I love driving trucks and I’ll travel anywhere to do so, but there’s something special about driving them in your own neck of the woods over familiar roadways. I had the opportunity to do so when Volvo made its new VNX heavy-hauler demonstration truck available for a drive on July 31. This heavy-haul truck features the VN cab and was designed to provide heavy-haul capabilities within a vehicle that’s as easy and comfortable to operate as any other VN highway tractor. Mission accomplished.

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I was pulling a load of about 125,000 lbs of trash, courtesy of Challenger’s bulk division, behind this VNX, which was powered by the 600-hp Volvo D16 engine and equipped with the I-Shift 12-speed automated manual transmission. I-Shift?, you say. Yes, you can forget about this transmission being limited to mainstream, 80,000-lb on-highway applications. It’s fully capable of much heavier payloads in a wide range of applications, including some limited off-road adventures. The VNX is designed to be driven mostly on-highway, but can venture off-road when required – a 95% on-highway/5% off-highway mix is about right, according to Jason Spence, marketing product manager, long-haul with Volvo.

I picked up the truck at Expressway Volvo in Ayr, Ont., took some back roads through some picturesque little villages such as Washington, Ont. and Drumbo, Ont., ventured through Woodstock and then hopped onto the 401, travelling as far West as Putnam before turning back for Ayr – all the while, leaving the smell of fresh trash in my wake (sorry, Woodstock).

I expect the VNX to do extremely well in Canada. It’s a damned tough truck that’s remarkably easy and comfortable to drive. It provided a smooth ride on even the more poorly maintained and rougher country roads. Its ability to get up to speed after stoplights meant it wasn’t a chicane and I didn’t have to worry about impatient motorists darting out from behind to get around me. The cruise control was fun to play with.

I was able to set my cruise speed at 100 km/h and my top speed at 108 km/h; if I picked up more than 8 km/h on a downhill grade the engine brake would automatically rein me in and prevent me from going any faster than that. That’s just one example of an on-highway feature you’d expect to find in a traditional over-the-road VN being built into the VNX. Compared to the Freightliner 122SD heavy-hauler I drove the day before, well, the 122SD drove and rode like a heavy-hauler. The VNX drove like highway-cruisin’ VN, despite the payload. This VNX is one of several demonstration trucks Volvo Trucks Canada has available for test drives. If you’re in the heavy-haul business and want to check it out, give them a ring. Meanwhile, look for a full review of this truck in an upcoming issue.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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