Australia is currently undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime economic transformation, leaving behind the old model of resources investment-led growth to explore new, more broad-based avenues to future success. Infrastructure development and construction will play a key role in that process, with the Federal Government budgeting some $50 billion for infrastructure development alone.
One area that will be directly affected by that commitment is the highly contested 6×4 and 8×4 concrete agitator market – a traditional stronghold of the ACCO. Despite facing competition from Japan, Europe and North America, the newly renovated Iveco continues to be a force to be reckoned with, not least because of the decades of experience behind it. To see just how suited the long-standing workhorse is for the rekindled race for market leadership, Prime Mover is taking a loaded 8×4 model to building sites around Melbourne.
Our test unit is equipped with a 8.9-litre Cummins ISL engine that can produce 340hp and 1500Nm of torque, using selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to meet the Euro V emission standard. While some of the early Euro V ISL engines suffered from occasional ‘hunting’ at idle, that phenomenon has now been electronically tuned out – so much so that idle speed is steady even when the hydraulic drive for the agitator is active. For kerb pouring applications, a ‘slow switch’ can be activated on the dash to further reduce forward motion and make the vehicle ‘crawl’.
The six-speed Allison 3200 series transmission is able to take advantage of the Cummins’ torque range and can provide smooth gear changes even when the barrel is churning away with almost a full load of mix. On descents, the Allison automatically downshifts itself and works in conjunction with the engine brake to keep the use of the brake pedal to a minimum. Holding a gear is as easy as pressing a button, and returning to full auto mode is similarly achieved by a light press on the ‘D’ button.
The CESCO unit on the back can be controlled via a comprehensive console mounted next to the driver, but there is also a wireless remote unit that can be recharged in-cab via a holster attached to the console. At ‘transport’ speed, the agitator draws 60kW and 190Nm to keep the barrel turning. The initial mix and discharge of concrete mix require more power, but as the truck is usually stationary during these procedures, the reduction in available power to the driveline is not an issue.
In line with this ‘horses for courses’ attitude, the 27-litre AdBlue tank of the ACCO may not be as restrictive as it seems, given the vast majority of agitator trucks only travel short distances and commonly have fuel and fluids topped up on a daily basis. The daily fluid checks can be performed safely from the kerb side of the truck, with the 285-litre square alloy diesel tank holding enough fuel for a big day of metropolitan delivery work.
Agitator trucks’ inherently high centres of gravity have led Iveco’s engineering team to incorporate an Electronic Stability System (ESC) from Knorr-Bremse into the 8×4 chassis to provide an enhanced level of safety and confidence. Our test truck also has ABS and Automatic Traction Control on board, which will be handy on slippery work sites as well as wet roads. Should the ASR not be able to provide sufficient forward motion, a driver activated power divider and diff locks are also fitted.
Another sensitive aspect of an agitator vehicle is the suspension system. The front suspension on our test truck is the optional Hendrickson Airtek system, which delivers a smooth ride with no wallow when changing direction – an important function as the high centre of gravity can quickly combine with the centrifugal forces of the rotating barrel and make the unit unstable. Rear suspension on the test truck is the optional Hendrickson Primaax air system, rated at 20 tonnes.
Although the 2015 is more stable than ever, the wheelbase and the steer wheel angles on the 8×4 model combine to provide a very manoeuvrable unit with a relatively small turning circle – a key competitive advantage for an agitator truck.
What’s less important for a vocational truck, however, is the actual design. As a result, the ACCO’s cab hasn’t evolved much from the steel-box shape seen in the past, even though it has been updated with some in-house parts from the Stralis and Trakker range. Functionality was more important to Iveco, with the handy three-piece front bumper originally developed for the Trakker off-road model now serving a second term on the ACCO, for example.
Although never intended as a long haul vehicle, the ACCO still looks after the driver to ensure they remain healthy and focused, with an air-suspended ISRI seat and a much revised air conditioning system. From the driver’s perspective, the external mirrors seem larger than usual, which is welcome when negotiating cramped and busy delivery sites and won’t affect aerodynamics all that much – given the ACCO will spend most of its on-road time at less than highway speed.
The steering wheel is borrowed from the Iveco Eurocargo, which has also donated the column mounted control stalks. The column has plenty of adjustment to height as well as fore and aft locations, but the wheel itself is not a high-tech unit. It serves just one purpose: to transmit the driver’s intentions to the steer axles. There are no audio controls, no cruise controls – actually, there’s no cruise control at all – and the horn is operated via the left side column stalk.
As such, the ACCO may not seem to be a highly sophisticated vehicle – but in the agitator market, that can actually be a key advantage.
In fact, it is the ACCO’s rugged ‘fit for purpose’ engineering that makes the 55-year-old veteran still relevant in the market today. It can boast high technology where it matters – think safety features such as ESC and the new, effective air conditioning system – but hasn’t forgotten about the basics, with the well-developed, almost bullet proof driveline, the all-steel cab and the low tare weight making every transport business happy. All up, it’s a mix that is ready to take on the next half century.