"It's your time for some fun — playing in the dirt. Who doesn't like that with all the machines and trucks and so on?" quipped Magnus Koeck, vice president of marketing and brand management for Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA). The OEM invited a group of reporters to its Shippensburg, PA test facility on Tuesday to let them try out some of the latest features available on 2017 Volvo trucks.
"These products now that we've announced, these are the first ones that we have, the first ones that are out there," Koeck noted.
VTNA first put on a show with a group of 2017 Class 8 trucks and heavy construction equipment. The company sees construction and vocational applications as a potential growth area where spending is increasing.
But for reporters, probably the most obvious new tech highlight was Volvo's I-Shift transmissions, which now have available "Crawler" gears to allow ultra-slow, controlled movement. That came in handy on the dirt construction course with a group of 2017 Volvo VHD 200 dump trucks, all of them with 14-speed I-Shifts with Crawler gears and 13L D13 diesels spec'd with 455-500 hp and 1,750-1,850 lbs.-ft of torque.
Incidentally, the dump trucks also had either a 3.21:1 or 3.07:1 rear axle ratio, giving them efficient highway driving capability along with those super-slow speeds available with the Crawler gears. More than one of the VTNA execs noted that with the new I-Shifts, "we can now have this discussion about fuel efficiency" with vocational trucks where it wasn't possible before, at least not without going with something like a high-cost auxiliary transmission.
Very noticeable on the dumps was hill-start assistance that kept a dump truck loaded with two full front-loader scoops of gravel on a 20% incline at full stop, continued applying on the brakes for three seconds after a driver lifted off the brake and moved to the throttle. The feature can start a loaded dump up that steep hill without an inch of rollback, if used properly.
In the same vein of keeping control, on a 20% decline, the test dump trucks applied full engine braking automatically, sensing the load and steep grade, and easily kept the loaded trucks from speeding away down the hill. Reporters got to dump some gravel around as well, getting a sense of the trucks loaded and unloaded.
As a bonus, VTNA had a group of excavators on a dirt mound for reporters to go try to move some more dirt. The verdict? It may take some time to get used to and really master the controls, but several commented that very fine, precise movements are possible with the excavators' booms, arms and buckets. So the Volvo diggers felt highly precise for such heavy equipment — and actually, that's a pretty fair theme to apply across the entire demonstration.