Mick Vella – meeting the challenge with the Metro-Liner agitator
Mick Vella is the first to admit that carrying a load of wet concrete in Sydney’s congested traffic to meet a tight deadline can be challenging – but his new Metro-Liner agitator is more than up to the job.
Mick Vella developed his love for trucks early. As a kid, he’d make the early morning trip to the Flemington Markets where his father sold home-grown fruit and vegetables, and he was mesmerised.
“I couldn't wait to get out of Dad's truck to have a look at the big trucks that came in from interstate,” he says.
When he was old enough to get behind the wheel of his own truck, Mick started working for various companies carrying general freight and frozen food to supermarket chains around Sydney.
For 21 years since then, Mick has been an owner-driver and sub-contractor for Metromix Concrete, carrying up to five loads a day around the 25km radius of the company’s Seven Hills plant in Sydney’s North-west. It was in 2005 that Mick took delivery of his first Mack truck, and he’s been a loyal customer ever since.
“I started off with an old eight-wheel Volvo, but in 2005 I upgraded to the first Mack eight-wheeler which came out and I did 10 years with that,” he says.
In 2017, he upgraded again.
“This time, I got the new Metro-Liner, eight-wheel, twin steer agitator - the new one with the 360-horsepower and automatic transmission,” Mick says.
“I also got a bit of bling. I went all out with this one,” he laughs, “I put the stainless sun visor on it, I've put a set of 19 inch offsets on the front for wider wheels. All the extras inside with the cameras and all the safety features that help me get around and be safe.”
These days, Mick exclusively delivers concrete to worksites across the city.
“I deliver concrete in the agitator from Point A to Point B in the Sydney metro area,” Mick says. He adds that driving a truck with a load of wet concrete requires skill.
“The load is very top heavy, so you need to be cautious, especially around corners, bends and undulating slopes where it can get steep. Your load moves around while you are travelling and the truck does rock a little from time to time, especially when you have wet loads,” he says. “It is not like a square concrete block sitting on a flat bed. It’s a bit unpredictable at times when you are backing down sides, spinning the barrel at speed and angle."
But Mick says that the Mack has always been up to the job.
“I was doing a job at Parramatta under a building and it was very tight. That is where the Mack came into his own. It’s got a good turning circle in comparison to some of the other trucks, which is very helpful when you’re in those situations,” Mick says.
“For the size of the truck it has quite a good steering ability,” he adds. “It’s no good having a truck that can't do the job properly. You’re at a disadvantage if you can’t get into a site where it could be a big day, and you lose income. Mack has always delivered in that regard.”
Mick puts a high premium on safety, and he’s taken advantage of all the new safety technology that the Metro-Liner has to offer.
“I have anti-roll stability and traction control on the new Metro-Liner. I’ve found that pretty handy at times. The cross locks have got me out of some really tight places, especially where there are dirt tracks that can be slippery and there is a threat of getting bogged,” he says.
“I am pretty experienced in the industry now, so I know how to take a bend or a roundabout. But if somebody who’s a bit inexperienced was going too quick around a roundabout, the stability control will actually self-activate. It will brake one wheel and release the other and prevent the truck from rolling over,” Mick says.
With over 30 years experience driving trucks across Sydney, he is perhaps better placed than most about the challenges of congestion.
“Tell me about traffic. It’s getting worse, but the truck itself is quite comfortable and the air-conditioning system works well," he says.
Service back up
For Mick, downtime on the truck means lost income, which is why he’s been so impressed with Mack’s service arm.
At times, Mack has worked overtime to keep the truck on the road. And Mick, who is completely reliant on his Mack, says, “I was able to get going back on the road the next day and I made a good income for the day.”
“Things do go wrong with trucks. It is just a part of the business we're in,” Mick says. A cracked chassis a few years back gave Mick the opportunity to see how Mack would perform in an urgent situation, and he was impressed with the result.
“Mack didn't try to wiggle their way out of the repairs, they got me back on the road. That’s what that got me over the line when it came time to buy a new truck,” he says. “Not many manufacturers would stand behind their product like that.”