Cover story: Fuso Shogun 510hp

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle

With plenty of power, the 510 Shogun makes light work of the hilly winding roads

Mo Beasley (Mo is short for Moana) says he usually climbs into his truck at 5am to begin his first 120-odd kilometre trip north to Brynderwyn, however, being averse to early starts, this particular magazine contributor chose to pick-up the story at Kumeu on Mo’s second trip of the day.

As I get in the passenger’s side, Mo apologises for being a few minutes late and tells me that he’d been delayed by a traffic jam at road works just north of Warkworth, where the new motorway currently under construction terminates.

It’s now around 11 o’clock and although Mo’s been on the road for six hours including his half-hour driver’s break, he says he’s "all good to go around a second time".

We head off up the road for about fifteen kilometres to Woodhill where his Fuso Shogun and four-axle trailer unit is loaded with 28-tonnes of aggregate and pretty-soon we’re on our way to Helensville, Kaukapakapa and Wellsford via the notorious State Highway 16.

Goodbye to Roadranger

The Shogun cuts a fine figure towing the four-axle trailer

Mo says that the new Fuso and the 510 horsepower that its 13-litre DOHC engine produces at 1600 rpm, is a vast improvement over the 430hp Shogun it replaced, even when taking into account the fact that this one only has 12 gears in its AMT gearbox as opposed to the 18-speed Roadranger of the earlier model he drove.

Also worthy of note is the impressive 2500Nm of torque the engine produces at 1100rpms – that’s 1844 lb/ft to the older generation.

The mere mention of the automated manual transmission provided the perfect lead-in to ask the dreaded question, as to how Mo felt about having to kiss goodbye to every dyed-in-the-wool truck driver’s love of the ubiquitous Roadranger? I only had to wait a nanosecond to see a wry smile come to Mo’s face.

Evidently the ‘SHIFTPILOT’ as it’s known in Fuso parlance, does actually make light work of a day behind the wheel, even to someone like Mo who says he’s driven manual trucks all his working life, save he says for about eight years when he worked in the hazardous material removal business in Australia in the 1980s.

Also, I hope I’m not telling tales out of school here, but when Mo took a two-week break to go over to Aussie to see his newest granddaughter recently, a colleague, Eels Akarana did the run for him and had to admit to being ‘sold’ on the AMT system, even after swearing to never grace the driver’s seat of a truck fitted with such a contraption.

Mo does say that he too had reservations when his boss Colin Dunn told him he was getting a new truck that had an auto transmission, not an 18-speed Roadranger.

As he’d driven ATM trucks in the past and having not being particularly impressed with their propensity for not changing down to a low enough gear, which often led to the engine stalling, a most embarrassing situation, especially when you’re exiting a roundabout.

Helensville to Brynderwyn

A fine team, Mo and the Shogun

In no time at all we’re pulling into a fuel stop at Helensville to top-up the 400-litre fuel tank. Mo usually puts 300 litres of diesel in the tank every day, this is enough fuel for the two roundtrips and leaves 100 litres in reserve.

After the short refuelling interlude, we’re off on the 70-kilometre segment of the run up to Wellsford. This is a trip that puts driver and machine to the test, as this section of road (State Highway 16) is ‘interesting’ enough as a ride on your motorbike or a drive in your sportscar, but a truck and four-axle trailer with a combined weight of 45-tonnes adds a completely new dimension to the experience.

Aside from considering the hilliness and sharp corners along the route, suspension systems have to cope with potholes and cambers that are totally at odds with the common laws of physics, however, the Fuso’s air suspension, coupled with the electronic stability control (ECS) did a mighty fine job of handling all that was thrown at throughout the hour or so on the tortuous, lumpy stretch of road.

We round a gentle right-hand corner with the camber raking the wrong way and Mo points out one particularly nasty spot where several logging trucks have wound up with their wheels pointing skyward. "Hardly surprising" we say, almost in unison.

It’s at this point that I comment on the way in which he approached the downhill corner, only to be told that the truck was doing that part all by itself, on cruise control that is. Mo modestly says "all I was doing was steering it" – I shake my head in bewilderment at the giant leaps in technological development being made in recent times.

I pause my incessant questioning to take-in the panoramic views to the left of the cab as we ascend a several-hundred-metre-high hill and to reflect on Rainbow Haulage’s fleet number 17 (the previous 430 horsepower Shogun) and the work it must have done on this most arduous of runs.

Now retired from the Brynderwyn run, number 17 (which I have driven a few times) now sports a few battle scars at around seven years old with 600,000 km on the clock, but the Fuso still performs well and drives like a relatively new truck.

Having emerged back out on State Highway 1 at Wellsford, it was only a short jaunt up to our destination to tip the load, give the bins a wash-out and to load 28-tonnes of aggregate to deliver to Atlas Concrete in Takapuna.

NZ’s deadliest crash

Tipping off at Brynderwyn

Mo has a reflective moment as we exit the quarry site when he points to a corner of the main road where what is known to this day as ‘New Zealand’s deadliest road crash’ occurred.

It took place at 1pm on 7 February 1963, the day after Waitangi Day when a bus carrying 35 passengers ran out of brakes and went over a 30-metre cliff on the southern side of the Brynderwyn Range, killing 15 people and injuring many others.

Two passengers who were supposed to have been on the bus that day were Mrs Aroha Beazley and her three-year-old son Moana (Mo). Had she ignored the advice of some family members who strongly advised against making the trip because of her son’s young age they would’ve been on board as well.

Several of Mo’s family members perished on that day almost 60 years ago, making it highly likely that a magazine article being written in 2022 on Rainbow Haulage’s new Fuso Shogun would not have included Mo Beazley as its driver, had it not have been for the wise decision his mum made back when he was a lad.

Consequently, one truck driver and his passenger found they had plenty of time to ponder the vagaries of life as they take the more user-friendly route down to Takapuna on State Highway 1, a journey that’s going to get even easier by the end of 2022 when the Puhoi-to-Warkworth motorway opens.

The run back to Auckland

It’s back to the road at Helensville/div>

As a passenger, I’ve now been in the truck for the better part of four hours and I’ve only heard the 5km/h over the speed limit on the e-road monitor go off once; Mo reckons it’s because of the accuracy of the cruise control, but I think he’s just being modest and that it may have a tad to do with his driving ability as well.

One thing he needn’t be modest about though is the way he manoeuvred the trailer into a storage bin at the concrete plant we were delivering to.

We were on too-tight of a deadline to go and get permission to take a photo of the effort, but believe me it was impressive.

As we exit the concrete yard, the truck and its trailer get a short break from being fully loaded for the next 40km or so. It’s getting late in the afternoon and the traffic is starting to build, it gets really heavy by the time we reach Whenuapai and we find ourselves in a slow-moving queue that runs (or should I say crawls) for about one-and-a-half kilometres.

SHIFTPILOT and other features

A spot not too far off from where the fatal bus crash occured in 1963

To while the time away we set about calculating that in a manual truck Mo would’ve made something like 100 gearchanges or split changes (more with a full load) on this section, whereas SHIFTPILOT took care of the job, consistently changing up through the gears at 1500 revs.

It’s worth noting that SHIFTPILOT has three modes, Heavy, Normal and Economy, a feature that Mo says he makes good use of.

Other features of the Shogun 510 FV2651 S such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Active Brake Assist (ABA5), Active Attention Assist, AKA Driver Fatigue Monitoring and Proximity Control Assist (Adaptive Cruise Control) are icing on the cake.

Fleet dominated by Fuso

Off to get a return load

Having extricated ourselves from the traffic jam, the final stage of the trip to Kumeu back up SH16 goes all-too quickly and it’s time to say goodbye to Mo, climb down from the cab and watch him head off to load the rig, all ready for an early start in the morning.

I watch as the Fuso disappears up the road and wonder if I’ll be around long enough to do a relief-driving spot in Rainbow Haulage’s Number 30 when its, like Shogun Number 17’s, time to retire comes around.

Speaking of driving for Rainbow Haulage, anyone who gets a job there is likely to wind up behind the wheel of a Fuso, as boss Colin says he’s placed an order with Michael Orr at Keith Andrews for a 470hp Shogun tractor unit to replace an older vehicle.

Rainbow owners Colin and Lexie Dunn say the service they’ve received over the years from the people at Keith Andrews and the reliability of the Fuso trucks has led to their fleet being dominated by the brand.

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