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"I wanted something stronger . . ." Trakker.

Rodney Young has personally steered his earthmoving business, Young’s Earthmoving, in the Pilbara for over 40 years. His 30-plus dozers, excavators, graders and loaders are a familiar sight across the Pilbara and into the Kimberley. As are the Aboriginal staff he has in the associated business, Karijini Civil and Mining, which handles road construction, rail access, power line easement and pit rehabilitation, including a large Kimberley project for an oil and gas company that employs a large number of Noonkanbah people.

Rodney’s trucks need to work at maximum capacity on sometimes very poor roads, so for his latest upgrade of his water tanker fleet, he picked the Iveco Trakker.

“I wanted something stronger than the usual,” he told me after I had driven his latest unit up from Perth. “The 6x6 Trakker gives me 450hp and 2200Nm of torque, and because of the 33-tonne GVM we are able to put a large 20,000-litre water tank on the back and get anywhere my machinery can go,” he said.

He told me that the standard 6x4 water cart restricts the unit to graded mine site roads, and allows no multi-role use when an incident occurs, such as a fire that needs immediate attention. “That’s when I need something to go where the rest of my gear is, usually in steep terrain,” he said. “I can lock up the diffs and head for the scene without worrying that I’ll get stuck on the way or worse still, stuck at the fire.”

Iveco rated the Trakker to 70-tonne GCM for Rodney’s applications, which allows him to hook up a 32,000l semi water cart, or a five-axle dog trailer and head for the bush to set up a work camp, giving him multiple options for his remote desert work. His first Trakker was the previous model, and his experience with the unit convinced him to order two more.

The fit-out on the back includes the tank, Magnum cab-controlled water cannon, centrifugal pump, rear sprays, dribble bar, mine-spec lights, and electrical and safety gear, as well as the ancillary equipment to make it all accessible safely.

Iveco’s EuroTronic II 16-speed transmission is one of ZF’s smoothest gearboxes, and although virtually all of my 1620km running was at a steady 100km/h cruise, the regular stops and park-ups allowed me to get a feel for its shift speed and software.

I left Perth at the height of the big winter storm, and saw a very thirsty 1.8 kms/litre as I pushed gale-force headwinds and driving rain through to an steaming plateful of sweet and sour pork and my first overnight stop at Dalwallinu. That’s the kind of fuel I usually see on a B-double run. But as I rolled north the conditions improved and the Trakker burbled along with minimal throttle, almost no engine noise and a much more respectable 2.3kms/litre.

The Covid-19 police roadblock at Wubin was a non-event – they were on the cusp of dismantling the equipment anyway, but trucks rolled straight through. I never needed the letter of authority I carried in my pack.

Newman was the next stop and I hit the outskirts of town as the light faded and the headlights prompted my only real complaint. The standard headlight set generates only a weak yellow light which was hopelessly outclassed by the constant stream of triples heading south with LED light bars ablaze.

The road north of Meekatharra was riddled with 8x6 triples taking iron ore to the port.

They may be ok in suburban areas, on brightly lit mine access roads, or even off-road work at low speeds, but highway lights they aren’t. When I dismounted, my eyes were nearly glued shut from squinting.

The Actros day-cab is a comfortable place to work in despite the tanker control box taking up the floor space alongside the seat. In typical European style the controls are minimal and any exceptions to normal are flagged on the info screen between the speedo and tachometer. The diff locks control dial is out of sight behind the steering column, and I could only find a single USB port. That was embedded in the overhead-mounted radio so the cord had a long journey down the A-pillar to my phone. It needs a port or two in the dash.

Obviously I spent most time cruising, but when I did have to climb in or out of the cab, the steps were broad enough to allow safe transit, even with the Tim Tams and chicken roll tucked under my arm. Cruise control, engine brake and radio volume/tuning are all available on the wheel spokes or the steering column.

Trakker seems set to make quite an impression in the locations Rodney and his team frequents. The ease of driving will allow a wide range of employees to drive the trucks - this is a key requirement for an outfit that tries to broaden the horizons of many young outback people who often need a mentor to break out of the unemployment cycle.

(First published in Big Rigs 26 June 2020)

Spec Brief . . .

Model: Iveco Trakker 6x6

GVM/GCM kgs: 33,000; 50,000 (up to 90,000 on application)

Tare kgs: 10,330

Engine: Cursor 13 ES, 13-litre six cylinder

Output: 450hp @ 1900rpm; 2200Nm @ 1000rpm

Transmission: 16-speed EuroTronic II 16AS2630TO

Wheelbase (as tested): 4522mm

Other: Driver controlled diffs locks; Hub reduction axles; Drum brakes all round

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