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DRIVING VOLVO’S OPTIMIZED VNM 430

Volvo is looking to be a stronger player in the regional haul truck segment, and to that end has optimized a full line of tractors for this type of work. The Optimized Series of regional haul tractors includes eight models: the VNL 300, 430,...


I drove this Volvo VNM Optimized Series tractor in hilly Virginia.
I drove this Volvo VNM Optimized Series tractor in hilly Virginia.

Volvo is looking to be a stronger player in the regional haul truck segment, and to that end has optimized a full line of tractors for this type of work. The Optimized Series of regional haul tractors includes eight models: the VNL 300, 430, 430 mid-roof and 630 mid-roof; and the VNM 200, 430, 430 mid-roof and 630 mid-roof. All but the VNL 630 – which contains a D13 – are powered by Volvo’s D11 engine, and each carries a set of specifications designed to reduce weight to the tune of 1,200 lbs.

That’s pretty significant for bulk haulers, who can parlay the weight savings into additional payload. I recently visited Volvo’s Dublin, Va. truck plant for an opportunity to drive one of these optimized models. I was given a VNM 430 mid-roof and a loaded tanker to pull behind it, and then sent out into the Virginia hills. A D11 in this part of the country? My Volvo friends admitted they wouldn’t ordinarily recommend the D11 for a regional haul operation in this part of hilly Virginia, but they had a point to prove. And prove it they did.

The D11 was surprisingly capable, never short of torque or power while pulling the bigger grades in the area. Sure, it breathed hard while climbing some of the hills, but the I-Shift was able to hold 12th gear up many of those grades. I was impressed with the D11 and think it could do quite well across much of Canada if asked to pull no more than 80,000 lbs.

You can save a few hundred pounds by moving from the D13 to the D11, but that’s above and beyond the 1,200 lbs Volvo reduced elsewhere. One of the spec’s it has built into the Optimized Series is a 6×2 Meritor drive axle, which is an uncommon spec’ in these parts. I think with the new-generation electronics that it’s coupled with, today’s 6×2 can handle any conditions it will encounter in Canada. But currently, not all provinces allow 6x2s, so do your homework. Of course, customers can also order the weight-saving features a la carte if they choose, to enjoy some benefits without having to take a leap of faith on 6x2s or 11-litre engines.

Before optimizing its regional haul tractors for reduced weight, Volvo first asked customers what weight savings are worth to them. The answer varied from $6-$12 per pound in bulk applications. So, customers are willing to pay more for a lighter-weight truck? Seemed counterintuitive at first, until product marketing manager, regional haul, Chris Stadler worked the math out for me.

Chris said a fuel hauler could increase his profits by $95,000 per truck each year if it increases payload by just 320 lbs. His calculations are based on carrying an extra 50 gallons of payload per trip, making three deliveries a day, 250 days a year. That scenario totals 37,000 gallons of additional product delivered at the end of the year. Volvo’s looking to challenge customers to re-evaluate conventional thinking when it comes to specifying trucks, whether it be through its lightweight Optimized Series regional haul tractors, or through advanced powertrain options like the XE (Exceptional Efficiency) packages, which have recently been extended to the D11. For a more detailed write-up on the Optimized Series and my driving experience, go here.


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