Enter Sand Man
Carting materials into building sites is the main task of Donald's Sand and Soil and a new Fuso Shogun purchased for the operation has wasted no time proving its mettle.
It was a trip to Brisbane, earlier in the year, in which Ray Donald, was first awestruck by the Fuso Shogun.
At the time he had been considering purchasing another commercial vehicle for his sand delivery business, carting building material mainly into residential construction sites. But that soon changed once he got to inspect the Fuso up close.
At the age of 64, Ray runs a sandpit in Ballarat, where the sand is brought down through a 5mm screen, a process that involves the separation of stone mixed in with the natural types of sand he uses before the sand is ready to be certified for septic sand filters on new housing estates on the outskirts of Geelong.
After the screening process Ray, with use of a front end loader, loads up a tandem drive tipper and dog trailer before he carts it out. This has been his bread and butter for the past 20 years. Trucks have been a constant of his daily work routine since he completed his apprenticeship as a turner and fitter toolmaker in 1976.
He started out with an ACCO and has driven a range of different trucks over the years mainly moving gravel in and out of local quarries.
The sandpit, where Donald’s Sand and Soil is based, was originally part of a garden supplies business which he eventually sold.
He chose to keep the wholesale operation. Since then the garden supplies business has gone through a few sets of hands including Porter Plant. Ray’s three sons-in-law have more recently taken it over, successfully, bringing it, for Ray’s family, full circle.
Ray services the sandpit with his own truck, a Fuso Shogun, which he took delivery of two months ago following a pivotal moment at the Brisbane Truck Show.
In just two months he has clocked over 13,400 kilometres, mainly between Ballarat and Geelong. On the return leg he has clocks 100 kilometres daily. The Shogun replaces a commercial vehicle he had previously owned for around six years.
It was high time for a new truck.
“You’ve got to go new these days with all the developments in truck technology,” he says. “The engine technology, for example, has come on by leaps and bounds. You’ve really got to update your vehicle every five or six years to stay abreast of the latest gear. It’s much safer, easier on the driver and keeps VicRoads from pulling you over.”
Developed as a showcase of Daimler’s cutting edge powertrain hardware with the latest safety systems, the Shogun was officially unveiled at Brisbane, where Ray first laid eyes on it.
He attended in May, with the idea of purchasing another European cabover prime mover.
But once he saw the Shogun, being able to sit in the truck and talk about it with on hand representatives at Daimler, he was sold.
The suspension valve on the seat of his last truck desperately needed replacing, restricting adjustments. According to Ray he put up with it for a while.
Now he’s in heaven with a whole new seat. The comfort of the seating, he says, is remarkable.
“If you’re getting into the cab early in the morning and then climbing out of it later that same night it makes a real difference,” Ray says.
“At night you feel refreshed after sitting in it.”
The nature of the work, which has meant long hours in the vehicle, and much over time, for someone of his experience, makes it imperative that he has a newer truck with the latest in cab comforts and features.
The dash instruments are easy to read and enables Ray to dial up whatever he needs to reference on the fly, whether that’s operational conditions, running efficiency and fuel consumption under load or empty.
As the steering wheel provides convenient access to all the main controls, he particularly likes the modern interactive display.
“As soon as you flick it across you’re told the distance you’ve travelled, the time of day, your fuel economy,” he says. “It’s easy to use.”
Features like the lane-changing assistance are a welcome addition for the long runs in traffic.
The dash, according to Ray, will display an alert for distraction, should he take his eyes off the road ahead for too long. It’s part of a feature added to counteract fatigue called Active Attention Assist.
Accidents are minimised by Active Emergency Braking, a rear collision preventative feature which is beneficial to all other road users given the hard miles Ray sees on the highway.
He’s also set up a dashcam.
As part of his due diligence before purchase, Ray says he tested, earlier in the year, a couple of the newest offerings from Japanese manufacturers.
That’s where he started ramping up his research into the type of vehicle he wanted. The 5 year warranty offered by Daimler was part of the attraction. He’s rapt by Fuso’s warranty service.
“Most of the others I considered only give you three years,” he says. “I don’t run interstate so there was, from my perspective, little chance of accumulating 500,000 kilometres in the next five years.”
Donald’s Soil and Sand supplies six recurring plumbing clients. Most of the new estates haven’t yet been connected to a sewer.
Some opt for a treatment plant. Others put in a sand filter – and that’s where Ray comes in.
Of what were once country towns that are now linking up to Geelong, 20 lot subdivisions of houses await septic connection.
By the time Ray arrives on the scene concrete slabs might have gone in and bricks and building materials have been delivered.
He needs to negotiate all of it and even freshly planted tree saplings. The cabover Fuso suits his application, running a tandem drive truck and dog trailer.
“It’s compact and more moveable with a superb turning circle,” he says. “I like the vision it affords me on these little house blocks especially if the concrete has already been poured.”
Having a new truck with a superior traction control system helps optimise grip of the vehicle by ending wheel spinning given the reduction in engine power it prompts.
It allows the vehicle to accelerate smoothly, even on rough, boggy or slippery surfaces, which, as it so happens, is the natural habitat of the Fuso in Ray’s operation.
The traction control, he says, helps pull the truck, without fail, from the soft ground.
“I’m really pleased with it. On the earlier trucks you were limited to where you could drive so you had to put diff locks in,” Ray says.
“This vehicle goes anywhere. It’s saving me a lot of time and worry when it comes to getting into some of the trickier sites. Often with an airbag system the wheel gets tilted up on uneven ground and I’ll sit there with it spinning. But with the traction control it just clicks in, it’ll bite the dirt automatically and you drive out of it.”
An alert comes up on the dash to notify the driver he is in crawler mode. It’s been a major discovery for Ray given the long Victorian winter has made conditions wetter than usual.
“You can feel the traction at work and it gets me out of a lot of tight places,” he says. “It’s made a big difference to my business.”
Ray works under a 42 tonne limit. As he’s not carting out of a quarry and getting paid per tonne there’s no pressure to pay the extra money for a 45 tonne carrying permit. He’s always preferred tandem-drives.
The Fuso Shogun has a Daimler-sourced automated 12-gear transmission and engine. As part of his research, Ray approached Sargeant Transport who were running a host of new Mercedes-Benz trucks.
They were impressed with the Benzes and they had a new 460hp 12-speed transmission which they confirmed was a more comfortable drive. That stayed with Ray. It was intel he valued.
Knowing the Fuso Shogun had essentially the same running gear from Daimler’s shared truck technology platforms, he was finally sold on it.
The engine is manufactured at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Mannheim while the ShiftPilot transmission is produced at the Gaggenau plant.
The Shogun also, according to Ray, had superior pricing to the other model truck he was weighing up at the time. But it was its singular presence at the Truck Show that first caught his eye.
“That was a big moment for me,” he says. “I’ve waited a while to finally get my hands on one but it was more than worth the wait.”