The prospect of seeing tightly packed truck convoys on the highway, controlled by the lead truck, running nose to tail to conserve fuel, has become a little closer this week with the announcement by the Netherlands’ Minister for Environment and Infrastructure, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, of a plan to use self driving autonomous trucks on Dutch highways.
The minister is seeking to amend Holland’s road rules to enable a large scale test program of autonomous trucks to take place. After a program of computer simulation and closed track testing, the intention is to trial the technology on specific highways to assess its viability and safety outcomes.
The trial is being organised by Transport and Logistics Netherlands, along with DAF Trucks and port authorities. Initially two trucks will take part during testing, leading to working in and around Rotterdam Port, and later on nearby motorways. Eventually the plan is to run the second truck driverless, simply following the exact route of the lead truck.
Several groups have been working on platooning, with Volvo, both truck and car, involved with technology company Ricardo, who lead the SARTRE project with trucks and cars involved. Vehicles enter a semi-autonomous control mode allowing the drivers of the following vehicles to operate a phone, read a book or watch a movie.
In the US, the Peloton system is aimed at saving fuel, it keeps trucks ten metres apart and the driver of the second vehicle still steers the truck. The linking system controls acceleration and braking of it’s followers to ensure a safe gap. The drivers of the following vehicle gets a video feed from the front truck so they can see the road ahead. To break the link the following driver simply touches the brakes.
A test climb by Volvo comparing the new dual clutch I-shift with the current single clutch design aims to demonstrate the improved performance of the new technology. This new gearbox is a world first in a heavy duty truck, the idea is already used in some car transmissions and is sold here in Australia in the Fuso Canter range, with some success.
The video below, specifically illustrates exactly how the new system works:
Volvo describe the dual clutch system as, two gearboxes linked together, when one gearbox is active, the next gear is preselected in the other gearbox. The new gearbox is 120 mm longer than a normal I-Shift unit. There is a power interruption when the transmission goes from low range into high, from sixth to seventh gear.
This new development from Volvo marks a divergence in the strategies of the big transmission manufacturers from Europe. Volvo are heading down the dual clutch route, while ZF, who supply DAF, Iveco and MAN, will offer optional engagement options, clutch, torque converter or hybrid connection. Meanwhile, Scania is keeping its cards close to its chest in the run up to a rumoured new cab launch and Mercedes Benz have, historically, let others take the lead with new technology transmissions.
There is no word yet on when, or if, this new dual clutch box might appear in the Australian Volvo product. We can be pretty certain trials have taken place here with the new transmission, more information may be available later. So far, Volvo have announced it will be introduced in the third quarter of 2014 in Europe.
After a period in which truck sales figures have been depressed, the latest sales numbers for May, published by the Truck Industry Council, are not giving us signs of recovery, and are still down on last year’s figures. After a period where heavy duty showed signs of recovery while medium and light duty remained in the doldrums, the situation now sees all segments staying around the same levels and slightly below where they were 12 months ago. Read more
The first of the new model Volvo FH 16 trucks has joined the Linfox fleet, with a presentation of the new truck to Lindsay Fox at a ceremony in Melbourne this week. The truck with the the personalised registration plate, FOX 001, was handed over to the trucking magnate by the, recently appointed, President of Volvo Group Australia, Peter Voorhoeve.
“Safety will always be the key priority for Linfox and we have complete confidence in the Volvos that will be delivered over the coming months,” said Lindsay Fox at the presentation.
Volvo have sold a number of new FH models into various applications around Australia. The statement made after the presentation was made did not stipulate a number of trucks being delivered.
“We are extremely proud to partner with Linfox who take an industry-leadership position in advocating road safety for both truck driving professionals, and other road-users,” said Voorhoeve.
As a relative newcomer to Australia, Voorhoeve is on a steep learning curve in getting a handle on the Australian truck market, and its unique characteristics. Being involved in negotiating with Lindsay Fox, one of those unique characteristics, would have been a particularly steep part of that curve. We can be sure Voorhoeve is now up to speed on a number of topics.
This video shows a motorist completely oblivious to the high speed Volvo semi heading down the road and is saved by some good anticipation from the driver and an efficient braking system on the truck. The whole thing must have been pretty scary for the driver of the car in which the dash cam was mounted, seeing it play out and expecting the truck to swerve towards their car.
In Europe, Volvo has released a new model to its range. The Volvo FE LEC is a modified version of the FE model, released in Australia at the recent ITTES in Melbourne. The LEC stands for low entry cab and sees the cabin redesigned forward in front of the steer axle and lowered closer to the ground for easier ingress and egress for the driver.
The new model design uses all of the components of the current FE but rearranges them to suit applications like garbage and other tasks where the driver gets in and out of the cab many times a day. The floor of the low entry cab is only 530 mm off the ground and this can be lowered a further 90 mm by using the ‘kneeling’ function of the front suspension.
Seeing these new Volvo FE LEC trucks on Australian roads any time soon is extremely unlikely. Historically, the Volvo design and layout has been found to be too heavy for the requirements of the Australian garbage industry and the FE models are assembled in Europe, giving little chance for the kind of customisation our very particular garbage industry specifies.
The garbage truck market has become more interesting in recent years with the entry of other new brands into the market. The long-time dominance of the Iveco Acco has been challenged by the introduction of the Dennis Eagle brand and the Mercedes Benz Econic, both introduced from Europe and adapted, in different ways to suit Australia. Volvo does not look set to join the fight in this market segment.
Volvo have revealed they will be unveiling the new FM, FMX and FE models for the first time in Australia at the upcoming International Truck, Trailer and Equipment Show at the Melbourne Showground, opening on April 3. The new models were released in Europe in 2013 and will be going on sale here when they go on display in Melbourne.
These new models follow the radical redesign of the Volvo FH which was unveiled in Brisbane last May. The release of the new models sees the Swedish truck maker completely renewing its total offering to the Australian truck market in a period of less than 18 months.
The new FM and it’s beefed up construction industry sister model, the FMX, will all be built at the Volvo/Mack assembly plant in Wacol, Queensland. The new FE models will be imported fully built up from the group’s assembly facilities in Europe.
The new models will include many of the features included in the all-new FH trucks released last year. The new cabin interiors of all the new models with all new instrumentation has been carried over from the FH, and other features, such as the new dynamic steering system and improved I-shift AMT will be coming online.
There are also a number of hi-tech inclusions included in the new releases. A wireless remote control the truck suspension and a number of other functions is fitted to the new models. Other features such as the I-See program, which remembers the topography of any route and then makes ear changing decisions based on its experience of the route in the past, will be on offer to buyers of the new trucks and using cloud-based data.
Here in Australia we complain about the conditions we have to put up with on the roads. We carry on about irresponsible drivers making our life tougher and putting us in danger. We also demand a large bunk in a spacious sleeper cabin if we spend nights out.
Compare our conditions to the lot of this tipper driver in Nigeria, apart from terrible roads, crazy drivers and difficult working conditions, he is always in danger of being hijacked by gunmen. He probably regards himself as lucky, at least he’s got a job and a good modern truck to drive. However, the road and work conditions in Nigeria are, literally, third world and our hero in the video, Matthew, deserves our respect.
Continuing on with the theme of the epic split video with Jean Claude Van Damme. The latest video to hit YouTube is a ‘Making of Epic Split’ documentary. Some of the mistakes and supposed out-takes are included in this short video.
The liberal use of Volvo branding may mean this video has a short shelf life online.