Volvo Trucks’ axle, suspension specs raise tanker tractor fuel efficiency

Sources: Volvo Trucks North America, Greensboro, N.C.; CP staff

Adaptive Loading, a 6×2 tractor configuration whose liftable forward axle automatically adjusts to load weight changes and 4×2 operation, can lower fuel consumption 3-5 percent and tire wear 20 percent in cement and other bulk material hauling. Volvo Trucks premiered the technology at the Mid-America Trucking Show, March 26-28 in Louisville.

“Trucking applications that go out fully loaded and return empty traditionally have had to spec equipment to accommodate maximum loads even though they don’t need those specs for half the miles they run,” says Product Marketing Director Wade Long. “With Adaptive Loading, those customers can reduce fuel and maintenance costs by operating a different configuration when empty or lightly loaded.”

Like other 6×2 setups, he adds, Adaptive Loading improves fuel efficiency compared with traditional 6×4 configurations, which have two drive axles. The non-drive axle in the tandem’s forward position distributes weight without a drive axle’s internal gearing, thus reducing friction and lowering tare 300 lb. An introductory video tracks a cement tanker-bearing, Adaptive Loading-equipped Volvo VNM daycab from rail loading to ready mixed plant, illustrating the sequence and rationale for 6×2 to 4×2 transitions.

Volvo’s Electronically Controlled Suspension (ECS) technology affords additional fuel efficiency. Adaptive Loading and the 6×2 option both use ECS to dynamically transfer weight among the two axles. With pre-programmed weight thresholds, ECS automatically lifts the axle in empty or light-load conditions to create a 4×2 configuration, which decreases tires’ rolling resistance. Such operation likewise reduces wear and extends service life for the lift axle’s tires and brakes, Volvo engineers note, while more consistent loading increases steer and drive axle tire life.

Adaptive Loading can be paired with Volvo’s XE (eXceptional Efficiency) powertrain packages, including XE Adaptive Gearing and XE Economy, which lower engine rpm at a given vehicle speed—a concept dubbed “downspeeding.” Adaptive Loading and XE Adaptive Gearing suit operators that go out loaded and return empty, notes Long, adding, “Customers can magnify their fuel savings by optimizing both suspension and powertrain specs.” —