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Waterline of Newport Pagnell has taken delivery of fifteen 12-tonne Volvo FL 4×2 rigids from Volvo Truck and Bus Centre London, Milton Keynes.

The vehicles are the company’s first Volvo trucks and are being used for the nationwide distribution of kitchen components from worktops and units to appliances and even lighting.

Group Logistics Manager, Matt Elborough says: “Driver and road-user safety, environmental impact, fuel economy, driver comfort, reliability, usability and network support were all identified as prerequisites when it came to renewing what is essentially over one third of our entire 40-strong fleet of trucks and vans.”

“In choosing the new trucks we started with a blank sheet and looked at all the options. Through this exhaustive process it was the Volvo FL that stood out as the only truck that met all of the criteria we’d defined at the outset. Needless to say, I think the Volvo iron mark on the front also does wonders for our corporate image, which is an added bonus,” he adds.

For overnight accommodation the new trucks’ day cabs are fitted with Super Sky Cab conversions by Hatcher Components of Framlingham, Suffolk and bodywork is in the form of ‘Cheetah’ fast back bodies from Cartwright Group of Altrincham for enhanced aerodynamic performance.

“We take the environment extremely seriously,” explains Matt. “Everything about these new trucks, from the fuel saving curved roof through the highly responsive and effective 6-speed overdrive I-Sync automated mechanical gearbox to the high torque at low revs 210hp engines is about efficiency and limiting our impact on the environment. This attention to detail has already been borne out in fuel figures that show we’re returning over 16mpg. This has really impressed.”

Running a low chassis frame height of 850mm above ground and with two bag rear air suspension, the new Volvo FLs have been specified with safety and comfort very much in mind. “The Hatcher conversion is the most comfortable for our drivers,” says Matt, adding, “Air suspended and heated driver seats with additional lumbar support continue that comfort theme into the cab and our drivers appreciate it. I am positive this investment has boosted their morale.”

When it comes to safety the new Volvo FLs are bristling with features and technology designed to put well-being to the fore. ”Driver safety is massively important to us as is that of vulnerable road users,” says Matt. To these ends, the new trucks are specified to FORS and CLOCS standards and include forward, rear and nearside facing cameras. Additionally, we have supplementary lights fitted in the steps on the driver’s side as well as additional lighting at the top of the box body to illuminate the loading area plus a Dhollandia tuck-away tail-lift. Furthermore, the box has been specifically tailored to precisely meet our needs in respect of safe loading and fixing.”

Dealer support from Volvo Truck and Bus Centre London at Tongwell in Milton Keynes has been pivotal in the realisation of the fleet renewal. ”The service from Tongwell has been excellent,” states Matt. ”The dealership really looked after our earlier non-Volvo trucks and I was keen to continue this relationship. Furthermore, when it came to specifying these new Volvo FLs, the dealer really helped us to arrive at something that is ideal for our needs. And with a 3-year Gold Repair & Maintenance contract I have confidence for the future.”

Paul Cooling, a driver for J. Medler Haulage of Norwich, has attributed his wellbeing to the design and safety features incorporated in the Volvo cab of the FH tractor unit he was driving following a horrific road traffic accident on 22 March 2016.

The accident, which happened on the eastbound carriageway of the A14 near Welford in Northamptonshire, saw the nearside of the cab sustain heavy impacts to both front and rear as Paul jack-knifed against the central reservation on what is arguably one of the UK’s busiest sections of dual carriageway.

“After the initial impact I remember trying to jack-knife so as not to cross the central reservation,” says Paul. While his actions almost certainly prevented him from crossing into on-coming traffic, they also meant the cab took a significant blow to the rear from his own trailer, which at the time was fully loaded with Thermalite blocks.

“I have to say I was absolutely amazed at the integrity of the cab after such a big accident,” says Paul. “Before this accident I really liked Volvo trucks. Now I love them! They’re the best truck in the world and I honestly believe I’m still here thanks to the safe design and build quality of Volvo.”

The accident forced the closure of the A14 in both directions for several hours. The westbound carriageway was shut to enable the air ambulance to land in order to attend to Paul.

Paul returned to work just three weeks later with a scar running from above his left eye up across his forehead the only sign of the horror that struck that afternoon. “I’m as fit as a fiddle now,” he says. “I had thirty stitches to tidy up the wound to my head, but the scar’s already healing over and I’m just glad to be back at work.”

Paul’s boss and Managing Director at J. Medler Haulage, Dean Medler adds: “I have to say I was surprised that Paul walked away with comparatively minor injuries after such a serious accident. We were all delighted when he returned to work within just three weeks. I believe this accident has reassured me and our drivers that Volvo trucks are indeed the safe choice and I am therefore glad that our entire fleet bears the iron mark!”

“Despite the severity of my accident, the cab of the nine-year-old Volvo FH stood up to the impact sufficiently well that, once my seatbelt was released, I was able to exit the cab via the offside door virtually as normal,” says Paul.

As for advice following his accident he adds: “Always double-check that you’re wearing your seatbelt properly and drive a Volvo!”

Volvo Trucks is now launching improvements on its FM, FMX, FH and FH16 model range, telling customers that increased fuel efficiency on the engine along with new aerodynamic improvements on cab and chassis can reduce fuel costs by up to five per cent.

Fuel costs are a key issue for hauliers with heavy workloads. To address this, Volvo Trucks has a dedicated fuel focus, where potential areas for improvement are continuously identified and integrated in product development. The latest improvements have now been introduced on updated engines which comply with the Euro-6 Step C regulation and aerodynamic optimisations made on the Volvo FH cab, with some weight optimisations on the chassis.

On the engine a number of changes have been made mainly on the D11 and D13 engines, such as low-friction pistons, an all-new improved turbo, a higher compression ratio, an enhanced camshaft and software updates, which contribute to the fuel reduction. Among the measures that will improve the aerodynamics and reduce air resistance include re-designed front spoiler, air deflectors, mudguards and a tighter wheel housing on FH models.

“Since fuel accounts for a third of hauliers’ costs, every drop counts. We are constantly working on improving the fuel efficiency of our vehicles. It is a philosophy of utilising every possible improvement and optimisation, small and big. With these latest updates on the engines and the aerodynamics, drivers receive an even more efficient truck with the excellent performance of the Volvo Trucks and further improved fuel efficiency, meaning more money saved for the operator. These are a number of small improvements that can ultimately lead to significant savings,”
says Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks.

How much fuel these improvements can save will depend on the truck specification and application. The company says that, for a Volvo FH driving long-distance transport, combined optimisations can improve fuel consumption by up to 3 per cent. In severe applications, such as timber transport, it claims a fuel saving of up to 4 per cent can be realised when the truck is combined with Volvo Trucks newly-introduced I-Shift automated transmission with crawler gears and the new liftable tandem axle. “The unique advantage of excellent startability combined with a suitable rear axle ratio that optimises engine revs at high speeds when carrying heavy loads, and lifting the tandem axle when not fully loaded, will result in lower fuel consumption on highways,” it concluded.