Volvo’s new VNL series designed for driver comfort, safety, and a fleet’s bottom line

Updated models will also include premium Globetrotter trim level, several safety updates

DUBLIN, VA. Calling it the “most innovative, most exciting trucks from Volvo in 20 years,” Gӧran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America, officially unwrapped Volvo’s updated VNL family of trucks.

The line will feature four models: the VNL 400 (day cab) 740 (70 in. mid-roof sleeper), 760 (70 in. high-roof sleeper) and 860 (76 in. high roof sleeper). The 70-in. sleeper on the 740 and 760 models are a first for Volvo. Also available will be Volvo’s Globetrotter trim package, imported from Europe. Globetrotter-spec’d trucks will feature full aerodynamics, polished wheels, upgraded seating, a refrigerator, inverter and parking cooler package. It will be available on the 760 and 860 models.

Taking from its SuperTruck project, Volvo said the VNL series features design enhancements that adds to a striking design. These include swept back headlines, new grille and hood and redesigned and repositioned engine air intakes allow for less turbulent intake air delivery as well as new chassis and roof fairings.

“If you look at the truck from top to bottom, it tapers to give it the strong, confident feel,” said Rikard Orell, director-product design, likening the truck to a broad-shouldered human.

To boost aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, the truck features a front bumper that is 1.5 in. extended from the current VNL, which extends the base BBC to 124 in., up from 122.5. With its curves and slope lines, combined with the available D13 Turbo Compounding (D13 TC) engine, the 2018 VNL will achieve up to 7.5% fuel efficiency improvement from the current model spec’d with a GHG 2014 engine.

The D13 TC engine utilizes a mechanical waste heat recovery system to capture wasted energy from the engine’s exhaust. The result is an additional 50 horsepower fed back to the crankshaft. The VNL series comes standard with the 13-liter Volvo D13 engine, while daycab and VNL 400 models can spec the 11-liter Volvo D11 as an option. The 15-liter Cummins X15 is also available.

“Volvo’s D11, D13 and D13 TC engines offer an incredible mix of power and efficiency,” said John Moore, Volvo Trucks product marketing manager – powertrain. “For customers needing even greater fuel efficiency, our XE, eXceptional Efficiency, downspeeding packages are available and paired with the Volvo I-Shift.”

The entire VNL line comes standard with Volvo’s I-Shift automated manual transmission. The I-Shift detects speed, grade and load to understand when to shift, hold a gear or coast in neutral.

Inside, the truck has been redesigned with the driver in mind with such subtle touches as heated mirrors, removable cup holders, and 7 USB power outlets and 8 12volt outlets, including two located on top of the dash for portable devices.

“It was designed around the driver,” said Jason Spence, product marketing manager. “From the [beginning] the driver was the informant; the driver was who we asked. …We refined the products so the driver was the focal point.”

All VNL sleepers feature curved cabinets that open toward the back to maximize space. There is also an optional integrated, reclining bunk, which is a trucking industry first in North America, the company said. LED interior lighting reduces power consumption and provides softer lighting. A redesigned sleeper control panel on the back wall allows drivers to control heating and cooling, and adjust the audio system from a more ergonomic position on the bunk. In addition, drivers can lock the doors or activate a panic alarm if needed.

 “While we wanted the new VNL to make a statement on the road, we knew that it also had to make a statement to our customers’ bottom lines” said Wade Long, director of product marketing for Volvo Trucks North America. “The incredible design elements that we’ve incorporated not only look great, but they add value for the customer. Whether it’s the sleek new bodywork that improves aerodynamics, or the new three-piece bumper that aids in repairability, every design change we’ve made has a purpose.”

To improve driver productivity, Volvo has relocated often-used controls as part of a new dashboard, moving those controls within a driver’s reach. There is a 5-in. customizable color driver information display showing trip and diagnostic data.

A 7-in. touchscreen display is available as an option and includes navigation and exterior back-up camera. A premium audio system is integrated with the infotainment system, which also features Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. Additional apps can be downloaded to the infotainment system as well.

The incredible design elements that we’ve incorporated not only look great, but they add value for the customer. Whether it’s the sleek new bodywork that improves aerodynamics, or the new three-piece bumper that aids in repairability, every design change we’ve made has a purpose.

— Wade Long, director of product marketing

Recognizing the various sizes of drivers, Volvo has added a smart steering wheel which not only features controls for the driver interface on the wheel, but is adjustable. Drivers can tilt and telescope the steering column, but also tilt the steering wheel relative to the steering column for more comfort.

Seven different seat options are available as well as premium features such as seat heating and ventilation. There is even an option for a passenger seat refrigerator to provide a place for drivers to store cold drinks without the need to carry a cooler on the front seat. Additionally, a Roll-Tek seat, which includes an integrated side airbag that deploys in a rollover situation, is an option.

“The new Volvo VNL builds on our long-standing commitment to deliver the safest, most comfortable and most efficient long-haul truck on the market,” Nyberg said. “Infused with new innovations and technologies, we’re proud to expand upon that commitment to our current and future customers with this new design.”

Like all Volvo models, the VNL series features plenty of safety tech. Volvo Active Driver Assist by Bendix is now standard on all variations. It combines forward collision mitigation warnings and active braking, even with stationary vehicles. The system features an industry-first heads up windshield display if a driver approaches too closely to an object in front of them. If no driver action is taken, the system can automatically apply the brakes to help mitigate a collision. Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology, an electronic stability control system, is also standard on all VNL models.

The dashboard now includes a “heads-up” display to warn drivers of an impending crash scenario. That display features a red light that flashes on the windshield before the any automatic system intervention is begun.

All VNL models come standard with Volvo Remote Diagnostics with Volvo’s factory-installed telematics hardware that provides connectivity for proactive diagnostics and monitoring of critical engine, transmission and aftertreatment trouble codes. Support is offered through Volvo’s 24/7 Volvo Action Service (VAS) agents, who monitor critical vehicle codes. If an issue is detected, VAS agents will assess the severity and provide the vehicle’s designated contact with actionable information to determine whether to keep operating the truck or take it for immediate service. All details from the service process are captured and tracked through ASIST, Volvo’s online service management and communication platform.

The company is also launching remote updates for all its trucks with GHG 2017 engines and newer. Remote updates will eliminate significant downtime, the company said, and ensure vehicles include the latest software. According to Volvo, about 75% of all trucks running on highways today are not running the latest software, mainly due to a 2.3 day wait for those updates at dealers. At a “conservative estimate” of $1,000 a day for downtime, a fleet of 25 vehicles needing updates twice a year could be losing $126,500.

That changes with remote updates, which can be downloaded and updated to any connected truck within 30 minutes time, Volvo said, as long as the truck is parked with its engine off and key in the “on” position, and it is within a cellular network range.

Remote updates will begin in the fourth quarter.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.