Volvo truck, FH12 and FH16 - 1990

FH12 and FH16

In the 1980s, Volvo had become a major global manufacturer, especially with the purchase of the truck assets of the American truck manufacturer White Motor Corporation.

Creating the first fully global truck
The product programme of White was very modern (having been introduced between 1975 and 1980) but it was clear that there was a need for new truck ranges in the 1990s, both for Europe and the rest of the world and for North America with its unique tradition of truck design.

It was a natural progression to study in order to create the first fully global truck range, covering the wide range of transport applications of both F trucks and Conventional trucks.

The successor of the F range
In about 1985, the final plans were made for the Volvo trucks of the 1990s. For a variety of reasons it was natural to plan for introduction dates from 1993 to 1999. This was in order to utilize the existing modern truck ranges to the full while at the same time making full use of the design and laboratory facilities.

It was natural to start the design work with a successor to the F10/F12/F16 range, which had been around (in its first model) since 1977. Thanks to several upgrading measures it was still fairly modern, but really in need of a successor to face the late 1990s and the new century.

The radical D12 engine
Parallel to the need for a successor to the F10/F12/F16, it was obvious for Volvo to plan for a completely new generation of engines to succeed the 12-litre engine, which had been in production since 1970 and which was the basic Volvo means of propulsion for most of the heavy-duty Volvo trucks (including the American White/WHITEGMC trucks).

The development of a radical new engine began, an engine which would be famous during the 1990s under the name of 'D12'. For the first time in Europe, a heavy-duty diesel engine featured principles previously found mainly in advanced sports car engines, including overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder.

To make the most efficient use of the fuel while also minimizing emissions and environmental damage, the radical 'unit injectors' took the place of the conventional mechanical/electronic diesel injection pump.

The result of high-class innovations
The resulting FH truck (with either 12 or 16-litre engines) has become a major success. Major design work had taken place to minimize wind resistance, thereby improving performance and minimizing fuel consumption. Good aerodynamics also means higher average speed and more stress on the brakes so a radical engine brake (VEB/'Volvo Engine Brake') was designed and patented by Volvo.

Safety and ergonomics were, as always in a Volvo truck family, maximized, both thanks to laboratory safety tests and to the expertise of the 'Volvo accident commission', which has investigated truck accidents continuously for more than a quarter of a century in order to improve the design of the Volvo trucks of the future.

A wide range of different applications
The FH trucks cover a wide range of applications so the specification width is very wide. Cabs are available in four different models; short day cab, sleeper cab with normal roof, Globetrotter roof with an extra high roof for more comfortable resting in the truck and (since 1995) the Globetrotter XL cab offering enormous space thanks to an extra high roof, despite the fact that this cab is designed completely in accordance with demanding European legislation, thereby permitting maximum platform/semi-trailer length.

The engines cover the range of 340 up to 660 bhp and the trucks can be specified with two, three or four axles, with one, two or even three axles driven.

Among the most successful vehicles ever
The Volvo FH range of trucks was awarded 'Truck of the Year 1994' and is today one of the most successful truck families ever, having sold more than 400,000 units since 1993. The FH range is sold in all parts of the world with the exception of North America, where legislation is unfavourable to F trucks (or 'cab-over engine' trucks, as they are designated in North America). In early 2000, the Volvo FH12 was awarded the 'Truck of the Year 2000' award, the first time a single model has received this coveted award twice.

Despite the optimal design of the FH, a great proportion of its components are used in other Volvo trucks, offering the basis of very efficient design and production. This is advantageous for spare part supply, and very much favoured by customers and Volvo as a major global truck manufacturer.