Giti Tyres Big Test | The Traffords Test

 
 February 2020     VOLVO FM13 540 HA AIR RIDE DAY CAB 8x4   Story Dave McLeod Photos Gerald Shacklock

Giti Tyres Big Test - The Traffords Test

When career truckdriver Nigel Heke first heard about a dual clutch version of Volvo’s slick I-Shift automated manual transmission he was dubious.

Never mind what Volvo said about it being faster, smoother, safer, more fuel efficient…he seriously wondered how the hell it was going to be an improvement on the existing I-Shift – already, he reckons, a “pretty good” gearbox.

But then Mount Maunganui-based McFall Fuel – where Nigel combines driving duties with driver training and assessment – bought New Zealand’s first new FM13 540 with an I-Shift Dual Clutch installed….

And asked him to deliver it to Palmerston North. To say he was impressed doesn’t quite cut it: “It was awesome! I had a driver with me, and I said to him ‘did you notice any of the changes?’ He goes: ‘What changes?’ 

“I said: ‘Exactly! It’s gone through every gear and you didn’t notice a thing.’ He goes: ‘Holy shit!’ ”

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Pirelli Trevor Test

I’ve driven Volvo’s I-Shift Dual Clutch before – on its demonstrator – and was impressed with its quick and effortless shifting and the feeling of continuous power as you pull uphill loaded. Now it’s time to experience it in a real-life working environment.

McFall Fuel’s logistics manager Scott Jeanes offers us the option of a range of runs with its newest Volvo FM 540 – and the one from its Mt Maunganui base to Gisborne ticks the boxes for a great test route for the Dual Clutch technology.

The FM truck and trailer unit will be loaded to 50 tonnes and there’ll be plenty of gearshifting through the long, winding Waioeka Gorge, then a good hard pull up Traffords Hill.  

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Giti Tyres Big Test - The Traffords Test

When career truck driver Nigel Heke first heard about a dual clutch version of Volvo’s slick I-Shift automated manual transmission he was dubious.
Never mind what Volvo said about it being faster, smoother, safer, more fuel efficient…he seriously wondered how the hell it was going to be an improvement on the existing I-Shift – already, he reckons, a “pretty good” gearbox.
But then Mount Maunganui-based McFall Fuel – where Nigel combines driving duties with driver training and assessment – bought New Zealand’s first new FM13 540 with an I-Shift Dual Clutch installed….
And asked him to deliver it to Palmerston North. To say he was impressed doesn’t quite cut it: “It was awesome! I had a driver with me, and I said to him ‘did you notice any of the changes?’ He goes: ‘What changes?’ 
“I said: ‘Exactly! It’s gone through every gear and you didn’t notice a thing.’ He goes: ‘Holy shit!’ ”
He was, he reconfirms (in case it wasn’t already apparent!) “impressed with this thing – the speed at which it changed from 4th to top gear was less than five seconds. Top gear and 90km/h! Admittedly the unit was empty – but it was so quick! It gets up to peak performance straight away. You’re on a win.”
While Nigel concedes that he’s generally all for the new technology increasingly appearing in modern trucks, he is also still an Eaton Roadranger fan: “I love the 18-speed – that drive-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of thing. 
“If we went back to the 18-speed it wouldn’t phase me that much…but changing a thousand gears during the day, as opposed to this doing it for you…. It’s a no-brainer.”
The (non-Dual Clutch) I-Shifts in the earlier FMs were good, he says – but “you noticed the gearchanges. They were subtle, but they were there. But then, shit, you hop into this one…!” 
Given his driver training role, the delivery drive in the I-Shift Dual Clutch-equipped FM was a valuable lesson he could pass on to other company drivers – that they’d need “to be careful what you’re doing when you’re driving (this) – you have to look at the dash now just to know what gear you’re in, ‘cos it’s so bloody smooth. 
“You could be coming up to a bend and still be in top gear. You need to come back down.
“There is a bit of a lull in the range-change, between sixth and seventh, but apart from that every change is so smooth you just don’t notice it’s going on eh….you don’t actually know you’re changing gear. The revs don’t even drop off.” 
And he’s not alone in holding the twin clutch I-Shift in high esteem: “The feedback from the guys is that they love it eh. Not just the safety features, but also the Dual Clutch.” 
Even so, perfection is hard to come by – so does it sometimes stumble….even a little? Nigel reckons no: “I haven’t come across it yet. But on some of the hills it probably will, especially if it’s in Economy mode. I try to advise the guys to put it into Performance mode on the hills when loaded, so that it only grabs a gear one jump at a time, instead of two or three. 
“In Economy it’ll grab big chunks of three! It’s always trying to keep the revs low. In Performance, it’ll grab those revs a little bit more and hold that gear a little bit better.”
How all this works in the I-Shift Dual Clutch, which Volvo says “is the world’s first dual clutch transmission system for heavy trucks,” is that it can pre-select the next gear while driving in the current one. 
Explains Volvo: “So, one clutch is idling while the other is engaged. Thanks to two input shafts and an ingenious arrangement of gearwheels and selecting elements, two gears can then be selected at the same time. The result? Gear shifting that takes place in a fraction of a second – without interrupting the power delivery.”
In the new McFalls truck and trailer tanker unit, the I-Shift Dual Clutch comes in an 8x4 truck and is installed behind a 12.8-litre DC13C540 engine that produces 397 kilowatts/540 horsepower and 2600 Newton metres/1917 lb ft of peak torque.
When we join Nigel and the new Volvo in Mount Maunganui, the nine-axle HPMV unit is already loaded with 37,000 litres of diesel destined for Gisborne – 12,000 l. in the tank on the truck and 25,000 litres on the five-axle trailer. The unit was built by Tanker Solutions, with American-designed Heil tanks (which Tanker Solutions represents in NZ).
The NZ Truck & Driver team will make the trip down the coast to Opotiki, then inland through the Waioeka Gorge to get a taste of how good this trick twin clutch system really is. 
Nigel’s been working for McFall Fuels for 18 years but prior to that he worked for a decade at BP-owned Bitumix in Rotorua, home of “the best sealing gang in the country,” he reckons. And before that he was driving tankers for a stock feed company. So he knows a bit about tankers.
And yes, he says, carting fuel carries potential risks….which have to be managed: “It deserves respect. Fuel and chemicals – not much difference between the two of them eh. Really dangerous. But you give it that respect, you get home every day.” 
Access to the day cab FM is a really easy two step, front and rear grabhandle affair. The cab itself is a modern, well-equipped work environment – with a heated and air-suspended driver’s seat (Nigel would like a matcher for it on the passenger side too, seeing as he spends a lot of time there, assessing McFall’s 20 other Tauranga area drivers), a driver-centric dashboard display and lots of controls close at hand.
There’s a mechanical instrument cluster with a colour digital instrument display, an SID touchscreen (with onboard vehicle and internet portal support for Dynafleet), an ample number of switches on the steering wheel – the left side handling the truck’s adaptive cruise control, speed limiter and phone controls, while the right takes care of the radio and digital display screen.
As a reminder that the liquid load onboard carries more potential risk than your usual general freight, livestock, logs or whatever, before we head off Nigel runs through a mini safety briefing – pointing out where the emergency cutoff switches are, tells me that the doors are linked to the brakes (and will slam on should I open them while we’re moving) and what to do in an emergency or should he be incapacitated. I gulp, sign an acknowledgement and we head off.     
McFall Fuel’s Hocking Street yard at the Mount – its main depot – is right next to State Highway 2A. As we wait for a break in the traffic to get on our way, Nigel provides a few details of today’s job.
Given that the tare weight of the unit is around 17 tonnes (12t for the 8x4), our 37,000-litre payload equates to around 33 tonnes. So we’re full to the brim….at just a little under 50t.
It’s busy at the moment and one or two truck and trailer loads of fuel are heading to Gisborne daily.
“The real test for this truck and the gearbox,” he points out, “will be climbing Traffords Hill. You go through the (Waioeka) Gorge, which is pretty windy, and then up over the hill. It’s pretty tough.” 
Traffords is exactly the area that we’d already figured was going to be THE spot where this would really give us the chance to put the I-Shift Dual Clutch to the test….but it’s good to get confirmation from someone who does this run regularly.
Even fully loaded, the I-Shift jumps three gears at a time, from first, before settling a little at the range-change between sixth and seventh….and then taking just one gear at a time from then on.
It upshifts at 1300-1400rpm (right in the optimum rev range) on the flat road. We’re soon in 10th, moving along easily in heavyish traffic at 45km/h. Nigel prefers to keep the DC13 engine’s Volvo VEB+ engine brake at its third level, so he barely needs to touch the brakes as we slow for roundabouts and the like.
The McFall tanker fleet currently runs to 47 Volvos (with six more on order) – 38 of them FMs, with one FH and eight FMXes.
Prior to the Volvos, the fleet was primarily Fodens, says Nigel: “We actually ended up with the last Foden that was brought into the country. The 617 was our last one.
“After that, we were looking for the next truck to go into. Volvo happened to have a roadshow one day and so our GM (Paul Clampitt), Scotty (logistics manager Scott Jeanes) and a couple others of us went for a bit of a run in these Volvos (FMs)….and we were sold on them eh. 
“Scotty had a good look at what was out there, to see what was next – and BP are always keen on the safety features on the Volvo. And once we took one for a ride, that was it.”
He reckons that the company had also looked at DAF CF85s – but they were “a bit heavier than these….” And “what sold the boss on these were the safety features and the crash testing. To Paul, Allan (McFall, managing director) and the board, the safety of the drivers was paramount.” 
Nigel reckons that he’s “lucky enough that the boss pushed for Volvos. Being one of those guys who loves comfort, I was sold on them right away.”
Mind you, Nigel for one had been more than happy with the Fodens too: “The Foden was pretty much a European cab with good American running gear on it – suspension and everything. I thought that was a pretty awesome solution right there. 
“The Foden was a nice strong truck for the bush: We did – and still do – a lot of bush (work)…and the (Foden) truck and trailer was ideal. The ride heights and everything.
“I thought, ‘shit, if they were going to continue to build them, we were going to have to stay with them.’ They were the right fit for us. But unfortunately they stopped making them.”
And make no mistake, he now much prefers the new Volvo anyway: “It’s better in a lot of ways.”
Better too than the initial FMs bought by the company – simply because they didn’t have as much ground clearance: “They were an awesome truck on the road – not so much off the road eh. They were 200mm lower than these ones. We were bellying on the drop axle.”
The latest FMs and the higher-riding FMXes have overcome that issue for the offroad fuel deliveries: “We do a lot in the bush, especially from the Mount here. We’ve got a whole smaller fleet for it…a few eight-wheelers and six-wheelers, predominantly truck-only, that do a lot of bush (work): Over to Kinleith and as far down as National Park.”
As we drive I ask Nigel about the FM’s driver environment – and its visibility: “There is a bit of a blind spot,” he says, “because the mirrors are so wide. There are some places you can’t see, especially when you’ve got bends coming up and they’re right behind the mirror. 
“I noticed with the FH and the FMXes that they’ve got a bit of a gap – they’ve got a narrower mirror and they haven’t got all that bulky stuff around it. Those are the mirrors that I think would suit this truck, but according to Scotty we can’t get them in this. 
“But you should be moving around to check anyway – gives you some exercise.”
He says that everything important in the cab “is within arm’s reach, including our onboard computer and the switches. The layout in every one of our cabs is the same – so, get out of one truck and into another….you know where everything is. 
“There’s been a few trucks over the years that you’d have to sit there for a while to see where everything was – but with one guy looking after the entire fleet build (Scotty), it’s now all standardised. We know what we’re getting.”
Jeanes says that wherever possible he includes the drivers’ opinions in his decisions: “There was a lot of consultation with the drivers on how the trucks and trailers should be set up. Take for instance this five-axle trailer: It’s only a 25,000-litre tank maximum. On other trucks you’ll see 32,000 l. tanks – but it’s a waste of time because you can’t fill them up. 
“Whereas you can fill this one up – the entire truck and trailer – and still be within legal weight. And you get no sloshing. 
“The other guys, they’ll half-fill the compartments and have a major amount of sloshing. Not only that, it’s the configuration of our trucks. We try and get the SRT (static roll threshold) as low as possible, which means that this trailer here is lower than our four-axle trailers – and that’s low compared to what’s out there. With a lower centre of gravity, the driver feels safer.”
The compartment configuration is interesting: “With petrol you can load the compartments up a little bit more, ‘cos it’s so light, whereas diesel is a heavy liquid. But you try to fill up the big ones (compartments) and just leave the little ones. 
“There’s four compartments on both the truck and the trailer. On this one, we’ve got a 3000 l. compartment on the front, a five (5000 l.), a six and a four on the back end.
“On the trailer, the configuration is 4000 and three sevens. We load the three sevens full of diesel first, without putting anything in the front compartment. Most drivers like to have the weight on the bogey but this just sits perfect. By having four sealed compartments, you can have multiple products too: One diesel, a 91, a 95 and a 98 – whatever the customer needs.”
To avoid any chance of cross-contamination of the fuels carried, at the terminal every compartment is completely cleaned with a suction system. To overcome the static charge that diesel holds, when putting petrol in after a diesel load the first 300-400 litres is loaded really slowly.
“Then all of a sudden, it’ll rush in…..1800 litres a minute. You can load up a truck and trailer in half an hour.”
Cruising along SH2 at 90km/h, the 13-litre is at 1200rpm (in the middle of the Economy rev range), in 12th gear. And it’s quiet – so much so that we can hear the whistle of the turbo. 
Nigel is relaxed at the wheel, thanks partly to the suspension under us – air suspension under the 23t-rated single reduction tandem bogey, airbags also under the cab and two-leaf parabolic springs on the steer axles. That’s despite the highly average tarmac below us.
Nigel is pretty clued up on what the Volvo can do, both mechanically and technically: “I’ve always believed that you need to know your truck. When you want to pull up pretty quick, you need to know it can do it for you. And that’s part of our job as trainers.” 
The FM comes with high-tech driver aids including adaptive cruise, driver alert sensing, lane departure warning, lane change support and forward collision warning, coupled with emergency braking.
In Nigel’s words, the safety suite means that “if anything tries to stop in front of you, first of all it will flash up on the top of the dashboard, it’ll give you a couple of beeps…then it’ll brake for you. One of the boys got distracted at an intersection and he told me it definitely works.”
In addition to the already well-specced Volvo’s cab, McFall has included its own company tablet: “All our work and all the load is put in there….all our customers,” Nigel explains. 
“So that when we go to deliver, it’ll pick up the customer’s details and whatever we pump off the back there….we send that data straight through to the server. 
“So everything that gets loaded onto the truck, gets pumped out through the computer. Pretty much the customer gets billed the same day.”
The system includes a load calculator – “so if the guys don’t know what they’re loading or how they’re loading the truck, they just put the totals that they need to take out into the calculator and it tells them how to load it.” 
They also have the EROAD GPS tracking and electronic RUC system on board: “So we pretty much know where the truck is.” Each truck also totes a printer: “Yeah, for the customer to have a delivery docket and DG declaration.”
So how about the FM’s fuel economy? “Quite a few have been sitting around about 2.3 l. and the average was about 1.8 l. It’s more efficient than the Foden because you don’t have to change 18 gears.
“If you get it right and you time your changes down right, it pretty much slows itself down without having to use the brakes. I’m not a fan of using the brakes all the time – I prefer to let the truck do the job. 
“Even if you’ve got 50t, you get over the top of a hill, a lot of the guys will power down the hill but you don’t need to. Once you get over the top, just let it roll down – let it do its job.”
What thoughts on the I-Shift Dual Clutch’s likely longevity? Says Nigel: “That’s the first thing I asked Scotty, because there is a bit of wear and tear with the old clutches – at about 400,000-460,000kms they were changing the clutches out.
“So I said to Scotty, ‘with the Dual Clutch – two shafts and stuff like that – is it gonna last longer?’ He says ‘well I don’t know, it’s not proven.’ 
“It’ll be interesting to see how much more life we get out of it. There’s a lot more moving parts I’d say, so more stuff to wear out.”
This first-up FM with the dual clutch is only three weeks old and has so far clocked up nearly 8000kms. Says Nigel: “We do a lot of trips to Gizzy – and that’s 500kms there and back – and we do a lot of trips down to New Plymouth as well….” If a fuel terminal runs low, “the Mount is pretty much the go-to place” for delivering top-ups as well.
Doing fuel is “not for everyone….don’t think it’s just like driving general goods: It’s a live load and it’s a dangerous thing. But it’s a good challenge too.” 
His advice to the other fuel tanker drivers he trains and assesses is to “treat every day like it’s your first day. Come to work with a clear mind and the right attitude. Otherwise, if your day starts off shit, it becomes shit all day. 
“Guys laugh ‘cos they can hear me whistling…..but I say ‘yeah it’s a good day – I’m still alive. What’s to moan about?’ 
“The good thing about McFalls and BP is the training they provide the guys – to be able to handle situations. It’s like, second to none. It’s always been a focus of McFalls that should a situation arise, they know what to do.”
On this bright, sunny morning, as we head down the eastern Bay of Plenty coast, the I-Shift Dual Clutch keeps on shifting swiftly, smoothly….seamlessly.
The steering wheel requires no hard work: “You can pretty much drive with your fingers.” 
Just north of Opotiki, NZ Truck & Driver tester Trevor Woolston swaps places with Nigel, for the run through the Waioeka Gorge….and up Traffords Hill.
After taking a little time to familiarise himself with the controls and the interior layout, we’re away. Funnily enough, his immediate view on visibility, particularly the mirrors, differs from Nigel’s: “The mirrors are well positioned. There’s plenty of room between the pillar and the mirrors.”
We cruise into Opotiki at 43km/h, in 10th gear (in Economy mode) with the revs sitting just over 1100rpm.
Woolston is quickly appreciating the “nice driving position” – commenting on “how good the ride feels.” He’s liking the positive steering as well: “Good feel for the road – not overly light…..very progressive actually. It’s very easy to position the truck on the road.”
For Woolston’s detailed view of the FM’s performance as we negotiate the Gorge and all its corners, turn to the Pirelli Trevor Test (on Page 34). 
And so to Traffords – the place where the I-Shift Dual Clutch should truly show itself. 
We start up the hill with the 12-speed I-Shift in 9th, at 1400rpm (the DC13C’s peak torque is achieved from 1050 to 1450 revs) and 50km/h, in Performance mode.
Left in automatic mode, the I-Shift downshifts at 1300 to 8th, where we sit at 40k and 1500rpm. There’s no traffic ahead of us – just the hill. Woolston is applying reasonable pressure on the throttle pedal….but it’s a long way from being flat to the floor.
Quickly the I-Shift grabs 7th, with barely a change in the revs and maintaining 33km/h. Soon the revs rise again to 1800 and it upshifts to 8th. It’s a gradual rise here and we’re gaining speed – now prompting another upshift to 9th, as we get to 50k.
As the hill begins to steepen, the revs drop to 1300rpm and it’s back to 8th, 7th and, finally 6th, at 25k and 1500rpm.
As the revs rise slightly, the I-Shift Dual Clutch decides to reach for 7th…..and immediately regrets it (well, it would if it was human anyways). The revs drop and the AMT quickly compensates by dropping two gears to 5th, and in doing so, drops through the range change – thus taking what you could call a “regular I-Shift” gearshift time – slower than the Dual Clutch’s “usual.” It soon shifts back up to 6th.. 
This particular hill, at this weight and so on, seems to have found a little flaw in the I-Shift Dual Clutch’s otherwise perfect performance.
“It didn’t like that,” says Woolston: “I didn’t think it was a good idea when it decided to go up a gear, but I just let it do its thing. That’s possibly where you’d have overridden it.”
Again, as the hill continues and the revs drop, the I-Shift downshifts to 5th, at 22-25km/h – then upshifts again to 6th as we round a long right-hander. 
As the climb eases and the revs rise slightly, it over-reaches for 7th again – repeating what just happened. It all happens relatively quickly and without much loss of momentum, but Traffords is definitely putting the I-Shift Dual Clutch through the wringer – as it straddles that one awkward spot between the high and low ranges. 
Makes me wonder if having the I-See option and leaving the I-Shift in adaptive cruise control would help here. The I-See system, an option not chosen on the test truck’s spec sheet, uses GPS and topo maps – plus its own past experience on any particular road – to “read” the terrain ahead and thus make more informed, intelligent changes.
Trevor backs off the throttle a little in an attempt to stop the I-Shift upshifting again and it holds, but when he lets it run above 1800rpm it still repeats the same upshift/downshift/upshift cycle a couple more times before we reach Traffords’ 963-metre crest, in 7th.
We begin our descent in 6th, the VEB+ on full holding us back nicely at 21km/h, before downshifting one gear and settling there. It actually produces its 375kW/502hp peak retardation at 2300 revs, but Trevor feels as though it’s over-retarding for the hill and eases the VEB+ back to its second stage, where it’s all very relaxed and controlled – holding back at 25k at 1600rpm in 5th. He lets the truck “run a little” and the I-Shift quickly switches to 8th – a gear that we stay in to the bottom. 
With Traffords behind us and the I-Shift Dual Clutch test effectively over, at Matawai we pull up by the bakery to hand the FM back to Nigel. While he carries on to Gizzy, we’ll turn tail and head back to Auckland.
Since the test, Nigel has driven the I-Shift Dual Clutch FM twice more on the Gisborne run – and twice encountered the same upshift/downshift/upshift routine on Traffords.
The hill clearly delivers an awkward mix of gradient, revs and the range-change that even the I-Shift Dual Clutch finds challenging.
As a result, he says, Scott Jeanes has talked to Volvo about it “and they recommend that we jump into manual and take it back down to sixth from seventh – rather than letting it jump back down to fifth.”
He has, he adds, “said to the guys to keep an eye on it – to see if it keeps doing it. It could be a programming thing that they can tweak just a little bit.”
Another option is to “feather it a bit and just hold it back, don’t push it (the revs) too much (so it doesn’t attempt the upshift to seventh). But in Performance mode, most guys want to put their foot down and go for it.” 
So has this big fan of the I-Shift Dual Clutch lost his love for it? Doesn’t seem so, given his sum-up of the Traffords situation: “Other than that, man she’s not too bad. I wouldn’t mind driving it myself.”
As for McFall Fuel’s judgement about the success or otherwise of the dual clutch model? Well, it’s said that actions speak louder than words: The company has already taken delivery of a second FM I-Shift Dual Clutch model….and has a third now on order.  

Pirelli Trevor Test

I’ve driven Volvo’s I-Shift Dual Clutch before – on its demonstrator – and was impressed with its quick and effortless shifting and the feeling of continuous power as you pull uphill loaded. Now it’s time to experience it in a real-life working environment.
McFall Fuel’s logistics manager Scott Jeanes offers us the option of a range of runs with its newest Volvo FM 540 – and the one from its Mt Maunganui base to Gisborne ticks the boxes for a great test route for the Dual Clutch technology.
The FM truck and trailer unit will be loaded to 50 tonnes and there’ll be plenty of gearshifting through the long, winding Waioeka Gorge, then a good hard pull up Traffords Hill.  
I jump in at Opotiki to take over from the much-experienced Nigel Heke, finding it an easy climb into the cab, which is much lower than the FH. It has just two very generous steps and great grabhandles both sides.
Once inside it’s the usual Volvo layout which is very familiar and is easy to get comfortable with. The floor-mounted AMT selector is down to the left of the seat and there’s the usual array of controls on the steering wheel for phone, cruise and audio controls etc. 
All other major controls are mounted on the steering column stalks – indicators on the left, engine brake on the upper right hand stalk and wipers on the lower right. 
On the main dashboard are digital displays for fuel, AdBlue and temperature to the left, the speedo and tachometer, combined with gear selection info in the centre, and fuel range, air pressure and exhaust temperature on the right. 
The controls for traction, the aircon, phone and the main digital screen are in middle dash area.
I immediately feel very comfortable, thanks to the very good, ergonomically designed air suspension seat with excellent seat and steering wheel adjustment and plenty of legroom.
Out front is great unobscured vision and very generous mirrors, with the usual upper large main mirror and a lower convex mirror. There’s good space between the pillars and the mirrors to look through, although Nigel does feel there’s a bit of a blind spot around the driver’s side mirror at intersections. I won’t be experiencing that on this run.
Once into the Gorge the gearbox really shows its capabilities, with quick, almost unnoticeable shifts as we slow and accelerate through the corners. 
The combination of the I-Shift Dual Clutch and the VEB+ retarder make this run a dream. It’s easy to forget you’re at 50t all-up, as there is no noticeable effort in slowing down for the tighter corners and the roadworks….and then quickly picking up speed again out of them. You certainly notice the smooth gearshifting.
Despite the many corners and frequent roadworks sites, the ride is excellent – right up there with the best of them. There is no bumping and jarring from the road surface felt in the cab and no roll through the many corners. It’s a very comfortable ride.
Steering is excellent and it’s easy to keep the truck on track through this narrow, demanding road and the trailer follows nicely, keeping everything on the right side of the centre line. 
This truck has pretty much the full Volvo safety package including collision warning, with emergency braking, adaptive cruise, lane change support and lane departure warning…but we don’t get to experience much of it, except for the lane departure system giving an audible warning when you get close to the side or centre markings, which happens from time to time on this road. 
Noise levels in the cab are very low, making it easy to talk. And to say this is an easy drive is an understatement: I remember driving my R Model Mack through here many years ago and it was a mission, with constant gearshifts and getting bounced around in the cab. How things have changed. You even get time to take in some of the magnificent scenery!
Now, as we start up Traffords Hill, it’s time for I-Shift Dual Clutch to really get into its work. 
We’re in Power mode and in automatic – and that sees the I-Shift downshifting at around 1300rpm and changing up at 1800. It steadily drops down to 5th gear in places, but makes it back up to 6th for most of the climb. 
On a couple of occasions the I-Shift tries to shift from 6th to 7th….and has to drop straight back down to 5th, then up to 6th again. While there’s no problem with it handling the changes, I find that by easing off on the throttle and keeping the revs back below 1800rpm I avoid this happening.
When I let the revs rise again, it repeats the 6th, 7th, 5th, 6th routine a couple more times.
Given that this is a 12-speed box the shift to 7th is a range-change and that accounts for the slightly slower shift – which works against it holding that gear. In fact, it’s the one shift that doesn’t use the dual clutch’s usual pre-selection of the next gear.
Notwithstanding this, our run to the top is easy and it’s just a matter of steering the truck through the corners and letting the gears do their thing. Even pulling hard up Traffords the engine noise is hardly noticeable with the windows up. 
Once we crest the summit I select 6th gear and set the VEB+ on stage three for the descent, which is not long, but is reasonably steep. We come down well under control, with no need for the service brakes and often nudging the retarder back a stage.
The I-Shift Dual Clutch certainly raises the bar with AMT gearshifting and the more continuous power when shifting is certainly noticeable, particularly on the hills where you get a very smooth shift, without the usual lag between disengaging one gear and engaging the next. 
It helps make the job of hauling petrol and diesel in the McFall Fuel FM safer, easier and more driver-friendly, with far less distractions.