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It’s still an unusual spec for the UK, but DAF’s CF440 FAQ tridem has much to offer for the right applications.

British tipper operators have never had it so good, with myriad options available to suit pretty much any configuration you could care to name. But where most eight-wheel vehicles offer robust off-road durability, manoeuvrability can be an issue for those who need to enter small farmyards, tight building sites, or pokey refuse locations.

Such operators may do well to look a tridem. Manoeuvrability is key with this spec, and drivers have found they can often get such vehicles into places where more traditional rear-steer eight-wheel rigids may struggle.

DAF introduced its Euro 6 CF FAQ tridem back in May 2014 and while it has gained some followers on these shores (waste glass recycler URM recently took delivery of a couple), take-up has been cautious. So the Dutch manufacturer has added a new CF440 FAQ 8×2 to its British demonstration fleet to give operators an opportunity to try a different kind of vehicle for their applications, rather than stick to a more standard eight-wheeler.

The FAQ has a leading rear axle, a driven rear axle and a steered trailing axle, meaning it can be threaded into tight spaces with relative ease. And of course, payload also receives a boost over FAQ’s smaller (yet similarly manoeuvrable) 26-tonne CF 6×4 FAT stablemate, which has been welcomed by firms engaged in refuse collection or shifting heavy containers.

When unladen, the axles can be lifted independently so it essentially becomes a 4×2, meaning operators can save on tyre scrub and brake wear.

Digging in

Traction isn’t quite as good as FAQ’s double-drive brethren, but there are some aids to boost off-road grip. Weight transfer is available so drivers can shift air from the lifting axle into the drive axle for a short time to add more downforce and help it dig in. The truck also has a mechanical diff lock, and the AS-Tronic automated transmission can be forced to allow for a bit more wheel slip during low-speed shunts. But there’s no ‘rocking’ function – we were told DAF did not adopt it to protect the vehicles from detrimental clutch wear.

DAF offers the FAQ as a chassis cab, leaving operators to spec bodies to suit their needs. The demo vehicle we drove had a compartmentalised Alibulk aluminium animal feed/woodchip body from Priden Engineering, Edbro CX13 single tipping ram and Barry Napper onboard weighing system.

“The FAQ is fairly unusual, and there are challenges that come along with trying to spec a demonstration vehicle – such as what body should we put on the back of it, what wheelbase etc,” DAF UK product marketing manager, James Turner, told Trucking when we went to pick up the FAQ for a test drive. “But reception has been very good. Orders have been placed off the back of customers driving it.”

In-cab comforts

Though we have a feeling most operators will opt for a less fancy spec, the FAQ demo’s Day cab includes an array of bells and whistles – and it’s a good example of just how far you can go with this model in terms of focusing on driver comfort.

We feel tipper drivers deserve a similar level of comfort to long-haulers. Take the demo truck’s leather seats – more durable cloth fabric might be a better match if drivers will be hopping in and out of the truck; but if they will be spending eight or nine hours a day in the cab, a bit of extra comfort is important. Regardless of material, the seats can ventilated for muggy days, heated for colder days and are generally very comfortable.

Under the hood

The FAQ we tried had a 400 bhp MX-11 engine and 12-speed AS-Tronic automated transmission with standard Eco programming. With Eco mode applied, the shifting strategy is adjusted towards fuel economy – meaning for the first 11 gears, engine torque is limited by 10 per cent. This, said DAF, is because to harness that extra bit of acceleration and vehicle speed, a disproportionate amount of fuel is wasted.

So even though the badge on the door says 440, the truck is really performing at 400 bhp. But thankfully, that ring-fenced power is still there if the driver requires and can be easily engaged via a switch on the stalk if they need to tackle some more demanding gradients.

Town & country

On our test drive loaded to 34 tonnes, we took the truck on a run around Oxfordshire on a mix of urban and rural A- and B-roads, and onto a busy industrial estate. Sadly, we didn’t have an opportunity to take it off-road, but our journey did emulate most of the usual conditions FAQ would encounter.

One of the first things we noted when threading our way around tight single-lane roads is manoeuvrability really is markedly better than a conventional eight-wheeler. The steered rear axle arrangement enabled the truck to follow a close line around the bends, and it took a few minutes of oversteering before we had properly adjusted.

DAFs have always been good drivers’ trucks, and the FAQ is no different in this respect. Even with Eco mode engaged, the 440 (well, 400) bhp engine didn’t break a sweat – though we did flick the power back on during a steep uphill climb around roadworks on our way out of the town centre.

And on descents, the three-stage MX engine brake held us confidently so the use of service brakes could be kept to a minimum.

In terms of comfort, the air-suspended Day cab is tried and trusted – though sadly, we can’t see many operators plumping for the added extras we enjoyed. Upgraded Xtra leather driver and passenger seats, walnut dash, leather steering wheel – it all makes for a plush environment in which to work.

Verdict

Hauliers who don’t mind sacrificing a bit of off-road traction for more payload and boosted manoeuvrability would do well to take a close look at the CF FAQ. It’s advantages are clear once you get behind the wheel, but the benefits really do depend on the application. Tridem would be of limited use for day-long on-site muck- or aggregates-shifting; but for less demanding feed delivery, refuse collection and container haulage, it makes a lot of sense.

More information: http://www.daf.co.uk