Volvo Trucks’ newly designed VHD Series is ideal for applications such as dump, mixer, roll-off,...

Volvo Trucks’ newly designed VHD Series is ideal for applications such as dump, mixer, roll-off, logging, snow plow, crane and many other specialty vocations.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Three years have passed since Volvo Trucks North America introduced the remodeled VNR regional tractor in April 2017. The VNL followed later than year, the updated VNX hit the street in March 2018. Earlier this year at Conexpo in Las Vegas, Volvo showed the updated VHD, but didn't formally introduced it to the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And a few weeks ago, Volvo took the wraps off the updated VAH model.

On July 16 at an online press briefing, Magnus Koeck, vice president of strategy, marketing and brand management, announced, "Our full range of product is now complete."

Volvo used the briefing to highlight the advancements to vocational VHD and VAH models.

Both trucks now have the same modern, state-of-the-art interior found on other Volvo models, including new LED lighting for increased visibility and a symmetrical instrument cluster with a high-resolution, programmable LCD screen that conveys critical vehicle alerts and system settings. An optional infotainment system features a 7-inch color touch screen and integrated premium audio. They come with the same seating and interior options as the rest of the lineup, along with Volvo's Position Perfect steering configuration.

The new VHD and VAH trucks also offer the latest in safety and uptime solutions for vocational and specialty applications, including updates to the Volvo Active Driver Assist (VADA) collision-avoidance system, which uses radar and automatic braking technology to monitor road hazards and provide the ability to completely stop in certain emergency situations. The next-generation VADA provides integrated radar/camera capabilities, highway departure warnings, adaptive cruise control and more.

Volvo Trucks North America says it has completed its product portfolio upgrades, with extensive...

Volvo Trucks North America says it has completed its product portfolio upgrades, with extensive penetration of its proprietary powertrain.

Graphic: Volvo Trucks North America

New to both vocational models is Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS), which adds torque to the steering shaft through an integrated electric motor to reduce steering strain at low speeds and remove vibrations caused by rough terrain (VDS is available only on axle-back VHD models).

Volvo Trucks’ Remote Diagnostics platform – designed to maximize uptime with 24/7 monitoring of engine, transmission and aftertreatment systems – is standard on the new VAH and VHD. Enhanced proactive diagnostics enables a detailed analysis of critical fault codes for repair planning, immediate communication if actions are required, and streamlined service procedures. Remote Programming, as part of the Remote Diagnostics service bundle, is also available.

Remote Programming provides significant time savings, as updates and parameter changes can be done in a matter of minutes over the air, without the customer having to visit a dealership.

"The technology behind the VADA system and our range of other driver productivity features built into the new Volvo VAH has progressed exponentially over the last several years," noted Andy Hanson, Volvo Trucks North America's product marketing manager. "The advantages in vehicle and driver performance put these models into a category by themselves."

Rounding out the enhancement and upgrades common to both models is a new modern look that reflects the other models in the Volvo Trucks family, including new hood and grille designs, as well as new LED high/low beam headlights. The fully sealed headlamp component offers a brighter, more focused beam for increased visibility. Volvo now offers a headlight de-icing feature that melts ice and snow that accumulates on headlamps in colder weather.                

New VHD Tougher, Smarter

Volvo calls the new VHD the most significant evolution of its vocational offering in decades, with a combination of structural upgrades, and technological advances.

Starting with lift axles, previously, the VHD was available with only one factory installed lift axle, either a tag or a pusher. Volvo will now install two lift axles at the factory, and will provide controls, plumbing and frame-hole punching, for a faster install by an upfitter.

The VHD is still offered in single, tandem and tri-drive configurations with spring, walking beam, air-ride and T-ride suspension, but Volvo has made two enhancements to the T-ride. First, a firm version is available in 44,000- and 46,000-pound capacity, designed for applications with higher center-of-gravity requiring greater roll stiffness, such as concrete mixers. Volvo says the Firm T-ride is 200 pounds lighter than a comparable-performing walking-beam suspension.

Second, the T-ride is now offered in a two-shock configuration, a change from the previous four-shock arrangement. The shocks are fitted to the front drive axle, leaving more room out back for applications with short overhangs such as roll-off.

The new hood styling is aligned with the rest of the new Volvo lineup, and includes redesigned grille and bumper, new fender flares and a redesigned air intake port, which can still be configured as a hatch for fluid level checks in applications like snowplows where the hood cannot be fully opened conveniently. The new grille surround is available in black or a chrome satin finish.

The new bumper includes a 45mm tow-pin rated for 80,000 pounds. The tow pin on the axle-back VHD is recessed to maintain the 113.6-inch bumper-to-back-of-cab dimension.

And of course, the VHD comes standard with the Volvo I-Shift transmission with one or two crawler gears that enable the VHD to start on steep grades, provide low-speed control, and reach maximum highway speeds with faster rear axle ratios.

"We listened to our customers, and are proud to showcase the newly updated VHD with the same class-leading features and technological innovations our customers expect from a Volvo truck, with relevant and important updates that benefit the functional needs of vocational applications," said John Felder, product marketing manager, Volvo Trucks North America. "At Volvo Trucks, we continue to improve our product offerings and we have done so for an already tough vocational truck model. Now, this smarter and more innovative VHD for the vocational market raises the bar on what it takes to be an all-around great work truck."

New VAH Maximizes Payload

The big news for the VAH auto-hauler chassis (which is based on the VHD chassis) emerged in March when Volvo announced the 300-model roof height was trimmed 1.5 inches lower than any other Class 8 car carrier. John Felder, VTNA's product marketing manager, said at the time, “Through extensive research, testing and engineering in collaboration with Fontaine Modification, the new VAH 300 model with a 94.5-inch height represents a new standard of excellence for trucks in the highly specialized auto hauler market."

The new VAH auto hauler model features a modern design and offers maximum payload including the...

The new VAH auto hauler model features a modern design and offers maximum payload including the lowest cab height in the industry.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Now, VAH customers get the lowest roof height in the game, with the latest Volvo sytling and driver amenities. The updated VAH model uses deep-drop front axles, low-height Volvo Air Ride rear suspensions, and industry-exclusive reduced-height cab options to create a lower overall roof height. This allows for larger pick-up trucks, minivans and SUVs to be positioned above the cab while still meeting height and clearance regulations. All that comes without structural changes outside of the roof modification required on the cab.

The Fontaine Modification lops an additional half inch off the factory roof height. “At Fontaine, we are proud of our recent changes that will provide about three more critical inches of room for hauling larger vehicles above the VAH 300 day-cab,” said Paul Kokalis, president of Fontaine Modification Company in March.

The new VAH comes in three variations offered through Fontaine Modification:

  • The VAH 300 day-cab offers 11-vehicle capacity and a tight turning radius for easier maneuvering. The VAH 300 features a 113.6-inch BBC and is available with a 94.5- or 97.5-inch (unladen) roof height (Fontaine model 94 or 97 inches).
  • The VAH 400 sleeper provides a 52-inch interior cab height for comfortable overnight during extended regional deliveries. Along with maximum payload capacity, the VAH 400 offers a 145.6-inch BBC and can be ordered with a 97.5- or 102.5- inch roof height (Fontaine model 97 or 102 inches).
  • The VAH 600 sleeper offers cab height of 61 inches for maximum comfort on long-haul routes requiring multiple nights on the road. The auto-hauling industry’s premium sleeper features a 36-inch wide mattress, ample storage space and refrigerator capacity. The VAH 600 has a 164.1- inch BBC and is available with a 97.5- or 102.5-inch roof height (Fontaine model 97 or 102 inches).
About the author
Jim Park

Jim Park

Equipment Editor

A truck driver and owner-operator for 20 years before becoming a trucking journalist, Jim Park maintains his commercial driver’s license and brings a real-world perspective to Test Drives, as well as to features about equipment spec’ing and trends, maintenance and drivers. His On the Spot videos bring a new dimension to his trucking reporting. And he's the primary host of the HDT Talks Trucking videocast/podcast.

View Bio