Over the last few years, the decreasing number of car-licensed drivers able to drive a 7.5-tonne truck has brought the future of these trucks into question. Many operators have taken advantage of the change to move up to the larger 12-tonne rigid market, attracted by the extra payload and flexibility available. This is also seen as a good training ground for larger trucks. The 18-tonne 4×2 rigid, though, stands unmoved by trends or legislative changes and that stability is one of the reasons that the four wheeler remains a popular choice for operators working in the distribution market, either in town or on inter-urban routes.
The Renault Midlum 18-tonne 4×2 rigid is offered with a 240hp Euro 4 DXi7 engine in straight-six format. It is a 7.2 litre unit with four valves per cylinder and a single overhead cam. This is a superb unit, with maximum 240hp power coming at 2,300rpm and 920Nm of torque arriving between 1,200 and 1,700rpm. Married to a six-speed manual ZF gearbox, the combination is free-revving and punchy, yet still fairly quiet due to those rear-mounted timing gears. Manual trucks are becoming ever rarer but the driver will get used to the ZF six-speed synchromesh, with its pleasingly stubby little cable-operated gearstick and servoshift on tap to help out with the changes. Cog selections are accurate and easy to accomplish, while the clutch has the right amount of travel and a biting point that makes it easy to gauge the changes.
The Renault Midlum 18-tonne 4×2 rigid chassis is a beefy-looking set-up with a total length of 11.123 metres. Suspension comes via steel parabolic springs all round, aided and abetted by telescopic shockers and anti-roll bars. It is a simple but capable set-up which gives predictable handling responses. The steering is well weighted and responsive too, with just the right amount of power assistance. This adds to the feeling of predictability and control, but do watch out for the large turning circle, which can cause a vehicle of this length to require two lanes for tight turns.
Braking is via a full air system which is electronically controlled and boosted by ABS and EBS systems. There is also a torque drag system to limit torque when changing down. The secondary braking system is provided by an exhaust brake that develops up to 130kW on the DXi7 unit.
Two simple non-slip steps will get you inside the medium-height cab, where the driver will find a large glasshouse with great visibility to front and sides. Excellent rear-view mirrors provide good visibility to the back also. There is an angled dash housing logically arranged groups of switches and the standard layout of gauges and display panels. There is quite a substantial engine tunnel, but it shouldn’t prevent you getting to the sizeable single bunk. The driver’s seat is fully adjustable and offers a comfortable working position. As a package then, the Renault Midlum 18-tonne 4×2 rigid looks to be a dependable vehicle and solid all-round performer, providing a decent second-hand choice.