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Feature Article

Home safe with Shogun

Initially won over by Shogun’s smooth and powerful performance, the avoidance of a potentially serious road traffic accident has proven to Mike Barker the additional value of having automated safety technology on your side.

Having test-driven a demo unit supplied by Keith Andrews Napier and fallen in love with its effortless power and transmission, Barker Contractors owner-director Mike Barker bought a 6x4 FV2546 model and has since come to appreciate having a truck that’s built to be as safe as it is smooth on the road.

The Shogun is the most advanced Japanese truck available and comes packed with advanced technology such as Active Attention Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Active Brake Assist 4.

“I initially thought the safety features were a bit over-senstive and slightly annoying, so I thought about switching them off, but the Active Brake Assist really proved its worth when a van suddenly stopped very close in front of me in live traffic. All 12T or so of the Shogun stopped almost dead – the only thing I did was toot the horn, suck my breath in and drive around the van!

“The emergency braking system reacted quicker than I could have and saved a serious incident and considerable heartache for a lot of people. I can’t speak more highly of it.”

Another feature that has impressed is the Adaptive Cruise Control.

“The cruise control is excellent,” says Mike. “I use it all the time. If there’s a vehicle too close in front of you, it just slows down automatically and returns to the original speed when the vehicle is a safe distance away.”

Mike knows how to spot good gear; a benefit earned by being around trucks for over 40 years.

Following a stint in construction and transport in Australia, Mike came back to New Zealand in 1979 with a plan to start his own company. Back then, he was a one-man band with a digger, a truck and a hunger to graft. Now a team of 15 and a heap of gear service the Hawke’s Bay and East Coast region.

From farm drainage and grain harvesting, to cabling and service work, and now road sealing, quarrying and excavation – Barker Contractors has been there and got the t-shirt.

Mike was already a FUSO fan, having purchased a 25T 6x4 HD from Ben Tacon at Keith Andrews Napier a couple of years ago. Very happy with its performance over that time, Mike called up and ordered a second one – but it didn’t quite work out that way

“Ben suggested I try out the 25T 460hp Shogun instead, so sent up a demonstrator with a driver trainer,” explains Mike.  “We took it for a test run over a few days and afterwards, I called Ben to change my order!”

The first thing that struck Mike was how the Shogun’s ShiftPilot automated transmission works in perfect harmony with the 460hp, 2,213Nm Detroit Diesel-inspired engine. Compared to the FUSO HD in his fleet, he says the difference is ‘chalk and cheese’.

“The transmission on the HD needs to be used mostly as a Tiptronic. It’s really good but the Shogun is superior. It’s just leaps and bounds ahead of anything I’ve driven in the past. FUSO has matched it with the engine beautifully. Overall, I find the power and torque superb - it doesn’t want for anything. The auto is so quick that you don’t even have to think about the hill you’re on, it just selects the right gear.”

“Having clocked up 60,000km in its first year, the Shogun is running about 2.3km/L to 2.6Lkm/L at 44T fully loaded – hauling rock, aggregate or demo materials in a 6m3 Hardox steel bin, often towing a four-axle Hardox trailer.

“Hills or flats, it doesn’t seem to make a difference,” says Mike.

With the axles lifted two inches higher off the ground on super singles, Mike says he can still hop in and out of the cab with ease, thanks to intelligently placed handles with three-point contact. Other drivers in his team also report better comfort in the Shogun compared to other trucks, enjoying its multi-adjustable air-suspended seat and a well-placed armrest.

With Shogun, it’s as much about getting the job done safely and comfortably as it is about efficiency – and that’s something Mike has felt compelled to share with others.

“I’ve recommended Shogun to three other contractors and I know two of them have gone and bought one.”

Mike is only too happy to spread the word, if it means other truckies and road users can avoid a nasty accident – and happier still he’s around to tell the tale.

Check out the Shogun range here