Isuzu FXY 1500 Livestock Hauler truck review


The heavy duty Isuzu FXY 1500 often sees use as a metro prime mover, but Matt Wood goes for a crackling country drive in a rigid and learns a bit about carting pigs along the way.

Isuzu FXY 1500 Livestock Hauler truck review
Isuzu FXY 1400 Livestock Hauler

While watching a river of little pink hairy bodies trot past me I remember one of those useless bits of information that people like to spout forth from time to time. It’s sometimes said that pigs and humans share 98 per cent of their genetic material. This is usually brought up by some wag while I’m in the middle of chowing down on something like a roast pork roll while a stream of gravy trickles down my chin.

On further investigation, I found out this a bit of a furphy. Sure, we share a lot of DNA with pigs; we’re mammals as well, but it’s kind of like saying that a potted geranium and a Californian redwood are closely related.

It turns out that we’re not really genetically that closely related to pigs at all. In fact, the most similar part of our genetic make-up is our immune system, which makes both pigs and humans susceptible to flu and the fact that both pigs and humans can put on weight very easily. In my case … no comment.

Hauling Pigs

Another area I’ve discovered where humans and pigs are similar is that, if Australian truck market sales figures are anything to go by, both humans and pigs seem quite enthusiastic about getting into an Isuzu truck.

The little pink suckers were more than happy to trot up the ramp into the stock crate which happened to be mounted on the back of an Isuzu FXY 1500. The owner of this rig is John Wood, a livestock and general cartage contractor based in Marshall on the western fringes of the Victorian city of Geelong.

I figured John must be a good bloke mainly because we share the same surname (no relation though).

Luckily, this turned out to be true, as we spent the best part of 10 hours together in his startlingly shiny Isuzu while undertaking John’s once a week run from Geelong to Wycheproof, in north central Victoria.

John’s bearded visage is prone to cracking into a wry grin as he offers his observations and analogies on life and livestock with humour that’s as dry as the Simpson Desert.

Isuzu FXY2

It turns out that John and I share more than just a surname, we also share a disdain for sheep: "Stupid bloody things. You could put a head on each end and the bloody things’d still run sideways."

I can only defer to John’s years of livestock experience. At 70 years of age, you’d reckon that John might be thinking of retirement, but when I tried to broach the subject he responded with that same grin: "I am."

From hook to hoof

It turns out that John spent 28 years as a butcher, with his own shop in the suburb of Geelong West. While dealing with the daily rigours of running a small business, he has also at times run livestock on his own property, at one stage owning a farm as well as the shop.

"Buying a truck was meant to be semiretirement," John tells me over the howling icy wind.

This attempt at semi-retirement saw John buy his first truck 16 years ago with the aim of "just doing a bit here and there".

Now on his third truck, John doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

He spends three days a week carting pigs for Western Plains Pork, with a couple of those days spent running from the piggery to Melbourne.

Pigs

Most Thursdays, however, John takes a load of freshly weaned suckers up to a growing facility near the town of Bridgewater. The remainder are taken up to a specialist game abattoir at Glenloth near Wycheproof.

The rest of the working week tends to be taken up with casual jobs shifting cattle, sheep and horses and anything else with legs locally, and when he required John drops the 28-foot (8.5m), two-deck crate off the back and does a bit of general cartage.

The load up doesn’t take a great deal of time at all with the little piggies happily scrambling up the ramp while John and a couple of the piggery workers give them a gentle hurry up.

You’d be forgiven that for thinking that Mount Mercer was somewhat closer to the Arctic Circle on this particular day with an arctic blast battering us as John closes off the back gates and rolls a protective tarp over the top of the squeaking, grunting load. John takes the wheel for the first stint through Ballarat so I take the opportunity to quiz him on the more odd-ball passengers he’s had on the back of the Isuzu.

"At one stage I carted quite a few Alpaca’s, they can be pretty cranky" John says. But I do ask him what has been the most unusual load he’s carted.

"Geese," he answers with a grimace.

"Geez the things made a racket."

It turns out that John picked up a backload of geese for a relative from a place near Bendigo.

"When we were coming back though town, every time we pulled up at a set of traffic lights they started carrying on a treat. Everyone was looking at the truck trying to see where the noise was coming from."

It seems that the load wasn’t visible to passers-by because of the sides of the crate. But perhaps a more memorable occasion was when he was driving along the Melbourne-Geelong freeway and he found himself being soundly abused by the occupant of a car covered in vegan stickers.

Nagging passengers

We pulled up for a pie at the hamlet of Carisbrook, and as we rolled into town the piglets could be heard yakking away in the background. I can only assume that this was pig language for "Are we there yet?" and "I’m hungry" and "I need a wee".

But after a portable pastry snack and a caffeine top up, it was my turn to take the wheel of the FXY and see how the jigger behaved in 6x4 form.

I’d previously driven the 9.8-litre Sitec 3 6UZ1-TCN engine in the newly released FY 8x4 and 10x4 vehicles as a loaded agitator.

This was my first time behind the wheel of the heavy-duty 350hp (257.4kW) FXY.

As a 6x4 rigid the FXY is a hell of a lot of truck, on paper its specs look suited to metro prime mover roles with its GCM of 42,500kg. But, I’m also fond of saying that there’s no such thing as too much horsepower and with a modest load of 480 suckers totalling all of around 4,800kg, the FXY was a veritable rocket ship.

The 9-speed manual ZF transmission in synchro form was smooth shifting and the piggy express was up to speed in no time and happy to chug over hill and down dale on country back roads without needing a downshift.

The heavier spec of the FXY gives it a heavier more stable feel on the road than some of the lighter weight 6x4 options in the Isuzu stable, as a rigid it’s a very confident performer.

John actually started out with a single drive Isuzu before upgrading to a 6x4 FVZ 1400 a few years back, and then in 2011 he upgraded to the FXY and claims to be happy with the extra power of the Sitec 3 engine.

Given that the truck regularly ventures off the blacktop a lazy axle has never been an option.

The synchromesh box while smooth to operate can be a pain for some who operate mixed fleets, drivers who are more familiar with a lifetime of non-synchro boxes can destroy the transmissions synchro rings in no time if they change without engaging the clutch fully or try to shift without the clutch at all. In John’s case however, being a one man band he hasn’t had a drama at all with the tranny.

Pigs2

In this application, I much prefer it to the Allison automatic that I’d used in the FY agitators.

Isuzu FXY 1500 Pros and Cons

One niggle that became quite annoying was the wind noise and draughtiness of the cab. This truck was a 2011 model and even now only had 183,000km on the clock but the icy winter wind managed to whistle through the interior door handle recesses quite noticeably.

In fact, it was actually quieter to have the driver’s window down a crack and put up with the whistle in the background.

The Sitec 3 350 engine satisfies Euro 5 (ADR80/03) emissions laws by using a di-oxy catalyst for the cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system rather than or selective catalytic reduction (SCR). In short this means no AdBlue and no active regeneration for the diesel exhaust diffuser.

For an operator that heads into paddocks and crop stubble on a regular basis, not having an after burner underneath the chassis to consider has got to be seen as a bonus. On arrival at the piggery located near Bridgewater I backed up to the loading ramp and jumped out to unload 420 of my passengers, the remaining 60 were staying on board for the trip to Wycheproof.

Puddle of mud

With a clatter of cloven hooves the scurrying herd made their way down the ramp to their new home and within minutes it was time to shut the gate and continue our journey northward.

It became very clear that this truck would happily tow a dog, or dare I say it, a pig trailer very comfortably in this kind of role.

I put this to John who then gave me a scornful look before replying "Bugger that". I took his implied point.

A turn off the highway saw me out on corrugated dirt roads and again the big ‘excuse-u’ handled the rough stuff well.

"When we were coming back though town, every time we pulled up at a set of traffic lights they started carrying on a treat. Everyone was looking at the truck trying to see where the noise was coming from."

John yelled "Oi, Look out" and I immediately swerved to the right.

"One bloody mud puddle in the yard and you had to drive through it."

It was about this time that I realised that John may have a few years on me but in stature he resembles a bear.

"Uh, oops," I replied, John’s characteristic grin then resurfaced as he shook his head.

Far from being a typically stained and dirty livestock carriers truck John’s FXY is spotless and a real credit to him … and I just got mud on his left-hand steer tyre.

Shiny wheels

The remaining 60 passengers trotted into the holding pens where they awaited their fate at the meat and game abattoir.

The FXY 1500 seemed to be a good fit for a livestock carrier’s job, plenty of grunt and stable on and off the road. I doubt a 2-axle trailer would slow it down too much either.

In fact it’s probably one of the first times I’ve walked away from a heavy-duty Isuzu without complaining about the lack of power.

As an all-rounder in one way loading and diminishing load roles, the FXY certainly seemed to have what it takes performance and comfort wise for covering country miles with ease.

That evening, after our 700km journey, John and I stood in his shed, each of us clutching a Victor Bravo as the rain hammered on the shed roof above us. John gestured to the now parked up truck: "How do you reckon she’d look with alloy rims?

"Do you reckon the animal wee would stain them?"

I shook my head; I had to confess that I’d never seen Alcoa claim its Durabrite rims were urine resistant. But that being said, I’m sure John’s FXY would look just fine.

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