THE NEW CRAWLER GEAR VERSION OF VOLVO’S I-SHIFT AUTO NOW ALLOWS THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL SERIES PRODUCTION TRUCK TO HAUL COMBINATIONS UP TO 325-TONNES GCW. BRIAN WEATHERLEY FINDS OUT MORE.
PHOTOGRAPHY: PONTUS JOHANSSON
There’s a new breed of heavy haulage drivers in Europe. Thanks to the advent of electronically-controlled automated mechanical transmissions, they don’t have the massive forearms and muscular left legs of yesteryear. Brawn is no longer needed alongside brains. And frankly, it’s a relief: there’s enough going on during a Special Types movement to keep a driver busy. Why make life any harder with all that manual gear-changing?
Volvo’s popular I-Shift two-pedal auto box is a good case in point when it comes to taking the effort out of gear-shifting. And the latest version really puts the ‘heavy’ into heavy haulage.
Most HeavyTorque readers will be familiar with Volvo’s FH16 750, of course – which is described by the marketing men in Gothenburg as the world’s most powerful series production truck. The truck is, as the Swedes are keen to point out, assembled on the same production line as regular FH tractors, rather than some separate special-build facility. With 750hp and 3550Nm of torque delivered by its in-line six D16K diesel, it’s hardly surprising the FH16 750 is Volvo’s dedicated platform for Europe’s ultra-heavy haulage operators.
Yet for some time, there has been a noticeable chink in the FH16’s otherwise impressive armour – its gearbox.
Until recently Volvo’s 12-speed I-Shift auto has been limited to gross combination weights (GCW) of 125 tonnes. While that may be enough capacity for the average UK heavy haulier, for those wanting a single truck capable of shifting gross combination weights of up to 250 tonnes, the FH16 750 has not been a contender.