The UK’s first two Volvo FH16-700 8×4 Heavy Haulage tractor units have entered service with Bristol’s top weight transport specialists Plantspeed Ltd.

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Plantspeed Director Paul Lomas told Tachoblog that the firm operates 16 trucks of which eight are Volvo’s, “We run them for the same reason we always run top kit. It’s an advert for the business. It ensures that people remember us when they want something heavy moving. High quality kit also helps retain drivers. Volvo trucks have robust technology and we don’t have any problems. Loads and by extension, trailers, are getting heavier and longer, so the high torque of the FH16-700’s is very useful.”

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Fuel economy is as much an issue for the Heavy Haulage sector as any other, says Paul, “It’s all about fuel. The FH16-700’s deliver more torque at lower revs which helps the economy. Fuel usage is relative. If 3 or 4 mpg at 120 tonnes is the industry norm, we’re more than pleased with the FH16-700’s 5 to 6 mpg. We’ve now got an all Euro 5 fleet and it is more fuel efficient than Euro 3 or 4.”

The vehicles are fitted with Volvo’s Dynafleet Transport Information System. ”We are using it to help reduce fuel usage. For example, we have the engines set to shut down after 3 minutes idling,” adds Paul. “One benefit of Dynafleet is that we can compare the fuel performance of the two 700’s which are on similar duties. Their engine’s spread of torque definitely allows improved fuel consumption.”

According to Paul, an additional benefit accrues from the FH16-700’s rear air suspension which means that they can also be used on more general work. ”The back end deflects sufficiently for them to couple to more standard trailers. It means that we can pull a stepframe, which would be awkward with steel bogie suspension.”

Manoeuvrability may not be something usually associated with Heavy Haulers. However, the FH16-700’s can get in and out of some surprisingly tight deliveries, says Paul. “The 700’s second axle is air over hydraulic and lifts as well as steers. It gives us very good manoeuvrability and makes it a very flexible truck. Sometimes we use two Volvo’s for extra traction such as when we are moving wind turbines, for example. The FH16-660 we have on the fleet has a front of frame chassis extension which facilitates this and the 700’s have a rear mounted heavy duty towing pintle.”

Plantspeed will keep the FH16-700s – which were supplied by local Volvo Dealer Wales and West Truck and Bus of Avonmouth – for 4 -5 years, during which time they will each cover around 500,000 kms. “All technology has a lifespan. It’s important to keep up-to-date, so we like to buy the latest and best kit, although we might not always be the very first. If the technology is still at the forefront, then we might run it on for another year to give the business a bit more flexibility.”