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New Mercedes-Benz truck saving fuel for Victorian Freight Specialists

The next generation Mercedes-Benz truck has started work for Victorian Freight Specialists.

The Dandenong-based operation took delivery of one of the first new Actros models sold in Australia, soon after the local launch.

Daimler Trucks Australia Managing Director, Daniel Whitehead, handed over the keys to an imposing black 2663 model to VFS Director of Operations, Chris Collins. Within hours, it was hooked up to a B-double trailer set and sent out on the road.

VFS plans to work it 18 hours a day on runs around regional Victoria, and into New South Wales and South Australia. The growing company has a mixed fleet of more than 50 trucks, but the Mercedes-Benz Actros is the first European model.

Mitchell Hynd, from the nearby Whitehorse Truck Centre suggested VFS participate in the local evaluation program Mercedes-Benz was conducting for the new model, which would end up involving 35 operators and 20 trucks that clocked more than one million km.

VFS put the Actros to work on a run that included Albury, Melbourne and Wagga and was taken aback by the fuel economy figures it gathered from its own telemetry.

“We couldn’t comprehend it, so we ran it again and again, then put another driver in it and it was the same, that was the number,” Collins says.

The new Mercedes-Benz was achieveing close to 0.5km per litre better fuel economy than the American truck it replaced. 

“It is going to be worth $20,000 a year in fuel alone, that’s massive,” Collins says.
The 2663 uses the latest generation 16-litre in-line six-cylinder OM series engine that generates a healthy 625hp and 3000Nm of torque, which is fed through a 16-speed automated manual transmission.

VFS Transport Manager, Glenn Haines, explains that the ease of the Powershift 3 AMT gearbox was one of the most impressive elements of the new Mercedes-Benz truck.

“Five to 10 years ago, we wouldn’t even look at an automatic, but now the way the traffic has gone on the freeways, our drivers are going from Dandenong to Altona every morning, so imagine how many times they are changing gears?”

Haines adds: “This is just like driving a car, only it’s bigger.”

The drivers were also impressed, including one who is a big fan of American trucks and was initially skeptical.

“He sent me a text during the night: “This is fantastic, are we getting one? Can I have it?”,” Haines says.
Just like Mercedes-Benz cars, the new Actros is available with suite of driver aids and safety features, including a system that can speed up or slow down the truck to keep a safe distance from the car in front, even in heavy stop/start traffic.

It also features Active Brake Assist and Lane Keeping Assist, which emits a warning sound to alert a driver if the truck is drifting out of the lane. 

Haines says this last feature is especially valuable. He also adds that the fact the safety systems are fully integrated from the factory is a big plus compared to some brands that install third party equipment locally.
He says that another positive was the fact that all the controls are easily accessible to driver, many through buttons on the steering wheel.

The Mercedes-Benz space efficient cab-over layout is also a significant feature for VFS because it can fit within in maximum length limits while hauling longer trailers than a conventional truck.

“I had been looking at what was going on and talking to some of the other carriers and a lot of them went to one type of cab-over and that fits under all their trailers,” Haines says.

“With a cab-over prime mover, it wouldn’t matter what combination you put it under, it will still be within the maximum length.”

November 18, 2016 | Posted in: Articles



Australian Trucking Quarterly