Used Truck of the Month: Volvo NL

By: Steve Skinner, Photography by: Steve Skinner


IMG 0264 ‘Runaway Babe II’ picked up the Best Volvo award at this year’s Penrith Working Truck Show. IMG 0264
IMG 0275 Arnold Mohan says the 12-litre engine is reliable and good on fuel. IMG 0275
IMG 0286 Arnold Mohan, right, with his mate Les Nicholas who’s owned three bonneted Volvos; and his son Hayden (left) at the Penrith Working Truck Show. IMG 0286
IMG 0329 You don’t see many synchro Volvo transmissions these days. IMG 0329
The Volvo steering wheel and dash were a lot different 23 years ago. The Volvo steering wheel and dash were a lot different 23 years ago. The Volvo steering wheel and dash were a lot different 23 years ago.
Solid suspension. Solid suspension. Solid suspension.
Shiny drives. Shiny drives. Shiny drives.
The rose is the symbol of cystic fibrosis, which Arnold’s grandson lives with. The rose is the symbol of cystic fibrosis, which Arnold’s grandson lives with. The rose is the symbol of cystic fibrosis, which Arnold’s grandson lives with.
It’s a bit easier to get into Volvo bunks these days. It’s a bit easier to get into Volvo bunks these days. It’s a bit easier to get into Volvo bunks these days.

This 1992 NL Volvo is still going strong after more than 3 million kilometres.

 

Just as well Arnold Mohan is a diesel mechanic by trade. It means the owner-driver is able to maintain his four trucks himself, saving a small fortune and keeping his operation viable in a tough trucking environment.

Take the pride of his small Ashmo Freightlines fleet, a bonneted Volvo of the type you don’t often see running around in Australia — compared to the United States anyway.

Arnold does a fortnightly grease and check-over, plus every 40,000km he changes the oil and filters on the 1992 NL. That saves him an estimated $130 an hour in labour costs compared to sending it off to a workshop.

That’s pretty good when Arnold calculates the hourly income for owner-drivers is only about $70.

After more than 3 million kilometres of regular expert maintenance, the original Volvo engine has had remarkably little done on it.

"I put a piston and liner kit in, reconditioned the head and threw it back on," says Arnold matter-of-factly of some work a while back.

"I haven’t touched the diffs," he adds. "I can’t fault the truck."

Meanwhile the 12-speed manual Volvo gearbox has only had a couple of synchromesh components replaced.

Arnold estimates fuel economy at about 2.4km to the litre on the highway.

"Mate, I think it does better than the new trucks, honestly," he says.

Based at Tahmoor just south of Sydney, the trucking veteran has been the proud owner of the NL for nearly 20 years, having bought it second-hand.

The eye-catching European won ‘Best Volvo’ at this year’s Penrith Working Truck Show.

Volvo -1992,-TT3

 

Versatile Volvo

While Arnold’s NL is B-double rated, the 12-litre engine only puts out a little over 400hp (294kW), so it does all single trailer work.

By night it delivers New South Wales express parcel freight for a couple of big companies, and by day it’s local work. It runs nearly 24 hours a day with two drivers, who obviously look after it well.

The truck is designed for long-haul work, hence its ‘Longreach’ model name.

This refers to the big 48-inch (122cm) non-integrated bunk, and the four fuel tanks which hold nearly 2,000 litres.

As far as Arnold knows there were only about 50 Longreaches built at the Volvo factory in Brisbane.

Arnold says it’s a good truck to drive.

"It holds the road well and it’s comfortable. Volvos are always comfortable."

His Volvo connection goes back a long way, to the days when he worked at Volvo workshops in Sydney after migrating from Fiji more than 35 years ago.

Volvo -1992,-TT2

 

Tough Industry

Arnold has been a trucking operator for 21 years, since just before he bought the NL.

"It was good, but not anymore," he laments.

At one stage he had 18 trucks, but payment times of five weeks or longer — or not at all when a couple of customers went broke — have seen him cut right back to just four trucks.

He only operates them because he is paid weekly for their work by one customer, and fortnightly by the other.

But he says rates have hardly moved in the whole time he’s been in the trucking game — for example what he understands is the current going price along the Hume Highway for a single trailer, of about $1,000.

"The Sydney to Melbourne rate hasn’t changed since I was doing it 21 years ago, that’s how bad it is," Arnold points out.

That’s in dollar terms, not after taking inflation into account. Meanwhile of course fuel and all the other costs have shot up.

As for the fatigue issue, Arnold says: "It goes back to the big customers having drivers waiting five or six hours to get unloaded, and then they have to go somewhere and load and spend another four or five hours doing that, and then they’ve got to get to the other end.

"So where does a bloke have a sleep?

"Especially the young blokes, they don’t know how to manage their time; they don’t go to sleep while waiting.

"If you’re waiting in a queue you put your head down and sleep."

Arnold says at least there aren’t as many shuffling-up queues these days.

 

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook