In the new millennium, demands on trucks and truck transport became manifold. Although good transport efficiency and low transport costs remained the prime objectives, safety, ergonomics and environmental properties are all high-priority considerations.
When the Amsterdam Truck Show launched in February 2000, the visitors were pleased to view the European version of the Volvo NH12 for the first time - a high-tech vehicle, fitted for the new millennium.
This truck was propelled by the ultra-modern Volvo D12C electronically controlled, direct-injection diesel engine and could be delivered complete with Volvo Dynafleet 2.0, Volvo's IT tool.
Since the start in 1928, Volvo trucks have always been used for a wide variety of different roles. The first little truck 'Series 1' was used for distribution, for general cargo and even for timber transport and as a bus! But as the trucks became more and more efficient, they have also become more specialized. Today, trucks for various tasks may look similar for the general public, but they are always optimized.
Built for construction site transports
In North America, trucks are extremely adapted for their respective tasks. Long-distance trucks are light and often have very roomy cabs. Their GVW ratings are (compared to, for example, Scandinavia and in Australia) very modest. Special and construction-site trucks on the American continent, on the other hand, are extremely tough.
The Volvo VHD (VHD=Volvo Heavy Duty), introduced in 2000, is the North American Volvo truck, which is uniquely adapted to the role of construction site transport and special transport, as well to being suited to other roles according to the customer's wishes.
Optimized for ruggedness
The VHD does not look like any other Volvo truck. Despite that, it makes use of a wide variety of technologies and components which are common with e g, the VN, the FH12 and the NH12.
Since the VHD is not intended for high-speed long-distance transport, the design of the front end of the cab is more optimized for ruggedness than superior aerodynamics.
To fulfill the need for optimized axle loads, the front axle position is available in two different FAS measures (FAS=Front Axle Setback). The VHD can be supplied in various axle configurations, with three, four or five axles. The bonnet normally hides a Volvo D12D 12-litre engine, but as an alternative a Cummins 15-litre engine can be supplied.
Since the VHD is not intended for long-distance transport, it is always supplied with a day cab, which is similar to the day cab of the VN model.
During the 1990s, Volvo trucks became even more related 'under the skin'. In the late 1990s the only model remaining in the Volvo truck product programme from earlier decades was the FL6, the main offering from Volvo in the medium-duty range.
A completely new chassis
Since the cab of the FL6 (and the FLC) was still completely up-to-date and comparable or superior to the competing makes' models in this segment, Volvo decided to develop a completely new medium-duty-chassis, preserving the existing FL6 cab structure together with a more aerodynamic front and a more efficient and cleaner version of the 6-litre Volvo engine.
New transport information systems
In 2000, the new FL truck was introduced. The chassis was mainly based on technology from the FM and FH families of trucks, with the new generation of electronically controlled disc brakes and the same Data Bus as on the other Volvo trucks.
The use of the same electronic Data Bus made Volvo Dynafleet, a complete communication system enabling more efficient use of the trucks, available to the users of the FL trucks.
The heart: the D6b engine
The heart of the FL range was the 6-litre Volvo D6B engine, which was, even from the start in 2000, available in a Euro 3 emission version.
The D6B was made available in different versions with outputs from 180 to 250 bhp, and also in a natural-gas version, contributing to superior environmental characteristics for this version of the FL family of trucks.
Adapted to different needs
The FL was made available in a wide range of executions with two or three axles, adapted to the need of a wide range of various transport tasks; from local or regional distribution to light-duty long-distance transport, or for community service applications.
In the late 1980´s, Volvo planned the truck range for the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century. The result would be 'The Global Family of Trucks', where the FH-series (with a high cab floor level) would be supplemented with the FM (with a medium-height cab floor level) and the VN and NH Conventional trucks.
The FM9 and FM12
The FM-series was introduced in 1998, and at that time consisted of the FM7 (with a 7-litre engine), the FM10 (with a 10-litre engine) and the FM12 (with the same 12-litre engine as the engine used in the FH12). Following a major revision in 2001, the FM-series consisted of the FM9 and the FM12.
In almost all respects, the FM family of trucks bore many similarities to the FH-range, apart from the available engine (and transmission) options and the cab position, which was designed lower than that of the cab of the FH12/FH16.
For drivers who get on and off
The lower cab position of the FM12 contributed, of course, to a safer and more ergonomic entry and exit to the cab, a particular advantage in transport missions where the driver has to enter and leave the cab numerous times every working day, like in local and regional distribution transport, as well as for garbage transport and so on.
The lower cab position became an advantage in transport operations where a low cab roof is of importance, like when transporting automobiles.
Compared with the FH-family, the FM trucks were designed with a higher engine tunnel, which restricted the space in the cab and also makes walk-through in the cab more difficult. For this reason, the FM series became less suitable for long-distance operations than the FH series, especially in operations where the driver has a co-driver. The FM series can be supplied with a short day cab, a long sleeper cab or with a comfortable Globetrotter cab with standing height inside the cab.
Engine and transmissions
In 2001, the FM-series was revised in a number of very important areas. The FM7 and the FM10 was succeeded by the FM9, featuring a completely new 9-litre engine with unit fuel injection, overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder. The 12-litre engine was preserved for the FM12, but in the revised D12D-execution with improved performance and superior environmental characteristics.
Like the FH12, the FM9 and the FM12 was made available with a number of transmission options (all designed and manufactured by Volvo) including manual range-change gearboxes, the I-shift with automatic gear shifting and the power-shift Powertronic gearbox.
Fitted for a wide range of tasks
The FM series is designed to be adapted to a wide range of tasks, from distribution of goods to long-distance transport, community service and heavy-duty construction operations. It was made available with two, three or four axles, and also in all-wheel-drive execution.
Perhaps no other truck in the history of road transport has had the same success as the FH-series, which was initially introduced in 1993 as the FH12 and the FH16. During a decade, more than 400,000 FH trucks were sold. At this point in time, the FH-series had twice received the coveted 'Truck of the Year' Award.
The FH12 and FH16
When the FH-series was presented in 1993, it was not only a new truck, but also introduced a series of new technologies which contributed to advantages in areas like fuel economy, environmental care and ergonomics together with superior active and passive safety.
Perhaps the most revolutionary of the individual components under the skin of the FH-series was the completely new 12-litre D12A engine (for the FH12). The FH16 was propelled by a revised version of the Volvo 16-litre engine, which had been presented six years earlier for the F16 truck.
Derived from 75 years of experience
The D12A was the first-ever truck engine to be developed for both North America and the rest of the world. It had been planned and engineered based on Volvo's experience as a truck manufacturer since 1928, and against the background of sales of heavy-duty trucks in the USA since 1974.
Never before had any European truck manufacturer produced a diesel engine with high-technology unit fuel injection and overhead camshaft in combination with four valves per cylinder (which contributed to better 'breathing'=higher efficiency/lower fuel consumption/decreased exhaust emissions). To increase the active safety, a unique Volvo-designed engine brake (VCB) was available as an integral part of the new D12A engine.
Cab design with aerodynamics in mind
The FH12 and the FH16 were in themselves revolutionary. The cab design was the most obvious feature. It had been designed for optimized driver comfort, maximum safety and low weight. The design of the cab had been made with aerodynamics in mind, to decrease fuel consumption, to maximize performance and to minimize interior and exterior noise.
The cab was available in three versions; short day cab, long sleeper cab and long sleeper cab with interior standing height ('Globetrotter'). Following customer demands for even greater interior space, the 'Globetrotter XL' cab was introduced in 1995.
The truck of the year
In 1995, the Volvo FH became the first heavy-duty truck in the world to be equipped with a driver airbag, further increasing passive safety level. The chassis of the Volvo FH is available in thousands of various executions, with several wheelbase options, with different number of axles, with one, two or three axles driven.
In 1998/1999, revised versions of the FH trucks were introduced, revisions which were so revolutionary that the FH12 was awarded the Truck of the Year award for the second time in 2000 (the FH range had received this award already in 1994, following the introduction). The most important (and the least obvious) revision was the new D12C engine, which had been re-designed for increased performance, decreased fuel consumption, extended service life and superior environmental characteristics. The FH series would go on to win the award two more times by 2024.
The D12C engine was prepared for forthcoming environmental legislation and was well in advance ready for the demanding Euro 3 demands, introduced in 2001.
The heavy-duty disc brakes
The 1998/1999 FH12 semitrailer tractor introduced Volvo's revolutionary electronically controlled heavy-duty disc brakes. The Volvo founders Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson in a very famous statement said that: 'Volvo does not make product changes for the sake of changing, but in order to improve the products, in the interest of the customers!'
Never have this statement been more valid than for the product changes of the FH12 in 2001. To improve the aerodynamics of the cab and the efficiency of the headlights, the front end of the cab had been revised, at the same time as the most important news was found under the skin of the revised truck model.
Fitted with two turbochargers
The most powerful new feature of the FH12 was the D12D-500 engine with Turbocompound, which had not only one but two turbochargers, of which the second used the spare energy and transformed it into mechanical energy, thereby increasing performance and using every drop of diesel fuel in the most efficient way.
But Volvo was not content with only perfecting the first part of the 'Drivetrain', the engine. The most radical new feature of the FH12 in 2001 was the new Volvo-designed and Volvo-built 'I-shift' gearbox, which combined the compactness and lightness of an unsynchronized gearbox with the comfort, ergonomics and safety of the automatic gearbox. The I-shift was intended mainly for long-distance transport, while the Powertronic power-shift gearbox is the best option for construction-site trucks.
A choice for the new century
In 2001, production of the first version of the FH16 was cancelled, since Volvo decided that the 21st century demanded a more efficient, even more powerful and more environmental engine in the most powerful class. After two years of absence in the 'Plus 500-horsepower-class' Volvo introduced the new FH16, based on the FH12 but with a completely new 16-litre in-line 6-cylinder direct-injection diesel engine with overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder and electronic unit fuel injectors.
The new engine was, in fact, based on technologies already used and perfected in the 9- and 12-litre Volvo engines.
Simply the ultimate driving experience
The new FH16 became one of the most powerful trucks in the world, with up to 610 horsepower. It was intended for the most demanding transport operations, where maximum power and high average speed are two crucial factors, and where fuel efficiency, transport economy, maximum driver comfort and safety and environmental care cannot be sacrificed.
Despite the common need for efficient transport, trucks for the United States and trucks for the rest of the world traditionally are very different. When Volvo planned the American trucks for the 21st century, the ambition was to preserve the qualities of the American trucks, and at the same time incorporate the comfort, ergonomic and safety qualities of the European Volvo FH truck.
Due to the generous lengths in the US
The transport legislation in the United States is very different from the transport legislation in the European Union. The most obvious difference is the more generous lengths permitted in North America, contrary to Central Europe where the truck combinations must not be more than just over 18 metres.
This is the reason why American trucks almost always have a long bonnet in front of the cab. Since truck transports also take place over very long distances 'coast-to-coast' many trucks are equipped with extremely spacious sleeping compartments.
American look, European components
The American conventional VN truck was introduced in 1996, as a successor to the Volvo Aero series. Despite its traditional American look, with a long bonnet and very large sleeper compartments in the long-distance versions, it shares the technology and most of the components with the 'European' FH family. The VN (especially in its most exclusive version, the '780') combines the best aspects of American trucks with the ergonomics and the safety of the best European Volvo trucks.
The VN was designed, like the FH12 and the FH16 (and the FM and the NH series), out of the technology and the components shared by 'the Global Family of Volvo trucks'. It has the widest specification of any Volvo truck. It can be supplied with any of six different cabs, ranging from a short day cab to several sleeper cab options, where the most spacious virtually consists of a 'rolling home'.
The engine, cab and front axle setback
The VN is normally offered with Volvo engines (similar but not identical to the 11- or 13-litre engines used for e g the FH and the FM) but can also be supplied with a powerful 15-litre Cummins engine. The VN is available with two different FAS positions (FAS=Front Axle Setback) to ensure perfect axle weight distribution in every transport application.
The VN range was completely revised in 2002, with roomier cabs with improved comfort and with a more aerodynamic design of the front incorporated in the VN trucks intended for long-distance operations. Since 2005, the VN can be supplied with Volvo's powerful 16-litre engine.
Like many other manufacturers of trucks, Volvo designs and builds its trucks out of a common range of components, which are found in many different models. This is a tradition which was started already in the early 1930s, when the same engines, the same gearboxes, and the same chassis components were found on several different Volvo truck models.
Shared components in unique cabs
Components shared between many Volvo trucks include e.g. the electronic system, engines, gearboxes and chassis components. Unlike some manufacturers, however, Volvo makes separate cabs for different models, to ensure that the volume of the cab and driver ergonomics is optimized.
A truck which exemplifies this principle very well is the VM, which is produced exclusively in Curitiba, Brazil. Brazil is (since 1980) one of Volvo's most important truck markets. Volvo did not, however, offer a medium- to light-heavy-duty truck on the Brazilian market until the autumn of 2003, when the VM was introduced.
Specified for many different tasks
The VM is based on global Volvo components, together with a cab shared with the FL and FE trucks and an engine (produced in Brazil), which is not found in any other Volvo truck. The cab is available in several versions, including short day cab and sleeper cab with a comfortable bunk. The engine is available with different output levels, and different transmissions options.
Thanks to this, the VM can be specified for a wide range of transport tasks, from local or regional distribution to more demanding transport operations, with two or three axles, and with our without a trailer. The VM is marketed only in South America.
There is always a suitable Volvo truck for every existing heavy-duty operation. Volvo designs and builds trucks for more than 100 different countries, all over the world. And although the Volvo Global Family of trucks consists of a number of vehicles which are visually quite different, they share the basic technology and a number of key components.
A typical example of intelligent design
The NH12, introduced in Brazil in 1999 as the successor to the NL10 EDC and the NL12 EDC, is a typical example of the efficient and intelligent design of Volvo trucks. The NH12 is a Conventional truck, which is marketed in most parts of the world (excluding Europe, where length regulation makes it less efficient, and Australia, where a special NH Conventional truck was produced up until 2004).
Despite the fact that it looks fairly similar to the North American NH truck, it is in fact more related to the European FH and FM trucks than to its American counterparts.
The same benefits as the FH12
The NH12 is based on the same technology and the same components as the global FH12 truck, with the exception of the front end of the chassis, the bonnet and the front part of the cab. This means that the NH12 offers the same comfort level, the same ergonomics, the same passive and active safety and the same fuel efficiency as the FH12, for customers demanding the extra cab space and the impressive appearance of a truck with a bonnet in front of the cab.
Different needs, different cabs
The NH12 can be supplied with three different cabs: a short day cab for missions where the driver does not spend the nights in the truck cab, a long sleeper cab with a comfortable bunk and the Globetrotter cab which offers superior living and space for the driver (and a co-driver). The NH12, introduced in 1999 and terminated in 2006, was upgraded in 2003 and 2005 to make it technically comparable with the latest version of the FH and FM truck family.
In the late 1990's, Volvo had decided that the existing 16-litre engine (introduced in 1987) was not up to the demands of the 21st century. A decision was consequently taken that a completely new generation of the FH16 should be developed, to be introduced in 2003.
The demands on the new FH16 generation were tough: it should offer the very best performance in the truck industry for challenging tasks like Australian Roadtrain operation, Nordic timber combinations and very fast long-distance transport. Demanding goals upon fuel economy were put up. The new engine should fulfill the most arduous environmental demands. Demands on quality, service life and reliability were given top priority.
The general layout of the new FH16 was easy to define: it should be very similar to the FH12, which was recognized as industry leader. In this way, spare availability and efficient design were also optimized.
New engine was needed
From the very start of the design process, it was obvious for the engineers that a new Volvo engine was needed. None of the available engines from the third-party engine producers would fulfill the stringent Volvo demands for this premium truck. The engine designers decided that the basic design ideas from the high-technology D12- and D9-engines could be used, but adapted to the increased demands on performance.
In the autumn of 2003, the new D16D engine was presented together with the new FH16 trucks. It features four valves per cylinder, operated by an overhead camshaft. Fuel supply is by unit injectors of the same basic principle as the D12-, D9- and D13 engines. To ensure maximum engine brake performance, an improved and even more powerful version of the Volvo Engine Brake (VEB) was available (in its latest execution, its output is 425 kW!). The new engine was initially, between 2003 and 2005, available with 550 or 610 horsepower.
Fulfills driver's dream
In 2005, Volvo introduced the even more powerful FH16 with 660 bhp and a torque figure of 3,100 Nm, now coupled to the I-shift gearbox, a combination which fulfills the driver's dream of the most powerful truck in the industry, with the added ergonomics, comfort and safety of a full automatic gearbox operation, while still preserving the manual gearchanging option. As an alternative, a 580 bhp engine version is available together with conventional manual gearboxes or the I-shift transmission.
The FM is the 'allrounder' in the heavy-duty range of Volvo. It was introduced together with the FH in 2005, with which it shares the basic design and most of the components, since it is a member of the Global Family of Volvo trucks (together with the FH, VN and VT).
The FM is a very rugged heavy-duty truck with the cab placed in a lower position compared to the Volvo FH, a feature which contributes to e g easier entry and exit, an important aspect in local and regional heavy-duty distribution transport.
The lower cab position is also an advantage in construction site operation, a task for which the FM is very suitable thanks to a rugged chassis which also can be supplied with all-wheel-drive (in two- or three-axle execution). The FM is also available in 4-axle execution.
Three cab options
The FM range includes three cab options, including the day cab, the sleeper cab and the prestigious and spacious Globetrotter cab.
The FM is available with two engines; the 13-litre engine (the same as in the FH) and the 9-litre engine (which is unique to the FM range). It is offered with a wide range of transmission options, including synchronized manual gearboxes, automated Volvo I-shift gearboxes and the automatic Volvo Powertronic transmission with torque converter.
Advanced radar function
Like all other Volvo trucks, the FM range offers superior safety, including active safety items like the ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) which automatically selects the time gap to the vehicle in front, thanks to an advanced radar function.
The passive safety which protects the driver, should an accident occur, includes traditional Volvo items like the impact-tested cab and airbags (which Volvo pioneered in trucks in the mid-90's).
Being the natural Volvo choice in heavy-duty distribution transport and construction-site operation, the FM is also suitable for regional and even for long-distance transport, when an easy entry or a low cab position have higher priority than the larger cab space offered by the FH range.
The Volvo FH range is the most successful Volvo truck family ever built. The development of the 'bestseller' FH12 has taken place in steps. In 2005, the FH12 was succeeded by the FH, being similar in appearance but incorporating the most dramatic product improvements in years.
High-tech design features
The 12.8-litre engine was made with horsepower options of 400, 440, 480 or 520, with torque figures of up to 2,500 Nm. It featured high-technology design features like overhead camshaft, four-valve technology and unit injectors, together with the powerful Volvo Exhaust Brake (VEB).
As an alternative to the 13-litre engine, two 12-litre engine options were made available. To facilitate the driver's work, Volvo I-shift automatic transmission was also offered, as alternative to fully-synchronized range-change manual gearboxes with or without splitter options.
The Volvo Powertronic automatic transmission with torque converter was also included in the range. The FH cab was made available in four versions; the daycab, the sleeper cab, the spacious Globetrotter cab and the top-of-the-range cab: the Globetrotter XL cab, which provides unrivalled comfort and ergonomics in the truck world. Offering different interior space, all four cabs had the same comfort level, which is second-to-none in the world of trucks.
Traditional and new safety
The FH was presented with traditional Volvo features like a crash-tested cab and an interior designed with passive safety in mind, but also features like the ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) which automatically maintains the distance to the vehicle in front.
The FH can be made up in thousands of different executions; with different engine outputs, with various gearboxes, with a wide range of rear axles, with several wheelbase alternatives, in two- three- or four-axle execution and with a large number of components to choose from. The Volvo FH is intended for all kinds of heavy-duty transport operations, and is in the most demanding operations second only to its most powerful competitor: the Volvo FH16.
In the beginning of 2005, Volvo introduced its most powerful North American truck model ever: the VT880. The new premium truck was mainly intended for the most demanding customers, like Owner Operators who live in their trucks for long periods of time and who demand performance which minimize the transport time through a very high average speed, even in hilly landscapes and with fully loaded vehicles.
The VT880 were based on the same chassis and cab components as the Volvo 780, which was previously the most spacious and ergonomic truck ever built by Volvo. But the front design, with an impressive bonnet which combines good aerodynamics with a grille which provides very good airflow for the radiator, in order to give good cooling abilities for the very powerful engine.
A spacious sleeper cab
Initially, Volvo launched the VT880, with a very spacious sleeper cab giving enough interior space for the driver and his co-driver, as well as an office option during transport operations spanning several days or weeks. Later, complimentary versions of the VT truck range were presented: the VT800, featuring a daycab for demanding transport tasks where overnight accommodations not needed, and the VT830, with a lower sleeper cab, contributing to good aerodynamics while still preserving good driver´s (and sleeping) environments.
The VT trucks featured (for the first time in a Volvo truck in North America) the powerful 16-litre engine, the same as in Volvo´s premium European truck; the FH16. This power option combines very high performance with the prestige of Volvo´s premium truck engine. The VT was exclusively intended for highway operation, as a three-axle 6x4 tractor for semitrailers.
The Volvo FE was introduced in 2006, as a very efficient heavy-duty truck intended for heavy local or regional distribution, for transport over larger distances with modest combination weights, for construction site transport or for services like garbage operations or as a tanker truck. The FE is available in a very large number of various executions, with two or three axles, with one or two driving rear axles. For maximum flexibility, the chassis can be supplied in three different heights, and with a very wide choice of wheelbases, from short semitrailer tractors to long rigid trucks.
Wide range of cab options
The FE presents a wide range of cab options; from the Day cab which gives maximum payload and platform length to a more spacious Comfort cab or a Sleeper cab which provides overnight accommodation.
The performance of the FE is high, thanks to the powerful D7E engine with from 240 up to 320 hp, mated to all-synchronized gearboxes with 6 or 9 forward gears, or to an automatic transmission. Volvo has always been in the forefront when it comes to environmental care.
The FE conforms to the new Euro 4 exhaust emission rules, and is also available in versions which fulfills the future Euro 5 regulations. The FE is a truck which offers very good transport economy, based on low operational costs, high payload thanks to low chassis weight, together with quality and availability which make sure that the FE is always available for daily transport!
In the spring of 2006, Volvo introduced the completely new medium-range FL range - incidentally exactly 50 years after the very first forward-control medium truck, the L420 'Snabbe' of 1956. The new FL range featured a new cab, with a cab interior designed to combine ergonomics and safety with features which contribute to transport efficiency.
The FL is not only a truck chassis, but a platform for various transport solutions. For the first time, Volvo offers complete trucks like 'the Volvo CitiPro', with a Volvo-approved body for typical transport tasks like local distribution.
Three cab options
For maximum flexibility and adaptation to every specific medium-duty transport operation, Volvo FL offers three cab options:
The Day cab, for maximum payload, when overnight accommodation is not needed.
The Comfort cab, which is more spacious.
The Crew cab, with seating for driver and passengers/crew members.
The performance of the new FL range is first-class, thanks to the very powerful new D7E engine, which features a large displacement of 7.3 litres and output options of 240 or 280 bhp. As an alternative to manual fully-synchronized gearboxes, an automatic transmission option is available for the 240 hp engine option.
Three weight segments
The Volvo FL is intended for a wide range of medium-duty applications in three weight segments; 12 tonnes, 15 tonnes or 16 tonnes. Typical transport tasks are local or regional distribution, refuse collection or tipper applications.
The FL is often used in areas where environmental care is of utmost importance. For this reason, the FL fulfills not only the new Euro 4 legislation, but is also available in versions which are certified in accordance with the future Euro 5 environmental rules.