Volvo’s Drive the Future tour hits Canada

by James Menzies

CALGARY, Alta. – Four Volvo VNs have been traversing North America in recent weeks, so drivers from across Canada and the U.S. can test the trucks first-hand as part of the company’s Drive the Future Tour.

It’s the second year for the tour, which features brilliantly painted VN trucks dressed up in NASCAR paint schemes, and the first time it has included Canadian destinations.

In addition to a host of U.S. truck stops, the Lickman Truck Stop in Sardis, B.C.; the Road King Travel Plaza in Calgary, Alta.; and the 10 Acres Truck Stop in Belleville, Ont. were all part of this year’s tour.

Showcased were two VN 780s, a VN 670 and a VN 630. While the 670 and 630 featured Volvo 465-horsepower powerplants, the larger trucks were powered by Cummins ISX 500 engines. Each of the powerplants were post-October, 2002 EGR engines.

The VN 630 and 670 were spec’d with manual Eaton transmissions while the larger 780s had automatic trannies – one of them an Eaton Autoshift and the other an ArvinMeritor Freedomline transmission, providing drivers with the opportunity to try out a variety of options.

Truck News caught up with the tour at its Calgary stop, for a quick ride in one of the Cummins-powered 780s.

The roomy interior boasted excellent visibility and easy access to important switches, including the engine brake, which was mounted to the side of the steering wheel.

The dash was free of clutter with only essential gauges permanently displayed.

Other, lesser-used gauges are still available, but in order to access them a driver must manually display them on the computerized section of the dash.

It’s a practical solution that eliminates clutter, but Volvo representatives admit it’s not always popular with the Show-and-Shine crowd or truckers who prefer a dashboard that looks like the inside of an airplane cockpit.

Thomas Sokach, manager of new truck pricing with Volvo Trucks North America, said the truck was designed with driver comfort in mind.

“It’s pretty much universal that everyone who takes it out is impressed with the ride and the quietness,” said Sokach, adding other selling points include “driver comfort, visibility and maneuverability.”

The Cummins-powered VN 780 pulled a fully-loaded 53-ft. van trailer along the Deerfoot Trail with relative ease – despite the fact it was the roughest stretch of highway yet to be part of the tour, according to another Volvo representative.

“There have been several drivers that have said ‘This feels really nice but we’d really like to try driving this under full load,'” said Rob Simpson, marketing product manager with Volvo Trucks North America.

He said when he tells them the trailer is fully loaded: “They don’t believe us so we have to open up the back to show them it’s a fully-loaded trailer.”

Ride quality is the biggest advantage of the VN and so far on the tour, most drivers have been impressed with this feature, Sokach said.

“They’ve heard about the ride of the Volvo but don’t realize how good it is and that’s really the biggest selling point of the truck,” he said.

“It is designed to make it a comfortable environment for the driver. We know he has to live in the truck so if we give the driver the most comfortable environment in which to perform, during the course of the day of driving he doesn’t get as fatigued and a fresher driver is a safer driver.”

The Volvo VN has established itself as a popular fleet truck, but Sokach says plenty of owner/operators have also taken advantage of the tour to consider a Volvo as their next purchase.

Of the entire VN family of trucks, the VN 670 is the most common one on the road today, he says.

With the tour preparing to return to the U.S. before making its way east to Ontario, Sokach said he was looking forward to getting more drivers behind the wheel of a Volvo for the first time.

“We appreciate the response we’re getting from the drivers and we’re glad to be able to do this and allow the drivers to see first-hand what the Volvo trucks are really all about,” he said.

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