BACK in April I was the first journo invited to drive one of an eventual 17 new six-cylinder Actros prime movers brought to Australia by Mercedes-Benz to evaluate the spec for Australian use.
In the past, Benz has tested locally under a cloak of secrecy with test units going into fleets for short periods of time and the results wired direct to Germany for evaluation.
This time, the local engineers and product planning people are heavily involved in the local testing program and getting the specs right for the applications Actros is likely to meet.
In reality, base engineering testing is completed before any vehicle gets here, and Benz uses locations around the world to prove its concepts.
But as Actros sells into so many diverse markets globally, the option list is necessarily extensive, and needs careful analysis to get it right.
For example, the test Actros had measly fuel capacity that would be fine in Europe, and probably be okay in some local construction and mining roles, but useless for road train work.
AdBlue capacity also needed to be boosted.
Redstar Transport runs a mixed European fleet of around 165 trucks - there are a couple of US styled prime movers in the mix - and is on the road 24/7 along the east coast.
The company also does between 50 to 60 runs to Perth a week.
Chris Pearce is the general manager of Redstar Transport and has just handed back an Actros 2658 after 32,000km of real time commercial work.
The truck is the new 16-litre six with 580hp and 2750Nm, plus the 12-speed Powershift 3 AMT transmission.
The gearbox is a pre-production unit that will be subject to extensive analysis at the end of the trial period.
Redstar jumped at the chance to be involved in the trial and offer feedback to improve the local spec of a new product.
According to Chris there were no major issues at all, with just a few small improvements recommended from his driver's experience with the truck.
"As indicated by the data, the performance was excellent. It's pleasing to see the reduction in AdBlue usage and the improved fuel economy of the Euro 6 engine," he said.
"We were very happy with the numbers, especially knowing there will be some further improvements with the next round of evaluation models."
Driver Stephen Monkhouse is an experienced hand, familiar with several brands and of course the nuances of the routes the truck was tasked to.
"This is the best truck I've driven and I've been in the game 47 years, so I've kicked around in a few different trucks," he said.
Stephen ran the truck on back-to-back runs as a B-double at between 40 to 50 tonne, and the average return trip distance was 1764km.
Fuel-wise, Benz are keeping numbers quiet right now, but Redstar were happy to say it was impressive, and the AdBlue use was down around 50% on the old V8.
The introduction of the new Actros in Australia will only be successful as these test programs continue to deliver strong results for operators.
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