Volvo Demonstrates Adaptive Loading System

IMT-Volvo-JRHEYBURN, Idaho — Volvo Trucks rolled out a drivetrain system that management hopes will give the company a larger presence among liquid and bulk haulers, regional distribution carriers and trucking companies that often deal with diminishing loads or empty backhauls. The adaptive loading system, built around an electronically controlled suspension, switches automatically between 6×2 and 4×2 power configurations with the use of a forward tractor tandem axle that can be lifted off the ground. Company managers told reporters and editors here on Aug. 20 that when a trailer is mostly full, the lift axle places the wheels on the ground so they can bear weight and roll freely like trailer wheels. In contrast, when a trailer is mostly or completely empty and the tractor axle is not needed, up it goes and the 18-wheeler becomes a more efficient (albeit less lyrical) 14-wheeler. “Volvo has long been known as a highway tractor manufacturer in the longhaul segment,” said Wade Long, Volvo director of product marketing. “But this will help us on regional growth. It’s a second opportunity for growth.” The lift axle is made by Link Manufacturing Ltd. of Sioux Center, Iowa, and the drive axle is from Meritor Inc. Volvo announced the system at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, having started limited production in 2014. Full production starts in January, though, so the company is starting a major offensive to garner attention. During briefings in Salt Lake City and here, and ride-and-drive demonstrations on the highways in between, Volvo managers said the new system is not the same as a traditional 6×2 configuration where both axles are always on the ground — a drive axle and a tag axle. (In the more commonplace 6×4 configuration, both tractor tandem axles receive power from the engine.) Traditional 6x2s have often been criticized for their lack of traction, but Volvo has addressed the problem with “dynamic weight transfer,” said Chris Stadler, product marketing manager for regional haul.

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