Precious cargo

By: Greg Bush


Former paint and panel shop owner Mark Samad has moved from repairing and customising flashy cars to hauling them across Australia in a specially-ordered Scania 6x2 R620 V8 with a Topline cab.

 

Mark Samad subcontracts to CEVA Logistics, hauling cars all over Australia

In a Covid-19 inflicted world it’s hardly business as usual. Less social contact, border restrictions, and let’s not mention panic buying. So when Deals on Wheels wanted to catch up with an operator who simply loves his job while sitting behind the wheel of a fine example of European technology, the best option was to pick up the phone.

Admittedly, the stunning photos on these pages were taken some time ago, so it was with great interest that we followed up with a call to Mark Samad as he was driving his Scania 6x2 R620 V8 Topline from Melbourne to Sydney.

Naturally, Mark had his hands-free Bluetooth phone on the go, so no dramas there. However, the difficulty was also going to be hearing what Mark had to say over the noise of the truck’s engine as it made its way up the Hume. Oddly enough, that engine noise was almost non-existent.

"They [Scania] actually double glazed the windows, so when you sleep you can’t hear anything outside," Mark explains.

"Right now I’m speaking to you when I’m driving. How quiet does it sound? You can’t hear anything."

And he knows what he’s talking about, especially when comparing the sound-proofed Scania to another truck he owns – a Mack Trident. "A big difference," he laughs.

The Scania is not new – he’s owned it for around three years, clocking up around 630,000 kilometres on his Australia-wide runs. But he keeps it well maintained, signing up from the word go to a repair and maintenance contract organised through the Scania dealership at Prestons in Sydney.

"It’s the best thing I ever did; I will not buy another truck without it," he states.

"When the truck is due for a service they call you, they book it in, you take it in there to get done – no issues. If anything is wrong with it, they fix it and give it back to you."

It’s proved to be a wise decision, considering the price tag on the freight he generally carries. 

Special order: Mark requested the Scania Topline cab, a rarity in Australia

Luxury cars

Mark subcontracts to car-carrying experts CEVA Logistics; his freight ranging from the average family car to race cars and up to a Ferrari or, his dream car, a Lamborghini.

With an adjustable mezzanine deck on the CEVA-owned Transmech Australia-built trailer behind, he can transport up to six cars in one go. And he goes anywhere, naming Western Australia, South Australia, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns among his destinations.

However, unless there’s a race meeting or car show, Mark generally makes it home to spend time with his family on weekends. With week nights spent on the road, he’s decked out the Scania’s interior to a motel-style setup or, as he calls it, his "home away from home".

"It’s got microwave, TV, X-Box, coffee machine, fridge/freezer and two beds," he says.

The bunk beds come in handy for two-up situations, or whenever his wife Tracy tags along on the occasional trip. The couple’s daughter Isobel, 17 and son Zac, 11, have also spent time in the top bunk. "They like going in the truck on school holidays," Mark says.

It’s comfort-plus behind the wheel as well. Leather air-ride seats that can be temperature-controlled to suit the seasons, plus lumbar support, enable Mark to reach his destination with minimal fatigue.

"Both seats are exactly the same," he says. "When I do take a passenger with me they’re just as comfortable as I am.

"When you go and buy a truck, it’s always just the driver’s side that’s an air seat, and the passenger side is just a standard seat. I’ve got them both the same, so if anybody is travelling with me they’ve got the same comfort that I have."

With his long stretches away from home, these add-ons are important. Often he will sleep at a CEVA depot, if not he usually finds space at a truck rest area, although he says that can become more difficult when holidaymakers are on the loose.

"On school holidays you get all the caravanners parking in the truck stops, which is a pain in the arse," he says. "They’re trying to stop it but they still do it." 

Mark’s Scania R620 Topline arrives at CEVA’s Melbourne depot

Less stress

As one can guess, Mark’s liking for the Scania is more than matched by his admiration of the freight he transports. Before getting into the car-carrying game, Mark ran a paint and panel shop, repairing and customising customer cars but it came to the stage where he’d had enough.

"I actually closed it down; too much stress," he explains. "I had plenty of work, but the problem was in the panel shop. I wasn’t doing insurance work, I was doing custom work, and you’re always chasing customers for money.

"I found a truck for sale, which was a race van, which is how I got interested in it. I went and had a look at it, bought it and it went from there.

 "With this [CEVA], you don’t have to worry about it. Every week you’re getting paid and you don’t have to worry about the stress."

Mark has four trucks in his small fleet. Apart from the Scania Topline and Mack Granite, he owns a DAF as well as an older Scania, an R620 Highline. The Topline purchase was a little out of the ordinary – that model was not generally available in Australia.

"I think there were only about three or four of them in Australia; I had to specially order them."

Mark also opted for a 6x2 configuration with a lazy axle for extra stability. "Because we’re not carrying heavy weight, you don’t need the axle to work hard. It’s less weight and better fuel economy," he says.

With the Transmech trailer being 4.6 metres high, the Topline was his model of choice. Not to mention that Scania was the only manufacturer he could find to provide a low turntable height of 1,050mm for the trailer. It’s a workable and durable combination for those long hauls across the country.

However, Mark admits that, in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, business dropped off a little.

"A lot of people stopped buying cars; it slowed down but it’s really picked back up now," he says.

"We move everything. We do motorbikes, we move standard cars, high end cars. On board now I’ve got a Porsche, two Mercedes-Benz cars, an EJ ute … that’s the sort of stuff that we carry."

Mark reckons he’ll keep the Scania R620 Topline going for another two or three years before investing in a new truck.

"I’ve had it now almost three years, I absolutely love it.

"But this was the last Topline built in this shape before the new one came out," Mark says. "They don’t make these anymore and you can’t get them."

And Mark’s replacement truck? He’s already looking ahead to a time when a new Scania Next Generation prime mover will become part of his modest-sized fleet. 

Mark loads a Shelby GT-R Mustang onto the Transmech trailer

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