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VTNA: Demand for flexible truck specs and connectivity keep growing

Jan. 17, 2018
Vehicle connectivity is “a bigger deal” especially among younger drivers, OEM says.

The need for more “flexible specs” and more connected systems within commercial trucks are becoming key demands among fleet customers, according to Bruce Kurtt, senior vice president of sales for Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA).

Appointed to that position back in July of last year serving as the OEM’s regional vice president for the Western U.S. – a position now to be filled by Wade Long – Kurtt explained to Fleet Owner that as freight demand increases across the board in trucking, fleets want truck models that can be reconfigured multiple ways to serve multiple markets.

And they want more connectivity in them to help attract younger drivers to the truck driving profession.

“The flexibility of specs is the big one,” he said. “That’s why our new VNR regional tractor has the horsepower to work as single axle daycab, single axle sleeper, or tandem-axle straight truck.”

He said that as the average length of haul keeps getting shorter, maybe a 70-in. sleeper isn’t needed on every route.

“So customers will take a VNR and put smaller sleeper on it – that gives them a shorter BBC [bumper-to-back-of-cab] and a lighter truck,” Kurtt noted. “That’s an important spec for fuel economy.”

Providing more on-board technology is also becoming a more critical “must-have” feature, too.

“I think the connectivity has taken us to a new level,” Kurtt said. “We do a lot of surveying of drivers and the biggest group that prefers all the connectivity we offer are the younger drivers less than 45 years of age.”

He stressed, too, that connectivity is becoming a more critical business solution in trucking today.

“A lot of times we don’t talk about the truck; we talk about moving freight and running a business,” Kurtt noted. “It is so interesting these days to talk to people with all of this information available. I think it is changing the game so much. We are measuring everything and not guessing at anything anymore.”

Trucks are also becoming very much like smartphones in the sense that they can be updated with new software to provide better performance.

“It’s a fun time but have to be on your game because [technology] is changing so fast,” Kurtt said. “We are getting more and more information from trucks – and we are sharing more of it, too. Everyone can see how the truck is running now.”

On a related technology topic, he noted that adoption of electronic logging devices (ELDs) seems to be increasing slowly but steadily.

“The ELD [rule] went over a lot better than I thought it would – even smaller fleets went and bought them, figured them out, and are back out trucking,” he said. “Thank God the rates are as high as they are now – that’s helping them get over [adoption issues] and get more business.”

Finally, Kurtt noted that VTNA is sticking to its projection that the North American Class 8 market will hit 260,000 units this year.

“I think all of our models will do well; it looks like a really good year for sales,” he added.

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