006 Harley Davidson CVO Fatboy – Limited Edition FLSTFSE2 Screamin' Eagle Fatboy with rowdy performance and a lean, urban custom profile. It boasts a Screamin' Eagle 103 Stroker Twin Cam engine tuned to crank out more than 100 ft-lbs of torque, paired with the proven 5-speed H-D transmission matched to the 36/25 tooth primary drive. It has a stylish Hi-Flow ‘Teardrop’-shaped chrome air cleaner cover. This model is finished in special custom colors of Canyon Copper and Concord Purple with metal grind accents, and a new steel seat. The wheels are new forged ‘Road Winder’ series with matching brake rotors and sprocket. This model introduces the new ‘Buckshot’ accessory collection that includes hand grips mirrors, strut covers, rear brake pedal, footboard inserts, shift lever, shifter linkage and derby cover. A solo seat rests on a chrome-plated steel pan and a decorative chrome pillion is perched on top of the rear fender. Other features include smoked turn signal lenses with amber bulbs, chrome master cylinder assemblies, switch housings, front and rear master cylinder reservoir covers.

Peter’s Bike: 105th Anniversary 2008 Softail Springer – Limited Edition (0802/1050), with the two-tone 105th Anniversary Crystal Copper / Black Onyx paint scheme. This Screamin’ Eagle Springer is powered by the 110-cid (1800cc) Twin Cam 110B, a high-performance V-Twin engine that delivers 105 ft-lbs of torque at 3000 rpm. The engine is mated to a 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission for lower cruising rpm in top gear. The powertrain is finished in silver powder-coat with chrome covers. The distinctive Springer front end is executed with painted rigid forks, color-matched to the paint scheme on the bodywork, with chromed spring fork suspension components. The forks hold a 21-inch Revolver chrome, 10-spoke forged aluminum wheel. This model marked the launch of the “Centerline” accessory collection that includes grips, pegs and brake and shifter pedals. The smooth contours of a new console flow with the shape of the handlebar clamps and the tacho. Ribs molded into the console continue along the length of the two-up leather seat. The exhaust system is Vance and Hines Big Shots.

Detroit Diesel DD15:
Modern innovations on the DD15 include the addition of the Integrated Jacobs engine brake – up to 575 braking HP. Exhaust Gas Recirculation systems (EGR), and BlueTec emissions technology for more fuel-efficient, lower maintenance engines. Detroit’s long history of solid and powerful engines is something Freightliner is proud to showcase in the FL114 model.

Beyond the advancements present in all Detroit diesel engines, the DD15 features a few additional and notable items.

Fuel Filter Module, a two-tier system provides longer service life, even up to 50,000 kilometers.

Variable Speed Water Pump, using a viscous clutch between pulley and impeller drive, greater efficiency is achieved throughout.

Detroit Virtual Technician, onboard diagnostic systems can help alert you to issues as they arise and can notify you of the part needed to repair it, as well as how serious the fault is. Best yet, the software can help you find the next available service bay and even schedule the repair appointment.

Proprietary Asymmetric Turbocharger, reduces weight and utilizes a simpler design that is better matched to the EGR system for improved performance.

Turbo compounding system, the DD15 engineers found a way to add 50 hp and still improve fuel economy by 5 percent. The system works by using a conventional Holset HX55 turbo without a wastegate that feeds into a unique "turbo compound axial power turbine" that transfers power directly to the engine flywheel. By scavenging exhaust heat that would normally fly out of the tailpipe, the "axial power turbine" is able to spin a small gearbox that helps create up to 100 lb-ft of torque when the engine is under a full load.

Amplified Common-Rail System (Acrs), the DD15 has a unique fueling system that's not quite HEUI (hydraulically-actuated electronic unit injection) and not a regular common rail. It allows full injection pressure at any engine speed, up to five injections per combustion cycle, and even has the ability to control the rate of fuel delivery during a single injection event. The ACRS uses a relatively low rail pressure that's increased to more than 30,000 psi inside the injectors. The DDEC VI engine electronics and dual solenoids inside each injector give the DD15 extreme flexibility during fueling, allowing it to provide strong and clean low-end torque along with the high power levels you'd expect from a modern common-rail diesel.

Integrated Jacobs Brake, inside the aluminum valve rocker box on top of the compacted graphite iron head, you'll find dual overhead camshafts. The aluminum cams are dedicated to either the intake or the exhaust valves and are hollow to reduce drivetrain weight and improve throttle response at all engine speeds. The cam on the exhaust side features an integrated Jacobs engine braking system that closes the exhaust valves to provide three levels of grade braking and cruisebrake operation on long, downhill slopes.

Maxitrans Classic Freezer:
One key supplier who has assisted Chris to cement a foothold in the market is temperature-controlled trailer manufacturer, Maxi-CUBE, which has played a leading role in building Mystgold’s fleet of refrigerated vans, all purchased from Maxi-CUBE’s Townsville dealership, Trailer Sales.

These vans boast wide bodies with the capability of maintaining temperatures down to -22 degrees Celcius even on the hottest Queensland days. This freezer is designed for transporting temperature sensitive freight such as ice cream, frozen meats and chilled produce. The Maxi-CUBE Freezer van can offer this due to its specially developed high performance insulation foam, made in-house by Maxi-CUBE.

Each van is 48-foot (14.6 metres) in length with the capacity to maintain a temperature of -22 degrees Celsius while being used for multi-pickups and deliveries. “Obviously pricing is always a factor when purchasing, but one of the biggest reasons why I keep going back to Maxi-CUBE is the attention to detail when it comes to thermal efficiency and the van’s ability to withstand the hits and bumps of Queensland’s rough roads,” Chris said.

“I believe if you can tick those boxes then you’re on a good road to build a reliable fleet. Since I took delivery of the first Maxi-CUBE refrigerated van, I haven’t had it off the road other than for routine servicing. After laying such a solid foundation, we soon asked Maxi-CUBE to help us reach that next level.”

That “next level” challenge Maxi-CUBE introduced included range of new features starting with the flat distribution floor with ‘Maxi-GRIP’ finish and a Dual Evaporators (dual temperature) setup.

“Maintaining our safety focus we looked at Maxi-GRIP floor which is pivotal for refrigeration fleets, because it reduces the risk of injury due to wet or slippery floors and is suitable for using both pallet jacks and fork lifts,” Chris conceded.

“In addition, the Dual Evaporators allow the cool temperatures to be equally distributed to all corners of the van allowing for the stock to maintain its freshness at all times even when the doors are open during delivery,” he added.

October 09, 2017 | Posted in: Articles



Australian Trucking Quarterly