Test driving the International 5600 SBA construction dump
September 1, 2008
BRANTFORD, Ont. - Driving dump truck is a completely different world from hauling freight, and I haven't done any of the former since the early 80s. Those trucks were noisy, rough and poorly insulated...
ON A DIME: The author appreciated the tight turning radius, thanks to the set back front axle, a feature that will be welcomed in tight quarries.
BRANTFORD, Ont. –Driving dump truck is a completely different world from hauling freight, and I haven’t done any of the former since the early 80s. Those trucks were noisy, rough and poorly insulated. Running empty half the time was a rattling experience and I should have worn a kidney belt. Driver comfort wasn’t a major priority in that era.
So it’s great to see the boys and girls of today driving something much better. Carrier Truck Centers of Brantford, Ont. fixed up Truck News editor James Menzies and myself with an International 5600 Set Back Axle (SBA) construction dump. This was similar to the 5900 SBA model introduced by Navistar in Las Vegas in November, 2007.
Skipping three gears at a time, we took Highway 403 towards Woodstock (I’ve always wanted to see Paris). According to the spec’s, with 3.91 rear ends, this thing was geared to go 84.4 mph. We didn’t go quite that fast but the speedometer had a tendency to creep upwards.
Power was supplied by a 485- horse Cummins ISX500V engine which puts out 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,200 RPM. But if you need more horses you can order it with a 565 Cummins. And if you’re a Cat fancier, you can go with either the 475-or 550-horse engine.
One would expect good maneuverability with the set back axle, so I steered into the Lynden Park Mall parking lot. I’m happy to report that we didn’t clip anything, even with those giant front tires. The turning radius was amazingly tight (42 feet, nine inches), seemingly able to turn concentric circles inside itself. A nice tool when you’re working in close quarters at a cramped building site.
The front axle has been moved rearward about 18 inches. Besides the increased mobility, this is also advantageous for load distribution. The set-back axle makes it easier to get the weight transferred up on the front axle. With the load slightly forward of centre, a unit like this one, with 20,000-lb front end and 46,000 rears, and with the addition of a 20,000-lb air lift axle behind the cab, should always be able to draw full loads and run legal axle weights.
The 5600 is made to accommodate 20.5-foot or 21-foot boxes, either steel or aluminum. There’s even a lightweight steel version that’s less expensive than aluminum. Cement companies like this type of truck because it is easily adaptable. They can put a mixer on the back and run it as is, or add another steerable front axle for heavier applications.
I was surprised to hear that an 18- speed automatic is a common option on the 5600. But there was nothing automatic about the transmission I drove. It was a Fuller 18-speed manual with a double low and double overdrive. That’s five deep reduction gears you can use when you’re coming out of a hole. Lift the lever and you’ve got four more gears to split, plus five gears at the top which makes 18.Think of it as a nine-speed with two buttons, or a 13-speed with five deep reduction gears.
Regardless, there were plenty of gears and you’ll need all of them when you’re pulling a fully-loaded pup down the highway. The chassis comes with rear air and hydro hookups already in place for a pup trailer -and it’s prepped to be easily equipped with a plate and pintle hook.
Three-axle pup trailers are popular for longer highway runs. You might as well haul as much weight as possible and that amounts to about 42 metric tonnes, with 22 on the lead unit and 20 on the pup (about 140,000 lbs, GVW).
Navistar stresses the severe-duty aspects of this truck, including a double frame along its entire length: 12- inch frame rails reinforced by an outer frame of 12.5″x3.5″x0.25″ rails, both rated at 110,000 psi yield, among the best in the field, according to Doug Hagan of Brantford Carrier Truck Centers. The tires are Michelins:20 ply 425/65R22.5 XZYs on the front, and the rears were 14 ply 11R22.5s.
Cummins has tucked the exhaust gas sensors and particulate burner under the chassis away from the stack, out of harm’s way. As well, the 5600 gets good marks for driver accessibility. The big nose is easy to tip and balanced so it’s no problem even for a small driver. The set back front wheel also provides a little more room to service the engine.
Although our truck hadn’t been fitted with a box or mixer yet, the ride was smooth and quiet, as you’d expect in an air ride cab with pneumatic rear suspension. The National air seat supplies lots of back and seat-fitting position, and a heated seat is even available as an option.
With half a dozen toggle switches on the dash, you’ve got lots of wiring options when you want to add lights or axles. Electronic cruise control is included with this model, and I liked the instantaneous fuel mileage readout. The 5600 also came with a three-level Cummins engine brake which I left in the third position with the switch off. Otherwise, the component was so effective, you could hear it activating between shifts.
The cab interior was outfitted in the deluxe Eagle package, wood grain and burgundy trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. You might as well have a nice looking office because you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it.
Typically, a dump truck will put on over 100,000 km per year, working around quarries, cement and asphalt plants, and construction sites. It could be drawing gravel, or winter salt, or snow, or rubble, or muck soil, top soil, or even environmentally-unfriendly soil.
And those trucks pulling pups along the 401, drawing aggregates from the Milton area, might log more than 150,000 km per year. International has been making trucks for over a century. And although these may be tough economic times, their trucks have historically outlasted the up and down cycles of the industry.
After all, you’re buying a truck that will make money for years to come. According to Hagan, longevity is what these International trucks are all about. “Some of these cement trucks are 20-25 years old,” he says. “That’s what you get with a severe-duty truck.” •