When it comes to dump trucks, Volvo is probably not the name that comes to mind, even though its VHD model has been on the market for more than a decade. Volvo’s emphasis has been on its VN series highway tractors while Mack, its sister company, is the vocational specialist. That practice was encouraged by top management at Volvo Group, which owns both companies, but that’s changed and both arms are free to pursue the on- and on/off-road segments of the Class 8 market.
Because of its corporate sibling Volvo Construction Equipment, people at Volvo Trucks are no strangers to moving dirt and concrete. I had the opportunity to drive its refreshed VHD (for Volvo Heavy Duty) in a dump truck configuration. A guide and I took it out onto a nearby Interstate as well as on county and town roads.
It is a nice truck to drive: smooth, comfortable, and quiet, with more than adequate power from its 12.8-liter D13 diesel. It ran through an HD version of the I-Shift automated transmission. This one was a 13-speed, with one extra low ratio for better startability under heavy load, especially on upgrades, compared to the standard I-Shift 12-speed.
There are many operating possibilities with the I-Shift that drivers might find interesting and useful. For instance, last year a Paver Assist option became available; this eliminates the driver having to apply a truck’s service brakes to shift from Neutral to Drive. It avoids bumping between a paving machine and a dump truck that it’s pushing while spreading asphalt.
VHD improvements include new LED headlamps, which provide more forward illumination for drivers. LEDs—light-emitting diodes—use less energy and last longer than halogens and incandescent bulbs. LEDs will also better resist vibration experienced by vocational trucks. LEDs generate little heat, so they don’t melt winter snow and ice that accumulates on them, “and that’s a drawback,” said John Felder, the company’s vocational segment manager. So product planners are seeking versions wired to heat up glass under such conditions.
The new interior has redesigned gauges, switches, larger color display screens, and a multi-adjustable steering column, called Position Perfect. The gauges are larger and have more legible faces than before; a driver information screen between the speedometer and tachometer is now a 5-inch color liquid crystal display, while an optional 7-inch infotainment screen is on the right side of the dashboard. Control switches are closer to the driver, while additional switches are on the steering wheel’s rims. And seats are better contoured and easier to adjust.
The big, roomy cab is taken from the VN highway series and goes back to the mid 1990s. The hood over the engine compartment matches that width, and one’s initial impression is that the truck is too wide for narrow lanes on city and town streets. Of course it’s not, and a little experience brings confidence in the VHD and what can be done with it.