One of the best looking Renault Range T Highs you’ll ever see has been making a great impression with Northern Ireland Haulier Wilson McCurdy Jnr. And it’s easy to see why!
By Pip Dunn
Every now and then a press release pings into my inbox with an image or two of a truck and I just think ‘wow! That’s special’. That was the case when Renault sent me an image of Wilson McCurdy Jnr’s new range T520 High and within minutes of seeing it, I was on the phone to Renault to find out more.
I was pretty sure it was a first Renault for this Northern Irish haulier, based in Broughshane, on the outskirts of Ballymena, as the company ran mostly a Scanias. So not only was this a stunning lorry, but there was, surely, a story behind it.
The firm was established in 1996 by Wilson McCurdy Junior, now 55. He’s always operated a small fleet, typically about just seven or eight trucks, and he’s happy to stay a small, family firm, which will give his customers the best – and so the most personal – service.
The company provides general haulage mostly using curtainsiders and operates local and cross border work to the likes of Cork, Limerick and Kerry, plus to England and Scotland, and the very occasional trip to Europe. But 90 per cent of the firm’s work is in the island of Ireland with full or part load as well as pallet distribution. Most of the trailers are curtainsiders but there is moving floor work to and from the UK.
The side of the trucks do advertise livestock haulage, and typically just one truck is now engaged in this specialist sector, although it used to be about four or five. Bulk tipper work and chip liner work complete McCurdy’s varied portfolio for its customers.
A new name in the fleet
The McCurdy fleet is mostly Scania – there are four examples, one of which is a 320 rigid which his son drives – while two DAFs and a solitary Volvo make up the balance of the fleet.
So how come he’s gone for the big French machine? Says Wilson: “Mostly due to price, and a good salesman at Renault. We’ve taken it on four years R&M, and it was just too good a deal to turn down. Time will tell how it performs but we’ve had it nine months so far and it’s been excellent. The driver loves it, and the service and back up has been good. We may take another Renault. We have a new Volvo on order and we may replace one truck and then add the other to grow the fleet.
The truck is a top of the range model, the T520 High with the biggest cab and engine offered by Renault. McCurdy doesn’t always do the biggest – it has two Scania R450s and one V8 S650. “I don’t usually go too much over 500 bhp, and typically in the 500-600 bhp bracket” says Wilson. “I guess 540, 560 bhp is best.”
It added its first Renault after word-of-mouth recommendations and exceptional personal service from local dealer, Diamond Trucks.
While Wilson is not overly sure about the residuals on the T520, he says he’s been assured “we’ll be ok” when he comes to sell it. “For residuals Scanias are hard to beat, but you are paying the difference up front to start with.”
The trucks usually stay in the fleet for five or six years, providing they’ve not given any trouble. “We’ll reassess the T520 after four years as we like to keep trucks within their R&M and warranty periods. But if it’s all doing well, we’ll keep it for longer.
“The drivers are out all week, so they need the best cabs, and the driver is very happy with the Range T High.”
One factor that has seen many operators switching to different marques has been supply issues, and initially I thought that might have been why McCurdy’s had taken the T High, but not so. “It’s taken a wee bit longer than I’d have liked to get it, it’s been 14 months from when we ordered it. We ordered the new Volvo this January and it’s due in July, so that’s not too bad.”
Wilson still likes his Scanias and will still buy them, but he’s not brand loyal. “The Scania is a good lorry, and my head says Scania, but my pocket says Renault, Volvo or DAF. They are so much cheaper to start with. People talk about the residuals of Scania, but I don’t think you get the price difference back. I bought the Renault and two new trailers for the price of a Scania.”
Wilson says the company rode the pandemic well, and was “busy all the time,” but things are slowing down slightly currently due to the recession.
So far the truck is doing pretty well on its fuel returns. “We never get top marks for fuel because the roads are so bad in Ireland. 7½ to 8 mpg is good for us, and I’m happy with that. We also run at 44 tonnes pretty much all of the time.” The T520 is also lighter than the Scanias and that helps in payloads.
So far the T520 – which like the other trucks are bought outright – has performed well with no issues. “It has its weekly checks at Diamond, and the staff there are very good. They can work on the truck on a Saturday – we had an issue with Scania wanting the trucks in on a Friday, so that would cost us a day’s work.”
As a rule Wilson prefers to buy new, but will take a good second hand truck if one becomes available. “We bought the Scania 450s for local work in 2019, they were on 16-plates. But it’s hard to get good secondhand trucks these days and then you have to spend extra on putting tipping gear and repainting them so we try to but new as a rule.
The driver, Davy, is very happy with the truck. “He’s a Volvo man through and through but he’s really happy with it. He says it pulls well and he’s had no issues with it at all. He likes the cab, and it’s his first ever Renault. I’m seeing a lot of these T Highs in Ireland now!”
One thing you notice about the truck is how good it looks. It’s got a few added extras but Wilson doesn’t like to over customise the trucks; “we don’t go too much on lightbars and bullbars. We like a top bar and then we shade the grille to suit the livery. I try to do nice looking trucks and not go over the top. I’ve painted them like this for 20 years now!”
Another thing I noticed from the press shoot was the immaculate trailer. Says Wilson: “that’s about 12-18 months old. We bought five new trailers, three from SDC and two from Dennison. They are creeping up in price mind!”
While Wilson set up the company in 1996, his father had always operated lorries as have his other two brothers. “I went into farming before moving into haulage,” he says, “I bought a Scania 143 in 1996. It was a great old truck, and I’ve had Scanias ever since, but I’m not tied to any make. I quite like DAFs, but the new models are too expensive.”
The switch to Renault has a lot to do with service. The next truck will probably be another T520 High or maybe a new Scania 560S. I like to have about three or four Scanias,” he says, but admits the T520 is a bit of an eye opener.
The new T520 High 6×2 pusher is equipped with the 12.8-litre DTI engine rated at 512 bhp, and delivering a maximum torque of 2550 Nm. That is coupled to the Optidriver AT2612F gearbox with automatic clutch.
Optional extras include Alcoa Dura-Bright aluminium wheels, roof-mounted twin air horns and the cab is finished in striking red paint with matching bumper corners, centre and steps.
The T520 High’s cab interior has been specified with optional extras for the Davy’s comfort including 40-litre fridge, heated seat, insulated cab curtains, leather steering wheel and air conditioning. “It’s important that the driver is happy, he’s out in the truck Monday to Friday so we opted for a bigger cab. So far so good, the driver likes the cab, there’s plenty of room and it’s comfortable. As long as it continues to perform well, we will definitely consider adding another Renault our fleet.”
Intrigued by many other operators in the area talking about, and recommending, Renault, Wilson thought he would take a look for himself: “Word gets about on lorries, what’s good and what’s bad, and we were hearing good reports about the Renault. We contacted Diamond Trucks in Mallusk and arranged for a T480 demo which performed very well. We especially liked the new Evolution model, and I was particularly impressed with the updated cab shape, increased internal storage, more comfortable bunk, an improved steering column as well as a revised honeycomb grill and new LED headlights. It just has the wow factor.”
The dealer back-up service was also instrumental in the acquisition: “Keeping our trucks out on the road with minimal downtime is essential so excellent dealer back up is vital. We were impressed by the team at Diamond Trucks, and its down-to-earth approach and having only had a two-year warranty with another manufacturer, the comprehensive four year repair and maintenance contract from Renault sealed the deal.
Wilson also explains how the personal touch by Matthew Keys at Diamond Trucks was highly appreciated: “Over the years, we’ve bought around 15 trucks from different manufacturers and the T520 High was the first ever new truck to be personally delivered.
“Matthew’s customer service is first class, bringing the new truck to our yard late one Friday night. He went the extra mile and in doing so, demonstrated that our business was important to Diamond Trucks. We have never experienced this from other manufacturers, and it resonates with the way we do business with our own loyal customers.”
“We are a family business, and have a lot of good customers. We try to do a good job”, Wilson concludes. Looking at this immaculate Range T High proves just that.
Renault T520 High
- Design GCW: 26,000 kg/44,000 kg GVW
- Chassis: 3900 mm wheelbase
- Front axle: 8000 kg capacity.
- Rear axle: 11,500 kg (drive) 7500 kg (midlift)
- Engine: 12.8-litre DTI, 6-cylinder, Euro 6e
- Gearbox: Optidriver AT2612F 12-speed with automatic clutch.
- Max power: 512 bhp at 1431-1700 rpm
- Max torque: 2550 Nm at 990-1400 rpm
- Cab: T High, 2.50m wide, flat floor