Volvo has invested more than $400 million in the design of its all-new VNL Class 8 tractor.   -  Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Volvo has invested more than $400 million in the design of its all-new VNL Class 8 tractor. 

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Following a teaser video earlier this month, Volvo Trucks North America launched its new VNL Class 8 tractor during an online event on Jan. 23. Peter Voorhoeve, president, Volvo Trucks North America, called the new VNL a completely “reimagined” truck designed to improve customer value, driver productivity, safety, and sustainability.

With a highly aerodynamic design, the new truck is engineered to achieve a fuel efficiency improvement of up to 10% compared to the current VNL model.

“The all-new Volvo VNL was designed to change everything," said Voorhoeve during the online launch. “However, change doesn’t only come with a redesigned truck. This product introduction is the start of a new era for Volvo Trucks, our customers, and their drivers — a quantum leap forward.”

Volvo engineers started the new VNL project with a blank sheet of paper and thoroughly analyzed the trends and transformations affecting the industry. Key design focuses included sustainability and the transportation demands of the future – attributes Voorhoeve said are firmly rooted in the history of the VNL tractor.

“When we launched the first generation of the Volvo VN in 1996, its ‘unconventional’ aerodynamic body style set a new standard for the North American trucking industry,” Voorhoeve said. “We did the unthinkable in 2007 when we introduced the I-Shift in North America and spurred the industry’s transition toward automated manual transmissions.

"As we bring the all-new Volvo VNL to market, we are excited to once again introduce innovations that will shape the future of the transportation industry for years to come.”

A Platform for all Technologies

According to Voorhoeve, the new Volvo VNL will be the platform for all the company's upcoming technologies, including future transportation solutions of battery-electric, fuel cell and internal combustion engines running on renewable fuels including hydrogen.

“The new Volvo VNL is the most innovative, safest and fuel-efficient truck we’ve ever built,” Voorhoeve said. “The all-new VNL is the platform for all of our future trucks and future technologies – including autonomous trucks, battery-electric trucks and hydrogen fuel cell trucks that will help trucking transform to a decarbonized future."

The new Volvo VNL will be the OEM's Volvo VNL will be the platform for all upcoming technologies, including battery-electric, fuel cell and internal combustion engines running on renewable fuels including hydrogen.   -  Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

The new Volvo VNL will be the OEM's Volvo VNL will be the platform for all upcoming technologies, including battery-electric, fuel cell and internal combustion engines running on renewable fuels including hydrogen. 

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Volvo said the new VNL features the North American trucking industry’s first 24-volt electrical infrastructure. This helps to minimize battery and electrical failures and improve serviceability when it comes to pinpointing and repairing electrical issues. 

Johan Agebrand, director, product marketing, Volvo Trucks North America, said 24-volt electrical systems are now common in Europe and make a lot of sense given new technologies and power demands for trucks today.

“We understand there is a 12-volt heritage here in North America,” he explained. "But many new components are 24-volt. And switching to that electrical system allows us to build them smaller – but maintain the same level of reliability. Lights in the cab are now LEDs and down to five volts, for example. So all things considered, we felt this was the best decision after we considered all our options. It all goes back to weight and payload for the vehicle. And a 24-volt system best supports those design components.”

Volvo designers put specific systems and locations in place under the hood to aid jumpstarts with a 12-volt vehicle, Agebrand added.

The new truck also features new active safety features that Voorhoeve said will be the standard for the future commercialization of fully autonomous trucks.

The new Volvo VNL focuses on improvements in five key areas, according to Voorhoeve:

  • Fuel efficiency
  • Safety
  • Driver productivity
  • Connected services
  • Uptime

Aerodynamics, Powertrain Changes for Fuel Efficiency

The streamlined and more angular, wedge-shaped cab design of the new Volvo VNL, featuring a dramatically redesigned windshield, is a key factor in achieving up to 10% improvement in fuel efficiency.

Additional aerodynamic gains were created from the integration of the curved and bonded windshield, as well as tighter clearances around turbulent air areas like wheel openings, the bumper and the hood, chassis fairings and promoting a tighter trailer gap. These designs, all key components of the aerodynamic gains, were developed and tested in parallel with Volvo Trucks’ SuperTruck 2.

Volvo Trucks engineers also made significant improvements to the truck’s powertrain. The new Volvo VNL is powered by the latest generation D13 engine, designed to deliver improved fuel efficiency, performance, and durability.

The D13 engine is available in four horsepower ratings, ranging from 405-500 hp, and three torque ratings from 1,750-1,950 lb-ft of torque. These different power options are designed to suit different applications and incorporate the improved and optimized I-Shift transmission, which features up to 30% faster shift speeds.

When combined with the I-Torque powertrain solution, the D13 can deliver even greater fuel savings, best-in-class versatility, and drivability, according to Volvo.

Comprehensive Safety Features on the Road to Autonomous Trucks

Volvo engineers also focused on new and improved proprietary active and passive safety features to continue the company's journey towards zero accidents, Voorhoeve said.

A variety of active safety systems will be offered on the new VNL.

Volvo Active Driver Assist Plus with Pilot Assist provides active lane centering assistance. Volvo Active Driver Assist Plus is powered by Volvo Dynamic Steering, which improves maneuvering at all speeds, including more controlled backing. It increases stability at all road speeds, and adapts and corrects for crosswinds, highway crowning, soft shoulders, or emergency situations like tire failure.

The new pedestrian detection feature alerts the driver when a pedestrian or bicyclist may be in their path or blind spots and will activate frontal automatic emergency braking for objects directly in the path of travel.

The truck also features an array of passive safety systems. These include a bonded and wrapped windshield providing panoramic views.

The cab of the new Volvo VNL is designed according to Volvo Trucks’ leading crash test standards and will offer a side-curtain airbag, with options for driver-only or driver and passenger airbags, a North American industry first, according to Volvo.

A new cab and sleeper on the Volvo VNL features an optional folding bunk to allow easy access to the dinette space, a singular multi-functional control panel in the back of the cab, upgraded insulation for climate control and noise reduction, a larger refrigerator, and enough power options to support any device.  -  Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

A new cab and sleeper on the Volvo VNL features an optional folding bunk to allow easy access to the dinette space, a singular multi-functional control panel in the back of the cab, upgraded insulation for climate control and noise reduction, a larger refrigerator, and enough power options to support any device.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

The new VNL Cabs are constructed of high-strength steel to deflect the energy of a crash to reduce the chance of injury. The new VNL also features Volvo Trucks’ flared frame rail design, which allows the powertrain to drop down below the cab to protect the driver during a crash.

E-Call is a new safety feature on the truck. It connects the driver to emergency services where cellular connectivity is available and provides precise location details. This occurs automatically in the event of a rollover crash or airbag deployment.

Driver-Centric Design

According to Voorhoeve, Volvo designers evaluated every detail of the driver experience, from selecting materials that provide a premium look and feel, to redefining cab lighting and optimizing storage to create a “home away from home” experience for drivers.

The new Volvo VNL features new and dramatically improved amenities, including an optional folding bunk to allow easy access to the dinette space, a singular multi-functional control panel in the back of the cab, upgraded insulation for climate control and noise reduction, a larger refrigerator, and enough power options to support any device.

Another key design point is the truck’s ride characteristics. A new, optional air suspension system, GRAS (Global Rear Air Suspension), uses dual leveling rods to reduce roll and pitch angles, improve lateral stability, and minimize road shocks, maintaining a constant ride height. The GRAS system offers superior ride quality, stability, and handling for the new Volvo VNL, Voorhoeve added.

The GRAS and the supporting Volvo Smart Suspension software work with the Volvo Dynamic Steering system to provide precise steering control and reduce driver fatigue regardless of load, terrain, road condition and varying engine torque levels, according to Volvo. GRAS with Volvo Smart Suspension is designed to make deliveries easier as drivers are provided with three different settings to adjust the suspension for different loading and unloading conditions.

The new Volvo VNL features Volvo Trucks’ new idle management tool to help reduce or eliminate engine idling when the vehicle is stopped or parked. Parking Cooler is a quiet, proprietary, integrated Volvo climate-control option that uses the onboard 24-volt battery system to power the cab’s HVAC when parked, reducing emissions, engine wear, and fuel costs.

Volvo said Parking Cooler enhances the resting experience for drivers by eliminating noise and vibration from idling. For drivers parked in areas where idling is prohibited, the integrated Volvo Parking Cooler maintains a comfortable climate to maximize driver health, safety, and well-being, Volvo said.

Parking Cooler is a quiet, proprietary, integrated Volvo climate-control option that utilizes the onboard 24-volt battery system to power the cab’s HVAC when parked, reducing emissions, engine wear, and fuel costs.  -  Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Parking Cooler is a quiet, proprietary, integrated Volvo climate-control option that utilizes the onboard 24-volt battery system to power the cab’s HVAC when parked, reducing emissions, engine wear, and fuel costs.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

A Connected Truck with Integrated Digital Solutions

Volvo's fleet management portal, Volvo Connect, plays a key role in integrating all the various digital services fleets rely on today in operating platform. These include vehicle data insights, diagnostics, remote programming, fuel economy reports, safety reports, and location services.

A complimentary, 24-month Volvo Connect subscription comes standard with all new Volvo trucks.

With the new Volvo MyTruck app, drivers can stay in touch with their truck by seeing their estimated remaining fuel range, DEF levels, and coolant levels as well as receiving notifications about potential issues such as light malfunctions, low washer fluid levels and other important items so they can address them at rest breaks or in their pre-trip inspection.

Additionally, with the MyTruck app, drivers can schedule specific days and times to start the climate control to have the cabin climate reach their preferred temperature before arriving to their truck to start their workday.

The Blue Service Contract, an optional, comprehensive dealer managed service plan, leverages Volvo’s connected services to boost uptime and efficiency. By using Volvo’s connected services, dealers have real-time data when maintenance is due and diagnostic information for any detected fault codes. This enables the customer to schedule service in advance and have dealers perform remote programming updates to maintain the health of the truck and prevent unplanned downtime. During dealer afterhours, Volvo Trucks’ Uptime Center continues to remotely monitor the truck and will alert plan subscribers if any critical issues arise.

A New Option Packaging Process

Volvo Trucks has also introduced a new spec’ing process for the new Volvo VNL series. This process introduces new packaging options for powertrain and safety. Voorhoeve said this move is an industry first that simplifies and optimizes the configuration and ordering process and streamlines the assembly operations.

Customers can choose the optimal powertrain package for their application duty cycle and fuel efficiency goals by selecting from three powertrain packages that feature the Volvo D13 engine with five different horsepower and torque ratings available.

The new VNL sleeper berth features an optional folding bunk to allow easy access to the dinette space, a singular multi-functional control panel in the back of the cab, upgraded insulation for climate control and noise reduction, a larger refrigerator, and enough power options to support any device.  -  Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

The new VNL sleeper berth features an optional folding bunk to allow easy access to the dinette space, a singular multi-functional control panel in the back of the cab, upgraded insulation for climate control and noise reduction, a larger refrigerator, and enough power options to support any device.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Additionally, customers can select from several safety packages to ensure that their truck is equipped with the appropriate technology to meet their fleet safety goals of protecting their drivers, those around their trucks, and the assets they are hauling. Bundling the proper safety features promotes Volvo’s goal of zero accidents.

Volvo VNL Available in Six Cab Configurations

  • VNL 300 Day Cab 
  • VNL 440 42-inch Mid-Roof Sleeper 
  • VNL 640 62-inch Mid-Roof Sleeper 
  • VNL 660 62-inch Full-Height Sleeper  
  • VNL 840 74-inch Mid-Roof Sleeper 
  • VNL 860 74-inch Full-Height Sleeper

New Interactive Configurator

To explore the new Volvo VNL features and trim levels in an interactive way, Volvo Trucks has developed a new online Volvo VNL configurator. The configurator provides detailed information on the features and benefits of each trim level and cab option, as well as a 360-degree view of the truck interior and exterior.

Training will be available to dealer sales staff to enable them to consult with customers on the ideal Volvo VNL configuration for their respective transport applications.

The all-new Volvo VNL is packaged into four exterior and interior trim levels — Core, Edge, Edge Black and Ultimate — with six cab configurations, each designed to fit customers’ preference, brand identity, and operational use.

Made in North America

Volvo has invested more than $400 million in the new Volvo VNL, including a new addition to its truck manufacturing plant in Dublin, Virginia. "The fact that this truck was completely designed in and will be built in North America is something that we are extremely proud of," Voorhoeve added.

“Progressive solutions are needed to help tackle the challenges of the transportation industry, including the need for increased productivity and efficiency while also reducing emissions," said Voorhoeve. "Companies must prioritize driver retention and well-being with driver-friendly features and advanced technologies, providing an exceptional driving experience that is key for fleets to attract and retain drivers.

"As we completely reimagined the Volvo VNL, we looked at the future of transportation and saw an opportunity to set new industry standards and sustainably shape the world we want to move.”

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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