Site access for fertiliser specialist JCM Spreading is an imperative part of its operations and one it takes seriously. The fleet must move when and where it can as it cannot afford to get stuck.
Contending in all terrain environments especially soft paddocks such as those likely encountered around Melbourne during its six-month long winters makes the choice of commercial vehicle a simple one for Justin McGhee owner of JCM Spreading. He runs four MAN TGM 18.340 4x4s from his base of Koo Wee Rup, a rural area on the edge of Western Port Bay. As a subcontractor for Brown’s Fertilisers, Justin co-ordinates his team of drivers, of which he is also one, between orchards, golf courses, sports grounds, dairies and beef farms from West Gippsland, the Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Ranges and as far west as Bacchus Marsh.
“We do anything really that requires fertiliser that we can get trucks onto,” Justin says. “That can often mean working in paddocks and on the hilly mountain goat stuff.”
The carrying and towing capacity of the MAN TGM 18.340 makes it appealing. Its low tare weight is considered ideal for adding a spreader body. This part of the build is not performed by Westar Trucks in Derrimut where they were purchased but in Violet Town in Central Victoria. Once the cab chassis is ready the vehicle is sent to Comspread Engineering, who fit the bin, with electronics. From there the truck gets shipped back so it can be equipped with the central tyre inflation system by CTI before it enters service.
The build and attachment of the spreader bin takes around eight weeks. As the trucks are turned over every four years the process has been mastered to the point the spreader bin is usually ready to go each time Justin invests in a new model MAN.
“By the time you add on the spreader body and the other bits and pieces they are still lighter than an IVECO or Mercedes-Benz and a few other trucks weightwise,” he says. “The power to weight ratio on the MANs is very good.” The engine more than compensates for the relatively light 15 tonnes cab chassis with 340 horsepower. The wheels can be locked via front and rear wheel diff locks, a given for the application. Pressure on each tyre can be changed from in the cab through an air inflation system. Justin opts for an aggressive radial Michelin super single tractor tyre rated to a 95 TLR index. It’s ideal for softer ground and varying conditions.
“It gives you superior traction to get around on site,” he says. “On farms we can’t afford to get stuck. My rule is don’t make a mess. We spread fertiliser not mud.”
The automated ZF 12 9-speed transmission helps to squeeze the most from its low range especially on steep embankments. Offroad the gearing approaches a ratio 1.6:1, almost halving every gear for greater safety