Big Test

Hooked on Hino

Story: Dave McLeod | Photos: Gerald Shacklock - Video: Trevor & Hayden Woolston

We haven’t even started our trip before driver Aman Preet makes it clear that he’s got a bit of a soft spot for Hino’s 700 Series flagship model.

 

To the point where he actually waxes lyrical about it: “I’ve seen fire in the mountains, snow on the ground, black ice and floods in a Hino.”

 

Sounds like Aman and Hinos have been through thick and thin then. To hell and back….well, almost.

 

What he’s talking about, mostly at least, is the year-plus when truckies on the run that Aman’s about to begin – a Mainfreight run down to Christchurch – were forced to take the much more dangerous “inland route” from Picton south, after the September 2016 Kaikoura earthquake wiped out State Highway 1.

 

With thousands of trucks a day running on roads unprepared and unsuited for such heavy traffic – the route taking in the Lewis Pass, numerous one-way bridges, tight corners, potholes and alpine weather – it was an arduous, even perilous trip.

 

Bad enough that it prompted many drivers to simply seek alternative work. So, as Aman reckons: “It was good to have a truck that I could depend on.

 

“The drive was tough and so many people didn’t want to do it back then.” I just nod. Even though SH1 through Kaikoura is open again (and considerably better than before), I immediately feel happy that I’m only doing a short part of this trip south.

 

Aman’s boss, Mainfreight contractor Navi Sidhu is also a Hino fan, evidenced by the fact that three of his five trucks wear the big stylised H badge on the front – two of them the latest additions to his Navineel Transport fleet.

 

Our test truck today – a near-new FY3248 ProShift 16 Air – has an identical twin, plus the company has a 2015 470hp Mitsubishi/FUSO, a 2017 Scania 620 B-Train and a 2014 700 Series Hino with an 18-speed Roadranger manual gearbox.

 

The manual is the truck that started Navi’s admiration for the Japanese make: “It was – and still is – so reliable. Fuel economy is really good, it’s low maintenance and cost-effective.”

 

Even measuring the 700 Series against Navineel’s 2017 Scania 620 – with its extra horsepower and acknowledged European refinement – Navi is satisfied that the Hino stands up in comparison.

 

For him, it’s simple: He absolutely must have a truck that enables him to meet his Mainfreight owner/operator contract.....

 

TREVOR / HAYDEN TEST

 

With Trevor laid-up and recovering from knee surgery, I’m in the driver’s seat for our test of this Hino 700 Series FY 3248 8x4 – a model that’s been around a while….so we’re interested to see what’s keeping its sales ticking-over nicely.

 

We’re only on a shortish run – from Auckland down to Te Kuiti. It’s just the first leg of what is a regular run for Auckland Mainfreight contractor Navineel Transport – all the way down to Christchurch and back.

But there’s still plenty of territory to allow us a decent idea of how the flagship Hino measures up against the much more recently-launched UDs, FUSOs and Isuzus.

 

I take over from stand-in driver (and Navineel fleet manager) Aman Preet on the northern outskirts of Huntly.

The cab entry is good, with three well-placed steps and two big, long grabhandles on both sides of the doorway. The door opens wide enough to not get in your way – almost 90 degrees.

 

The 8x4 curtainsider and its four-axle Fruehauf trailer are loaded to 46 tonnes all-up, but what’s very obvious straight away, as we pull away from our roadside handover point, is the smoothness of the Hino’s AMT.

 

The ProShift gearbox, a ZF AS Tronic, changes up through the gears with ease as we head through Huntly and effortlessly accelerate up to 90km/h.

 

To handle the four roundabouts and one overbridge that we have to negotiate to get onto the Waikato Expressway, I leave the AMT in automated mode – the gearbox handling lots of shifting well, choosing the correct gears while upshifting and downshifting.

 

It’s also obvious that the electrically-adjusted and heated mirrors on the 700 – a flat traditional mirror on the top with a convex mirror below – give you great visibility as I check the trailer’s rear wheels tracking through the roundabouts...

 

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