Story: Dave McLeod - Photos: Gerald Shacklock - Video: Trevor & Hayden Woolston
This story begins at a large rock, located at a quiet junction on a road that’s so off the grid it doesn’t even appear on Google maps.
Te Awa junction – fondly known as “The Rock” – is deep in the heart of the Kaingaroa Forest, somewhere southeast of Rotorua.
This spot, surrounded by trees (obviously), is a well-known location for those who work within the region’s foresty industry and it serves well as the ideal meeting place for us to catch up with JJ Caulfield (alias the Dog Handler) and the Mack Titan 6x4 off-highway logger he drives.
The eerie morning silence is soon punctured by the sound of a big MP10 engine-braking and through the forest gloom we spot the towering orange Titan Timber Mack…and (eventually) its iconic gold bulldog proudly sitting up high on the square bonnet.
This is immediately followed by two Mills-Tui trailers carrying a mighty load of logs – five packets of ‘em, with an all-up weight of around 140 tonnes (giving it a payload of 100t or so).
A big Titan, loaded-up like this, is an impressive sight by any standards – and one that’s not often seen in New Zealand. As hard to find as the junction we’re at, you might say.
There’s no disputing the fact that – both for the people involved and the machinery they employ – forestry is a tough industry. And as we’re going to find out today, they don’t come much tougher than JJ and his big Mack.
Custombuilt for Titan Timber Company owner Gibbo Dhanjee, the Titan is perfectly suited to extreme duty – heavy loads and challenging conditions. So, in short…ideal for the severe demands of a Kaingaroa Forest off-highway logger.
Its 600 horsepower/447kilowatts Mack MP10 heart produces 2065 lb ft/2800 Newton-metres of torque – driven through an Eaton Roadranger RTLO-22918B 18-speed manual box (which is offered as an alternative to the Mack mDrive automated manual on the 600hp MP10, but not on the optional 685hp/510kW, 2300 lb ft/3118Nm rated model).
The Titan Timber truck boasts an eyewatering GCM of 140,000kg. When it’s out of warranty, that’ll be upped to 160t.
Adding to the impressiveness is the piggyback/foldup arrangement for the first of the two tri-axle Mills-Tui off-highway trailers, linked by a two-axle dollie. The trailers are built to a 150t GCM rating and the combo stretches out to around 40 metres fully-extended.
It’s the only foldup Mack combination out here in Kaingaroa capable of toting five packets of logs…and it sure does cast a formidable shadow.
It appears even more formidable thanks to the Titan’s cab having been raised 50mm higher than a standard Titan (which makes it 100mm higher than a Super-Liner) – this to allow extra cooling airflow around the MP10. And there’s the big Bridgestone R150-II 13R x 22.5 tyres it sits on...
It’s over three years since my last outing into the world of off-highway logging in the Kaingaroa Forest.
We catch up with Gibbo Dhanjee’s new Mack Titan and driver JJ Caulfield – the dayshift driver on the Titan Timber unit. We couldn’t be in better hands, given JJ’s years of experience.
Climbing up into this beast is no easy mission as I’m awaiting a knee rebuild and with only two steps between the ground and the cab floor, they’re spaced well apart. There are good grabhandles to assist but the spacings are just too much – with what must be close to a 500mm climb from the top step into the cab.
The reward is that once inside you’re sitting up high and there is good vision from up here. The cab is very well appointed, with nice burgundy trim ultra-leather throughout and a woodgrain dash. It certainly gives the feeling of luxury in this serious work truck. The driver and passenger both get an ISRI Premium Big Boy seat with integrated seatbelts.
The dash layout is very standard Mack, with all major gauges right in front of the driver – an engine diagnostic screen, tachometer, speedo, diffs, gearbox, engine temperature and air pressure. On the centre console is an array of the usual switches and on the steering column to the left is the indicator lever and on the right the cruise control lever – the latter almost redundant on the Titan Timber unit as it’s hard to imagine JJ getting to use it, running in this terrain at its typical gross weights.
We’re heading east, only about 10kms from the yard, for a load of mixed pulp logs from a skid-site run by the Lealand Logging crew.
With the lead trailer stacked up on the tractor unit, the ride is very comfortable, with a lot less of the empty truck bounce.
It gives me a good chance to get a feel for the truck and to get a heads-up from JJ on its operation.
Once loaded we head off, bound for Kawerau with a gross weight of around 120 tonnes – thus a payload of just over 80t. It’s quite modest in the scheme of things around here, with loads regularly around the 140t mark.
Thankfully, despite the 120t, this truck is very driver friendly – with very good in-cab noise levels, a light clutch pedal and good gearshift feel. Any poor shifts are purely the fault of yours truly and not the truck as I get used to the heavy weights and making full-gear downshifts at around 1400rpm rather than the lugging down to 1100 that you do in highway operations...
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