ISUZU CUBIC’S FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE
Cubic Corporation’s multinational status and intriguing history makes it unique among businesses in the Townsville area of northern Queensland.
What started in 1951 as a small San Diego electronics company is now a global provider of transportation, defence and engineering solutions.
Cubic helped pioneer modern satellites, electronic scoreboards and the technology behind the carded e-tickets we use for public transport in some of the world’s busiest cities.
Their Australian subsidiary, Cubic Defence, is now responsible for handling some of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) biggest contracts. In short, it’s a company that knows a thing or two about quality engineering and innovation.
But Operations Support Manager, Adrian Overell, said the work they do in Australia is more about rugged all-terrain trekking than lab coats and motherboards.
“We’re based all around Australia with a head office in Townsville and we provide simulation and instrumentation support to defence and aerospace projects,” Adrian said.
“We deliver niche instrumentation services for defence training operations, which means we need good vehicles for long highway drives and very difficult cross-country locations.
“When we support the ADF, we go where they train, so we drive these trucks literally all over Australia.
“A good, versatile vehicle that could take us to the top of a mountain, or drive along outback highways for days on end was an absolute necessity.”
Hence Cubic’s decision to purchase two go anywhere Isuzu FTS 800 4×4 models.
The Australian desert demands brute strength from the vehicles that traverse it, and the FTS’ Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 13,900 kg, 176 kW of power at 2,400 rpm and 706 Nm of torque at 1,450 rpm provide the right just the right mix of power and dependability.
Meanwhile, the six-speed Allison LCT2500 automatic transmission with fifth generation electronic controls and adaptive shift always ensures a smooth-as-possible drive whatever the road condition.
“Our Isuzu’s operate on dirt-tracks but also in serious off-road conditions,” Adrian said. “We transport Ground Relay Stations (GSR’s) to collect data from extremely remote and inaccessible locations.
“We need to get these GSR’s to the top of small mountains near military training centres to get the best coverage possible.
“These places don’t have roads, often just a very bad track. We needed vehicles that could drive across this terrain safely, carrying a 3,000 kg load and a large crane, before unloading itself and returning.”
To tackle the unique challenges the Australian outback throws at it, the FTS is a full-time 4WD with centre differential lock a cold riveted ladder frame with parallel side rails and high tensile weldable steel sidemembers. It’s put together with the best quality parts and materials to ensure it can grapple any condition it’s been thrown into.
“I drove trucks in the military for 30 years, so I’m used to driving extremely high-spec, military-grade trucks,” Adrian said. “With Cubic, I now look at Isuzu’s commercial trucks for similar kinds of work.”
“They’re not military grade, so they don’t have quite the same capacity, but the Isuzu’s always meet what we need them to do. And in terms of comfort and driveability – they’re so much better.
“The air-ride seats, suspension, steering geometry and the air-conditioning make it such an enjoyable vehicle to drive.
Ordinarily, swapping the rigour of a military vehicle for a commercial truck – yet sticking to the same arduous routes – would be a chore for any driver. But for Adrian, the FTS’ have made it a pleasure.
“I’m very happy to shift from military trucks to the luxury of an Isuzu, but I still think my favourite feature of the FTS’ is their robustness – they always meet our requirements, on any road, in any driving condition.
“They offer enough power, they’re comfortable, easy vehicles to operate and they’ve got great vision. I’m never struggling to see the road and their responsiveness is so important when you’re carrying $100,000 worth of equipment out the back.”
Whether it’s the Digital Audio Visual Equipment (DAVE) unit with its 6.2 inch touchscreen and voice recognition, the ISRI 6860 air-suspension driver and passenger seats with pneumatic lumbar support or the ADR 42 compliant sleeper with mattress, the FTS is brimming with well crafted, practical features that make even the harshest road journeys enjoyable.
“Safety was a very high priority for us because the conditions we operate the vehicles in, apart from being very difficult, are very remote too,” Adrian said.
“We have to ensure our vehicles can handle these conditions and, if there’s a breakdown or driver error, people have a high chance of remaining safe.
“One of the main reasons we choose Isuzu is to keep us safe and comfortable in remote locations. The trucks do about 10,000 km a month and sometimes we travel 5,000 km just to get to a training area, so safety was a big concern.”
With safety also one of Isuzu’s top priorities, the FTS 800 comes with an ECE-R29 compliant cab, Anti-lock Braking (ABS), driver and outboard front passenger airbags, heavy duty non-slip entry steps, reverse alarm and extended wiring harness fitted as standard.
“Our Isuzu’s have a cab-over with the best quality additions,” Adrian says. “They’re fully kitted out with walk-up ramps on the rear, 60 litre water tanks, extra fuel tanks, large high-capacity cranes, bullbars and drive lights.
“For the type of work we needed them to do, Isuzu were very competitive in meeting our driving and off-road requirements. The price and aftersales service were also far better than the competitors.
“The Isuzu’s cope magnificently in the most difficult conditions and that’s why we keep buying them. We’ve never had an issue – they’re good vehicles and we’ll buy Isuzu’s again.
Despite the hard yakka these trucks are built to withstand, Adrian said Cubic’s drivers still see their Isuzu’s as an oasis of comfort in the rough Australian outback.
“It’s great having new Isuzu’s with all the latest technology – Sat-Nav, air-con, air-suspension seats, all the other little creature comforts – they make the trucks great to drive and work from.”