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Volvo FH16 and I-Shift with crawler gears pull 750 tonnes

| 10 min read
In a great power test, a Volvo FH16 featuring the I-Shift with crawler gears manages to haul a 300-metre long container train, weighing 750 tonnes, from standstill.
Volvo FH16 and I-Shift with crawler gears pull 750 tonnes
The purpose of record-breaking haul is to demonstrate the capabilities of the I-shift

The purpose of the record-breaking haul is to demonstrate the capabilities of the I-Shift transmission with crawler gears. It offers starting traction that is unlike anything else on the market for series-produced trucks. The crawler ratios make it possible to haul really heavy loads, start off in difficult terrain, and drive at speeds as low as 0.5 km/h. Specially built trucks are normally used for exceptionally heavy loads, but during a great power test we are using a Volvo FH16 that has come virtually straight from the factory.

 

Tackling more than 700 tonnes GCW in a regular production truck is really quite unbelievable’

 

A film, ‘Volvo Trucks vs 750 tonnes’ can be seen on Volvo Trucks’ Youtube channel, featuring former World’s Strongest Man winner Magnus Samuelsson and trucking journalist Brian Weatherley. “That Volvo Trucks has developed an automatic transmission which can haul 325 tonnes gross combination weight is impressive,” claimed Brian Weatherley on set in the port of Gothenburg. “But tackling more than 700 tonnes GCW in a regular production truck is really quite unbelievable. In my 30 years as a trucking journalist I’ve never seen anything like it.”

 

How did we do it? 
In the port of Gothenburg, on a winterday beginning of 2016, a reach stacker places the last shipping container on a road train that stretches over 300 metres long. The 40 containers are loaded with spare parts from Volvo, which will be shipped to various destinations around the world. But right now, they are being used in an attempt at a world record – a Volvo FH16 750 truck will try to pull the 750-tonne load. Hopefully it will be possible thanks to the I-Shift with crawler gears. It can start from standstill with 325 tonnes, but can it start with 750 tonnes? “I’ve been counting on this. It should ... it should be possible,” says Niklas Öberg, one of the engineers who helped develop the new gearbox.

 

A container about to be put in place. The test can soon begin.

 

The conditions have to be perfect

Magnus Samuelsson, once the holder of the World’s Strongest Man title, walks along the water’s edge and looks out over the port’s entrance. “I've faced many tough challenges over the years, but this pull is my heaviest ever,”says Magnus Samuelsson.

When everything is rigged up, he will drive the truck with journalist Brian Weatherley. “That Volvo Trucks has developed an automatic transmission that can haul 325 tonnes gross combination weight is impressive. But tackling more than 700 tonnes gross combination weight (GCW) with a single regular production truck is really quite amazing. In my 30 years as a trucking journalist I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Brian Weatherley.

For a single truck to tow 750 tonnes, the conditions have to be perfect. The whole rig must be meticulously loaded in order not to collapse, all towing couplings must be checked and the air pressure in all 204 tyres must be continuously adjusted. In addition, the ground should be dry, as moisture can make the truck slip. The onsite crew discuss the weather. Just days earlier there was persistent wind and rain, but right now it looks as if it will actually be possible. “If the weather continues, then I think we can do this,” says Niklas Öberg.

At the first attempt the front of the cab starts to rise into the air.

The first attempt 

20 minutes later and he has sought refuge in his car. Outside the rain pours down. It is short but severe, leaving large puddles on the ground around and under the vehicle. The sudden shift in the weather jeopardises the entire project, and they must wait. Then it begins to snow. Within minutes, the port is covered in white. Next comes hail, followed closely by a storm. The wind tears at the finishing tape and a floodlight crashes down, hitting the ground with full force.

The crew run around the truck, trying to save the equipment. Magnus Samuelsson and Brian Weatherley sit with worried faces inside the cab, behind the embattled windscreen wipers. Months of planning are now entirely at the mercy of the weather. Yet the storm passes over just as quickly as it arrived. The heat from the truck allows the snow under the tyres to melt, and soon the centimetre thick snow is just a thin layer of powder. The crew signal to the cab that they should make an attempt. The engine purrs, Magnus engages the minimum crawler gear and revs up the engine. But something goes wrong. The truck roars and the front of the cab starts to rise into the air. “Stop! Stop!” screams Niklas Öberg, waving his arms. Magnus releases the gas and the cab front hits the ground.

 

The container train is approaching the finishing line a 100 metres from the starting point.

 

Pulling a 750-tonne container train with I-Shift crawler gears

The team is now looking at the trailers and pressurising the air system to release the brakes on each trailer for another attempt. Magnus leans back and pushes down on the accelerator. The engine rumbles and at first nothing happens. Then it begins: A super-slow forward motion. Slowly but steadily, the 300-metre, 750-tonne container train crawls forward. The truck approaches the finishing line – 100 metres from the starting point – and the crowd cheer as it passes. 

Watch the full film here

 

FACTS AND FIGURES


The truck’s specifications

Volvo FH16 750 hp in standard configuration, featuring Volvo’s strongest axles from its regular product range.

  • In order to handle the pressure on the drive axle, the plate under the fifth wheel was reinforced.

 

How the challenge was tackled

  • Before the trial was carried out, several safety measures had to be adopted. For instance, the couplings between the 20 trailers were checked thoroughly and the air pressure in all 204 tyres was finely adjusted.
  • 40 containers were loaded onto the trailers. The containers were loaded in pairs, one on top of the other.
  • All told, the truck, trailers and containers had a total weight exceeding 750 tonnes.
  • In order to obtain sufficient friction between tyres and road surface, a load of 40 tonnes was placed above the drive axles.The truck hauled the rig 100 metres.

 

Other ways of expressing 750 tonnes

  • 57 Volvo FH16 trucks.
  • 350 Volvo XC90 cars.
  • 150 fully grown adult elephants.
  • 4 Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet.
  • Just over 4.5 wind turbines.

 

I-Shift with crawler gears

  • I-Shift with crawler gears is a further development of Volvo Trucks’ I-Shift automatic transmission.
  • I-Shift with crawler gears has been specially developed for excellent starting traction and to handle driving at ultra-low speeds.
  • I-Shift with crawler gears can drive as slowly as 0.5–2 km/h and can start off from standstill while hauling 325 tonnes, a unique achievement for series-produced trucks with automatic transmission.
  • The transmission is available in a choice of direct drive and overdrive, with one or two crawler ratios. It is also possible to specify two extra reverse crawler gears.
  • The crawler gears are added to a regular I-Shift gearbox. In order to handle the high loads involved, several components are made from high-strength materials. The gearbox is 12 cm longer than a regular I-Shift unit.
  • I-Shift with crawler gears is available with Volvo Trucks’ 13- and 16-litre engines on the Volvo FM, Volvo FMX, Volvo FH and Volvo FH16.

 

 

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