THE B-double market in Australia has rapidly expanded with the increasing pressures on infrastructure. The choice is vast, and Big Rigs' technical writer, David Meredith, has driven them all.
More than any other time, operators can tailor a truck for specific task and save a bundle. So in the first of this three-part series, David comments on his impressions of the trucks from North America. Next issue he'll comment on the Europeans and finally finish off with the prime movers from Japan.
JUST a couple of years ago, CAT Trucks didn't exist, and it's fair to say that only one CAT has had the goods for the B-double job, and that's the 15-litre CT630. The combination of the renowned C15 torque and an Eaton 18-speed is a perfect match.
Eaton's Ultra-Shift is now on offer if you don't like clutches. The cab needs work on decent storage for the cool drinks, coffee mugs and paperwork stuff.
The new Freightliner Argosy is now the only way you can get a DD15 engine in a cab-over. As a B-double rig the Argosy makes a lot of sense, with a tight chassis and plenty of driver comforts to keep you warm, cool, dry and entertained.
And the slick swing-out step is still the only intelligent way of getting on board a cab-over.
Argosy's sloping windscreen makes the cab feel roomier and assists with aerodynamics and therefore wind noise and fuel economy.
Freightliner Coronado's enormous bonnet looks like an aircraft carrier deck stretching out ahead. Cooling was top of the development list for the Australian version, and on a long drive in a stifling heatwave the engine stayed rigidly within its temperature tolerances and the cab was cool and pleasant, with no heat soak coming up from the floor.
Kenworth's K200 changed the B-double picture dramatically for Kenworth, as the ancient K-series cab had well and truly run its course.
I finished an interstate run convinced the biggest gripes of the old K-series were eased, and the strongest assets retained. I doubt there's a job the K200 can't do well, and keep on doing for as long as a driver can last. Cab comfort was superb, and the steering and handling absolutely spot on.
By comparison, the T409/609 is very narrow inside, so you sit well inboard of the right hand front wheel instead of on top of it.
Kenworth made big claims about aerodynamics when the trucks were released, and the ultra-quiet cab proved them accurate.
In most B-double applications the 550hp maximum rating on the T409 will do the job well, and being just over 400kg lighter than the K helps too.
Mack's Super-Liner wraps big, brash, and ballsy all into a package.
With the new MP10 cranked back to 600hp and "only" 2800Nm of torque, a skilled driver will still get decent fuel economy and probably increased longevity as well.
Probably the biggest advantage is the ability to step in for a triple or road train role as required. Against might be a length problem in some applications, unless you pick the Daycab.
Mack's own mDRIVE 12-speed AMT is the pick of the gearboxes here, rated for more than 3100Nm of torque and perfectly matched to the MP10 characteristics.
Mack Trident's MP8 13-litre engine, which can be ordered up to 535hp and 2600Nm of torque, is more suited for most B-double roles. Some owner/drivers reckon their Trident is the best all-rounder they've ever had, with the legendary Mack ruggedness allowing them to take work in any environment.
It's the quietest US truck you can drive, and that's due largely to some hefty floor insulation melted on to the steel during build. It also means you can park up under some shade and enjoy a break without getting frizzled by rising engine heat.
Western Star's 48FXB is your only solution if your engine preference is Detroit Diesel but you don't like Freightliners.
A Western Star is instantly recognised when it's heading your way. The cab is actually quite roomy as the doors are mounted further out than the Kenworth, but it's still a US truck with all the quirks and Neanderthal controls - a puzzle to drivers raised on Europeans.
Basic spec though - brakes are drums, with discs as an option, and the only safety feature really is ABS.