Pete Cochrane

A Different Point of View

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Volvo Truck

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.