By Suzanne Stempinski
Flags flying, the truck rumbled down the road, surrounded by a motorcycle escort of Volvo employees, other motorcyclists and Dublin, VA-area residents participating in the annual Rolling Thunder.
Since 1991, Volvo employees from the New River Valley plant have been part of the massive motorcycle rally honoring America’s fallen or missing military servicemen and women. The ride from Dublin connected with the hundreds of thousands of other participants, ending in Washington, DC, with a rally.
The VN670 was illustrated with patriotic and military themes. This year, graphics highlighted the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Remembering local veterans was also a focus and special graphics memorialized a former Vietnam War POW as well as a veteran of D-Day and Korea. Each of the branches of the military was honored with their seals prominently displayed along the hood.
Back at the plants, Volvo is focused on the business of building trucks. Engines built at their Hagerstown, MD, plant are transported down I-81 to be swung into trucks built to buyer specifications on assembly lines that combine care, quality control and technology. The sprawling New River Valley plant has 1.6 million square feet under roof and roughly 1,200 employees.
Continually changing emissions requirements have presented challenges for every facet of the trucking industry. The commitment to pursue a course of evolving technology has come with a hefty price tag along with some significant benefits.
First to receive EPA and CARB certifications without the use of energy credits, Volvo has been building and delivering EPA 2010-compliant trucks since August 2009, with selective catalytic reduction engine technology.
While the technologies are increasingly complicated, their goals are simple – to build quality safe, efficient, environmentally responsible trucks that contribute to successful businesses.
“The product that came off the line yesterday is going down the road today,” said Ron Huibers, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Volvo Trucks North America.
There’s a big difference between EPA 2007 standards and those required for EPA 2010. Volvo invested heavily in testing and validation, ultimately using 159 vehicles, 67 rigs and more than 48 million equivalent miles of test data to achieve current solutions.
Extreme environmental testing ranged from 36 degrees below zero to plus 111 degrees and at elevations up to 11,000 feet. Included was customer field testing with over 7 million miles of verifiable operational experience.
On the upside, with increased fuel efficiency there’s real savings in the cost of operations as well as the reduced carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, Volvo estimates 5 percent improved fuel economy in 2010 versus 2007 trucks.
The downside is that it adds an average $8,000 to $10,000 to the cost of buying a truck. The recapture period is roughly three to four years.
While engine technology is on everyone’s lips today, good business is about more than any one thing. The combination of trucks, engines, service, financing and technology investments all combine into strategic business alliances for the present and future. LL