Sweet as: Mercedes-Benz gets thumbs-up in cane fields


Australian demand for sugar is still strong despite the attempts of many a diet guru to make it public enemy number one. That’s a good thing for Australia, and especially Queensland, where many a worker earns a living in our country’s sweetest industry.

Productivity is the key to making sugar worthwhile in a tough economic climate, which is why NDL Transport switched to Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks for a five-truck fleet based in Brandon, about 80km south of Townsville.

“We chose the Benzes because of their low tare weight, which gives us an additional 500kg payload for every single load,” says NDL Transport operations manager, Luke Zarb.

“With five trucks running all day every day, that extra 500kg on each run really adds up,” Zarb says.

The trucks, purchased from the locally-owned and operated RGM Maintenance in Townsville, haul sugar cane from pads at the edge of the cane fields to railway sidings.

The trucks haul sugar cane from pads at the edge of local cane fields to railway sidings. Both ends of the special cane trailers tilt up and the cane drops down into the middle before being pushed-out on a conveyer and into cane bins, delivering the cane to any of the 4 mills in the Burdekin region.

NDL chose the 2646 new generation Actros model, which run 455hp version of the 11-litre six-cylinder OM470 engine and is teamed with a 12 speed Automated Manual Transmission.

Both ends of the special cane trailers tilt up and the cane drops.

The new generation Benz AMT features a crawler function, which makes easing up to docks or bins easier than ever.

It also has a new Multimedia Cockpit, which is Benz’s fancy way of describing two new tablet screens on the dashboard just like in their premium road cars.

One screen replaces the instrument cluster and shows things like speed and revs in crystal clear detail and another, which is a touch screen, replaces the centre unit to control a whole range of features including navigation, radio etc. It still has some hard buttons to control things you might need to change in a hurry, including climate controls and radio volume.

Zarb says the trucks, which have been on the road for three months, have been well received by the drivers. They appreciate the spaciousness of the cabins and the comfort levels.

“They just love them,” Zarb says.

“The guys reckon they are the smoothest and most comfortable trucks they have ever driven and many of them have been driving for 30 years,” he adds.   

Like all Mercedes-Benz truck engines, the 11-litre unit meets Euro 6 emission standards, which are far stricter than the existing Euro 5 standards that are mandated in Australia, delivering dramatic reductions in nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions.

“The fact that these engines are Euro 6 rated is a really big plus for NDL Transport,” says Zarb.

“It is quite a simple way for us to reduce our impact on the environment.”

The Australian sugarcane industry has been working to reduce its environmental impact in recent years, so the Euro 6 Benzes are a good fit.

The cane harvest season started in the first week of June and will run through until the first week of December. Zarb says the workload has not dropped off at all despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“Sugar is something that really is essential, so it really hasn’t been affected at all,” he says.

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