Used Truck: Dave's Freightliner Argosy

By: Steve Skinner

Dave s Freightliner Dave s Freightliner

This 2005 Freightliner Argosy travels to some of the most contrasting places you can imagine, writes Steve Skinner.

Let’s face it, most truckies figure that cab-over prime movers aren’t ideally suited to corrugated outback ‘roads’, if you can call them that.

Give most outback hauliers to mine sites a long wheelbase bonneted prime mover, any day.

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On the other hand, a 908 Kenworth or a Mack Titan isn’t easy to manoeuvre into tight situations at showbiz entertainment centres in the big cities. It’s hard to have it all.

So without spending up big on a new truck that might be custom-made for both extremes at once, maybe an old Freightliner Argosy is as good a compromise as anything.

How does this 2005 Argosy handle travelling all over Australia, carting an interesting mixture of over-sized loads for mines and music show equipment for concert gigs?

"She does well," says Dave, who pilots the old girl for Sydney-based JIT (Just in Time) Transport.

Owner//Driver caught up with truck and driver as they were parked up under the Bolte Bridge at Melbourne’s Ports Diner Roadhouse.

"Engine-wise and drive-line, you can’t fault it," Dave says, adding "it will get too technical", if I try to spell his surname.

The engine is the tried and true Caterpillar C15, pushing out 550hp (440kW).

There were a couple of hiccups last year though: the head was re-done, and an injector rocker arm completely snapped.

"From Dubbo I had to go all the way to Brissie and then back to Sydney one cylinder down," Dave recalls.

"Wasn’t happy. There was a big power loss."

Servicing is done by an outside workshop every 20,000km.

He says "sometimes they’re done a bit earlier, sometimes you might go a bit over, depending on where you are."

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Meanwhile the transmission is the equally tried and true 18-speed Eaton Roadranger, although in this one Dave says the linkages have just about had it. Not surprising, considering the old-timer has done more than 1.3 million kilometres.

Bouncing Along

This writer has driven Freightliner Argosys plenty of times, and has had nothing but good experiences in them — but that’s always been on the bitumen.

Dave is not so positive about his steed when it comes to the really rough stuff such as the Tanami Track in desert country.

Freightliners have never been renowned for the quality of their cosmetic fittings in the cab, but Dave says stuff regularly falls off on rutted roads.

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For example he’s had to replace the original plastic backing on the dash with Masonite. As for cab comfort while on the way to mine sites "they call these things Agonies," he quips.

"Look, it’s all right … she’s bouncy but manageable. Lucky you’ve got some air under the seat. But she’s rough compared to that," Dave says, pointing to a Scania parked beside his rig.

"I’ve got to go really slow. And then if things start falling off, well out come the cable ties. You’ve got no choice really. You will be in the middle of nowhere, no phone service, no nothing."

Having said that, Dave says the Argosy is a good truck to be living away from home in.

It has a nice big sleeper with a full-size single mattress and an almost flat floor, as well as other creature comforts Dave has added, such as a TV.

So, how does he like the trucking life?

"I love it," Dave responds. "Don’t tell the missus that, though," he adds, doubting she will read this article anyway.

All jokes aside though, Dave says his long stretches away from home "get a bit hard on her sometimes".

Essential Accessories

Dave says the bullbar and array of lights on the Argosy get plenty of use in Western Australia and the Territory, and not just because of roos.

"There are plenty of cows over there," he says. "They roam the roads like they own them. They’ll just sit in front of you and you won’t see them until you’re on top of them."

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Nevertheless, Dave says, the other main type of wildlife in the outback — the truckies — are great.

"You know a lot of people out there, and a lot of people will sit and have a chat with you.

"On the east coast, you can be broken down on the side of the road and not one person will ask on the radio if you need a hand. But go over there [to WA and the NT] and as soon as you pull over someone asks ‘Is everything all right?’ straight away."

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