Test Drive: Freightliner Coronado 114
The Performance-Based Standards program has been a true stimulus for innovation in the Australian road transport industry particularly in the bulk materials space. While the focus is often on the trailers, truck manufacturers are also key to the development of efficient combinations.
According to a report issued in May this year by the Australian Road Transport Suppliers’ Association (ARTSA), almost one in six vehicles with a rating of more than 12 tonnes manufactured during 2017 was PBS approved.
Efficiency isn’t just the only feature associated with operating PBS approved vehicles. The safety benefits of more PBS vehicles on the road have recently been quantified by the National Transport Commission (NTC) which has found that PBS vehicles are involved in 46 per cent fewer crashes than conventional vehicles. The underlying reasons for this include the equipment being newer and having significantly improved braking and stability technologies.
ARTSA’s statistics show that there are around 16,000 separate PBS registered trucks, trailers and buses currently operating on Australian roads made up of approximately 7,000 different PBS approved combinations. Around 60 trailer manufacturers and 20 truck manufacturers have provided PBS approved equipment since the inception of the PBS scheme a decade ago.
Truck and dog trailer combinations currently account for 55 per cent of all PBS combinations which leads to an attractive market for truck manufacturers such as Freightliner which has responded by developing a number of specifications for their Coronado 114 cab chassis to address the model’s suitability for PBS applications.
Starting with the Coronado 114 set forward front axle model the wheelbase has been shortened by 500mm and now measures 4,800mm. To shift the tare weight even further forward the batteries have been relocated to a position located under the passenger’s seat. This has also freed up space on the sides of the chassis allowing for a 420 litre fuel tank on the driver’s side and a split 210/210 litre tank on the kerbside. Alternative locations for the batteries are the mounts on the left side of the chassis or between the chassis rails themselves.
Missing are the twin vertical exhaust stacks often associated with this sort of application, instead an underslung side outlet exhaust is fitted to permit the tipper body to be mounted as close as practicable to the rear of the cab. Without the big stacks the Coronado still exudes plenty of road presence with touches including chrome mirrors and that big shiny grille that covers the 1,700 square inch alloy radiator. Inside the burled woodgrain sections on the dash and the chrome bezel surrounds leave no doubt that this is an American truck’s interior. Switches in the cab operate the diff locks which are imperative for the type of work this truck can be expected to perform when used regularly on unsealed surfaces such as quarry access and construction sites. An air operated dolly lock makes reversing the trailer easier and the automatic tailgate locks are equipped with warning devices.
This demo truck is comfortable to drive with ‘Xtreme’ air suspended seats for both driver and passenger and incorporates three-point integrated seat belts. There is the option for the ‘Premium’ seats which also have air suspension for driver and passenger but with the seat belts mounted from the B pillars.
The test unit supplied by Freightliner has been fitted with a Hercules tipping body and tows a quad axle dog trailer also from the same manufacturer. The well-appointed day cab is roomy and comfortable and the absence of a manual gear lever makes moving around the cab quite easy and provides plenty of space for the operator to have a fridge. Additional yellow steel grab handles have been fitted to enhance driver safety. The cab is made of aluminium and uses piano hinges on the doors to maximise durability and minimise dust ingress. Keyless entry is standard.
Power comes from a 500hp DD15 Detroit Diesel coupled to an Eaton UltraShift 18 speed automated manual transmission which has a ‘SmartPaddle’ mounted on the right side of the steering column to enable driver input. This driveline combination is impressive in its smoothness and ability to instantly adapt to any varying load and road conditions. There’s 1,850 Nm of torque available and the Coronado/Detroit combination can be had in other ratings to suit specific applications ranging from 475hp to 560hp. Meritor 4.10:1 diffs are riding on Freightliner’s AirLiner rear suspension.
The shortened wheelbase has improved the turning circle and the Coronado’s twin steering boxes ensure stability at all speeds with a light touch through the steering wheel.
This particular Freightliner/Hercules combination allows for General Access to all roads at 50.5 tonnes and Level 2 Higher Mass Limit/PBS routes at up to 57.5 tonnes.