CF DAF truck review

By: Dave Cox


Dave Cox tests a 2008 model CF DAF that has covered 350,000km around New Zealand since hitting the road

CF DAF truck review
The 2008 model CF DAF.

 

Often I have carried out truck tests on a new model of truck fresh to the market — it would be fair to say if someone has just paid $250,000 to $300,000 for a new truck it should be pretty nice to drive.

But what are they going to be like after half a million kilometres? Gear linkages as wobbly as drunk jelly or cabs that develop rattles in places that are impossible to reach?

This is the million-dollar question, and I am looking for vehicles that have done an honest year’s work to see whether they are doing their brand proud or letting down the side.

As luck would have it, I was able to de-mothball my footie shorts and singlet and do a day’s work on a 2008 model CF DAF, which, in its day, would have been the flagship of the fleet. The mission is to load up in Hamilton and take a load to Mangere in Auckland.

Once unloaded, I would head over Mt Wellington way and reload back to Hamilton.

The sun had been up for two or three hours before I arrived at the yard to start my loading and the big DAF was waiting for me.

The CF DAF, driven by Robin Burne, runs regularly from Hamilton to Christchurch and helps out with a couple of loads to Auckland each week. It has covered 350,000km in the two years it has been going so I thought it was a great opportunity to find out if it was still a nice truck to drive.

Engine and Transmission

The DAF packs a 460hp (343kW) Paccar motor and meets its emission criteria by running SCR. The engine is controlled by a 16-speed ZF AS Tronic automated transmission.

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Cab and Controls

After getting the eight-wheeler and four-axle trailer loaded and strapped down with the curtains all shut it was time to take it for a drive.

Climbing up into the big sleeper cab was definitely a breeze — grab handles are mounted in excellent positions either side of the door opening and steps are placed at nice, easy to reach intervals.

The driver’s seat is one thing that I feel plays a central part in modern driving. We have been able to identify so many effects of driver fatigue related to driving positions and badly designed seats.

It has been proven that spending a long time sitting, even as an office worker, can have a huge effect on a person’s health.

So a driver’s seat in a truck should be of a very high standard. Sitting in the DAF was excellent and I could see that Robin would not have a problem spending his mandatory five-and-a-half hours in this seat.

Mirrors are heated and electric, and positioned well, allowing good vision without adding to the inherent blind spots.

This version of DAF cab has a very large sleeper with ample headroom and is very well appointed with cupboards and cubby holes in abundance. Document storage is great, with easy-to-reach compartments along with nicely placed cupholders.

The dash has a practical layout and looks nice with its woodgrain finish. All gauges are easy to read and there seems to have been some thought put into the mounting of switches and buttons; the regularly used ones are at the driver’s fingertips.

Another feature that is certainly becoming the norm on trucks is the ability to control a lot of the functions from switches on the steering wheel. These are things like display of fuel consumption, trip times, engine faults, and often radio volume, along with hands-free phone capability.

This particular APL DAF has a large flat-screen TV/DVD, which I would imagine comes in handy when Robin has to be away from home for days at a time. The generous size of the cab allows the TV to fit in nicely without looking out of place. There is also a fridge under the bunk.

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Performance

Control of the vehicle on the road was excellent and had very good feel back through the cab and steering wheel.

APL has specced this unit with the automated transmission and it is easily handled by a switch mounted on the dash to select the mode of gear required, i.e. manual, auto or neutral. Once this has been selected the gear changes are carried out by way of a paddle on a stalk on the right of the steering column that can be tapped up or down sequentially.

As I left the depot and headed the big DAF toward Auckland, I must admit I had a preconceived idea that I was not going to particularly enjoy this test. How wrong one can be?

I decided to start the trip in the auto mode although not being a big fan of this option as I like to have that feeling of control when pre-empting hills or changes in gradients.

I only decided to do this until I was more comfortable with the handling of this fully loaded unit.

Pulling into the traffic and changing up through the gears was excellent, and after negotiating a couple of roundabouts and a large intersection with traffic lights I immediately felt comfortable with this unit.

One glaring example that stood out from a lot of other automated trucks I have driven is the timing of gear changes in the auto mode — it was brilliant and impressed me so much that I left it in auto for the majority of the trip.

I, within days of driving the DAF, drove a couple of other automated gearboxes from different manufacturers and many seemed to have the frustrating habit of doing big down-changes with what felt like far too many revs at times you don’t want them to, along with doing other dumb changes at times you don’t want.

This DAF performed faultlessly and was a joy to drive. On the face of it, the truck looks a little understated but that is definitely not the case when you start to notice all the European features that finish it off as an excellent truck.

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Verdict

Robin sums it up best: this truck covers a 2,500km round-trip between Hamilton and Christchurch and has just ticked over 350,000km. The only thing that has gone wrong in that time is a blown airline to the compressor (pretty damn good!).

He says he is more than happy with the DAF and has expressed these sentiments to his boss, Lionel Killen. Robin loves the solid, positive ride the truck gives, especially because he endures lots of icy, wet conditions and needs to know exactly what the truck is up to or he may find himself off the road.

Robin also loves the thermostatically controlled heater in the cab that keeps it nice and toasty when stuck on the road in the snow and ice — and the motor doesn’t even have to be running!

 

Likes:

  • Timing of gear changes in the auto mode
  • Large cab with some of the comforts of home
  • Engine retardation
  • Handling
  • A great truck across the board

Dislikes:

  • Nothing. One of my top trucks

 

Specifications

Engine: Paccar MX

Capacity: 12.9-litre 460hp (343kW)

Type: 8x4 twin steer

Torque: 2,300Nm (1,695 ft-lb) @ 1,400rpm

Auxiliary Brake: Exhaust brake, ZF gearbox hydraulic retarder

Transmission: 16-speed ZF AS Tronic automated

Rear Axles: Meritor MT 23 (46-160)

Brakes: Full-air disc front and rear with ABS/EBS

Front Suspension: Parabolic springs, shock absorbers

Rear Suspension: Paccar Air Glide

 

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