Volvo New Zealand wound up its celebration of the FH model’s 25th anniversary with a national road trip in their Anniversary FH540 truck, complete with I-Shift Dual Clutch, full driver safety package and Volvo Dynamic Steering. As part of the road trip, 10 drivers from a wide range of sectors and businesses were randomly selected from more than 200 competition entrants to test their driving skills in the I-Shift Fuel Efficiency Challenge.
Under the watchful eye of MTD Trucks driver trainer, Sean Webb, the drivers each drove a 200km leg in their own backyard from areas as diverse as Whangarei and Dunedin.
“The standard of driving across all the competitors was very high,” said Webb. “They all showed significant improvement as their driving leg progressed. Each leg contained different topographical challenges, so the I-Shift dual clutch was really put to the test over the length and breadth of the country.”
Webb said feedback from the drivers was fairly consistent. They talked about the unit under load being ‘effortless’.
Winning driver, Lister Cleary from AS Wilcox was born and bred in the transport industry. His father drove trucks and buses, so Cleary spent a lot of time as a youngster sitting in his father’s cab. Most of his 30 years behind the wheel have been spent doing rural runs moving stock, so he’s no stranger to gravel roads. More recently, over the past three years, he’s been transporting farm produce. Just before the competition, he had taken delivery of a new FH16 Globetrotter to replace his 25-year-old Kenworth. According to Cleary, “The last time I drove a Volvo before that, it had a manual gear box!”
Driving out of Pukekohe, Cleary’s no stranger to Auckland traffic and he sees an application for the dual clutch on the region’s congested roads.
“It would be brilliant in the stop/start in heavy traffic. The dual clutch makes it much easier on the truck and the driver. Uphill, it really takes the strain off the truck, when you’re climbing a hill the transmission changes down smoothly as soon as you give it a bit of power, it reacts.”
Cleary had no idea at all he had won.
“I thought that the dual clutch would make changes smoother, quicker and easier under load, but I was blown away by the reality. It was just like driving a good car. You don’t need to bury your boot; just a touch of the accelerator does it. It’s quite an amazing piece of machinery.”
Webb has seen a wide range of driving skills in his day-to-day role as MTD’s driver trainer and was impressed by what he saw during Cleary’s leg.
“Lister was fully engaged throughout his drive and, although he was aware that it was a competition, he was willing to explore the parameters of the technology to see what it could do. He was fairly new to the Volvo FH product, so he worked hard throughout his 200km trip to maximise the opportunity.”
Webb has come away from the competition with a renewed appreciation of Kiwi truck drivers. He said that the majority of the contestants were actively looking to see what they could take out of the experience and apply to their everyday lives in their own trucks, which “really reflects the professionalism and calibre of New Zealand truck drivers”.
From a fuel efficiency perspective, Webb was looking for drivers to roll off the throttle earlier and use the truck’s weight to travel through sections of the road, maintaining a constant speed. The way in which drivers approached and negotiated intersections and roundabouts to conserve fuel was critical.
“I saw a positive change in every driver’s driving from the start to the end of their leg as they became more familiar with the unit,” said Webb. “I was impressed by the level of natural ability, skill and professionalism shown by all the drivers, and their willingness to trial new features and maximise the potential of the vehicle.
“Lister took this to the next level and really worked with the vehicle, harnessing the truck’s ability and adapting quickly to the feeling and feedback he got from the truck. His anticipation was also very good, and he was very engaged with what was going on – load and road.”
When asked for his competition-winning fuel efficiency tip, Cleary commented: “It’s all to do with coasting as often as possible and for as long as possible to maintain a steady speed and use the truck’s momentum in your favour.”