Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) is not unique in its struggle to maintain business as usual in 2020, a year forever tainted by COVID-19. To catch the media and customers up on the next generation of equipment, VTNA held its first virtual press conference, which covered the specs of the VAH and VHD and introduced the company’s new method for showing off its equipment: virtual walkarounds.
Previously, customers could visit the Volvo Trucks Customer Center in Dublin, Va., to physically kick the tires on new entries into their fleets. For the near term, and while safe distancing guidelines are still in place, fleet customers will just need a decent internet connection and computer or smart device to receive a comprehensive truck tour.
“This has been incredibly beneficial in allowing customers to have an in-depth and up-close discussion of how they can use our trucks and services to benefit their business, even when they aren’t able to physically be here,” said Rob Simpson, director, Volvo Trucks Customer Center. “We also found that the camera’s small size and high definition let the customer get a close look at components and installations that are not easily accessible. So even with live customer visits, we will still use this technology to help them see more of our trucks.”
During the virtual press conference, Hanson performed a walk through of the VHD dump truck. Despite unveiling the 2021 VHD vocational truck in March at Conexpo 2020, the Volvo team could not attend to formally present the vehicle.
Hanson started at the back of the vehicle. He mentioned two new enhancements to the VHD. First was the firm ride T-Ride suspension available for the 44,000 and 46,000-lb. capacities.
"A firm ride should be used in applications with high CG or where roll stiffness is required,” said Hanson, who added the T-Ride will weigh 200 pounds less than “a comparable performing walking beam suspension.”
It’s also offered in a two-shock configuration placed on the forward drive axle “to allow for short overhang dimension applications.”
Hanson then circled to the hood to talk about the redesigned larger air intake and headlights that have optional heating elements for cold weather applications such as snow plowing.
One limitation with virtual tours was highlighted when Hansen mentioned the Volvo Dynamic Steering. The feature itself, which cuts down vibration on rough terrain and reduces force in the steering wheel by up to 85% due to an electric motor on the column, aims to help truck drivers in heavy-duty applications. That’s the type of thing fleets customers would benefit from experiencing in person.
The mention of the VHD’s “spacious cab” was also something prospective buyers would probably want to climb into in person.
Ozinga Brothers was one of the first fleets to partake in the new digital demonstration. In-person visits remain an option on a limited basis.
“This was a great opportunity for us to pay a virtual visit to the Volvo Trucks facility and enjoy a presentation that we otherwise would not have been able to schedule under the current pandemic circumstances,” said Jeff Bonnema, vice president of fleet management with Ozinga Bros., Inc. “The video experience and remote discussion with the Volvo team allowed for an up-close and personal view of the truck.”
The VAH Autohauler
The VAH autohauler was covered during the virtual event. Like the VHD, the VAH will have the Volvo Active Driver Assist (VADA) system to reduce front- and rear-end collisions by up to 82%. Other features include remote start, Volvo’s I-Shift automated manual transmission and the Position Perfect steering configuration.
“The technology behind the VADA system and our range of other driver productivity features built into the new Volvo VAH has progressed exponentially over the last several years,” said Andy Hanson, VTNA’s vocational product marketing manager, when the product was announced in June. “The advantages in vehicle and driver performance put these models into a category by themselves.”
External force; internal changes
VTNA attempted to mitigate the unusual circumstances both on the road and within the company. To help during the shutdown, the truck OEM handed out 4,000 meals to nourish truck drivers as they sustained North America’s supply of essential goods. Internally, the Volvo Group laid off 4,100 employees globally as demand plummeted, with others being furloughed prior to that.
"With these changes, the Volvo Group will maintain a position of strength, be adapted to the new market situation and continue to be a leader in the transformation towards sustainable transport and infrastructure solutions," said company CEO Martin Lundstedt in June.
The year began bursting with promise, especially on the sustainability front. In February, a month prior to business travel grinding to a halt, VTNA invited select members of the media to check out its Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) program in Southern California, a public-private partnership that hopes to spur electrified freight infrastructure in the region. The media also got a chance to test drive the VNR Electric Class 8 truck. One unit is in service now with two more by the end of summer.