SHINING EXAMPLE: The Freightliner Coronado.
SHINING EXAMPLE: The Freightliner Coronado.

Big crowd embrace latest innovations

FOR the third time, the International Melbourne Truck & Trailer Show was staged at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

The show, held from March 15-17, has been instrumental in causing the death knell of Trucks in Action, held at Lardner Park just three weeks before.

In terms of accessibility and exhibitor infrastructure, the Melbourne event is seen as the preferred option for original equipment manufacturers and accessory suppliers to the transport industry, reflected in the nearly 400 exhibits on display.

The first requirement when attending the show is to wear comfortable shoes as there are 19ha to traverse. It's worth the walk as there's a great mix of trucks, trailers and ancillary equipment for the visitor to peruse.

Many of the displays are undercover which was just as well as the Thursday and Friday brought some inclement weather. Typical Melbourne - four seasons in as many hours. Saturday though, turned on the sun and brought the crowds.

CAT used the show as a vehicle to launch its new CT 630S and CT 630LS (LS for Luxury Sleeper and available late this year) trucks, along with the first showcasing of the C15 and C13 ADR 80/03 compliant engines.

Recently appointed managing director Bill Fulton spoke candidly of CAT's position in the marketplace. While admitting that there are still a number of trucks sitting in the CAT lot, the company is reasonably happy with its progress. American national, Fulton is an astute operator and the CAT business is fortunate to have lured him back to these shores where he has spent time in the past as MD of CAT highway engines. While the new CT's are an evolution rather than revolution in design, the company has managed to add some "hunk" to the bodywork that was missing from the start-up models and this should appeal to a wider audience who expect the CAT name to reflect the toughness that it has always implied in the past.

JAC is a name that will no doubt become as familiar as Isuzu or Hino in years to come. That is simply because this small to medium truck manufacturer is Chinese and the onslaught from the north will make the Japanese invasion of the '60s look like child's play.

Look at some of the JAC product and you could be forgiven for thinking that you'd just seen a Mercedes Vito.

At first glance the cab seems a pleasant place to be with all the plastic bits fitting well. A road test will obviously tell more. The interior light mounting bracket in the cargo area of one of the vans was crude in construction and could result in a few stitches to the head if not watching out. A big selling point for the JAC range will be the option of tried and true Cummins engines which will offer reassurance to those not comfortable with testing out an unproven Chinese product.

Iveco displayed a range of product including their new Powerstar entrant into the road train business.

The sleeper in this was as good and as well fitted out as a Jayco caravan.

There seems to be a new wind blowing through the Iveco camp and it seemed to be felt by those visiting the stand, which was one of the best displays at the show - and not only for the lovely ladies who adorned the area.

Heavyweights, Mercedes, Mack and Paccar put on their usual polished displays.

DAFs new XF105 is a lesson in making use of space, with a place for everything - including the toothbrush.

Of course the show is not just about the majors but an opportunity for anyone associated with the industry to show their wares. It's hard to believe that so many businesses could produce cogs and wheels and bits and pieces for the trucking industry.

Kent Collision and Kustom displayed a range of Jerr-Dan tow machinery. The company is the Australian agent for this highly-regarded Canadian outfit. A standout was the smallest tow truck on display - a Ford F 650. This truck could give a whole new meaning to supermarket shopping.

Graeme Elphingstone displayed his evolutionary logging trailer with the lead axle placed forward of the other two and "steered" through a simple but effective hook-up from just behind the fifth wheel.

The resulting small turning circle offers big advantages in the bush or traversing narrow streets.

With the Tasmanian logging industry in the doldrums thanks to the powers that be, Elphingstone is looking to the mainland for sales and there should be no shortage of demand.

Retract a Steps displayed their fold-up and slide-away trailer steps, complete with hand rails.

The product can be retro fitted and no doubt the time will come when OH&S will make these compulsory on every new trailer.

Another innovative piece of lateral thinking was the Pallet Taxi. Capable of carrying 1.6 tonnes, this little beauty can pick up, deliver and unload single pallets without the need for forklifts.

While trailers may not be sexy they are, nonetheless essential to the business and there were plenty on display.

Industry heavyweight Maxitrans, under its Freighter banner displayed the AutoHold "Carbon Tax Fighter".

Equipped with aerodynamic side skirts, the deletion of belts and buckles and a tyre inflation system, the trailer should go a long way to deflecting the predicted 6.9 cents a litre increase in diesel due to carbon taxing.

The Melbourne Truck & Trailer Show is not only the obvious place to talk business but is also a graphic display to the public of the importance of transport to this country.

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