Volvo unveils new heavy-hauling VNX

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The VNX has an approved Gross Combination Weight Rating of 125,000 to 160,000 pounds. Up to 225,000 pounds are available in approved applications with the appropriate components.

DUBLIN, Va. – Volvo Trucks has unveiled the heavy hauler of its product lineup in the form of the new VNX – a hybrid of highway and vocational tractor ready to support applications like long combination vehicles, B-trains, and lowboys.

The model is for Gross Combination Weight Ratings of 125,000 to 160,000 pounds and, in approved applications, as much as 225,000 pounds when ordered with specific components such as a Cummins X15 Performance Series engine – an option available through Volvo for the first time.

Optional steer axles, lift axles, tandem drives, and longer fifth-wheel slides prove that it is ready for bigger, heavier hauls found across Canada and the U.S. northeast.

It fills a gap in the product lineup that has existed for more than a year, since Volvo ceased production on the D16 engine that had been the exclusive power offering for the previous version of the VNX.

“The brutal truth, we didn’t sell enough of the D16s,” says Magnus Koeck, vice-president of marketing and brand management. “We think we have bridged that gap.”

While a smaller business segment than over-the-road tractors, heavy haulers account for about 8-9% of Class 8 truck sales in the U.S. and Canada. Volvo doesn’t split up the figures for the two countries but acknowledges that heavy haulers represent a larger share of applications in our land of B-trains and heavier weights.

“It’s a high-profile segment,” he said. “We are taking a further step into that segment, which will strengthen our position as a brand.”

The company is certainly no stranger to heavy hauls around the world, with models such as the FH16 750 available elsewhere.

“We are born and raised in the cold climate of Sweden and we know how to do these trucks …  for rough conditions, for harsh conditions,” added Koeck.

Three available models include the VNX 300 day cab, the VNX 400 with a 42-inch sleeper, and the VNX 740 that offers all the comforts of a 70-inch sleeper, including amenities like an optional reclining bunk. The truck comes as a 6×4, 8×4, or 8×6 axle configuration, too.

Front axles range from 16,000 to 20,000 pounds with parabolic springs, and 445 tires match the front axle load. Rear axles range from 46,000 to 55,000 pounds, while premium heavy-haul rear suspensions support up to 52,000 pounds.

Proprietary power

While the Cummins engine is needed for the heaviest hauls, Volvo clearly remains committed to its proprietary power. The VNX’s standard powertrain includes a D13 engine delivering 500 hp and 1,850 lb-ft of torque, coupled with a 12- or 14-speed I-Shift automated manual transmission with crawler gears. The Cummins X15 Performance Series engine offers up to 605 hp and 2,050 lb-ft of torque with an Eaton Ultra Shift Plus or manual transmission.

“Integrated drivelines also work exceptionally well with heavy-haul,” said product marketing manager John Moore, referring to challenges such as an approaching grade. “We need to know when to downshift, how to downshift, when to hold gears.”

The D13 itself included several upgrades with its GHG17 rollout, improving fuel efficiency by 2.5% when compared to 2014 models. Injection pressures range from a high of 35,000 psi down to 6,000 psi when lightly loaded and idling, lessening stress on the injectors and allowing for an assembled camshaft that shed 27 pounds. Wave piston designs and their fuel economy gains emerged through work with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Super Truck program.

A 500 hp version of the D13 offers 1850 to 1550 lb-ft of torque, while the 455-hp model offers 1750 to 1450 lb-ft. The highest torques are delivered in the first three gears, while lower torques kick in after that to improve fuel economy. That said, the higher torques return within half a second if needed on a grade, Moore said.

The choice of a manual transmission would most likely be driven by driver preference, Moore said, stressing that drivers would be hard pressed to beat the shift logic of an automated manual transmission. “But you might feel more comfortable having the control.”

The I-Shift fits the heavier applications thanks to features including a hardened main box and gears, and high-viscosity oil to support frequent shifting. The clutch itself features a large damper, as well as bigger springs to absorb more vibrations from the driveline.

“The slower you can go, the better off you are,” Moore adds, referring to the crawler gears that will move the truck as slow as 0.6 mph, helping to ensure traction in tricky settings. Reverse speeds can be manipulated with buttons on the shifter, adding to the controls that are needed to protect sensitive trailers that sometimes cost more than the tractors themselves.

There are brains to go along with the brawn, too.

The I-Shift transmission draws on heavy-haul software that has already been proven on the road, as well as new software controlling the heavier driveline torque output, stretching the D13’s performance in lower gears.

The truck even comes with its own Rogers cell plan, delivering the telematics data needed to support features such as over-the-air engine programming.

Volvo’s heavy-hauling VNX will be a fit for many demanding applications in Canada.

On the job

The VNX will face some demanding applications, sometimes even in off-road settings.

“We’re not saying it’ll go deep into the woods,” says Chris Stadler, the product marketing manager responsible for the VNR and VNX, referring to logging applications. But the newest truck will roll far enough off road to be loaded with timber.

So, too, can it haul 140,000-pound tanker operations than stray into oil fields, 125,000-pound B-trains heading into quarries, or the heavy-haul flatbeds that occasionally need to handle mushy conditions.

“This is perfect for those types of operations,” he said.

When it comes to moving through the challenging settings, there’s a 40-degree wheel cut with 425 tires, and a 25-degree front angle approach to handle dips and ruts that are going to be a reality around many jobs sites and quarries. The truck also has a 12-inch ground clearance, compared to the eight inches of highway models.

Extended fenders stretch over the bigger wide-base tires, helping to control the related spray. Splash shields, meanwhile, are now made with a more durable plastic that can withstand temperatures in the range of -30 to -40 Fahrenheit without becoming brittle, Volvo says.

There’s also a heavy-duty kingpin with a tapered design, while the fifth wheel has a loaded capacity of 55,000 pounds or more, and a pulling capacity of at least 150,000 pounds.

Stopping power comes in the form of heavy-haul disc brakes, which feature 17-inch rotors and corrosion-resistant calipers.

Those aren’t the only updates in the name of safety. Volvo has incorporated features including Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology electronic stability control system, helping to maintain control and prevent jackknifes or rollovers. It automatically reduces engine torque and selectively applies brakes when required.

And recognizing there are times when any truck can be stranded in punishing operating environments, the VNX comes with a heavy-duty tow pin that has a 60,000-pound towing capacity. A ¼-inch high-strength aluminum bumper shields the urethane-painted 100-ksi steel crossmember behind it.

The .44-inch heat-treated steel alloy frame rails found in the vocational VHD model have also made their way into the VNX. “It gives you that cleanness with one frame rail,” Stadler says. Several combinations of heights, thicknesses, and liners are available.

Like the vocational VHD, the VNX interior includes a removable engine cover that offers quick access thanks to removable floor inserts, rather than earlier models that included a one-piece floor with the seats bolted on top.

There’s LED lighting inside and out, and increased visibility, while the hood offers improved aerodynamics during highway travel.

Controls on the steering wheel will configure the five-inch color driver information display. And a dash-top tray with USB and 12-volt connectors offer a place for electronic gadgets that can also by sync’d to an optional in-dash infotainment system.

The VNX is available for order now, with production to begin in April.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking,, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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