Antonio Pérez has been driving trucks for 30 years – 28 of them with Manuel Gonzalez Transportes. His father was a truck driver, and so are his six brothers. So, it’s fair to say he knows his trucks – and he didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to be among the first to drive the new Volvo FH with I-Save.
“The driving is very smooth, because at such low revs, you can barely hear anything,” he says, as he drives through the warm, arid landscape in central Spain. “What I like about the new engine is that the response is better at low rpms. You can use a higher gear, because the torque holds up well. And because you switch gears less, of course the truck uses less fuel.”
This is pleasing news for Thomás Fernández, Operations Manager and part-owner of Manuel Gonzalez Transportes. “With current prices, fuel consumption is really important,” he explains. “The margins are very small and nowadays it’s all about the price. I have been in the business for 30 years, and it hasn’t always been like this, but now it is the same for all companies in the transport business. You can’t be more expensive than anyone else.”
You can use a higher gear, because the torque holds up well. And because you switch gears less, of course the truck uses less fuel.
Manuel Gonzalez Transportes is a family-owned business based on the outskirts of Madrid, that has gradually grown and expanded over the past 50 years to now have a fleet of over 80 trucks. Successfully reducing and minimising fuel consumption – and by extension reducing costs – is vital for the company’s future.
“Currently our average is around 28 litres per 100 kilometres, but four years ago the average was 35 litres, and eight years ago it was 38 litres,” explains Thomás Fernández. “It’s been going down but it’s difficult because as Euro 5 and Euro 6 came in, the trucks were using more fuel. We can specify the truck we want, the wheels and so on, which helps quite a lot. But to be honest there is only so much we can do since we do not make the trucks.”
However, Thomás Fernández does believe the industry has reached a turning point where manufacturers can develop engines that meet European emissions standards while also saving fuel. He points to the new Volvo FH with I-Save as a perfect example. The company has been testing the new model for several months, on different routes with different payloads, while always seeing the same positive results.
“Fuel consumption has already dropped by two litres in the last few weeks and we are down to 24 litres per 100 kilometres. For a 13-litre engine, this level of fuel consumption is very difficult to achieve, and I think it will be hard to beat. In the long-run we assume it will drop even more.”
The Volvo FH with I-Save is just the most recent Volvo Trucks’ model to be test driven by Manuel Gonzalez Transportes over the years. “We have always been open to trying new solutions and trucks, if we think they can be a good investment for us,” says Thomás Fernández. “Most of our trucks are Volvos and we have had a close collaboration with Volvo Trucks for a very long time.”
Apart from keeping costs low and remaining competitive, Manuel Gonzalez Transportes’ other main challenge is driver shortages. It’s a problem that can be seen across the whole industry in Spain, partly due to the high cost of obtaining a driver’s license. To combat this, the company is hiring inexperienced drivers and training them internally. Therefore, any solutions that can make driving a truck easier and help inexperienced drivers save fuel – such as the updated I-See – are also of great interest. As far as Thomás Fernández is concerned, the impact this has on driving is an inevitable part of improving productivity and efficiency.
“You need an adjustment period for every new vehicle, because it takes time to adapt to the vehicle and train people to drive it,” he explains. “When the first automatic transmissions came out, nobody wanted them. People said they were hard to manoeuvre and that the gears slipped. These days nobody will accept a manual transmission. The same will happen here.”
Fuel consumption has already dropped by two litres in the last few weeks and we are down to 24 litres per 100 kilometres.
However, some things will always remain the same, such as the foundations for running a successful transport company: “You will always need to have a combination of good people and good vehicles. You won’t succeed with just one and not the other.”
Manuel Gonzales Transportes
Established in: 1960s.
Owner: Family-owned business, founded by Manuel González Blázquez.
Number of employees: 125 (including 86 drivers).
Load: Frozen and temperature-controlled goods.
Number of trucks: 82 (predominantly Volvo Trucks with some Renault Trucks, MAN and Iveco).
History: Family-owned Manuel Gonzalez Transportes has been in operation since the 1960s. Today the company has facilities in eight locations in Spain and Portugal.
Services: The company offers an extensive range of services for a wide variety of different loads, from express parcel deliveries anywhere in Europe to the transportation of intermodal container ships.
Volvo FH with I-Save
The Volvo FH with I-Save is Volvo Trucks’ most fuel-efficient, long-haul vehicle to date. Its D13TC engine and updated fuel-saving features were designed to cut fuel costs by up to seven per cent. The D13TC engine uses Turbo Compound technology found in high-power aircraft engines adapted for the road, with the TC unit reusing excess heat and energy from the truck’s exhaust gases. The whole driveline has also been calibrated for maximum fuel efficiency, with a new piston design allowing less heat energy to be lost. Furthermore, I-Save integrates Volvo Trucks’ state-of-the-art technologies such as map-based I-See software and I-Cruise with I-Roll. It is especially suitable for long-haul operators that typically drive more than 120,000 km per year.