Test Drive

On the road with Hino from Cairns to Townsville

When you’ve been closeted up for a couple of years, and need to spread your wings again, what better way than to take most of your entire range on a road trip? 

Hino decided to hit the road running following the Covid lockdown era by gathering a dozen trucks in variants across its three series – 300, 500 and 700 – and heading around the country for dealer and customer road tests.

It started with a media group in Cairns, then a promotional visit to the Townsville Supercars round, then an extended trek around the country so the trucks could be used by the dealer network to re-engage owners and operators.

With light, medium and heavy trucks included in the ‘convoy’ each leg of our media drive was concluded with a regrouping at a range of rest stops. Curiously, the hybrid trucks, that were such an emphasis of the executive presentations, were not on the drive.

Featuring strongly in the one-on-one discussions with Hino executives was Hino Connect, a locally designed and engineered combination of hardware and software to exploit the torrent of data produced by Hino’s on-board electronic control modules, accessed through the CAN-bus port.

The all-new Hino 700 Series offers an extensive suite of driver-assist technologies.

Each 500 and 700-series Hino is ready to roll with the system already hardwired and the software loaded. All it takes is for customers to connect with the Hino Portal where this message appears:

“Your new Hino truck comes with on-board telematics technology. This provides you with complimentary access to a range of intelligent services, which will support you and your business.”

From there it’s a simple process of entering your truck’s VIN number, personal and contact details and you’re underway. The system will take a great deal of orientation to fully utilise its features, but the fuel savings potential of managing that data alone is worth the effort.

Driving all the models around the Atherton Tablelands surrounding Cairns, and then running down the coast to Townsville was enlightening. Hino cabs share strong familial ties, and after a few dozen kilometres in a 700-Series 6×2 FR for example, the rest of the range, all the way down to the 300 Series required little orientation. 

As is usual with all Japanese trucks, driver controls are easy to reach and use, with the primary functions all fingertip operated on the steering wheel or column. 

At each stage, my fellow journos and I logged in to the Connect system with our mobile numbers, and all our data was collected on the Hino server. 

Later we got to review outputs such as idle time – engine that is – overspeed time, fuel burn, brake applications, hard acceleration and speeding. Naturally, with these parameters under the spotlight, we were all very careful to focus on our driving habits.

But in the real world of 24/7 truck operations, this kind of awareness of performance pays big dividends. Rather than just a competition between mates, the hard numbers tell a story of professionalism and ability to maximise productivity. 

Whether an owner-operator, or an employed driver, the value of fuel consciousness is significant. The boss is happier, the driver is more valued, while the owner-driver sees the results with cash-in-hand.

The 300 Series.

Experience with heavy-duty linehaul work helped me to optimise fuel usage on my drives, and the results were notable in the range of fuel economy across our group. Operators would be nuts not to invest the time to learn the system’s features and data. One blip was engine overspeed time. 

The data didn’t differentiate between overspeed under acceleration or under braking, so a very steep hill with the engine brake on that took rpms above 2100 needed further analysis.

No less impressive was the data surrounding Hino’s hybrid technology and the effort that the company’s marketing and sales team signalled was being rolled out to increase the sales of this driveline. 

Although all manufacturers see hybrid drivelines as a stepping-stone to all-electric, Hino has recognised that we are a vast distance away from the crossover of whole-of-life costs between diesel-based power and electric only.

For example, the cost of getting enough power supply into a depot for recharging more than a handful of electric trucks is rarely identified, and until those barriers can be overcome, diesel will reign supreme. 

Noteworthy was another statistic touted by Hino’s Richard Emery. To deliver the same performance and range as Hino 300 series with Hino’s hybrid driveline carrying 80-litres of diesel, an all- electric 300 Series would require a battery pack weighing 3550kg – with existing technology. Makes you think. 

In short, although Emery made it clear that Hino isn’t focussed on snatching market leadership from Isuzu any time soon, the brand will steadily improve each of its offerings to stay in, or ahead of the technology game.

Operators can only benefit.

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