Thinking About Training New Drivers

Driver Shortage Issue

The, so-called, driver shortage issue comes from the way drivers are treated and regarded in the industry and in wider society. Another issue is the distinct lack of women working in the industry. An initiative, started by Volvo to help improve the driver’s lot aims to address the issue of getting more female truck drivers out on the highway armed with the skills the industry needs.


In looking into the overall question, one of the obvious issues in trying to develop an initiative to help was the lack of any real data on the subject. There is plenty of anecdotal talk about perceptions around drivers but very little cold hard fact.


Driver Shortage Issue


As a result, Volvo Boss, PeterVoorhoeve, commissioned a survey and report in collaboration with Clemenger BBDO. The report points to two basic issues, negative driver image and a lack of driver training.


“Truck driving is not perceived as a desirable profession due to being away from home, long hours, work/life balance, pay and negative perception in the media,” listed the report. “There are barriers for younger drivers, such as limited training opportunities, no nationally recognised qualification, high cost of obtaining a heavy vehicle licence, limited progression of licence classes and limited flexibility in work hours.


“Higher insurance premiums are creating a barrier for employers to employ younger drivers. There are barriers for female drivers, such as the lack of female-friendly amenities and limited flexible work hours for parents.”


The survey was carried out using Volvo’s database of key members of the industry. 20 in depth interviews took a snapshot of the situation and a further online survey of 547 people involved in the trucking industry, formed the data on which the report is based. Overall the survey received data relating to 34,000 drivers.


Finding a driver shortage will come as no surprise to anyone. Operators are reporting a shortage in both the quantity and quality of driver out there in the marketplace. They also identified the poor driver image as contribution to the paucity in the availability of quality drivers.


Driver image does not reflect the modern professional truck driver, it is still stuck in the past. The gap between leaving school and actually being able to drive a truck for a living is also an issue. Long hours, stress, low pay and spending a lot of time away from home don’t help on this count either. The driver population was identified as being without diversity and with little inclusion.


Improvements to the situation and image include strict uniform codes like collared shirts, improving the quality and comfort of their trucks and working to improve internal company pride with internal awards and public recognition. Accountability for the drivers is on the increase, with electronic monitoring and positioning drivers as ambassadors for the company, better pay and promoting a better work/life balance.


Of those operators surveyed, the average number of drivers employed was nine. The average age came out at 47, with 15 per cent of drivers being under 30. 52 per cent of companies did not have a driver under 30. 24 per cent of those surveyed had a female driver.


46 per cent of firms say the are currently experiencing a driver shortage. 52 per cent are having problems attracting the quantity of drivers need, but 82 per cent report issues in attracting the right quality off driver. 90 per cent want better pathways for young people into trucking and 92 per cent call for the industry to improve driver image.


The negative image factor was identified by 88 per cent of respondents as a problem. 72 per cent reported being frustrated with the perception of driver image in those outside the transport industry.


A number of quotes from respondents are include in the report:

  • “At times treated like second class citizens.”
  • “Everyone thinks truck drivers are cowboys and are unsafe on the roads.”
  • “It is widely considered that it is an industry that accepts persons with a lower level of education and moral standards.”


There is also a profound belief the negative image of drivers effects the number of driver available, young people coming into the industry, the appeal of truck driving to women and the diversity in the workforce.


A story from the Pilbara with good news about driver training can be found in the next issue of Diesel. 


Sophisticated Electronics Is The Name Of The Game

Sophisticated Electronics Is The Name Of The Game

Sophisticated electronics is the name of the game in modern trucks, especially those originating in Europe. Taking a Volvo FH on the road from Melbourne gives a driver time to have a look round the dashboard and marvel at all of sophisticated systems are now included in the latest trucks. These may be ignored by the traditionalists, but they are becoming more and more a part of the modern trucking experience.


We may try and turn them off and live without them, if we really want to, but the time is coming when there will be no choice, all of the safety systems and monitoring will be on as a default. We may as well get used to them and learn exactly what they do for us.


Sophisticated Electronics Is The Name Of The Game


A quick scan along the switches and screens in the FH cabin shows a wide array. Starting in the top left corner, the DAS Driver Alert System is monitoring the drivers steering habits, when they cross the line marking on the road. If the steering becomes erratic enough it brings up a warning in the dash. The display will start telling the driver they may need to take a break or at minimum start to concentrate better on their driving.


The adaptive cruise control warning comes next. When the truck is getting too close to a vehicle in front, it will activate the auxiliary brakes, the exhaust and engine braking. If the trailers have electronic stability control, then the truck will engage service brakes to a certain extent. None of these levels of reaction will bring the truck to a halt.


Also, if the vehicle in front is stationary the system will ignore it. This may appear foolhardy, but it also means the system will not mistake a roadside sign on a bend for another vehicle and put all of the anchors on.


The following distance can be set by the driver from the steering wheel control cluster, one of many, the Volvo steering wheel has 18 switches and 25 functions. The following distance can be adjust in 0.75 of a second intervals, up to a maximum of four seconds.


Another control activates the blindspot monitor and the lane change support function. Turn on the indicator and if there is somebody or something in the vicinity of the truck’s passenger door, it will sound an audible alarm and also illuminate a visual alarm (a red light) mounted on the passenger side A pillar.


Lane keep support helps the driver to keep the truck’s position in the lane. As the truck’s wheels approach a white line an audible alarm gives the driver the impression they are driving over a rumble strip. These types of system can be useful out on the open highway but become annoying in city areas, especially those like Sydney, with narrow lanes on major arterials. The answer from Volvo is the system works only at speeds over 60 km/h.


The driver trainers will constantly tell us the safety systems must not be turned off. However, in the real world, for most drivers, if a safety feature goes off too often and especially when not needed, it will get turned off.

New World Truck Speed Record

Here we see a Volvo setting a new world truck speed record at a closed track in Sweden breaking the previous record, also set in a Volvo. Commentator on the video is Diesel’s European Correspondent Brian Weatherly, flying over the course in a helicopter and running down the events for us.


Volvo Trucks’ The Iron Knight, driven by Boije Ovebrink, now holds the official speed records for the 500 and 1000 metre distances. During their work on the truck, a team from Volvo Trucks found innovative ways of uniting technology with design.


New World Truck Speed Record


“This shows that our I-Shift Dual Clutch transmission has enormous potential and that it does not let you down under extreme conditions,” said Claes Nilsson, President and CEO of Volvo Trucks. “The fact that the world record-breaker uses the very same gearbox that is found in our series-built FH trucks is something that we’re really proud of.”


With an average speed of 169 km/h and a time of 21.29 seconds, The Iron Knight beat the international speed record for 1000 metres from a standing start. It also beat the corresponding record for the 500-metre distance, at 131.29 km/h and 13.71 seconds. The record run was carried out on a closed-off test track in northern Sweden. Currently, the records are being reviewed by the FIA, the international motor sport association.




“Specialists from several different Volvo Trucks departments worked closely together to develop a truck with unsurpassed performance,” said Olof Johansson, a technician at Volvo Trucks. “Apart from Volvo Trucks’ powertrain, which is the heart and soul of The Iron Knight, we’ve hand-built the truck from the ground up. The fact that we succeeded in securing not just one record but two is absolutely amazing.”


New World Truck Speed Record
Boije Ovebrink, who has more than 30 years’ experience of both car and truck racing.


Behind the wheel of The Iron Knight was Boije Ovebrink, who has more than 30 years’ experience of both car and truck racing. He has previously beaten five speed records and in 1994 was European Truck Racing Champion.


“Volvo Trucks’ The Iron Knight can be summarised in one single word: perfection,” said Boije Ovebrink. “It’s beautiful to look at and is an unparalleled powerhouse when you floor the accelerator. This is the third record-breaking truck I’ve driven, and I can’t think of a better follow-up to Wild Viking and Mean Green.”




2400 hp Truck To Take On World Record

Volvo has unveiled a 2400 hp truck to take on world record speed attempts, but is holding back showing of the video of the event until August 24. The Iron Knight is the result of cooperation between technicians, engineers and designers at Volvo Trucks.


August 23 is the date, announced a few weeks back by Scania, for the unveiling of an all new truck model. The timing of the video release appears to be a part of an ongoing public relations tussle between the two Swedish truck makers, over many years.


2400 hp Truck To Take On World Record


With the exception of the engine and its series-built I-Shift Dual Clutch transmission, the truck is entirely custom-built. With 2400 hp on tap, the truck will attempt to set new international speed records. The powertrain is based on the same unit fitted in a road-going Volvo FH, but the engine has been pushed to its limits to produce maximum power.


“The Iron Knight is the perfect way to showcase the competence and innovative power of Volvo Trucks, said Claes Nilsson, Executive Vice President Volvo Group and President Volvo Trucks. “At the same time, our aim was to generate new insights into technical and design solutions. The intention is to transfer some of these to our series-produced trucks.”


2400 hp Truck To Take On World Record


The engine in the truck is a mid-mounted and significantly modified Volvo D13 unit with water-cooled intercooler and four turbochargers, producing 2400 hp and 6000 Nm of torque. The electric and electronic systems have been scaled down and the software has been re-programmed.


The only adjustment to the gearbox is its reinforced clutch, which is necessary to handle the remarkably high torque.


“The cab is made of fibreglass and designed to cut air resistance to an absolute minimum,” said Nigel Atterbury, Senior Designer at Volvo Trucks. “The side-skirts give the truck an impressive stance with their large air ducts that supply the engine with cooling-air. The Iron Knight has an attractive and powerful design inspired by today’s Volvo FH. You just have to look at the vehicle to realise that this is a truly fast truck. Even when it’s at a standstill it looks like it’s on the move.”


Every Little Bit Helps for Volvo

According to Diesel’s European Correspondent, every little bit helps for Volvo to improve fuel consumption on its models.


Volvo recently tweaked its Euro 6 engines and FH cab aerodynamics in what it describes as, “…yet another step on the path to efficient transportation.” It goes on to say that changes to its Euro 6 ‘C’ D13 engine (fitted in FH and FM) represent “A perfect example of how several small advances together can result in a big improvement.”


Designers put the FH back into a wind tunnel to find new ways to improve its cab’s aerodynamics. As a result it’s fine-tuned the front bumper spoiler, top cab air deflector panels, mudguards and mud flaps as well as the wheel arches, a key source of aerodynamic loss according to Volvo. By reducing the gap between the wheel arch and steer axle tyre, the Swedes have reduced those aerodynamic ‘leakage’ losses and lowered the amount of turbulence around the wheel.


Every Little Bit Helps for Volvo


Likewise, by optimising the shape of the FH’s front bumper spoiler the air stream is now deflected away from the underside of the truck, a notorious area for creating turbulence and drag, to around the side of the truck where it can be better controlled. However, by making the lower part of the bumper of a softer material neither ground clearance or approach angles have been compromised. Similarly the air flow between the back of the FH cab and the front of the trailer has been improved through the use of flexible elements in the corners of the top cab deflector.


Read more about these developments, and more from around Europe in the September/October issue of Diesel. You can catch Brian Weatherley’s ‘Eurobureau’ regularly in every issue of Diesel. 

Collusion Fines for Truck Makers

Massive collusion fines for truck makers have been handed down by the European Union. According to the EU the group of manufacturers were found to be acting as a cartel to fix prices of trucks and time the introduction of technologies to comply with emissions rules.

The fines amount to 3 billion euros ($4.4 billion) and are said to be the highest ever levied by the European authorities. All of the major suppliers to the European market were included in the decision. Those fined in the case so far include MAN, Mercedes Benz, DAF, Iveco and Volvo/Renault and it was asserted they had been colluding for 14 years, from 1997 to 2011. Scania is still under investigation. Read more

Pink Truck for Pilbara

The all new donated pink truck for Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls has been unveiled in its new colour scheme. The Volvo FH16 is one the two new donated trucks PHHG will be using in training new to the industry people in live work environments.


pink truck for pilbara


The Volvo Group Australia President and CEO Peter Voorhoeve handed over the keys to Heather Jones, CEO of Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls in the lead up to the recent ITTES Melbourtne Truck Show. The trucks, which have been donated by Volvo Group, are also being supported by NTI, Jost, Pirelli, Hella and Signs Ahead.


“This is a history making event,” said Jones. “We are trying to find new drivers, but now the leaders in safety are partnering with us in developing drivers for companies by providing trucks on the road.


“I’m so excited, because after such a long time, someone is coming on board and taking the lead with training. They are looking at the future for drivers. I think there is a need for certification, something like, heavy haulage company, Mammoet’s passport program. If you are trained and have the knowledge, have the passport, you can go anywhere in the world and work for the company.”


“I’ve been working with the WA Government to improve licensing, looking at load restraint and adding a few more things. We don’t want more red tape, we actually need more training , so they can do the job. The biggest thing is their attitude.”


pink truck for pilbara


Talking about the culture in the trucking industry and the issues which makes the trucking industry unattractive to women, Jones reckons the culture flows down from the top to the bottom. Middle management and the way recruitment works influences the culture at the driver level.


Turbo Compounding Explained?

Does anyone know exactly how turbo compounding works in a truck engine? It seems to be one of those technologies which appear and disappear without truck buyers actually working out how the thing works. This video doesn’t tell us anything except it will save US truck buyers fuel.

Over the years both Scania and Volvo have introduced and then un-introduced turbo compounding on their truck engines. The current DD 15 from Detroit does have an element of turbo compounding but, as to how it works, the answer is unclear. Read more

Ravaglioli Commercial Vehicle Wireless Mobile Column Lifts

Top Mechanics Face-Off

The world’s biggest competition for workshop personnel is about to take place in Sweden. First held in 1957, the finals of VISTA (Volvo International Service Training Award), held on May 31 to June 1 in Gothenburg, Sweden will have Aussie competitors in the mix.


Two teams from Australia will be competing in the global finals, the VCV Townsville Barras and VCV Sydney Chullora Blues.


“I am so proud of the men and women who make up the Townsville ‘Barras’ and Chullora ‘Blues’ for representing Australia in the VISTA global final,” said Peter Voorhoeve, President of Volvo Group Australia. “These technicians and workshop personnel provide world-class customer service day-in, day-out. For these teams to be recognised on a world stage is fantastic.”



Chullora Blues
The Chullora Blues are heading off to compete in the VISTA Global Final in Sweden


The competition is open to all workshop personnel who work with Volvo trucks or buses. Volvo says the aim is to improve staff competence and further raise the quality of the work done at workshops the world over.


Since the first VISTA competition was first held in 1957, a lot of changes have taken place in the workshops. Back then the job was oily, dirty and demanded physical strength. In theory, today the situation is entirely different.


“Vehicle development demands that the mechanic’s training keeps pace,” said Kent Medin, Instructor at the Volvo Trucks school for mechanics. “This requires a totally different kind of knowhow today in areas such as mechanics, electronics and IT systems. Consequently, mechanics today have much higher status than they did before.”




More than 18,000 people from 96 countries are taking part in the competition, which begins with a theory test.


“This inspires the participants to do their homework and learn more,” said Medin. “In VISTA, everyone in the team is involved, so the ability to cooperate is significantly enhanced.”


In 2013 five per cent of all the participants were women, whereas this year the figure has risen to six per cent. One of the Brazilian teams in the final round includes Natalia Aparecida de Gaspri Silva, Aftersales Administrative Assistant in the Auto Sueco São Paulo workshop. She has worked there for nine years.


“VISTA helps me boost my technical experience, it gives me a broader understanding of the daily challenges facing the workshop, and underscores the importance of teamwork,” said Natalia. “Especially when it happens in an integrated and cohesive way.”


Each team consists of two to four people and the competition begins with three sessions of theoretical questions which the teams answer in their own workshops. After that round, the best teams continue on to the regional semi-finals, from which 32 teams qualify for the global finals, being held in Gothenburg, Sweden. The term ‘workshop personnel’ includes customer receptionists, parts personnel, technicians and mechanics.

Driver Shortage Solution

A survey carried out by Volvo into the driver supply issues has prompted action to address these issues by the company and others involved. Some of the results of the survey are likely to surprise and disturb the trucking industry.


So far, the survey has been responded to by fleets employing a total of 34,000 drivers. 52 per cent of businesses report difficulty in sourcing drivers, but when it comes to attracting the quality of drivers required the number is 82 per cent. 90 per cent of respondents believe bad driver image influences the number of drivers available.


The perception on the part of the general public of drivers is a long way from the reality, according to the results of the survey, with 77 per cent reckoning driver image is outdate and 72 per cent frustrated with driver image by those outside the industry.


Heather Jones from Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls and Peter Voorhoeve, Volvo Group Australia President
Heather Jones from Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls and Peter Voorhoeve, Volvo Group Australia President


In response to the results it found, Volvo, here in Australia, has come out publicly to declare its intention to develop initiatives to improve training standards and the preparation of drivers for the road. As part of this initiative it has immediately come out formally in supporting heavy-vehicle driving academy, The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls.


This group have been trying to raise awareness of this issue for some time, taking innovative approaches to the issue, such as targeting female drivers.


“Women make up a tiny proportion of Australian heavy-vehicle drivers,” said co-founder of the company, Heather Jones, “but they’re just as capable of driving a big rig as a man. We know that the road freight task is increasing, but fewer people are entering the industry, and a big part of this is an image problem. We want to change that. For a lot of people, driving a truck is all about machismo, but to us it’s about getting the job done safely and efficiently.”


Heather first came to the attention of Volvo Group Australia’s President, Peter Voorhoeve, when he awarded her the ATA’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Trucking Industry’ award in 2015. Since that time, Voorhoeve had been planning ways to support her crusade.


“Australia is facing a big problem when it comes to driver availability, and its only getting worse. We’ve been looking for ways to address the issue for some time now,” said Voorhoeve. “What Heather is doing is exactly what we need more of. The Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls have a waiting list of licensed people who want to be drivers but can’t get a job because they’re lacking experience, Heather provides that much needed experience and stepping-stone to the industry!”


The outcome, from the Volvo Group to the Pilbara Girls, two prime movers, a 700hp Volvo FH16 and 685hp Mack Super-Liner, and access to Volvo Group’s extensive driver training and competence development assets.


“I’m still in shock to be honest,” said Jones, after the presentation. “It’s a fantastically generous offer from Volvo Group Australia, and it vindicates our decision to think differently. With their support, we’re now able to train more people, and train them to the world-class standard of the Volvo Group.”


Heather Jones, in her own business, spent many years extolling the virtues of female drivers. Now under the the banner of Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls, training female drivers is at the core of their business strategy. As the organisation grew, Heather also found she had qualified drivers of both genders applying who couldn’t get a job, so they quickly adapted and now offer comprehensive training regardless of gender.