Singrauli hosts Volvo Fuelwatch Challenge

Fuelwatch Challenge 2017 Finals copy

Volvo Trucks hosted the eighth edition of Volvo Fuelwatch Challenge at Singrauli.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

The eighth edition of Volvo Trucks India ‘Fuelwatch Challenge’ was held at Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh. Home to five thermal power generation plants with an estimated power generation capacity of 13295 mega-watt, Singrauli, saw 29 top contenders – winners of regional rounds, from 29 different Volvo Trucks customers, pilot the new BSIV Volvo FMX 460 8×4 mining tipper on a 3.4 km track in the Dudhichua coal mine. The Dudhichua mine is one of the largest mines among the 10 mines that Northern Coalfields Limited (NCL) operates in the Singrauli region. With rich coal deposits spread over an area of 2,200 sq. km, Singrauli has 15 Volvo Trucks customers, including its biggest customer BGR Mining & Infra. Together they operate 850 FMX trucks. Given the need of the operations, Singrauli has no 8×4 Volvo FMX trucks. All the trucks that operate there are 10×4 FMX 520 and FMX 480. A total of 273 trucks out of the BGR’s fleet of over 500 trucks operate at Singrauli. The mines of Singrauli have 85 FMX 480 trucks, and 30 FMX 520 10×4 trucks. Replacing the mighty dump trucks, the 850 Volvo mining trucks at Singrauli have come to earn the respect of their drivers. They are ably supported by the Volvo service structure.

Choosing to hold the challenge at the Dudhichua coal mine to simulate the exact conditions under which its mining trucks ply, Volvo Trucks got a 3.4 km track, leading up to a discarded dumping site, built. With tight corners and loose surfaces thrown in for good measure, the track, 1.7 km one-way, saw each of the 29 drivers drive with load and without load.

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Aimed at enhancing driver efficiency and skills, which would in-turn help to elevate the energy efficiency of Volvo trucks that they drive, the eighth ‘Fuelwatch Challenge’ paid particular attention to how a Volvo mining truck driver planned his drive; employed his skills, and drove safely. In the desolate landscape of a coal mine, one error can lead to costly accidents and damage.

Held over three days, the ‘Fuelwatch Challenge’ saw the 29 drivers try all the tricks under the sun to ensure that their’s was the most frugal drive. The most tricky part of the challenge was perhaps the turn at the half-way mark, which required the driver to make a three-point turning maneouvre. Also challenging proved to be the loose soil surface. It called for the right use of traction. The weather was not the most pleasant during the three days of the challenge. B Dinakar, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Volvo Trucks, expressed that the event is not a competition. It is a culture.

Volvo’s telematics platform, Dynafleet, was pressed into service to record the performance of each and every driver. With the new 8×4 Volvo FMX 460 BSIV (with I-Shift automated manual transmission) as the basis, Appana Babu of BGR Mining and Infra managed to be the most frugal and disciplined. Rajkaran Kushwaha of Baghel Infrastructures (Singrauli) came second, and Bablu Ghatwal of Coal Mines Associated Traders came third. Said Dinakar, that none of the 29 drivers that participated in this edition of the Fuel watch Challenge has ever participated in this event. He drew attention to a rule that restricts entry for three years to those who have participated. Expressed Dinakar, “Since its inaugural event in 2010, more than 20,000 participants have become ambassadors of the Fuelwatch community. They share their skills and knowledge to promote a more fuel-efficient industry.” Stating that it takes more than driving for the drivers to go further, Dinakar said that they are working towards a model where the ‘Fuelwatch Challenge’ turns out drivers that become trainers for other drivers in the fleet.

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To represent India in the finals held at Sweden, Babu expressed that it is not just about driving, but is also about understanding the terrain, the vehicle, and to move in harmony. Lauding the efforts put in by the drivers, and their ability to think quickly, Dinakar mentioned, “This also helps us to relook at the technology we offer, and improve upon it.” This edition of Fuelwatch saw an increased participation from over 400 drivers of 29 customers. “The fuel-efficiency margins clocked by the winners have achieved new targets for possible savings in a real-world context, which is testimony of the fact that driver training is pivotal to ensure increased fuel efficiency,” expressed Dinakar. Claiming to spearhead the Fuelwatch mission in the industry, Dinakar explained that they have trained over 55,000 truck drivers nationwide. Stressing upon drivers achieving up to 30 per cent better fuel efficiency over average drivers with regular driver engagement through driver training programs, Dinakar concluded that Indian truck drivers are proving to be top contenders. They are making their mark in the global Fuelwatch Challenge, he averred. If Babu wins the finals at Sweden, his efforts will bring fame to his friends, family and the energy generating region of Singrauli. It will also inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

L to R - Mr. Rajkaaran Kushwaha, Mr. Appanna Babu and Mr. Bablu Ghatwal copy

Driving the Volvo FMX 460 8×4 tipper

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In terms of appearance, Volvo FMX 460 does not look any different from the Volvo FMX 440 8×4 mining tipper. BSIV emission compliant, the FMX 460 flaunts a Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) exhaust after-treatment system. Most SCR components are away from the naked eye except the AdBlue reservoir between the left front and second wheel. An AdBlue pump is integrated into the plastic tank of 32 to 90-litre capacities. Claimed to require topping up every three days considering the continuous operation of the tipper, the FMX 460 features a day cab with comfortable and ergonomic driver area. Powering the truck is a 460 hp, D13K, 12.8-litre, six-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine mounted on a robust and reinforced ladder chassis. Producing a peak torque of 2300 Nm at 900-1400 rpm, the engine has an I-Shift automated manual transmission coupled to it. Power is routed to the road through two live rear hub reduction axles.

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Behind the wheel of the tipper, a sense of sitting higher up is had. Behind the large four-spoke steering wheel is a large rectangular instrument panel. Slide the shifter into neutral, and turn the key. The straight six-cylinder motor comes to life and settles down to an idle. Slide the shifter to ‘A’, release the electronic parking brake on what looks like a thoroughly modern and well put-together dashboard, and step on the accelerator. There is no clutch. The truck starts moving. A noticeable improvement in refinement and noise is evident at once. The BSIV compliant machine is driver friendly and comfortable. In a desolate mining environment, the air-conditioned cockpit is a pleasant place to be in.

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With good visibility ahead, through the large single windscreen, the FMX 460 does not call for much effort to pilot. The overburden at the rear feels a matter of course. The FMX 460 moves away without hiccup. With small increments in speed, the 12-speed splitter and range gearbox with automated gearchanging system begins swapping cogs promptly. With the rev needle hovering on the ‘green’ band of the tacho, the FMX 460 amazes with its ability. A considerable improvement in refinement over the BSIII FMX 440 is evident at once. Having earned a strong reputation for its ability to go deep down into a mine, the FMX 460 further elevates the abilities the FMX mining tipper range is known for.

The Dudhichua coal mine where I had an opportunity to drive the FMX 460 is full of FMX 520 and the FMX 480 10×4 trucks. They operate in severe conditions. Exhibiting strong traction, the FMX 460, in severe operating conditions, impresses with its ability to keep noise and dust out. No wonder, one of the 29 drivers participating in the Fuelwatch Challenge expressed that they were longing to get behind the wheel of their trucks to escape the warm, humid and dusty environment of the mine! On the move, the engine brake of the truck makes for good control. The brakes exert a strong bite when called upon to retard the truck. Acknowledging the advantages had by maintaining good mining tracks, BGR has deployed a good number of water spraying tankers and motor graders. If the diff locks help to negotiate narrow winding tracks with loose soil, the inter-axle locks help to carry out the task at hand without interruption. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Is that what the FMX 460 is trying to convey? I think, it is.