I happily admit it: I’ve only ever been a fair-weather, special occasion, few-and-far-between truck driver.
Or, as 1967 Formula One world champion, the late Denny Hulme once put it rather bluntly during my previous life in motorsport – I’m “just a f***ing journo!” (At the time he didn’t much like scribblers like me).
True as all that is, 20 years ago I did earn my full truck and trailer HT licence – and I sure as hell am not going to pass up the opportunity to get behind the wheel of something new, something different, something big in the world of trucking.
It’s how I’ve come to drive trucks in Aussie, in Europe, in the States, Japan, China, India and other places, as well as here in New Zealand.
How I got my arse into the driver’s seat of a 750-horsepower Volvo in Sweden years before the king-of-the-road model was launched here, how I came to take a Merc Army truck down a crazy-steep gravel hillside on the Waiouru offroad training tracks, laughed like a crazy-man at experiencing first-hand the sportscar-like acceleration of a fully-electric Fuso Canter in Japan…and drove a Volvo double roadtrain much of the way from Adelaide to Melbourne.
Big, of course, is best. Thus, driving a Volvo FH16 700 triple roadtrain in the Pilbara was THE standout experience (even if Aussie women in trucking pioneer Heather Jones would only let me drive it empty). After all, 68 tonnes without a load on is still pretty impressive.
It WAS my ultimate big-is-best experience….until this: A first-hand taste of Volvo Trucks’ latest development of its sophisticated I-Shift automated manual transmission.
This is next-level special – because, in demonstrating the capabilities of its new ultra-low crawler gear version of the AMT, Volvo’s prepared to let me get behind the wheel of an FH16 700 6x4 tractor unit hooked up to a two-axle dollie and a 10 rows of eight low-loader….
Which just happens to be loaded to 203 tonnes all-up! And which sees the whole combination stretch out to around 30 metres.
Not only that: I get to drive it up a steep hill – as in an 8.8% gradient – leaving the I-Shift (mostly) in fully automated mode. Creeping along at around 7km/h and at 800 or 900rpm – and that’s not even in either of the two crawler gears that have been added to this AMT.
This, of course, isn’t about me getting my kicks: My drive, at the Australasian launch of the special-purpose I-Shift, held at Queensland’s Mount Cotton test track, does serve an important purpose.
Allowing me and a bunch of trucking industry media journos to take command of a heavy-haulage unit at such a hefty weight – and on such a steep hill – drives it home just how utterly confident Volvo Trucks is about the capabilities of the Ultra Low Crawler Gear (let’s just call it ULCG eh) I-Shift...
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