HEAVY DUTY LIKE NO OTHER

New Straits Times - - Cars Bikes & Trucks - GOH THEAN HOWE

cbt@nst.com.my

THE mar­ket has spo­ken, and Volvo Trucks has obliged. Top­ping the model range of the truck­ing gi­ant is the FH se­ries, fi­nally in­tro­duced in Malaysia. Po­si­tioned as a pre­mium flag­ship prod­uct, the FH is im­pos­ing and a grand state­ment for any work­horse fleet. But the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle scene is an un­for­giv­ing one, which does not sim­ply re­ward the win­ner of the beauty con­test, so the FH comes with it a com­pre­hen­sive host of in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy to lead Volvo Trucks’ lo­cal charge in the full-size prime mover seg­ment.

In the cabin, much has been done to im­prove er­gonomics and over­all driver com­fort. At the con­trols, the driver is able to main­tain good pos­ture due to 20∞ of neck-tilt an­gle from the steer­ing wheel. The dash­board sports two sec­tions of dis­plays, one di­rectly ahead of the driver - be­hind the steer­ing wheel - which is the Driver In­for­ma­tion Dis­play (DID), and one to the left known as Sec­ondary In­for­ma­tion Dis­play (SID). Volvo Trucks pro­pri­etary telem­at­ics so­lu­tion, Dy­nafleet, is in­te­grated here along with the au­dio sys­tem. The re­sult is an at­trac­tive workspace for the driver, with but­tons, in­stru­ments and most stor­age ar­eas within easy and con­ve­nient reach; not to men­tion in­tu­itively user friendly.

On safety, Volvo Trucks never falls short. An ad­vanced back up mon­i­tor is equipped with elec­tronic light com­pen­sa­tion and in­te­grated heat­ing to stay free of con­den­sa­tion, while an elec­tri­cally op­er­ated vi­sor pro­tects the lens from the el­e­ments typ­i­cal of dirty truck­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. An Ad­di­tional Road Speed Lim­iter en­sures FH trucks travel within safe lim­its - in Malaysia, heavy duty ve­hi­cles are not per­mit­ted from ex­ceed­ing 80kph.

Vis­i­bil­ity is a two-fold area for a truck, namely light­ing and the pres­ence of blind spots. For the for­mer, dy­namic head­lights which swivel slightly in the di­rec­tion of steer­ing an­gle as­sist in light­ing up a bend while static cor­ner­ing lights ac­ti­vate on the same side the driver uses a turn sig­nal - il­lu­mi­nat­ing pedes­tri­ans or ob­jects that might be hid­den in the dark. As far as what the driver sees, re­designed A-pil­lars are slim­mer and al­low a larger field of view at the fore cor­ners of the truck.

When you need to bring all that weight to a halt from its top speed, Volvo’s stop­ping pride comes to the fore in the form of Volvo En­gine Brake (VEB). The VEB+ sys­tem is claimed by the brand to be world’s most pow­er­ful en­gine brake, work­ing on the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the ex­haust pres­sure gov­er­nor and the com­pres­sion brake. Not only does this swiftly and safely slow the big FH down, it also al­le­vi­ates un­nec­es­sary wear on the con­ven­tional brakes.

For the range-top­ping FH16, there are ex­tra fea­tures and im­prove­ments to be found through­out. Even in the di­men­sions; there’s a scarcely be­liev­able 220cm of full stand­ing height and 300 litres of stor­age in the cav­ernous cabin, the lat­ter in­clud­ing var­i­ous small and con­ve­nient com­part­ments for pesky loose items.

For those on the long haul, the in­te­grated park­ing cooler that Volvo Trucks calls I-Park Cool cre­ates a com­fort­able sleep­ing en­vi­ron­ment when stop­ping for the night. The sys­tem is so ef­fi­cient that it is able to pro­vide up to 1000W of all-night cool­ing power with­out drain­ing the bat­tery. As I-Park Cool is built into the truck’s cli­mate con­trol, there is no ex­ter­nal air-con­di­tion­ing unit tak­ing up space in the truck with an ex­ter­nal sec­tion mounted on the roof. While this ap­proach may be com­mon, it ad­versely af­fects aero­dy­nam­ics and hence, fuel con­sump­tion. A sleeper panel al­lows con­trol over in­te­rior lights, alarm clock, park­ing cooler, au­dio sys­tem, win­dows and locks - all from the bunk.

But the im­prove­ments run a lot deeper than they ini­tially ap­pear. Volvo’s I-Shift au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, for one, can now be op­tioned with one or two crawler gears and ad­di­tional re­verse gears. The ben­e­fits of spec­i­fy­ing an ad­di­tional crawler gear is well known, al­low­ing the prime mover to lug its heavy load up steeper in­clines than with­out it - es­pe­cially from a stand­ing start, for which the truck­ing term is start-abil­ity. One party trick no­tice­able in such a sit­u­a­tion i.e. moving off from a dead stop is the au­to­matic dis­en­gage­ment of the park­ing brake via the Elec­tronic Brake Sys­tem. The park­ing brake also en­gages au­to­mat­i­cally when the truck is switched off.

And yet, the crawler gear mod­ule adds a pal­try 48kg to the weight of the gear­box and an even more in­signif­i­cant 120mm to its length. The strain re­duc­tion on the clutch how­ever is a mas­sive 75 per cent, which will go a long way to avoid­ing down­time.

Volvo’s im­proved I-Shift also al­lows a trans­mis­sion ra­tio of up to 32:1 moving for­ward, al­low­ing a min­i­mum speed of move­ment half that of a reg­u­lar I-Shift - as low as 0.5 - 2kph. This eases low speed ma­noeu­vres, in re­verse even more so as the trans­mis­sion ra­tio goes up to 37:1 in this di­rec­tion. Hooked up to I-Shift is a hugely torquey yet fru­gal 16-litre mill, churn­ing out 610hp with 2,800Nm of twist.

So, the next time you pass a FH se­ries truck on the high­way, don’t let the aero­dy­namic and sleek side mir­rors or LED tail lamps fool you; there is much more than meets the eye in ev­ery Volvo com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle.

The Volvo FH se­ries is avail­able in three ver­sions, the VOLVO FH440 I 6x2 T RSS Prime Mover, the VOLVO FH 440 I 6X2 T RAS Prime Mover (Petroleum) and the pow­er­ful Volvo FH16. The trucks can be viewed at the up­com­ing Malaysia Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cle Expo (MCVE) from 18-20 May 2017 at the MIECC in Kuala Lumpur.

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