THE INDESTRUCTABLE ACCO

Dave Whyte

PowerTorque

01/12/2015

IVECO ACCO IS A TRUCK THAT NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION. FOR OVER 40 YEARS THE ACCO HAS BEEN A COMMON SIGHT ON OUR ROADS, AND HAS PROVEN POPULAR DUE TO ITS STRENGTH, SIMPLICITY AND ADAPTABILITY TO MANY DIFFERENT ROLES.

From the early International days of the "butter box" cab, to its current incarnation bearing the IVECO badge, the ACCO has been a solid sales performer and proven the value of local design and manufacturing. While it was once a popular highway truck (a long time ago now), the ACCO is now aimed squarely at vocational roles, primarily the waste collection and concrete agitator markets. Through all the changes, updates and improvements over the years, the remarkable thing is that the ACCO has been rolling out of the same Dandenong factory since day one.

The current-day ACCO still survives on the same qualities that made it so popular back in the day. The basic cab structure has remained the same for many years, a testament to its strength and versatility, and all the panels are still pressed on-site at the plant. Needless to say, what sits beneath the cab has changed a little over the years, with local manufacturing meaning the factory can tailor trucks specifically to suit the local market. Don't let the old-school cab fool you, the ACCO is well and truly up to date, as I learned recently while driving an 8x4 agitator model.

The ACCO 8x4 agitator spec is not a one-size-fits-all truck that has been adapted to suit the task. It is actually a purpose-built model, with the needs of operators built in at the design stage. The 5.1 -metre wheelbase and low tare weight mean the best possible weight distribution for legal axle weights, even with a full 7.5-cubic-metre payload. The low 7.9-tonne tare weight (cab/chassis) is achieved using specific agitator spec components that include alloy hubs, aluminium diff carriers, lightweight CentriFuse brake drums and Alcoa alloy wheels.

The truck I drove was a standard agitator spec ACCO, powered by a 9.0-litre Cummins ISL engine that provides 320 hp (239 kW) and 996 Ib-ft (1350 Nm) of torque to a sixspeed Allison automatic transmission. The transmission-mounted PTO drove a Cesco 7.5-cubic-metre barrel, which was loaded with 6.5 cubic metres of aggregate. While aggregate doesn't stick to the sides of the barrel the way concrete would, it is a good way to get a feel for driveability and stability. On the topic of stability, the ACCO was fitted with air suspension all around, including the optional Hendrickson Airtek suspension up front, which provided surprising results.

After a brief rundown on how to operate the PTO and agitator bowl, it was time to hit the streets around Melbourne's south eastern suburbs. The agility of the 8x4 was evident before even leaving the IVECO head office, with a tight reversing manoeuvre required to extract it from the parking lot.

Surrounded by various other brand-new IVECOS and well maintained gardens, and with various IVECO managers looking out through their office windows, the pressure was on. Thankfully, the job was made easy by great vision from both side mirrors and through the rear window, so we managed a graceful exit without mishap.

Having an automatic transmission also meant no clutch pedal to worry about, and speed control via the throttle pedal was simple.

Being a vocational truck, the ACCO doesn't have all the luxuries one might associate with a long-distance prime mover. The interior trim is basic, low maintenance and user friendly, but still comfortable for the driver. Noise levels inside the cab are reasonable, with the engine, transmission and agitator hydraulics all audible but not deafening.

The ISRI seat (with integrated seatbelt) combined with an adjustable steering column to create a very comfortable driving position with everything in easy reach. Well, almost everything - the mirror adjustment switches are positioned in the centre of the dash, obviously for use in dual control situations, meaning you can't adjust the mirror while sitting in a driving position. Adjustment is simple though, with a separate joystick for each side, and for both the flat main and convex lower mirrors.

Acceleration is good, with the Cummins and Allison working nicely together. Unlike some of the older autos that took a while to wind up, the modern-day Allison does a great job of moving all that weight from a standstill, and finding the right gear to build and maintain momentum It also works with the engine brake, and downshifts to keep the engine in the best rpm zone for retardation. The smoothness of these automatic gear changes not only makes the driving experience more pleasant, but is easier on components further down the drivetrain, including diffs and drive tyres.

The most remarkable thing about this drive for me was the ride quality. Usually with a twin-steer you would expect a bit of extra bounce from the second axle and a little extra road feel through the steering wheel. The ACCO gave none of that, and proved to be very stable, even on left-hand turns where the centre of gravity is way out of whack. Just in case though, the agitator spec also includes standard electronic stability control (ESC), especially calibrated for the high centre of balance and shifting load associated with a turning barrel of concrete.

Without exaggeration, the ride quality would rival most of the American bonneted trucks I have driven. It doesn't quite come up to Euro standard, but it's pretty close, and for a vocational twin-steer that's almost unknown. I have heard talk of the benefits of air suspension up front, but never experienced it for myself before. I am now a believer - if a twin-steer ACCO can handle like that with airbags under the front, then it must be a good thing.

I didn't plan out a drive route for this test, instead opting to go for more random navigation in order to work the ACCO in various and unfamiliar conditions.

The area around Dandenong is largely industrial, but the rise of numerous housing estates has seen many new areas opened up for development. I figured between these two environments I could cover a day in the life of the average agitator, and made a point of choosing difficult areas to negotiate. I also threw in a little freeway travel for good measure. Under all of these conditions the ACCO performed brilliantly, demonstrating good manners in the tight back streets, on main roads and on the freeway.

Agitators are generally not considered to be the sexiest trucks on the road, though some owners and drivers do demonstrate a lot of pride in their gear. The conditions they operate in are far from perfect, with batching plants being dirty and dusty while delivery sites range from residential driveways and developing industrial zones to inner city high-rise developments. The truth is, a lot of trucks are just not suited to the job, and despite the need for continued construction, a lot of manufacturers don't go to the effort to provide the perfect product for the market.

The ACCO demonstrates the great Aussie mentality - if it ain't broke, don't mess with it. For over forty years it has shown that the most expensive and complicated equipment isn't necessarily the best for the job, and the latest generation is no different. It's the Aussie battler of the trucking world - locally designed, built and adapted to get the job done.