New Volvo VNX is Tough, Trendy and Suave

According to Diesel News US Correspondent the new Volvo VNX is tough, trendy and suave. In North America, Volvo has completely refreshed its range in the last year. The third tranche of the introductions is the new VNX model. Diesel’s US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, was there for its unveiling. Read more

Even Bigger Trucks

Even Bigger Trucks

Running a modern transport operation in the Northern Territory often means going for even bigger trucks. Bob Holt, from Katherine, is one such operator, with plenty of stories to tell and still running big trucks on a daily basis in the modern business environment.

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A Certain Kind of Character

A Certain Kind of Character

Running a transport operation in the Northern Territory is often requires a certain kind of character. Bob Holt, from Katherine, is one such character, with plenty of stories to tell and still running big trucks on a daily basis in the modern business environment. Read more

Even Bigger Trucks

Small Operation, Big Trucks

Running a transport operation in the Northern Territory is often about a small operation, big trucks, but it also requires a certain kind of character. Bob Holt is one such character, with plenty of stories to tell and still running big trucks on a daily basis in the modern business environment. Read more

Volvo Launch a Conventional

Volvo Launch a Conventional

In the US, Volvo launch a conventional model and for Diesel News’ US correspondent it was a chance to get some road test miles in a VNL 740 and the flagship VNL 860 – both with the new Volvo 13-litre turbocompound engine and the newly released, extra-tall final gear ratio of 2.47 to one. With the overdrive iShift automated transmission, this equates to extreme downspeeding, with the ability to cruise between 1,000 and 1,100rpm at 60 to 65mph (100 km/h), right on the fuel curve’s sweetest spot.

 

Volvo Launch a Conventional

 

There was no opportunity to verify fuel economy, but Volvo says that this setup will gain 6.5 per cent fuel savings over the 2014 13-litre VNL, already one of the more frugal heavy trucks.

 

The test route gave us a combination of interstate, divided state highways and two-lane rural roads over a nearly 70-mile loop. Trailers – a flatbed with concrete blocks on the 740 and a van on the 860 – were loaded, with the trucks grossed out at around 77,000 pounds (36 tonnes) – a real test to the new turbocompound engines.

 

The Trucks

 

The number designation indicates roof height and sleeper size – the 740 dictates a mid-roof (40) and 70-inch sleeper; the 860 has a nominal 80-inch sleeper with the taller roof (60). Other trucks available but not driven were the VNL 760 (high-roof) and 300 (day cab) models.

 

The 740 is the equivalent to and replaces the earlier VNL premium mid-roof model. The 860 is Volvo’s new top-of-the-line model. Here, it was in Globetrotter trim, the new premium level that has the most comfortable and attractive interior. It also features external brightwork and has the Globetrotter name emblazoned across the sun visor for drivers to show they have the premium model in the VNL lineup. Because the 860 has the biggest sleeper it also carries the XL designation up there as well.

 

Volvo Launch a Conventional

 

Both trucks featured the turbocompound 13-litre engine. This D13 TC is available in two ratings: 425hp with 1,750/1,450 lb ft peak torque, which was the engine powering the 740; and 455hp and 1,850/1,550 lb ft powering the 860. Both make their torque all the way back to 900rpm, which is absolutely amazing, since this is only about 300rpm above idle. However, the tall final drive gear of 2.47 with the overdrive 12th of 0.78-to-one means an incredibly tall 1.92 overall top gear ratio. This is extreme downspeeding, and with tires on these trucks turning around 500 revs per mile, it calculates out to 970 to 1,000 engine rpms at 60mph (96 km/h). So low-speed torque is all important.

 

The turbocompounding that boosts the low-speed torque uses a two-stage turbocharger where the second stage extracts additional horsepower from the exhaust waste heat and, because it is coupled to the flywheel, adds around 50hp that would otherwise be wasted up the exhaust stack.

 

On The Road – VNL 740

 

The new VNLs are so fully featured that before setting out we took time to review the controls, especially those on the steering wheel that control the driver display, cruise control, phone, stereo and a good deal else. In fact, there can be up to 21 buttons on the wheel, all there to keep the driver’s hands where they should be – on the wheel.

 

Similarly, we reviewed the iShift transmission shifter, a small stick mounted to the seat. There is an option for a dash-mounted button shift selector, which would likely make the access back to the sleeper a little easier – not that it is particularly awkward to get around the stick shifter. The seat-mount shift pattern is maybe counter intuitive, since you shift the lever back to select drive and forward to select reverse. But this is deliberate as it matches an automatic car’s shifter pattern.

 

There is no ‘park’ position – you shift to neutral when not in drive or reverse. There’s a ‘manual’ position, where the driver can select preferred gears using the shift knob’s side buttons, but you’d be crazy to think you’re smarter than the combined engine/transmission controller.

 

Volvo Launch a Conventional

 

From there we picked up ‘drive’, released the brakes and eased out from Volvo’s HQ campus. It was then that the quite astounding new features of the totally revamped Volvo range could be appreciated. But while the driver accommodations, new, more spacious interiors and exterior styling are truly a step ahead, what became quickly apparent in the more recent ride ‘n’ drive is the enhanced steering of the new models. And, yes, the performance of the Volvo 13-litre, turbocompound engine.

 

In this evolution of the Volvo lineup, a front-axle stabiliser is incorporated into the front suspension. It was not mentioned at the July reveal and was not obvious on the test track. But out on the highway, the benefits of this simple upgrade were quite remarkable. The simple roll-control stabiliser/sway-bar imparts a far better on-centre performance, with the virtual elimination of any wander. There’s no sawing at the wheel to go straight down the road. It also virtually eliminated sensitivity to rough roads and road ruts and provided more precision in turning into a curve that allows a driver to ease through.

 

The Volvo label for this development is ‘Precision Perfect’ and it’s very appropriate. Also, by restricting chassis roll, the stabiliser bar makes the in-cab ride so much better, with less unrestricted cab excursion through a bumpy or undulating curve. And the turbocompound 425 in the 760 we tried in the morning session pulled like a steam locomotive from the moment we turned out of the staging area.

 

From the Volvo campus, it’s a short drive to join I-40 eastbound, and Peter Blonde – Volvo’s Senior Product Marketing Manager – Fuel & Transportation Efficiency – and I chatted completely normally in the uncannily quiet interior. Accelerating on the I-40 on ramp using full pedal, the engine would rev to around 1,300–1,400rpms then the iShift would pick up the next gear and drop onto 1,000rpm. It was all very relaxed. Then we entered a relatively challenging climb in the first few minutes that the TC engine completed in 11th gear. As we cruised down the back side of the climb, the transmission shifted into 12th and the rpms dropped back to a shade under 1,000 for our 60mph cruise at this point. And this was the 740 with the lower-rated TC engine. It was all so effortless and, because the rpms were so low, it was with minimal additional noise over the truck at idle.

 

In fact, at cruise with the adaptive cruise control doing all the work, the only sound was a little wind and road noise from the tires. Yes, there is a mild rumble but the turbocompounding and the aftertreatment all do their part to quieten the engine. The fuel injection is multi-event, so there’s way less diesel knock and the new floor covering does a masterful job of blanketing engine noise.

 

With the engine and transmission handling the chores, we were able to look out and enjoy the North Carolina scenery, an easy task given the revised hood, which has been lowered and fits tight around the engine’s cooling package. It also slopes off to the sides so the view to the road surface and the three-quarter view to the sides all add up to great forward visibility. The door mirrors are rigid and give an excellent view to the rear with forward wide-angle mirrors on the hood providing an additional safety margin for spotting traffic that may have crept into the blind spots beside the cab.

 

And should a lane-change be attempted without proper care, a warning buzzer sound and light on the A-pillar flashes to let the driver know there’s a vehicle there.

 

 

On The Road – VNL 860

 

The Globetrotter package includes some bright orange stitching to highlight the otherwise black interior. The seats – there are seven different models available – were the top-of-the-line, and while the drive only lasted about 1.5 hours, they certainly impressed with their comfort and range of adjustment.

 

The slight extra wheelbase and a far less harsh riding trailer gave the Globetrotter XL 860 a boulevard ride. The same excellent steering and ride characteristics we had noted in the 740 were apparent again – Volvo’s efforts to make the new VNL a driver’s truck have achieved the desired result.

 

As earlier, we enjoyed the effortless way the TC engine propelled us along despite the unbelievably low rpms, just hanging in there on the grades, topping out some with the tach approaching 900rpm before a downshift was made.

 

Regrettably, we had to return the 860 to Volvo’s campus when we could easily have driven back to California, enjoying every last minute in quiet, relaxed comfort. The new VNL truly is a driver’s truck, but there’s a whole lot more going on under the surface that should make it popular with fleets for its uptime, safety and a sleek appearance that shouts success.

Trucking Territory Style

Trucking Territory Style

The fuel operation run by John Fraser is definitely trucking Territory style. The business operates out of Katherine providing a dedicated delivery service in the Territory for IOR Petroleum.

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Fuel Hauling in the Northern Territory

John Fraser has been running a business fuel hauling in the Northern Territory for over a decade. His transport operation has been working for IOR Petroleum for 12 years, starting with one truck and then going to two trailers.

The operation currently run two trucks and has another undergoing restoration. There are two trucks on fuel full time, plus one subcontractor. The trucks include a 700hp Volvo rigid with three trailers, and a Kenworth K200 tri-axle prime mover pulling three trailers. Read more

The Paradigm Shift

The Paradigm Shift

There is little doubt this dawn of the age of autonomous trucks represents the paradigm shift which will take trucking much further in the 21st century. The developments in recent years have seen quantum shift after quantum shift in what automated systems can do.

 

Many of our older drivers in the trucking industry come from a time where automated gearboxes and even cruise control were not only unheard of, but unimaginable. The reliance at that time was purely on the driver’s skills, their ability to make the Roadranger sing and modulate speed to ensure the diff didn’t blow up.

 

The pace of change has been so fast the technology is well ahead of what the trucking industry is wanting to do and much farther ahead of the strict legislation which will be needed to regulate autonomous vehicles and share out the responsibility fairly, if and when something goes wrong.

 

All of the technology to make the proposed scenario in this video is already on the market. Even the systems to integrate all of the constituent parts can be bought today. We are limited by our own systems, insurance, road rules and ability to bring all of this you-beaut technology to the point where it does make the paradigm shift in productivity we have been promised from these technologies.

 

This video from Volvo shows one of the tasks which is likely to be handled autonomously in the second wave of driverless trucks, following their introduction in applications in industries like mining already.

 

The stevedores yard is a controlled environment. we already have completely autonomous straddle carriers running around in the ports of Australia, behind their Jurassic Park-like fencing systems. The next obvious step is to have the truck entering the port precinct, heading off on its own to a point at which the straddle can drop a container onto the skel and the truck can head back out of the precinct.

Flat Floor Thoughts

Flat Floor Thoughts

The long-awaited arrival of the right-hand-drive Renault ‘T High’ tractor in the UK has given Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Brian Weatherley, some flat floor thoughts – thinking about the benefits of flat-floor cab-overs to overnighters.

Flat Floor Thoughts

Frankly, I’m surprised more manufacturers don’t do it. ‘Do what?’ I hear you ask Down Under. Build more flat-floor cab-over models, that’s what. Given the fact that every night hundreds of thousands of European long-haul drivers are bedding down for the night in a truck (and I reckon 99.99 per cent of them will be doing it in a cab-over prime mover) you’d think that all of Europe’s truck makers would be keen to make their cabs as easy to move around in as possible.

 

And what better way to ensure effortless cross-cab access and boost the size of your bedroom than by removing the engine hump and replacing it with a perfectly flat cab floor? Yet so far, only three of the major players – Mercedes, Renault and Scania – actually offer one. DAF, Iveco, MAN and Volvo heavies have all still got the ‘hump’, albeit of modest height on their flagship models.

 

What’s got me writing about flat floors? The recent (and long-awaited) arrival in the UK of the right-hand-drive version of Renault’s towering ‘Range T High’ prime mover complete with a flat-floor cab. While it’s been around ever since the French manufacturer unveiled its Range T long-distance heavy-truck range back in 2013, up until now T Highs have only been available in left-hand drive. So if you were a UK haulier who wanted one, it had to be a left-hooker.

 

While a couple have gone to Pommie hauliers (primarily international operators running onto the continent where a left-hooker makes more sense), calls for a right-hand-drive T High have been slowly mounting, not least from Renault Trucks UK, who clearly sees its sales potential amongst those small fleets and owner-drivers looking for a prestige overnighter.

 

Of course, some of us in the press have been more than ready to add our own ten cents worth, usually along the lines of, “why should the continentals have all the pleasures of a T High flat-floor cab in left-hand drive and not us in right-hand drive?”

 

However, given that the UK and Ireland still insist on having the steering wheel on the other side of the cab, it’s not unusual for right-hand-drive chassis to be at the back of the production queue whenever a new model is launched, as the priority will inevitably be towards the volume left-hand-drive markets. And just as important, if you’re going to engineer a truck for right-hand drive you’d better be sure the cost of doing it will be more than covered by the number you’ll sell. But even so…

 

Fortunately the folks in Lyon have finally relented with the result that Renault Trucks UK recently proclaimed, “In response to the changing UK and Irish markets, and a clear demand from customers, we are delighted to announce the introduction of a newly engineered right-hand-drive Range T High, available from early 2018.” Better late than never I say.

Flat Floor Thoughts

Three Models to Choose From

 

British hauliers keen to get their hands on a T High right-hooker have three models to choose from, all based on the current Range T driveline consisting of the 13-litre ‘DTI 13’ in-line six- and 12-speed Optidriver two-pedal auto.

 

The first, the ‘International’, features fabric seats with a rotating passenger seat, standard bunk and steel wheels, and is available at 440hp and 480hp in a 6×2 configuration only, 6x2s being the industry-standard prime mover for six-axle, top-weight, 44-tonne GCM semi operations in Blighty. The International’s sensible power ratings will doubtless also appeal to those fleet buyers under pressure to retain drivers with a decent flagship cab, but who don’t want a stampede of horses underneath it.

 

Next comes the ‘Driver’, with 440hp, 480hp and 520hp 13-litre ratings, plus a little more comfort including full-leather seats, again with the rotating passenger chair, ‘performance’ lower and ‘ultimate’ upper bunks, a big fridge, compact dashboard, Alcoa alloy wheels, aluminium suzie support and additional catwalk.

 

Finally, there’s the top-of-the-range ‘Driver Lux’. Offered with either the 480hp or 520hp DTI 13, it boasts even more goodies including a tilting backrest on the bunk, big lockers, luxury curtains, laminated side windows and aluminium air tanks. But in all three cases they have that all-important flat floor.