Pete Cochrane

A Different Point of View

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Swedish Trucks

Volvo FH04-500 Tractor Unit

The very impressive Volvo FH04-500
The Volvo FH04-500

Tested 08/04/2017-12/04/2017

I feel I have let this truck and Volvo down in my fuel values during this test, mainly because I drive an FH460 all the time and this truck is the same office but with a very different heart. I truly believe that had I driven it without having driven an FH before, my fuel would have been better. This is because it coasts forever and also because I do the same run every day and I am driving it to the same power off points as I would the 460 when in fact I could come off the power much sooner, in fact much, much sooner! As a result my brake count is way more than I should have done. The Volvo FH04 500 is doing exactly what I expected in comparison to the 460 version. The extra 40hp makes just that little difference when it’s on cruise control by having a bit more torque. You can see on the dash real time fuel data that it is more economical when it needs fuel. Places where you would see 1.9mpg you now see 2.5mpg as the low figures and a much better cruising fuel figure sooner.

The whole vehicle is less stressed at 500hp and does as I said run on forever, I believe this is due to the fact that it is on top of the power requirement instead of pulling the load up to the power requirement. A bit difficult to explain what I mean but would be easy to demonstrate. Power delivery is very smooth and as with all new heavy trucks its built to be on cruise control as much as possible, especially the higher horsepower trucks, and not just on motorways but whenever its safe to do so.

The cab is exactly the same as the 460 except this particular vehicle it had an electric sun blind and better seat coverings. Unfortunately I have the same little grumbles about it, namely the space in front of the passenger seat is very cramped compared to the Scania, and I can’t help thinking that if I was using this truck on long haul European work like I used to, then I would have been a bit uncomfortable if I was parked up for extended periods. Next is the fact that it is a dirty truck compared to either the new Next Generation Scania or its predecessor the Scania Streamline, and gets very dirty mirrors that really impact your rear viewing capabilities quite quickly in damp weather. On a positive note, the Volvo is a brilliant truck on smart motorways or average speed camera controlled roadworks compared to the Scania’s. This is because on the Volvo you can press the Eco button on the steering wheel and bring the speed down to 1mph instead of the default 3mph for economic operations, then set the cruise control at 49mph and let the truck get on with it. It will not exceed 50mph and it will not fall away speed wise either as the Scania’s seem’s to. The only thing you have to remember is to press the Eco button and set the value back to 3mph for the best economic running when the speed restriction ends.

Interpretation of the Dynafleet data needs to be correct as quite often while you are on cruise, the vehicle goes into coasting mode in exactly the same way as you would have done it by dropping it out of cruise. The difference is in the data on Dynafleet because as the coasting value seems to reflect coasting when you coast off cruise and is the total value of coasting above and below 89kph OFF CRUISE. If it coasts in cruise, the overspeed value increases but the coasting value doesn’t! If the Eco button is in the default 3mph setting, the truck shouldn’t exceed 59mph on cruise and the overspeed is referring to coasting between 56mph and 59mph. Therefore the true coasting value should be the total of the two values as long as the cruise control usage value is high. It took me a while to work that one out! There is something more to this observation that is important but escapes me at the moment, but I will add an addendum when I remember.

Overall in the five days of testing, I have had a double-deck fridge fully loaded, square and round edged fridges, extreme variations in traffic and weather including worsening high winds on some days and a routing cock up that added an hour and a half onto a normal runtime. So a consistent test as planned has not worked out. As usual I have recorded everything daily as I do with my regular truck and other demo units. Plus as is usual with a test truck a physical fuel fill test. Dash fuel figures range between 8.8mpg and 9.8mpg which is either better or consistent with my usual FH460 figures (This vehicle had only 16000 kms on it when I started testing, so is still not run in properly yet), Physical fuel on three of the days was 9.35mpg, 9.59 mpg and 9.38mpg respectively. From experience of other manufacturers test vehicles this is fairly good. Physical fuel checks confirm the accuracy of dash and telemetry data. Adblue use seems consistent with the FH460 values with this vehicle.

On the final day of testing the 500 really showed how good it is. Through no fault of the Volvo I was held up with a breakdown which resulted in me leaving my last drop quarter of an hour later than my due loading time three quarters of an hour away. Making progress while keeping to the national speed limits across country is no problem for the 500 and I arrived at my loading point bang on the time I had given them. With the high winds I had been experiencing all day and severe congestion on the Scottish road system, the Volvo was showing only 8.3mpg which to be fair was still better than the 460 would have achieved but not what I was happy with. Even worse was the fact I had no time to try and get the figure to improve, or so I thought. As soon as I was loaded with the cargo of 16 pallets of Milk, I left Bridge of Allan via Stirling to join the M80 at Stirling services before tackling a very congested M73 and even worse M74 at Raith. Wherever possible I had it on the limiter and it never broke stroke. Even better by the time I got back to Penrith, the fuel figure had improved to 9MPG, a figure that the 460 would never have done under the same conditions. Stunningly impressive is the only way I can describe it.

In conclusion, all I can tell you is that whenever I test a truck, I evaluate it as if I was buying it for myself and apply the same comparison techniques I used when I owned my own truck operation. The main things I am looking for in a truck are comfort, reliability and above all else a good balance of power and economy. I have never been a subscriber of just buying high power trucks other than unless the job requires them, and in my humble opinion 500 hp is about as much as you need pulling a fridge.
I can’t believe I am going to write this next bit, but here goes. I have tested a lot of the best trucks meeting our requirements including the superb Next Generation Scania R450, but if I was given the choice between the Next Generation Scania R450 and the Volvo FH04 500 I have just been testing, then I would have picked the Volvo. Anybody that knows me, also knows that I am a dyed in the wool Scania fan and would not say this lightly, but in the absence of not having tested the S500 Next Generation Scania, I would without doubt have picked the Volvo 500. It is a truly awesome truck and if you are buying one or just driving one, you will not be disappointed.



If You Have A Passion – Just Do It

I have an urgent message for you. If you have a dream or a passion follow it without distraction.

From day one it was a struggle financially as I had very little money when I started. As my outfit got bigger so did the workload, and as I started employing more drivers, so did the headaches of keeping the trucks moving and legal. Anyway, to cut a long story short, my knowledge of the business allowed me to see via my projections that transport was starting to decline as legislation became tougher. So I decided to sell up, on the premise that I would find a new business venture. Initially, I wondered if I had done the right thing but felt vindicated a couple of years later when road haulage in the U.K. Did take a dive for the small operator.

I went back to college and studied advanced application programming, passed all my exams and promptly decided that I probably couldn’t sit in an office all day programming. So I got my thinking head on again and believe it or not a few weeks later, a job as a truckie for a top British Superbike team came along. This in turn led to a job working for a support company supplying manpower and solutions in MotoGP for another top team, and then into Formula 1 supporting a very well know Italian team with red cars, that had a very skilled German driver working for them at the time. This job took me all over the World, working in many areas of Motorsport at a very high standard of work. Some years later, travelling had lost its lustre and I yearned to be home with my long suffering wife and kids more.

I wanted to start another business but still couldn’t think of what to do. Needing money to support my family, I went back to driving a truck for a large company. Thirteen years later and in my sixtieth year, I am still driving a truck for a large company albeit a different one, and I still yearn for my own business again despite still not knowing what I want to do.

Life seemed to last forever in my twenties, thirties and forties, but when you get in to your sixties, the years become a blur as they pass. This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped searching for my next adventure and I am sure the next chapter of my life’s journey is not far away.
So my message to you is follow your dream, follow your passion, take a chance while you are young. Life is but a blur as time goes by and the worst thing that can happen to you, is to get to your death bed wishing you had taken a chance.

I don’t have too many regrets as I have done many things that other people would have loved to have done. None of it has been easy though, also I still have that niggling feeling that I haven’t achieved my full potential, and that I have to leave my mark on this world as a legacy if nothing else. As Sir Richard Branson says ” Screw it, let’s do it”. It’s a worthy sentiment.




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