New Volvo Trucks 6x2 suspension offers 4x2 flexibility

Volvo Trucks in North America today introduced Adaptive Loading, a new 6x2 liftable forward axle that automatically adjusts to load weight changes and offers 4x2 operation under certain conditions. Volvo demonstrated Adaptive Loading at the 2015 Mid-America Trucking Show.

Key benefits of Adaptive Loading include greater fuel efficiency, improved traction, lower maintenance costs and increased driver productivity. Adaptive Loading is ideal for bulk haul or general freight operations where the truck goes out loaded and returns empty and for diminishing-load applications.

"As our customers continually strive to reduce operating costs and increase productivity, we must deliver solutions tailored to their specific applications," said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America. "For many operations that run empty or lightly loaded much of the time, Adaptive Loading is an innovative way to change the truck's configuration on the fly for maximum efficiency."

To further enhance fuel efficiency gains, customers selecting Adaptive Loading can choose one of Volvo's XE – eXceptional Efficiency – powertrain packages, including XE Adaptive Gearing and XE Economy. XE powertrain packages improve fuel efficiency by lowering engine rpm at a given vehicle speed, a concept Volvo calls "downspeeding."

"Many customers selecting Adaptive Loading will find XE Adaptive Gearing a great choice as well because it is designed to benefit applications that go out loaded and return empty," said Wade Long, Volvo Trucks product marketing director. "Customers can magnify their fuel savings by optimizing both suspension and powertrain specs."

XE Adaptive Gearing, available as an option since the beginning of the year, operates in direct drive when loaded and in overdrive when empty.

Greater fuel efficiency

Like other 6x2 setups, Adaptive Loading improves fuel efficiency compared with traditional 6x4 configurations, which have two drive axles. The non-drive axle, which is in the forward position of the tandem axles, helps distribute load weight without the internal gearing of a drive axle, lowering weight and reducing internal friction. The reduced weight – more than 300 pounds compared with a 6x4 – enables a greater payload.

The liftable forward axle and Volvo's Electronically Controlled Suspension (ECS) technology offer additional fuel efficiency benefits. Adaptive Loading and Volvo's current 6x2 option both use ECS to dynamically transfer weight among the two axles. In Adaptive Loading, ECS – based on pre-programmed weight thresholds – automatically lifts the axle in empty or light-load situations to create a 4x2 configuration, which reduces rolling resistance from tires.

Lower maintenance costs

Another advantage of operating in a 4x2 configuration is reduced wear and longer life for tires and brakes installed on the lift axle. More consistent loading also offers increased tire life on the steer axle and drive axle.

Improved driver productivity

Adaptive Loading also can improve productivity for drivers. By operating the ECS in manual mode on a parked truck, drivers can raise the tractor's suspension system up to two inches above normal ride height, which can speed trailer drop-and-hook operations and make lifting the trailer's landing gear easier and safer. This enables drivers to spend more time on the road and less time at shipper and receiver facilities.

Better traction

Volvo's technology alleviates any concerns over traction in a 6x2 operation versus a 6x4. ECS preserves traction under lighter loads by transferring more weight to the drive axle. In adverse weather or other special situations, drivers can achieve enhanced traction through special ECS settings and traction support integrated into the chassis. Enhanced traction supports the truck during high-slip situations – better than 6x4 without inter-axle differential lock.

"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," Long said. "With Adaptive Loading, those customers can reduce fuel and maintenance costs by operating a different configuration when empty or lightly loaded."

Adaptive Loading

Volvo's new Adaptive Loading combines a 6x2 liftable forward axle configuration with Volvo's Electronically Controlled Suspension technology to optimize efficiency, including automatic activation of 4x2 operation when pulling empty or lightly loaded trailers.