Western Star on the move

The Western Star 4700 was initially released in North America back in May of 2011. It has been squarely aimed at vocational markets in that part of the world for applications including tipper, agitator, dump truck and cranes to name just a few. The model is the result of extensive research into customer and dealer wish lists, with the aim to deliver a serious truck with the rugged qualities Western Star is renowned for.

Since deliveries of the new model commenced from early 2012 in the US the 4700 has achieved a high success rate, despite a gloomy economy and depressed building market the North Americas have experienced.

Following its release, the growing question has been when will we see it in Australia and New Zealand? Already, there are some right hand drive examples operating in Australia and a full attack on the truck market is soon to be launched.

And, it is an interesting truck. For starters, Western Star has not had a model purpose-built for the heavy end of the medium-duty truck market. The company has been a continuing success story at the heavy end of Aussie trucking, with a big presence in road train, heavy haulage and, increasingly, the linehaul B-double market. Much of that success has been due to the fact Western Star has become increasingly close to its customers in all applications, and is never short on listening to their requests and requirements.

The line-up might be built in Portland Oregon in the US, but that doesn’t mean Australian engineers are far away from the action. Western Star Trucks Australia has extremely strong relationships with the people responsible for building the trucks, and the result is there are many unique features across the model line-up, a direct result of Australian involvement. What is coming to Australia in the form of the 4700 continues the quest to deliver a truck made for our unique conditions.

The 4700 is a tough contender in the market segment it addresses proving Western Star has a truck taking serious aim at the competition in line with its ‘Serious Trucks’ tagline. It has an imposing rugged look and exudes a tough presence.

The basic specifications of the 4700 include Cummins power with the 8.2 litre ISL engine providing power ratings from 260 to 400hp and delivering 1150 to 1300 lb/ft of torque, while the Cummins ISC engine will be available as an option.

There will be a wide variety of transmissions on offer to meet application demands, including Eaton Fuller manuals and the UltraShift automated box, plus Allison 3000 and 3500 Series 6-speed autos. Coupled with this are a variety of Meritor or Dana Spicer drive axles and various suspensions to suit the application. The 4700 comes as 6×4 or 8×4 with the option of a 10×4 fitted with a pusher axle.

The cab is 110 inches (2.7m) BBC of all steel construction and the one-piece grille is mounted to the frame rails and fitted with a screen behind to protect the radiator. The air cleaner is mounted under the fibreglass bonnet and after tilting the hood, there is ample room for service personnel to access all parts of the engine.

The cab interior has been exceptionally well designed to offer drivers plenty of head and legroom. Instrument panel and switches are easily accessed and large mirror, including one above the left hand front guard give a good view of the surroundings.

Visibility is one of the 4700’s strong points. Large windows and a sloping bonnet, coupled with the mirror configuration, offer a view from the driver’s seat that is best in its class.

Western Star has played particular attention to operator requirements across all areas of design and engineering and the new model will easily find a place across a wide variety of applications. Particular attention has been paid to bodybuilder requirements to mount all bodies.

Vehicle design started with a clean sheet of paper and the company’s involvement with customers and dealers took high priority right from the beginnings of the truck’s development. Little things such as new rear cab mounts, inserts under bonnet wheel arches to eliminate the risk of damage due to rocks and debris and ease of bonnet catch operation were just some of the features included.

One of the most impressive aspects of the new truck is build quality. The Western Star brand is a division of Daimler Trucks North America, and is built in what was formerly the Freightliner Portland plant. Stars were originally produced in Kelowna in Canada prior to the brand’s sale to Daimler and subsequent move to Oregon.

One thing evident in Kelowna was an immense pride in Western Star products, exhibited by those building the trucks, and in Portland that enthusiasm is the same, transferred to customers in vehicle quality. The Portland facility now produces Western Star trucks only and everybody involved in production works to ensure the ‘Serious Trucks’ philosophy is not compromised. The 4700 and other models are testament to that.

“We revitalised the Western Star brand in the North American market at the end of 2009,” says Michael Jackson, General Manager. “Everybody takes pride in developing products, and this is particularly evident in the 4700 for vocational customers.

“Logging, mining, vehicle transport, petroleum and speciality heavy haul are all areas where we are very successful and the introduction of the 4700 grows our business, particularly in construction, government, agriculture and general transportation. These are areas in business where we can play very well. We have 300 dealerships across the US and 100 of those offer Western Star only and wanted a truck to meet market needs,” he says.

“When Sterling went out of the market it left a gap as it had a large slice of truck sales. Freightliner picked up a lot of business, but we could do more. The 4700 becomes an attractive alternate from a pricing standpoint and creates further business in the marketplace.”

While the US is somewhat different to trucking in Australia, customer needs are very similar – and the market here is also looking at a new contender in the segment the 4700 addresses.

The first right hand drive for Australia has been delivered to Cleary Brothers in Sydney, the pre production truck operating as a 6×4 concrete agitator and number one of 15 vehicles destined for this country. The vehicle weighs in at 6.9 tonnes in agitator spec and has been put through its paces in ready-mixed concrete distribution. 

The trucks for Australia went into full production in Portland last month (January) and other versions to suit the local market, including a 4×4, will be made available in the near future.

“The Western Star truck range has been developed with customers and the requirements of their businesses,” says Doug Shand, General Manager of Western Star Trucks Australia. “We have steadily been increasing market share by listening to customers and our business has been growing in line with their businesses.

“The 4700 offers a host of features designed to lower operating costs yet meet tough demands in the field. It is a rugged truck that delivers reliability, the most important factor in trucking, and the requirements of a host of applications, safety, driver comfort and long life are all part of the package the 4700 offers.”

The truck went to market following extensive testing at both the Daimler test facility at Madras, Central Oregon, and in service with operators and fleets. Three right hand drive trucks, two cab/chassis units destined for Australia and one a test vehicle loaded with concrete blocks, were made available for a drive at Madras.

The course involves a bitumen track, gravel roads and a punishing series of corrugations, off centre elevations and rough stone section putting suspension and chassis twisting forces into the truck. Steering and handling plus driver comfort come under the microscope under these conditions.

Firstly low noise levels were experienced at all power levels and visibility in all directions was excellent. All of the trucks were fitted with the Allison 3000 Series transmissions offering two pedal driving and simple operation was the order of the day. Instantly evident was a car-like handling over all sections of the bitumen circuit, making the truck ideal for urban driving with more than ample power, exhibited by the loaded vehicle.

Stopping that truck on a 20 per cent grade and taking off saw an instant response from the Cummins under the hood, and not once did the truck falter. All three vehicles delivered the same performance, albeit with two unladen trucks, but the drive was pleasant over all sections of track.

In all the 4700 with its set back front axle is a delight to drive and operators can select from a variety of power ratings to suit individual needs. It is a not so little big truck built tough for all conditions.

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