This is probably the only time in my life that I would drive a truck, unless I decide to take a Class 5 licence someday. As part of the Asian launch of the new Volvo Trucks portfolio, invited members of the media as well as selected customers were taken to Volvo’s plant at Pyeongtaek for a product experience.
Trucks, unlike cars, often go unnoticed on the roads except during instances when being cursed at for holding up traffic due to their slower speeds. They are often seen as big, dirty and an obstacle, but trucks are like big, friendly giants with a lot of research and development that goes behind its design and technology.
At the reveal dinner held at Walkerhill – where Seoul’s largest casino is located – the Volvo FH, the Volvo FM and the Volvo FMX were unveiled and that was the first time I got to see these heavy-duty trucks up close. This is the most modern and innovative Volvo range, with technological features aimed at making the driver’s job easier, especially when these trucks are often taken on long-distance journeys. Improvements have also been made in fuel efficiency, safety, productivity and maximisation of uptime, all of which boost profitability.
Taking a two-hour bus ride from Walkerhill to Pyeongtaek, we spent an entire day at the plant learning about the new truck range, moving in groups across seven stations. Each station offered information about different aspects of the trucks, such as fuel efficiency, safety and security, productivity, uptime and driver appeal. Games were played at each station to help us learn more about the trucks, as opposed to just feeding us information.
One of the stations was the test drive of the FH and the FM trucks! I was excited to try the trucks – these are trucks weighing up to 100 tonnes. The FH trucks were Euro 5 SCR, either 13- or 16-litre diesel-powered, with power output of 540bhp or 500bhp and peak torque of 2,600Nm or 3,150Nm. The FM trucks were powered by 11- or 13-litre Euro 4/5 SCR diesel engines of 450bhp or 500bhp with torque of 2,150Nm or 2,600Nm.
One challenge in driving such big trucks is the steering, which can strain your muscles as you apply a lot of energy to turn the vehicle. However, the Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS) system has made it a lot easier. I tried one without the VDS and I had to hold onto the steering wheel at all times, as well as put in more effort to turn the vehicle.
With the VDS however, the truck became more manageable. The VDS provides the steering force needed so you can just use one hand (or one finger even), giving you more control. When you let go of the wheel, the power steering turns the wheel back to neutral. This really helps to take the strain off your shoulders and neck.
The intelligent I-Shift automated mechanical 12-speed overdrive gearbox without clutch pedal and I-Shift Long Haul and Fuel Economy gear changing software also aids the driver greatly, automatically selecting the best gear for the engine and improving fuel efficiency as a result.
On the makeshift track marked out in cones, I took the trucks down long straights and through turns. We were given a speed limit of 20km/h but some of the instructors allowed me some flexibility and I was driving down the straight at almost 50km/h (grin), before turning effortlessly thanks to the VDS.
Understanding that these heavy duty vehicles are crucial to businesses and need to have minimum downtime, Volvo’s unique Dynafleet – an online Transport Information System – allows you to view in real time the current location of your vehicles, monitor the fuel consumption, send messages to the driver, track driver times, be made aware of service intervals and more. This reduces maintenance needs and avoids unplanned stops by letting you see what areas you can improve on. Workshops can also remotely monitor component wear and the vehicle’s overall condition via the computer, calling the truck in only when necessary, thus saving time for the driver and fleet owner.
There was insufficient time to try the FMX unfortunately, so I could not drive the robust vehicle that is often used in construction and mining. Well, at least I got to drive the FH and FM. The new cab is made more spacious and comfortable, which is essential when for long journeys.
The driver gets a better seat and enhanced visibility with a bigger window and new rear-view mirror design. A better bed, integrated parking cooler, new lighting and low noise level means giving the driver better rest, which is very important on the road.
I don’t know when or if I will ever get to drive a truck again, but I now have renewed respect for all truck drivers out there. It is a huge responsibility to drive a big vehicle like that all by yourself!
Volvo Trucks Singapore educate primary school children about road safety
Accidents involving heavy-duty trucks and little children never end pretty. Statistics from the Singapore Traffic Police also show that 60 children were injured in road accidents and in the same period last year 45 were hurt. The rising number of accidents involving children has led to the community stepping up efforts to work with the authorities and get our children home safely.
To prevent such tragedies from happening, Volvo Trucks Singapore launched a road safety campaign as part of their corporate social responsibility. Young children are among the most vulnerable road users and because of their small size, drivers of large vehicles may not notice them easily.
With the support of the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Road Safety Council, Volvo Trucks Singapore produced an educational video for heavy duty truck drivers to advocate safe driving habits. This video was distributed to trade associations, the safety driving school and logistics and construction companies.
Volvo Trucks Singapore did its part by conducting roadshows at four schools during the first week of Singapore Road Safety Month to educate on and encourage safe behaviours. Titled ‘Road Safety at Eye Level’, the campaign targeted at school children included a theory lesson in the classroom followed by a session with a real Volvo truck parked in their schools.
The children were taught to make eye contact with the truck driver and not to cross between vehicles. They were also shown the various blind-spots of a heavy-duty truck and taught how to stand safely on a pedestrian walkway when a truck is making a left turn.
*This was first published in Wheels Asia.