Suresh Chettiar is Business Head of Volvo Buses South Asia

Suresh Chettiyar

Volvo Bus Corporation announced the appointment of Suresh Chettiar as Business Head of Volvo Buses, South Asia & Vice President, Volvo Bus Corporation effective January 01, 2018. Suresh most recently served as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the region and replaces VRV Sriprasad, who is said to have opted for an early retirement. “I am happy to welcome Suresh to this role. Suresh brings with him over two decades of Volvo Bus & Volvo Group experience having held senior leadership roles across functions. I thank Sriprasad for having led the organisation with distinction over the past four years and wish him the best in his future endeavours,” stated Akash Passey, Chairman, Business Board of Volvo Buses India and Senior Vice President, Region International, Volvo Bus Corporation. In a career spanning over two decades with Volvo Group in the Indian bus and commercial vehicle industry, Suresh has held senior leadership roles across functions at Volvo Buses in India, and managed the successful introduction of Volvo Group’s UD branded buses in India. “Volvo Buses is well-positioned to serve customers in this dynamic and large market. We have built significant assets during our journey so far and that provides me a great platform to develop the next phase of our growth journey. The Volvo brand has a strong position in India and South Asia and reflects the highest standards of quality and safety. While drawing on our industry leading global competence, I hope to build on the technology and people strengths within the region,’ said Suresh Chettiar.

Premium trucking

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Q & A

Helene Mellquist, Senior Vice President, Volvo Trucks International

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. How do you look at the Indian truck market?

A. India is one of the most exciting markets that we have seen. It has good growth potential. Five years back, we penetrated the coal mining market. This was done through a 24×7 operation, and a close relationship on the service side. We have 8×4 trucks that go back and forth all the time. They deal with coal loading and unloading. We provide service support right next to the site. There are one or two mechanics depending upon the site. Efficient and extremely competitive in terms of business operations for the coal mine owners, we have got a strong foothold. We enjoy a strong position there. The market is however minuscule. The heavy duty truck market in India is just 2000 units. It climbs to 3000 units in a good year. Finding a foothold with the premium trucks that we offer, we are looking forward to a position where we can contribute. We do 1,200 units in the (Indian) market. Many things depend upon the legislature and the governments, and what they will do. While the government is investing a good deal in green energy, coal production will be doubled as India is already importing a lot of coal. It will be nice if the Indian coal is put to greater use. It will remain an area of growth for us.

Q. What is happening at the Hosakote plant?

A. We are assembling trucks at Hosakote with local content in them. We do as much as we can, and which will make sense for us from a business point of view. We are looking at new segments after the decision to introduce GST was taken. Developments are taking place in the construction segment. In it, we have seen a couple of breakthroughs at the premium level. This makes sense for Volvo Trucks. Irrigation is an avenue we are looking at. It makes sense for us. Quarrying is another area where we are present in other markets. We are targeting this area in India as well. What is important for us, is to build an infrastructure. Both, India and China, are progressing fast in the area of e-business. China has managed to develop a network of roads pretty quickly. India is still lagging behind. The good news is that India has already chalked out plans for logistics corridors. When such an infrastructure is in place, different subsidies can be given away. Volvo trucking can be a part of this development in India too.

Q. Is the lack of infrastructure a big hurdle?

A. It is. If one looks at the infrastructure today, there are so many trucks standing in a queue on the road. It is not healthy for trucks like Volvo. For Volvo trucks, it is important to clock a good up-time and offer best productivity. The payback period will otherwise stretch for much long. If a tractor is standing still in the city, waiting to get somewhere, then it becomes difficult. Having good logistics corridors is beneficial.

Q. How do you plan to change the perception of a mining truck provider in India?

A. I think it is about competency. We have competence in construction sector the world over. We have competence in particular in the mining markets of the world. It is an essence of what we can provide in the construction industry. For perception, there’s up-time for productivity and product reliability among others for our customers.

Q. Are the lower localisation levels proving to be a hurdle?

A. I think the localisation levels are actually good. We will localise as long as it makes sense in terms of profitability. Volvo Eicher PowerTrain (VEPT) is already supporting Volvo Trucks with engines for its medium-duty trucks. Heavy-duty engines are sourced from Europe. Using such engines in our trucks in India could make sense, but there are investments that have been done with confidence. It therefore makes sense to do them here. As volumes grow, things could change quickly. We are constantly looking at optimising our costs and invest in the best place. A place that will benefit our customers. We can always optimise our production facilities.

Q. What do you think should compel an operator to buy a Volvo truck?

A. Our commitment to keep our trucks on the road, and have them running all the time should compel an operator. We invest in real competitiveness. We had a target of selling 100 units this year on the construction side, and we have already sold over 60 units in first half of the year. It shows that we are already exceeding our targets.

Q. What could you do to push those figures up?

A. We need to sell more. We need to get more people on the ground. We have an internal saying, ‘feet on the ground’. Inline with the saying, we want to be counted upon in the long haul segment as well. We want to, find new segments together with our customers. We want to match up to their expectations with our products in those segments. We want to sell well. We are confident of marketing activities intensifying in the construction segment. We are doing that with our joint venture partner VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV) in India.

Q. Is India’s reputation as a price sensitive market slowing you down since your trucks are premium?

A. We go where we feel that we can provide the best value to our customers. We are where we find the right segment, and where it makes sense. More and more customers in India are realising that is it not just the sticker price that serves. Upon operating a truck over the years, they have come to realise that the total cost of ownership translates into a sensible deal for them. From us, they get a fuel efficient, and safe truck. They get driver training. All these make a good investment.

Q. How is it in Europe?

A. In Europe, our presence is 60 per cent. We have a strong foothold. Our market share in India is minuscule right now. The total market is also minuscule. It is growing nevertheless. We are seeing many other markets go through a similar situation. We are seeing the European segment getting more and more popular. We are offering a product that has a highly competitive lifecycle. This is in comparison to having a cheaper truck with higher cost of maintenance through out its lifecycle. When you talk about construction activities booming, it is not just the number of projects increasing, it is also about the size of the project increasing. With government stipulating the time to finish a project, there is much demand from contractors to increase productivity. This shift has contractors looking for more productive solutions. It is here that the value proposition a Volvo truck offers, comes into the picture.

Q. Would you look at turning your Indian assembly operation into an export hub?

A. We are already doing that with Eicher as a part of our joint venture. As far as the Volvo brand is concerned, there is a need for higher volumes. Before it makes sense to export, we need higher volumes. It is one thing that we constantly talk about internally. We are trying as much as we can. When it will make sense, we will do it.

Q. What are your current levels of investments in India?

A. Volvo Group is present in India through many businesses. We have set up a facility at Hosakote, which is almost 20 years old. We have a joint venture with Eicher, which marks a significant investment for the Group. VEPT is another significant investment. It is the same in the case of on-site service setup where Volvo Trucks is directly involved. Volvo Construction Equipment also has a strong presence. The joint venture with Eicher is one of the few such ventures in the industry that have been successful. Both, in terms of investments and profitability. The collaboration environment that we have is very good. It is progressing very well. The brand positioning of both the brands is complimentary.

Q. India will soon progress to BSVI emission standards. How do you look at it?

A. I think it is an excellent move. We are fully ready for it. As a global company we have to deal with different legislations in different countries. Since we have the technology, we have an edge when it comes to emission norms. We have a competitive advantage. BSVI emission standards will increase the costs. Sophisticated engines will need good quality fuel. The price increase during the move up to BSIV from BSIII has been up to seven per cent. The upper limit is ten per cent. This is not a substantial increase that can topple the customer’s economics. In fact, it is a commitment to the society.

Q. What are the global trends in the trucking industry that you see?

A. When I travel around the world, it is electromobility that comes to mind. The trends are about electromobility, about automation and connectivity. Those I think are the real big trends. We are witnessing a paradigm shift not only in trucking, but in the automotive industry overall. Platooning for example is about automation, and connectivity is so much about software. We have a business unit that works in tandem with all those software companies, collaborates with them, and buys from them depending upon the type and the need for knowledge. The business unit also looks at startups, and the kind of entrepreneurial knowledge that can be had into a big company. Out of four hundred startups, only one will succeed. It calls for constant evaluation. A gold mine could be found somewhere. We scan the market for startups because it would not need us to develop everything in-house. There’s a lot about connectivity, and what one could provide to the customer. A lot is happening in the digital space right now. Our customers could benefit from it. We want our customers to benefit by capturing the beneficial developments in the digital space.

Q. What led to the decision of discarding manual transmission?

A. It was productivity and efficiency of the truck. Today, 95 per cent of our trucks employ I-Shift automated manual transmission globally. Beginning September, we would have stopped the production of manual transmission in Europe. This will be followed by various other markets. We also have powertronics which is completely automatic for very tough operations. In India too, every truck that we will sell will have an I-Shift AMT gearbox. There’s been a strong pull for it from the customers as well. And, this is not just in India. India is in-line with the global trend.

Q. India has been facing driver shortage. Would that compel you to introduce sophisticated technologies?

A. There are two ways to look at the situation. One is that we always provide drivers, training. Drivers of our customers are trained by us. Where ever we deliver a truck, we ensure that the drivers should understand and know how to drive it. We ensure that the drivers are skilled to operate technologies our trucks are equipped with. The second is automation. That is a little away. The possibility is of delivering trucks that can operate with ease in confined areas, without drivers. We currently have in terms of automation, technologies that support the driver, and not what replaces him. Anything beyond is a speculation.

Volvo eyes construction segment

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After establishing a strong hold in the premium mining tipper segment, Volvo Trucks has turned its attention to construction trucks.

Story & Photos: Anirudh Raheja

Much water has flown under the bridge after Volvo Trucks entered India in 1996. Continuing to operate in the premium trucking segment in India — claimed to account for three to four per cent of the total market in India, Volvo Trucks has come to enjoy a strong hold in the premium heavy mining tipper segment. With the truck market estimated to be 500,000 units per year, Volvo Trucks, offering innovative solutions like 10×4 dump trucks to help mining contractors to tackle rising pressures on margins, is looking at construction trucks. With almost 90 per cent of its market share coming from the mining segment, Volvo Trucks has majority of its resources in India aimed at the mining segment. With the infra sector in India showing signs of accelerating amid government announcement to invest historically high sums, Volvo Trucks’ attention to construction trucks could not have come at a better time. With India over the next three years expected to spend up to Rs.25 trillion towards power generation and distribution, roads and urban infra projects, the Swedish major is looking at good growth. While 70 per cent of the Rs.25 trillion is expected to drive the above mentioned developments, 20 per cent of the sum will go into the development of 27 industrial clusters. A sum of Rupees-five trillion is earmarked for the development of rail and port connectivity.

Considering such developments, Volvo Trucks could leverage its experience in providing trucking solutions to this segment in numerous other markets the world over. Drawing attention to progressive government economic policies like GST, Dinakar B, Senior Vice President – Sales, Marketing & Aftermarket, Volvo Trucks India, expressed that infra segment players are confident of the segment booming. “We are thus keen to leverage the segment growth to our advantage by offering the players the best solutions,” he mentioned. Commanding a 65 per cent market share in the coal mining truck segment, Volvo Trucks is eyeing a plethora of infra and construction activities to make inroads. From big irrigation projects, airports, metros to road construction, the company has a range of solutions to offer. Based on the FMX and FM range of heavy trucks, the solutions include BSIV Volvo FMX 460 with 22 cu. m. body, BSIV FMX 460 with 33 cu. m. body, BSIV FM 440 prime mover with tip trailer superstructure, and FM 460 6×4 puller. The company is also looking at offering a FM 420 prime mover model once it is homologated. Aimed at infra players that are keen to elevate their efficiency and competitiveness, given the tight time schedules they work with, Volvo Trucks, according to Vinod Aggarwal, MD and CEO, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, will take a systematic approach to gain a strong foot hold in the infra and construction segments. “We have identified the areas that can bring us growth. The way we brought productivity to mining customers, we will bring productivity to the infra customers as well,” he said.

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Enhancing productivity

To operate at the premium end of the infra and construction truck segments, Volvo Trucks will offer higher return on investments. The focus, it looks like, will be to help infra and construction segment contractors to further elevate productivity and efficiency. Informed Dinakar, “We will support our customers to achieve higher operational efficiency, and to execute projects on or before time.” Averred Aggarwal, “Volvo Trucks can play an important role in providing end-to-end solutions to its customers.” He drew attention to good monsoon and initiatives like the linking of rivers. Large irrigation projects, it is clear, are on Volvo Trucks’ radar. Also, projects like smart cities and border road development, which would need much technical support to complete within the stipulated time frame. Projects like these are expected to prove a good ground for the Swedish major. It could flex its muscles; offer solutions that it has been offering in other parts of the world to help contractors and governments execute ambitious projects.

The presence of Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles joint venture in the infra and construction segment, albeit at the mass volume level, should help Volvo Trucks to foray into the infra and construction segments. It could leverage Volvo Eicher’s network and tap into the joint venture company’s customer base, providing them an opportunity to upgrade. By keeping the customer in the family, Volvo Eicher, which distributes Volvo Trucks in India, could find its network acquire more business, support premium trucks and look at higher spare and service margins. In what could prove to be a win:win situation for Volvo Trucks, Volvo Eicher and all those involved, the infra and construction segment customers could leverage Volvo trucks to seek the best TCO. Expressed Aggarwal, “Customer success matters most. It is he who should earn more profits. If he is able to recognise our value, only then will we be able to sell our products.” Volvo Trucks has till date sold over 100 units to 10 customers across key construction segment businesses. These include road, marble and granite mining, and irrigation. Five trucks were recently delivered to Pune-based Satav Stone company, which specialises in stone quarrying.

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Right technology for the job

The government announcement to replenish pubic sector banks could prove to be just the right development for Volvo Trucks as it forays into the infra and construction segments. Opined Aggarwal, “The economy may not touch seven per cent growth mark this year, the next two years will see it bounce back.” Pointing at the 20 per cent growth the CV industry posted in the second quarter of the current fiscal as against a drop of 25 per cent in the first quarter, Aggarwal said, “What we lost in the first quarter has been majorly recovered. If the GDP grows, the CV industry will grow.” With stress on providing the same technology that Volvo offers in other markets, the construction trucks will be powered by the Volvo 13-litre six-cylinder engine that produces between 420 and 540 hp. I-Shift transmission will be offered as standard. As per the nature of application, Volvo will offer the appropriate variant of I-Shift automated manual transmission. The Pullers, for example, will come with crawler gear equipped version of the I-Shift AMT. According to Dinakar, every Volvo vehicle they sell is with an I-Shift gearbox. “With I-Shift, customers experience better productivity, ease of driving, and better efficiency,” opined Dinakar. He hinted at Volvo Trucks looking at an opportunity to re-enter the long-haul segment as well. Quickly stating that there is still time for Volvo long haul trucks to perform at their peak in India, Dinakar said that infrastructure will have to improve manifold. Expressing that trucks will gain a lot of electronics, Dinakar remarked that trucks will travel at higher speeds. Mentioning that the demand for high end trucks will be proportional to high end infrastructure, Dinakar explained that it is only then that the long-haul Volvo trucks will deliver peak performance.

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Building relations

With the selling experience of commercial vehicles far different from that of a passenger vehicle, Volvo Trucks, in association with its joint venture company and distributor Volvo Eicher has come to build a strong rapport with its customers. The company has invested heavily to provide customers on-site workshops and service centers at strategic locations. With a foray into the infra and construction segments, the company is looking to offer similar level of experience and support. Mentioned Aggarwal, “We will continue to engage with our customers.” Underscoring the importance of such a measure, Aggarwal pointed at initiatives like driver training, which will help the customer to get the most value out of his investment. “The driver has to drive the truck well to extract the best efficiency. Volvo trucks are advanced machines, and to get the most out of them, it is necessary to have a skilled driver, and to adhere to maintenance schedules,” remarked Aggarwal. Priced up to four times higher than basic trucks, Volvo Trucks is finding takers because of its ability to contribute to the timely completion of projects. Often in 24 months against the stipulated time period of 36 months. Expected to support infra and construction project contractors to complete their projects on time, Volvo trucks, according to Dinakar, is looking at driving a change. Stressing upon the rapid change taking place in the Indian truck market, including the shift to higher tonnage vehicles, Aggarwal mentioned, “Tractor trailers and multi-axle vehicles will see good numbers. The market for tractor-trailers was 41,000 units last year. This year, it is growing at 45 per cent, and should touch the 55,000 units mark.” Prime mover and puller-based solutions are a part of Volvo’s portfolio for the infra and construction segment. They hold a good chance of creating an industry first when it comes to productivity, efficiency, and the ability to earn.

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Driving the Volvo FM 420

The FM 420 prime mover is one of many solutions Volvo Trucks is offering to the infra and construction segment players in India. It is a 6×4 tractor, and powered by the BSIV Volvo D13 12.8-litre six-cylinder diesel engine that produces 420 hp at 1400-1800 rpm. Peak torque of 2100 Nm is produced at 1050-1400 rpm. Mated to the engine is a 12-speed I-Shift AMT gearbox. Capable of addressing diverse applications like the transportation of earth, stone, granite and marble among others by attaching a trailer, the FM 420 has an impressive 36 per cent grade-ability. Flaunting a solid build and superior fit and finish standards, which reflect upon its premium standing, the clear lens head lamps with daytime running LEDs of the truck contribute towards a premium stance. The large signature grille extends well into the bumper and provides the truck with a distinct identity. Riding on 20-inch dia. wheels, the FM 420 is fitted with a tilt-type four-point suspended sleeper cabin. Capable of long-haul and 24×7 operations, the truck, with a GCW of 49-tonnes, features ABS, Electronically controlled Brake System (EBS), hill start assist, electronic parking brake, auto parking brake release, ESP, hydraulic retarder, cruise control, adjustable driver’s seat, adjustable steering, AC, smart phone integration, and more.

Climb aboard, and a modern cabin draws attention. The standards of build, and fit and finish, are among the best found on a truck. Comparable with that of a luxury car, the cabin has an interior height of 1570 mm. Ergonomically well-engineered, it does not take long to arrive at a comfortable driving position. The suspended seat offers high degree of adjust-ability. The steering is adjustable for reach and rake. The I-Shift lever is besides the driver seat, and within easy reach. In the ‘Auto’ mode, the truck smoothly moves away from stand still. Not much noise or vibrations filter into the cabin. With small increments in speed, the transmission seamlessly shifts ups, indicating a travel through the cogs on the digital readout of the instrument console. The high seating position (though not as high as the FH) provides a good view of the outside. The mirrors help too. The Volvo dynamic steering aids manoeuvrability, and the I-Shift makes easy work of driving the truck. The dynamic steering and the I-Shift reflect upon the technological prowess of the truck, indicating at once the attention that has gone into engineering the truck. Providing car-like driving environment, the FM 420 puts strong impetus on safety, reliability and productivity.

If the suspended seat and the four-point suspended cab compensate for the suspension’s ability to absorb the road shocks, the parabolic S-shaped leaf spring suspension at front and conventional multi-leaf spring heavy-duty bogie suspension at the rear, is configured for duties a car cannot even dream of. Surprisingly, the ride is not as harsh as one would expects. Comfortable enough to not let the driver tire quickly, the FM 420 makes for a premium driving experience indeed. A mere touch of the pedal activates the disc brakes. The action is progressive and highly effective. Impressive in the way it dials comfort, the Volvo FM 420 impresses.

Volvo retains mining advantage; looks at new avenues of growth

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The endeavour at Volvo Trucks India is to be a trusted partner of their customers.

Story & Photos:

Ashish Bhatia

Volvo Trucks India started its journey in India in 1996. It started by offering long-haul trucks in the form of FH, FM and the FL. It found a calling in mining trucks over time. The economics of trucking turned the Swedish truck maker into a household name in heavy-duty mining tipper segment. In the long-haul highway segments, it was left to find a niche in the ODC segment. With 33 per cent of the business coming from the mining sector, Volvo trucks are going strong. They are adapting, innovating and partnering with the customer in the quest to achieve the position of a total solutions provider. Successful in striking a lasting rapport with its customers, especially in the overburden (waste or soil removal) applications in mines, Volvo Trucks India has found a place of pride in the niche market. According to Dinakar B, Senior Vice President – Sales, Marketing & Aftermarket, Volvo Trucks India, “A difficult market it is. Others, global majors have tried and failed.” Constituting over 90 per cent of its business, the remaining 10 per cent is attributed by on-road trucks – ODC carriers. Volvo Trucks India has found a niche.

The niche

Finding a niche in the mining segment was not easy. According to Dinakar B., the company does not offer an entire range of mining products in India. The main stay is the FMX heavy-duty tipper range. It has made a mark. It has made a difference as operators seek high productivity levels. Providing a total value preposition, the FMX range has made a name for itself. Drawing attention to the nineties and early 2000, Dinakar B averred that customers earlier purchased either heavy dump trucks or lower tonnage (10-tonne to 16-tonne) trucks. “With business purely dependent on the tenure of the contract and the nature of the customer’s work, it was necessary that we offered him the right solution. The conventional trucks in two axle, and in 6×4 configuration, with a power range of 180 to 200 hp posed certain limitations. Our mining trucks quickly made a mark. They could be relied upon, and were capable of withstanding work cycles of longer duration. So the operators switched over to Volvo trucks,” explained Dinakar. Pointing at an uptime of 24 hours, he expressed, “As long as the customers maintain their vehicles well, they are assured of a reliable truck.”

Apart from the need to work long hours, mining trucks have to offer higher productivity, carrying capacity, and an ability to pull from the lower bench to the higher stock bench. “It was after gauging the performance, that the operators decided to invest in our multi-axle trucks,” mentioned Dinakar. To support the mining trucks portfolio, Volvo Trucks India has built its own service and spares network. It has deployed its own engineers at customer sites. According to Dinakar, what makes the difference is the ability to provide a complete solution. It is what makes a difference. The brand immersion, according to Dinakar, is based on the three pillars of safety, environment care, and productivity. The market share of Volvo Trucks in India in the premium mining trucks segment is approximately 60 per cent. Competition is not idle. What continues to work in favour of Volvo mining trucks is the belief in technology, and aggregates that can stand up to the abusive nature of continuous working cycles in Indian mines. Keen to maintain 60 per cent market share in the mining segment, Volvo Trucks India continues to drive technology and offer the right solution.

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The right solutions

The introduction of Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) called I-Shift has provided huge benefits to the operators. Customers, according to Dinakar, have reported saving of five to six per cent over a similar manual transmission truck. He pointed at the FuelWatch challenge the company conducts every year to how fuel efficient its trucks are. Early this year, the company successfully conducted the eighth edition of the challenge at Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh. Striving to raise the skill levels of the drivers, increase fuel efficiency and consciousness towards environment, FuelWatch is becoming an integral part of Volvo’s sales strategy as far as the mining trucks are concerned. Refraining from selling trucks unless they are certain that they will make a profitable business case for the customer, Volvo Trucks India, once certain, not only sells the truck, it also provides support such that the trucks can run 24×7. “We assure the customer of a 90 per cent plus uptime,” said Dinakar.

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Setting up a benchmark by offering service and spares at the mining customer site, Volvo Trucks India is ensuring that breakdowns don’t last for more than 24 hours in most cases. “It entails synergy agreements, full maintenance contracts, parts contract, and technical support to the extent of offering helpers to Volvo Trucks customers,” according to Dinakar. Among the noteworthy initiatives that Volvo Trucks India has taken is the Indian School of Mining, Dhanbad. The school is helping customers to achieve high efficiency. To Volvo, the school is presenting an opportunity to understand customer needs. Having 200 touch points, and 750 technicians, Volvo advises its customers to invest in a team of technicians, as soon as the truck count goes up to 15.

Banking on technology

The BSIV FMX 460 8×4 tipper the company recently launched employs SCR and I-Shift Automated Manual Transmission. Introduced in 2014, the I-Shift was developed with the use of enormous on-road data gathered by Volvo Trucks in real-world conditions. Found on all Volvo brand of trucks sold, it is being improved continuously. Currently in the fourth generation, it is an indication of advanced technologies that a Volvo mining truck in India have come to possess. According to Dinakar, the I-Shift is far more advanced than what the competition has to offer, and assures class leading fuel efficiency. Drawing attention to Volvo having developed 10×4 tag and pusher axles with a 480 hp and 520 hp power engine variant, Dinakar expressed that the mining trucks that Volvo Trucks India sells, come with a mining software package. It supports good start-ability on gradients and operate-ability under less than optimum conditions. Work is underway to further enhance the software, which supports features like ‘jerk start’, ‘I-roll’ and ‘Eco-roll’. The FMX tippers, unlike the FM 460 puller, do not feature a crawler gear in their I-Shift AMT.

Market trend

With existing customers looking at a better duty cycle, and better cost per cubic metre handling, the market for niche application tippers is evolving in two to three directions. New entrants are looking to attain similar operating efficiencies. Coal requirement in India in terms of the thermal power necessary, is taking its own course to develop. Most coal excavation today, or coal mining requirements, are broadly being catered to by entities like Coal India Limited., Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) and Neyveli Lignite Corporation India Limited. They are looking at Mine Development cum Operations (MDOs). Privatisation and the auctioning of blocks is taking a definitive shape. Over the next two to three years it is expected that the dependence on Coal India Limited and government activities will reduce in contrast to the dependence on MDOs.

Citing an example of NTPC Ltd., which has taken a few blocks from Coal India Limited, Dinakar expressed, “The former will not buy coal from Coal India Limited going forward. The way the blocks are shaping up, they will make NTPC self-sufficient. The blocks will be handled by private entities. When these private entities enter the MDOs, they will look at more efficient ways of earning, which would lead them to attain cost benefits. They will look at a higher class of equipment like multi-axle dump trucks. This is where we see an opportunity.” “As MDOs rise, and local players take over the handling of coal from the surface, Volvo Trucks India is looking at an opportunity to transport coal. It is evaluating the market,” he added. Aware that overdependence on a particular segment could make it vulnerable, Volvo Trucks India is looking at other vital, growth oriented segments. Said Dinakar, “We want to expand beyond coal, and sustain our leadership in coal


Dinakar B, Senior Vice President – Sales, Marketing & Aftermarket, Volvo Trucks India

Q. What is the mining segment contribution to Volvo Trucks India?

A. We are in the niche market. We do not offer a complete gamut of products in mining. Our mining trucks, or multi-axle mining trucks go to government contractors. They make a difference to those who want to take advantage of their productivity and value. Much depends on the contract tenure and the work that these contractors do. Going back in time, in the 1990s, or early 2000, our truck positioning was about total value preposition. Customers purchased heavy duty dump trucks or lower tonnage (10-tonne to 16-tonne) trucks. Multi-axle trucks were alien. Trucks back then were either two-axle or of 6×4 configuration with power ranging between 180 and 200 hp. What made our trucks tick was their ability to endure long duration work cycles. Our trucks have an uptime of 24 hours a day. They don’t need regular intervention except for preventive maintenance. As long as the operator maintains them, he is assured of reliable trucks. Offering better productivity, better carrying capacity, and better pull from lower bench to the higher stock bench, our trucks have won the confidence of the operators.

Q. How has the mining product portfolio performed over the last three years?

A. The year 2015 was the best year for Volvo trucks in India. We touched an all-time high of over 1200 trucks with a market share of 65 per cent. In 2016 calendar year, we experienced a drop of five per cent (60 per cent). We sold 1100 trucks approximately. Our market share today is 60 per cent. Competition is growing as others are experimenting with various methods and strategies to invade the niche segment that we are in. What we have learnt is that you as a manufacturer have to believe in technology, build aggregates that can sustain the loads, and the nature of continuous working cycles. Despite trying, the competition has not succeeded. I am confident that we will retain the 60 per cent market share.

Q. How are you adapting to the evolving needs of the market?

A. Mining in terms of the over burden removal work is evolving in two to three different directions. Existing customers are looking at a better duty cycle, and at better cost per cubic metre of handling. New entrants are looking to attain similar equations, and are scouting for entities to partner them. For the production of thermal power, the coal requirement is taking its own course to develop. Most coal excavation or coal mining requirement today is catered to by Coal India Limited., Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) and Neyveli Lignite Corporation India Limited. They are looking at Mine Development cum Operations (MDOs). Privatisation and auctioning of blocks is taking a good shape. Over the next two to three years, the dependence on Coal India Limited and government activities will go down. Dependence on MDOs will rise. NTPC Ltd., for example, has got a few blocks from Coal India Limited. It will not buy coal from Coal India Limited with the MDOs shaping up well. It would be self-sufficient with its own blocks. The blocks will be handled by private entities that will enter the MDOs. The private entities will look at efficient ways of earning. They will attain cost benefits, and will look at higher class of equipment like multi-axle dump trucks. Such a move will lead to efficient coal handling. Coal handling, from the pit to surface, is by government companies. Coal handling, from the surface, is by local players. We see an opportunity here. Volvo trucks could play a role provided the working conditions are conducive.

Q. Where do see the most traction coming from?

A. Our products in India are specifically developed for overburden applications. The flagship offering is the FMX 460 BSIV. Its advanced I-Shift technology, developed from the enormous on-road data gathered by Volvo Trucks in real-world conditions, is tailored for mining application. It is far more advanced than the automated manual transmissions offered by others. We have also developed 10×4 tag and pusher axles with a 480 hp and 520 hp engine option. The 33 cu. m. coal body on the FMX 460 is seeing good traction.

Q. How has the I-Shift evolved over the years?

A. The I-shift that we offer, comes with a mining software package. It is particularly suitable for hilly gradients and heavy loads. With the challenge of making it work on gradients and with heavy loads. We are continuing to improve the software on an ongoing basis. We recently improved the shifting part of the I-Shift. It entailed hardware and software changes, and resulted in smoother shifts. While features like ‘jerk start’, ‘I-roll’ and ‘Eco-roll’ improve fuel efficiency and performance, the I-Shift AMT of the FMX 460 does not come with a crawler gear. It is offered on FM 460 puller. Where the tipper’s first gear ratio is 14.9 that of the first crawler gear of the FM 460 is 32. There are two crawler gears on the FM 460. They help to tackle very heavy loads (greater than 325-tonne). In India it is approved for 150-tonnes.

Q. How do you plan to make the transition to BSVI by 2020?

A. Our product development team is working to meet the BSVI emission norms by 2020. We already offer Euro6 trucks globally. We will offer the best solutions to our customers.

Q. What is the extent of localisation in India?

A. We have up to 20 per cent localisation in India, which includes the body and a few components barring the driveline. The driveline is imported.

Q. To avoid unnecesary inventory, how is the demand for trucks and spares gauged?

A. We follow a project tracker. Each and every project is tracked. We map upcoming projects; gather details from sources. We also track the prospective buyers and bidders. From them, we understand the requirements. We also ask our customers about their future plans. We also rely on trend analysis. There are instances when we have to work up an error margin despite the best scientific methods we use. Our planning cycle is of five months. We have to import CKD kits from Sweden, and thus take into consideration the shipment, local clearances and assembly. We have to have a five months forecast. A certain degree of clarity is necessary. Inputs from retail organisation, and historical data from customers are obtained. It is used in combination with the other data to gauge future demand.

Q. How do you create brand awareness, and reach out to the customer?

A. Our strength lies in the fact that we have our own network. With it, we remain closer to the customer. We have always aspired for customer success as they use our equipment. In mining, it is not just the truck, it is instead the complete solution that we offer. Our brand immersion is based on the three pillars of ‘safety’, ‘environment care’, and ‘productivity’. Our products are fuel efficient. In terms of per cubic metre efficiency, the introduction of I-shift has hugely benefitted the customer. He is assured of five to six per cent savings. Testimony to this is the FuelWatch Challenge. It is our bit towards lowering the carbon footprint. Also, we do not sell a Volvo unless we feel that it is needed at the customer site. Once we are certain, we allow our trucks to operate 24×7 with an assured uptime of over 90 per cent. This is helping us to be a trusting partner to our customers.

Q. How do you rate your aftermarket thrust?

A. For us, the aftermarket has shaped up well. We have the best aftermarket network in mining in the country today. We are looked upon as the benchmark when it comes to the supply of spare parts at the customer site. We ensure that breakdowns do not last beyond 24 hours. We continue to improve our methods, be it through synergy agreements, full maintenance contracts, parts contract, technician support or by offering helpers to our customers. Having invested heavily on the driver training, we continue to encourage our customers to take initiatives like the opening of the Indian School of Mining at Dhanbad. We have hired people to visit customer sites and understand their business. If there is a change, we suggest ways to tweak the operations such that the best results are had. Our partnering with the customer helps him to get the best out of his Volvo truck.

Q. What global trends will touch India?

A. We are looking at automatic braking, which exists in our global portfolio. The autonomous mining truck that was tested in the underground mines is another technology, which I think, is easy to implement in the Indian mines too. Dynafleet coupled with operational efficiency is a new initiative from us. It gives an exhaustive data on its own. It is the crunching of that data, and extracting the relevant information that is important. We are working with our customers on the same.

Q. Does India contribute to the global R&D at Sweden?

A. We give feedback to Sweden, which is the Volvo R&D hub. This is done to fine tune the India strategy.

Q. What synergies do you share with your joint venture partner Eicher Motors?

A. In the mining segment, if our customers require Eicher trucks, we help get them. At the operating level we have a good understanding.

Q. Do you intend to reduce dependency on the mining segment?

A. We are looking at islands of opportunities, where our products will offer a value proposition in 24×7 working conditions. We are looking at a highly productive environment for them. We may not look at new products for expansion, and the three to four potential segments that we see include bulk excavation similar to lift irrigation that is carried out in Telangana on the Godavari riverbed. It is a time bound exercise. We see blue metal and Granite quarrying as a potential area. The gradients are steep and require careful manoeuvring. In the area of on-road construction, our tip-trailers could serve. After determining the potential islands of growth, we would need to change our products so that they can adapt to the needs. We will announce a revised product strategy next year (in 2018).

Q. What are your growth areas and the challenges you see?

A. Overdependence on a particular segment is a challenge in my opinion. It makes any organisation vulnerable. As 90 per cent of our business in India today comes from the coal overburden removal segment in mining, 90 per cent of my workforce and network is concentrating on one particular segment. We are not looking at other vital growth segments, and that is the challenge. It is something that we are seriously working on. We want to expand beyond coal and sustain our leadership in coal mining.

BGR Mining & Infra Pvt. Ltd.

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Among the top three coal mining contractors in India, BGR Mining & Infra Pvt. Ltd., (BGR) started operations 25 years ago. It began with a few conventional tippers, and a small excavator when it won the contract to excavate six lakh cubic metre of overburden in four months. The project was a success and gave the company the confidence to grow. From a few conventional tippers, the fleet of BGR has grown to include over 2000 tippers. It is in fact one of the first few key customers of Volvo Trucks India to have put every model of Volvo tipper to use. Apart from a large fleet of Volvo tippers, BGR has come to have the largest fleet of Volvo 10×5 dump trucks. These trucks are helping the company to meet the growing demand for higher capacity. Said B Umapathy Reddy, Chairman & Managing Director, BGR Mining & Infra Pvt. Ltd. that it is Volvo’s approach to partner with customers, and to set a benchmark in after-sales support that we have come to see them as our preferred partner.

Dhansar Engineering Pvt. Ltd.

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Dhansar Engineering Pvt. Ltd. traces its roots to 1890. With the sixth generation of the Agarwalla family at the helm, the company has come a long way to become one of the leading coal mine contractors. Also into construction and transportation, Dhanbad-based Dhansar Engineering Pvt. Ltd. (DECO) began its association with Volvo Trucks some 15 years ago after it won the contract for earth excavation and filling at the Tehri Dam project. While Manoj Agarwalla, Director, Dhansar Engineering Pvt. Ltd., attributed the success of their operation in overcoming operating challenges in an extremely difficult strata, boulder formation and fragmented terrain to their partnership with Volvo Trucks India, Harsh Agarwalla, Managing Director, Dhansar Engineering Pvt. Ltd., mentioned that their decision to choose Volvo trucks has turned out to be right. “Volvo trucks lived up to our expectation,” he averred. With a 100 per cent Volvo fleet, DECO is one of the largest customers of Volvo Trucks India.

Volvo Trucks and Renova test autonomous refuse truck

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Refuse trucks operate in cities and towns. Their operating cycle is typically urban, and with almost a stop at every household to collect refuse. The stop-go operating cycle of a refuse trucks leads to an amount of fuel wastage as well as increases the amount of exhaust gases the truck emits. That is not the only issue with refuse trucks. These trucks also pose a challenge to the driver with their duty cycle. The stop-go operation often results in driver fatigue, and especially in an urban environment. Making a perfect candidate for alternate fuel technologies, like buses, refuse trucks have also been a subject of research for some time now. The effect of their operating cycle on the driver is also prompting companies that build, and operate refuse trucks, to look at making it better and efficient. It does not come as a surprise therefore, that a Swedish waste management company, Renova, and Volvo Trucks, are currently testing an autonomous refuse truck with particular attention to safety. The two are researching on how automated vehicles can contribute to safer, more efficient refuse handling and create a better working environment for drivers. The automated systems being tested are in principle the same as those fitted to the autonomous Volvo truck operating in the Kristineberg Mine in northern Sweden since autumn 2016.

According to Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic & Product Safety Director, Volvo Trucks, that the automated refuse truck is driven manually in a new area for the first time with an on-board system constantly monitoring and mapping the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. “The next time the truck enters the same area, it knows exactly which route to follow and at which bins it has to stop,” he expressed. Stating the reason behind why his company embarked on this exercise, Almqvist mentioned, “Driving a heavy commercial vehicle in an urban residential area with narrow streets and vulnerable road users imposes major demands on safety, even when the vehicle’s speed doesn’t exceed a normal walking pace. The refuse truck we are now testing continuously monitors its surroundings and immediately stops if an obstacle suddenly appears on the road. The automate system, at the same time, creates better prerequisites for the driver to keep a watchful eye on everything that happens near the truck.” At the first stop with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it exactly the way the job is done today by operating the relevant controls. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon receiving the driver’s command. The driver walks the very same route that the truck takes and thus always has full view of what’s happening in the direction of travel.

An odd bit is the truck reversing. It is unheard of that a refuse truck reverses as it goes about picking up refuse at every door step almost. There’s a reason why this refuse truck reverse from one bin to the other, said Hans Zachrisson, Strategic Development Manager, Renova. He stated, “By reversing the truck, the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit instead of having to repeatedly walk between the rear and the cab every time the truck is on the move. And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there’s less risk of work related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints.” Reversing is otherwise a fairly risky manoeuvre as the driver may find it difficult to see who or what is moving behind the vehicle, even if it is fitted with a camera. In certain areas it is not allowed to reverse a heavy commercial vehicle for safety reasons, in others it is a requirement that a co-driver must stand behind the truck to ensure that the road is clear before the vehicle reverses. In this case, the truck – Volvo FM, is designed to eliminate these issues. Sensors monitor the area all around the refuse truck, no matter the direction in which the vehicle is moving.

If a car or any other obstacle is blocking the street, the refuse truck will automatically drive around it provided there is enough space. The automated systems, according to Almqvist, optimise gear changes, steering and speed, fuel consumption, and reduces emissions. Said Almqvist, “The technical scope already exists. However, a lot of research, testing and development remains before self-driving refuse trucks can become a reality.” The current project will continue until the end of 2017. It will be followed by an extremely thorough evaluation of functionality, safety, and how well this type of a vehicle is accepted by drivers, other road users and local residents. “Vehicles with varying degrees of automation will probably be introduced earlier in other applications, where transport assignments take place within strictly confined areas such as mines and cargo terminals,” signed off Almqvist.

170331-AB Volvo Förarlös sopbil. Best. av Anna Arbius Bild: Cicci Jonson, Bilduppdraget

170331-AB Volvo
Förarlös sopbil.
Best. av Anna Arbius
Bild: Cicci Jonson, Bilduppdraget

Safety at Volvo Trucks

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Intelligent and innovative safety technologies developed by Volvo Trucks promise zero accidents.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

Safety is endemic to the Swedish society. It lays much emphasis on accident prevention. If this will help to explain why safety is synonymous with Volvo, which has a long history of establishing safety milestones, at its Experience Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden, recently provided an insight into the safety technologies it has developed. With high commitment to safety, the Swedish truck giant is working on a plethora of technologies that could lead to connected vehicles, and eventually to truly autonomous machines. Present in 68 countries, including India, Volvo Trucks is pro-actively expanding the envelope of automotive safety. With an eye on rising vehicular population, and the resulting challenges, the company is focusing on smart safety technologies like emergency braking and collision warning.

The root of both these technologies lies in accidents where the following vehicle rear-ends the vehicle ahead. The results of which are often disastrous. Underlining the phenomenon of better infrastructure leading to more vehicles and higher traffic speeds, Helene Mellquist, Senior Vice President, Volvo Trucks International, expressed that rear-end collisions account for one-fifth of the overall accidents that involve trucks. “Since November 2015, it is mandatory to equip every two and three-axle trucks with an automatic emergency braking system across the European Union,” she said. According to the EU legislation, the braking system should be effective in slowing down a truck by 10 kmph. The target for next year is 20 kmph. Of the opinion that the amount of jerk that will emanate from such an excercise will cause the driver pain. To avoid this, Volvo Trucks, according to Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic and Products Safety Director, has developed a system that alerts the driver well in advance. If the driver does not pay heed to the warning, the emergency brakes are applied. Mentioned Almqvist, “If you are driving at 80 kmph when the emergency braking system is deployed, there is a need to cut down the speed by more than 20 kmph to avoid a nasty collision because the vehicle ahead has come to a standstill.”

Offering a first-hand feel of the technology on a Volvo FH16 750 carrying a load of over 40-tonnes, the engineers of the company explained how the system works. Noticing another vehicle in front, the truck shed speed from 80 kmph to a standstill in less than 40 m. The braking speed recorded was up to seven-meter per second square. The system, with standard ABS deployed on both the tractor and the trailer, is laced with a camera and radar technology to monitor the vehicular movement ahead of the truck. It is engineered to brave adverse weather conditions. Sensing the risk of a collision, the system gives out a sharp audio warning, closely followed by an escalating lighting combination. If the driver fails to respond, emergency braking is activated. At other times, when the system notices a lack of steering movement, it engages the parking brake in five seconds to avoid a roll over. To warn the following traffic, brakes lights begin to flash.

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Self-driving refuse truck

The self-driving refuse truck Volvo engineers have developed in association with Renova aims for safer, and efficient refuse handling. It provides an insight into how the refuse trucks of tomorrow will be like; how safe they will be. Meant to create a better working environment for drivers, the truck is driven manually the first time it visits a locality. The on-board system constantly monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. The next time the truck visits the locality, it knows exactly which route to follow, and at which bins to stop. At the first stop with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it exactly the way it is done with a conventional refuse truck. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon receiving the driver’s command. The driver walks the very same route that the truck takes. He thus has a full view of what’s happening in the direction of travel always.

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By reversing the truck, the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit instead of having to repeatedly walk between the rear and the cab every time the truck is on the move. And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there’s less risk of work related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints. Carrying the same genetic pattern of autonomous Volvo trucks operating in Kristineberg mine in northern Sweden, the autonomous refuse truck, according to Almqvist, comes to an immediate halt if the sensors monitoring the surrounding area notice another object in close vicinity. The commercial application of such a refuse truck is still some time away. There’s more research to be done, and especially in the wake of the regulation that does not allow trucks to be reversed for reasons of safety. Issues like these, and others need to be addressed. A detailed story on the autonomous refuse truck is featured ahead in the issue.


A convoy of three Volvo FH trucks, as part of an exercise to forward the cause of vehicle automation, under the supervision of the Dutch government, travelled from the Volvo headquarters at Gothenburg to Rotterdam in March 2017. As part of the European Union truck platooning challenge, the three Volvo trucks were driven through five countries while communicating wirelessly with each other through cameras and radars. The communication between the trucks was carried out through G5, a special frequency dealing with encrypted data traffic. The frequency enabled either truck to match the speed of the other trucks, which is essential to a platoon. With a one-second gap between the two trucks, the rate of acceleration and deceleration matched. A glimpse of how the system works was had with the camera fitted on the lead truck sending the footage to the two other trucks in the platoon. While the other drivers continued to steer the vehicle, acceleration and braking was automated. Traveling at 80 kmph, the trucks in the platoon maintained a 22 m gap between each other. The seemingly small gap reduced wind drag. Developing autonomous steering as an effort to reach the goal of a truly self-driving truck, Volvo is aware of the associated risks; the need for the drivers to be ready, and to accept it commercially.

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Visibility and driver awareness

Volvo Trucks is working closely with the Swedish Government to impart training to drivers through the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI), Lindholmen. VTI, in 2011, inaugurated its Sim IV simulator, which produces a large stroke liner motion in both lateral and longitudinal directions. A system consists of three LCD screens for rear view mirrors and nine projector modules for 180 degree forward field view. It is designed such that it studies the driver reactions and imparts training on maneouvring the truck in different situations. The number of accidents involving trucks has fallen as per the Volvo Trucks Safety Report for 2017. The report has mentioned that there are still a considerable number of drivers who do not wear a seat belt. Highlighting the need to focus on pedestrian safety, and that of the cyclists and motorcycles, the report has emphasized on active safety measures like increased seat belt usage, driver awareness as well as direct and indirect visibility from the cab, driver coaching services that provide direct feedback to the driver, and Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB) system.

The current AEB system as per the legislature, is designed to mitigate or avoid rear-end accidents. It will have to, in the future, include scenarios involving pedestrians and cyclists (VRUs). This would call for detection systems that identify VRUs in close proximity to a truck. Also, Cooperative Intelligent Traffic Systems (C-ITS) that enable communication between vehicles and infrastructure. Opined Peter Wells, Head, Volvo Trucks Accident Research, “Often there are these minor factors that foster a safe environment. They also lead to product improvement.” Volvo engineers have set up cameras that complement the rear view mirrors. The combination of cameras and mirrors is aimed at eliminating the limitations posed by a human eye. “There are blind spots around the truck for a driver. Different traffic situations call for them to be dealt accordingly. It is a joint responsibility of the society to see and be seen to elevate road safety,” averred Almqvist. He concluded, that it is important to educate the young and the adults.

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Singrauli hosts Volvo Fuelwatch Challenge

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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.

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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.