Hot on the heals of the myriad of new truck generation announcements that we have seen in the past two years, Volvo Trucks new generation of heavy haulers and transporters arrived in early Spring just days after MAN Truck and Bus’ own reveal. Like that launch, the new Volvo FH 16, FM, FMX and FH are very much products of their time, eschewing the electric drivelines and autonomous features that the Swedish giant has been promoting in recent years, and are instead focused on the brand’s core strengths of green-aware tech, safety and productivity.
Indeed, Roger Alm, president, Volvo Trucks placed the growing issue of driver recruitment and retention at the forefront of the reveal. A sensible decision given that the company remains a major player in mature markets where finding new drivers is becoming increasingly difficult.
“We are really proud of this big forward-looking investment. Our aim is to be our customers’ best business partner by making them even more competitive and help them attract the best drivers in an increasingly tough market,” said Alm. “Drivers who handle their truck safely and efficiently are an invaluable asset to any transport company. Responsible driving behaviour can help reduce CO2emissions and fuel costs, as well as helping reduce the risk of accidents, injury and unplanned downtime. Our new trucks will help drivers work even more safely and productively and give our customers stronger arguments when competing to attract the best drivers.”
In its launch notes Volvo points to European statistics that estimate show that around 20 percent of all driver jobs are vacant on the continent. To help customers recruit and retain the best drivers, Volvo Trucks says it has focused strongly on developing the new trucks to make them safer, more efficient and more attractive working tools for qualified drivers.
Consequently, the various truck models in Volvo Trucks’ range are available with many different cab models and can be optimised for a wide range of applications. In long-haul trucks, the cab is often the driver’s second home. In regional transport trucks it often serves as a mobile office, while in construction the trucks are robust, practical work tools.
Therefore, visibility, comfort, ergonomics, noise level, maneuverability and safety were key focal points when developing all the new truck models, says Volvo Trucks. The outside of the trucks, conversely, feature exteriors that appear to be upgrades rather than a complete overhaul of the design aesthetic which has served the company well since the turn of the millennium.
Packaged together, the tractor heads’ inside and outside share much of the DNA of their predecessors with refinement rather than revolution the order of the day. The changes can wholly be view as quality of life improvements that were needed by drivers. While the new Volvo FM and Volvo FMX have a brand new cab, as well as many of the same instrument display functions as their larger Volvo counterparts, their interior volume has been increased by up to one cubic meter. This provides better comfort and more working room, says Volvo Trucks, with the visibility much improved thanks to larger windows, a lowered door line and new mirrors.
Other improvements include a steering wheel with a neck tilt function allowing the driving position to be individually adjusted to a greater extent. The lower bed in the sleeper cab is now positioned higher up for better comfort and allows for additional storage space underneath. Helpfully, the day cab has a new 40-liter storage compartment with interior lighting on the back wall. Volvo Trucks claims that the cabs’ reinforced insulation will help shut out cold, heat and noise disturbance, while a sensor-controlled climate unit with a carbon filter promotes good air quality in all conditions.
Where there has been significant change is the dashboard and the controls set-up for drivers. This really does look like a break with the past and drivers now have a fully digital instrument display, with a 12-inch screen, to play with. The focus here has been to make juggling the amount of information modern drivers have to cope with much easier.
Within easy reach of the driver, there is an additional nine-inch side display available for secondary functions. As the emphasis for Volvo Trucks is the driver being as focused on the road as much as possible, it is no surprise to see features such as infotainment control, navigation, transport information and camera monitoring are set to one side. This is compensated by allowing many of the functions to be controlled via buttons on the steering wheel, by voice control, or via the touchscreen and display control panel – now that does sound like a generational leap.
Volvo Trucks as a brand has an outstanding record in safety features and the new trucks bring the best technology for protecting drivers and road users into the new generation, while adding a few more to boot.
Adaptive high beam headlights are now loaded onto the Volvo FH and Volvo FH16 (Volvo Trucks is the first truck manufacturer to launch). The system improves safety for all road users by automatically disabling selected segments of the LED high beam when the truck approaches oncoming traffic or another vehicle from behind.
The trucks also feature an improved Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) system for speeds down to 0 km/h and downhill cruise control that automatically activates the wheel brakes when extra brake force is needed to maintain constant downhill speed. The electronically-controlled Brake System (EBS), which is a prerequisite for safety features such as Collision Warning with Emergency Brake and Electronic Stability Control, now comes as standard on the new truck.
However, Volvo Dynamic Steering, with the safety systems Lane Keeping Assist and Stability Assist, only remains an option. A road sign recognition system, meanwhile, detects road traffic signs, such as overtaking restrictions, road type and speed limits, and displays them in the new instrument display.
The visibility can be improved further by adding a passenger corner camera which provides a complementary view of the side of the truck on the side display, says Volvo Trucks.
Volvo Trucks is launching the new generation with a range of fuel options and several types of drivelines will continue to exist in parallel for the foreseeable future.
The company notes: “In many markets, the Volvo FH and Volvo FM are available with the Euro 6 compliant gas-powered LNG engine that offers fuel efficiency and performance on par with that of Volvo’s equivalent diesel trucks, but with a far lower climate impact. The gas engine can run on either biogas, which cuts CO2 by up to 100 percent, or natural gas which reduces CO2 emissions by up to 20 percent when compared with Volvo’s equivalent diesel trucks. This relates to emissions from the vehicle during usage, known as tank to wheel.
“The new Volvo FH can also be tailored with a new efficient Euro 6 diesel engine, which is included in the I-Save package that enables significant fuel and CO2savings. In long-haul operations for instance, the new Volvo FH with I-Save combines the new D13TC engine with a package of features and can deliver fuel savings up to 7%*.”
From a Middle East perspective, there have also been improvements for the Euro 3 and 5 versions with features like Volvo Torque Assist.
Volvo Trucks says it is also setting a new level for vehicle uptime by increasing the engine oil drain interval by up to 50%, and introducing an advanced Real Time Monitoring system.
Preventative maintenance has become the main driver of fleet management systems over the past decade and Volvo Trucks explains this system will continuously monitor selected uptime-critical components to help predict potential unplanned stops and turn them into planned workshop visits.
Real Time Monitoring is available as an option for the Volvo Gold Contract, which has been extended with yet another offer; the Volvo Flexi-Gold Contract. Unlike an off-the-shelf solution, the system means enables the new contract to offer a more flexible payment structure, as it adapts to fluctuating business tue to changes in workload.
Volvo Trucks has also introduced the Volvo Uptime Care Contract, which uses connectivity to follow up selected components and real usage of the truck in order to detect wear-and-tear and based on that continuously adapt the service plan.
Connectivity also enables Remote Software Download, which means selected software can be downloaded at the customer’s convenience.
Volvo Trucks says the Volvo Flexi Gold Contract offers the same coverage as the Volvo Gold Contract, at the same predictable cost, but with much greater flexibility to adapt to changing business needs. The monthly fees vary, thanks to a 40% flexibility span for the estimated yearly mileage. This gives hauliers greater flexibility to adapt their operations to seasonal changes and fluctuating demand.
“Many transport companies express a need for greater flexibility when it comes to service contracts. We now have the technology to make dynamic and connected solutions like this possible,” says Thomas Niemeijer, Business Development Manager, Service Contracts, Volvo Trucks.
Find out more on the new trucks in the upcoming April issue of Truck & Fleet Middle East