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Feature Article

On the Right Road with Fuso

Warwick Rhodes, the man behind ‘Rhodes for Roads’ – which is proudly emblazoned across the front of every Fuso in his fleet – says outstanding service and reliability have kept him loyal to one truck brand for more than 30 years.

Starting with “a handful of crew and plant” out of Warkworth in the mid-eighties, Warwick Rhodes Contractors Ltd has gone from strength to strength. Warwick has stood by Fuso all the way and he says his faith has been repaid with die-hard reliability and exellent value.

“During the GFC, there was an extended period where we had to stop investing in new equipment. We relied heavily on our existing gear and our Fuso trucks didn’t let us down. One of our units, which we’ve since retired, racked up 1,000,000km and still didn’t give us issues,” says Warwick.

Heavyweight title

Out of more than 100 pieces of plant, including trailers and excavators, the company’s 16-strong Fuso fleet recently welcomed its latest recruit – a 6x4 HD FV2547 with a Transfleet tipper body and four-axle trailer, boasting a 50T sticker.

“It’s the first 50T truck we’ve bought,” says Warwick. “Typically our payloads are around 27T, but this gives us more flexibility with what we can cart.”

Such is the longevity of Fuso trucks that this is the first HD in the stable, alongside trusty Shoguns and Fighters. It’s also the first with an AMT.  

New shift

"It's going really good, my driver Roger Prictor is pretty happy with the AMT. He's still working on how to get the best out of it, after stepping out of an 18-speed manual, but he says it does the job on some of our more challenging routes and certainly has its own advantages, especially coming down hills.

"He's also impressed with how comfortable the cab is and just how well it rides in general. The fuel economy just keeps getting better and better too."

The 12-speed AMT has an economy mode setting to reduce fuel consumption, paired with an efficient 12-litre OM457-T5 diesel engine, which packs up to 346kW and 2227Nm. A host of handling features, including traction control, hill start assist, inter-axle diff lock and a slow manoeuvre mode, all contribute to driver control and peace of mind.

Ticking over

“The drivers go through a series of checks each morning before they hit the road, and we have a service plan for each truck depending on mileage,” says Warwick.

“We prefer genuine parts when something needs replacing. I’ve noticed a big difference when we’ve used after market.”

That strict maintenance schedule not only ensures trucks are fighting fit and drivers can head out with confidence – such is the company’s reputation that vehicles bearing the Rhodes for Roads distinctive livery are quickly snapped up when they are traded in, maximising the return on investment.

Industry evolution

While the majority of Rhodes’ business comes from local authorities, Warwick says that around 30% is made up of constructing forestry roads and rural deliveries, with an ever-increasing amount of end-user work.

“We’ve been doing the forestry and local authority work for many years, but the end-user work has started coming on a lot more recently with the growth of the area.

“It’s good business for us and, because of the relationships we’ve built with our clients and other contractors over the years.”

The company is capable of independently completing almost the entire road-making process.

“The only thing we don’t do is tarmac spraying. We’ve developed a good relationship with some of the bigger players in the market, and we contract that work to them.”

Rhodes to the future

Having successfully steered the company through industry changes and economic challenges, helped in no small part by trusted Fuso trucks and a long-standing relationship with Keith Andrews, Warwick says the future of Rhodes for Roads is looking positive.

“Both my sons have been working with me for a number of years now,” he says. “It’s a good feeling to know they’ve got a strong interest in the future success of the business and the importance of good relationships to achieve that.”