Truck of the Year Australasia 2023 finalists revealed

truck of the year

What is the best truck?

This is a perennial question argued about for many hours in truck stops across Australia. In fact, you will never get a definitive answer, because everybody has a different opinion.

In many cases it’s simply a matter of taste. Some people are simply Kenworth, International, Freightliner or Western Star fans, while others simply love their Volvo, Scania, Benz or MAN.

The fact of the matter is that merely mentioning choosing the best truck on the road always provokes plenty of discussion and argument when the subject comes up.

The teams at PowerTorque magazine in Australia and TruckingNZ in New Zealand have decided to get involved in this perennial argument and present an award for the best truck on the market.

At this year’s Brisbane Truck Show, one lucky truck manufacturer will be taking away the Truck of the Year Australasia 2023 Award for their latest model.

The editors of the two magazines, Tim Giles and Dave McCoid, are associate members of the International Truck of the Year (IToY) jury, which presents a similar award every year in Europe. Since IToY started back in 1977, the importance of the award has grown and the jury which decides on the winner has also grown so that there are now a number of associate members of the jury scattered around the world.

There is a Truck of the Year South America and the Chinese Truck of the Year. Now in 2023 the introduction of the Truck of the Year Australasia (ToYA) brings the concept down under for the first time.

The thinking behind the award is simple. What the jury of five are looking for is the truck which has been introduced in the last year or so, which has contributed to and improved the standards of safety and efficiency of the transport of goods by road in Australasia.

Any truck which fulfils this and which has a gross vehicle mass 4.5 tonnes or above is eligible. The truck must contain considerable technological improvements. A minor facelift etc. does not make a truck eligible. The truck nominated must be reasonably new, shall be produced in series and shall be ordered, according to an official price list.

Australasia presents truck makers with challenges unlike those it faces elsewhere in the world, and also considerably tougher. Trucks are working in the harshest conditions, extreme heat, sub zero temperatures and mountainous topography at weights up to and over 200 tonnes, in some cases, and the trucks are running at higher speeds than most of the rest of the world.

Unlike the other regions in the world, Australia and New Zealand utilise trucks from Europe, North America and Asia, and loading these trucks to much higher weights than they are designed for in their domestic markets.

The four contenders

In no particular order, the trucks in the running for this year’s ToYA are: the MAN TG3, the Kenworth K220, the Iveco S-Way and the Fuso Shogun 500, all of which have arrived with something new to offer Australasian truckies.

The Fuso Shogun 510 is a completely new concept for our trucking industry, a Japanese truck which actually has some real power. OK, it’s only a 13 litre engine, but it does knock out genuine power, and torque to match. Anyone getting into this truck will be surprised at how it performs and how good it is to drive.

It has an engine with its roots in Detroit and an AMT from the Benz side of the business, this is a sophisticated truck which sets new standards for the Japanese heavies in our markets. The spec sheet for this truck is a mass of three letter abbreviations: the AMT in the driveline and the SCR and DPF cleaning up the exhaust. The daytime running lights and low beam are LED. The braking system uses ABS, ASR and ESP to stop the truck, limit slipping and control stability. There’s also ECAS controlling the rear suspension.

Then there is the Active Safety suite included in the model, which offers us ABA5, PD, AAA, PCA and LDWS. Most of these use the video camera centrally at the bottom of the windscreen and the radar in the bumper to assess the situation in front of the truck.

The Iveco S-Way is a complete renewing of what the Iveco brand has on offer in Australasia. It comes at a point where the whole Iveco organisation has gone through a massive change and is virtually starting again. The last remnants of the operation’s International Harvester past have now gone, with the closure of the assembly plant in Dandenong. Iveco are now importing direct from Europe, just like their European counterparts.

The new range is based upon a tried and trusted formula for Iveco, with the latest version of the Cursor engine, an AMT made for Iveco by ZF and the stylish Italian design we have come to expect from the brand. These trucks are a long way from the Acco models on which the International brand  prospered.

With a mandatory deadline in 2025 for automatic emergency braking, the S-Way also includes a full suite of safety systems including the usual abbreviation suspects like: Advanced Emergency Braking System, Brake Assistance System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning System, Electronic Stability Program with ABS (disc brakes all round) and ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation), Hill Holder and Driver Style Evaluation plus Driver Attention Support (DSE + DAS).

The DAS system checks the driver’s level of attention by analysing steering wheel movements. If a state of drowsiness is detected, a message on the screen and an audible signal prompt the driver to take action and take some rest.

The introduction of the K220 by Kenworth may be contentious for some, but the changes introduced in the new model had to happen, to keep the model abreast of the new regulations coming through. In order to meet the requirements for automatic emergency braking, the truck needed a modern multiplex wiring system to handle the electronics involved.

It is a delicate balance for the designers to try and maintain the traditional look and feel of an industry favourite, while also bring the K Series into the 2020s. The traditionalists don’t want to lose the elements that makes the K Series the top seller in its sector, but the old style electrics simply won’t support the sophistication needed to meet the rules.

Another factor, for the K220, is the introduction of a game changer from Eaton. The Endurant XD AMT brings the automated gearbox in a Kenworth bang up to date. This gearbox can now be considered to be in the same ballpark as the AMTs which have been on offer from the European cabovers, with which it competes.

Inside the cab there is the introduction of elements from the T610 interior, as Kenworth introduces more standardisation across its range. This is also the case with the screen directly in front of the driver with speedo etc. It has a quality about it, looking like 3D analogue dials, while giving the driver choices on what they see. This is the new Paccar interface, and will be fitted on the new DAF models, when they arrive.

MAN is a truck brand which has struggled to make headway in. treh Australian market, despite being regarded as a quality truck brand and selling well in Europe. The latest model release from the German truck maker has a lot going for it and it has been very well received, it was awarded International Truck of the Year 2021.

It has now arrived in Australasia and answers a lot of the questions the trucking industry here is asking. The driveline is up to the kinds of tasks we would use a truck like this for and is a development from a driveline which has shown its durability in the past.

The new design elements in the cab are well thought out and are clearly designed after driver feedback. The reconfigurable switches at the bottom of the driver’s door are accessible for the driver when standing outside the truck.

The SmartSelect control proves to be easy to use even on some of the rougher roads because of the smart design of the hand-rest – something which probably originated in the luxury car side of the Volkswagen empire.

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