Manufacturing trucks here in Australia has always been problematic. When compared to truck manufacturing in both Europe and the United States, the requirements for the small Australian market means it is difficult to develop a cost-effective way of building trucks to compete with those mass produced elsewhere in the world. Three manufacturers are still manufacturing trucks here: Kenworth, Iveco and Volvo/Mack.
By opening a new Off-line Process Facility at its truck production plant at Wacol in Queensland, Mack and Volvo are reaffirming their commitment to continue to manufacture trucks here. The new facility represents an investment of $7.2 million by the company, Volvo Global Manufacturing, in the plant which started building Volvo Trucks back in 1972. The manufacture of Mack trucks was moved to Wacol from the old Richlands plant back in 2002.
The commitment of global truck manufacturers to local production is often called into question when the low numbers required by the Australian market and the uncertainty caused by continuing currency fluctuations cast doubt on the viability of such a venture. Committing new capital to the venture, Volvo Global Manufacturing is indicating it is in this for the long run.
With ongoing investment and capital expenditure at the Wacol plant alongside the unveiling of the new 2011 models from both Volvo and Mack, the company continues to demonstrate the kind of commitment which has brought them both considerable market share for many years here in Australia.
With the introduction of the new ADR 80/03 exhaust emission rules both Volvo and Mack will be making model changes. As the Volvo organisation has been selling its Euro 5 for nearly two years, the changes to the range are relatively simple. For Mack, the new emission rules means upgrading its engine offering throughout the range to meet requirements of the new rules reducing both nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
Mack Trucks is taking the opportunity of new engine specifications to increase both power and torque on offer throughout its range. With the introduction of SCR technology on its MP8 engines, the company has the opportunity to re-map the engine management software to take account of the new system and has come up with an improved performance. Currently, the MP8 is fitted to Granite and Trident models.
The model change also gives Mack the opportunity to introduce an all-new gearbox. The mDrive is an automated manual transmission developed by Mack from the I-shift transmission used in the Volvo product. The gearbox uses software improvements included in the Volvo version but also with Mack specific programming to suit the engine parameters and application requirements of the Bulldog brand.
The 12 speed two pedal transmission is fully integrated electronically with the Mack MP8 engine reducing driveline stress and enabling smart efficient shifting. The new transmission should prove to be a much more attractive option when a customer is looking for automated manual gear changing, rather than the less sophisticated Autoshift available in the current models. Mack is also introducing new Mack tandem drive axles. The 150/151, rated at 20 tonnes comes standard with driver controlled diff locks.
When the Granite model is specified by construction customers, with power rating on the MP8 available up to 500hp, the mDrive gearbox will be available with a specially developed construction mode in the software. For distribution customers, the MP8 engine will be available at either 435hp or 500hp with the engine demonstrating improved engine braking. The MP8 will be available up to 535hp when fitted to the new 2011 Trident models. Torque capability has also been improved with the engine producing 2603Nm (1920 ft lb) in the 535 engine.
“The combination of MP8, mDrive and Mack steer and drive axles provides operators with the peace of mind of an all Mack driveline,” says Dean Bestwick, General Manager of Mack Trucks in Australia. “It is a winning combination that promises the ultimate in all-American durability, reliability and application excellence. Granite and Trident operators once again can become members of an elite, purebred club and proudly display the legendary gold bulldog on their bonnet.”
There will also be new engine and gearbox offerings for the Metroliner range. The industry has now standardised on larger engines in this vocational segment. As a result, the Metroliner in 2011 will be fitted with the Cummins ISL SCR as standard. Power ratings will be available up to 400hp. Coupled with this engine will be the Allison automatic transmission as standard.
For the urban distribution version of the Metroliner, another new gearbox will be on offer. The Eaton Ultrashift Plus is now available, providing smoother, more intelligent gear changing, based on the industry standard Roadranger gearbox. This transmission is now a two pedal system, ideally suited to the stop start driving conditions experienced by the normal urban distribution vehicle.
The heavy end of the Mack truck range now uses the Cummins ISX engine as its standard power plant. To meet the new regulations, Cummins has now included the Cummins Particulate Filter into the exhaust system and increased the level of exhaust gases being recirculated in the EGR system. Performance of this engine is expected to be very close to that of the current offering with a possible three percent fuel penalty. Both the Superliner and the Titan models from Mack will be available with the 550 and 600 hp versions of the ISX.
Looking at the new Volvo range coming on stream in 2011, it is the 700hp flagship, Volvo FH 16, which will grab the headlines. The engine puts out 3150Nm (2323 ft lb) of torque, with the 600hp version offering slightly less at 2800Nm (2065 ft lb). Coupled with this new engine will be the new I-shift using revised software specifically developed for working with the heaviest applications.
As with all of the Volvo engines throughout the range, the new 16L model uses SCR technology to reduce exhaust emissions to meet the requirements of ADR 80/03. By moving the redesigned SCR unit to a position behind the cab on top of the chassis, it has been possible for Volvo to rearrange the mounting positions for its tanks and increase the range of the adblue tank up to a claimed 6500km.
“The Volvo FH 16 is intended for the very heaviest and most demanding of transport operations,” says Gary Bone, General Manager of Volvo Trucks Australia. “It is also a highly prestigious truck for the customer who is looking for something truly out of the ordinary. With 700hp, the Volvo FH sets itself apart from everything else in the industry.”
The rest of the FH range using the 13L Volvo engine also gains fuel and adblue capacity from the rearranged chassis layout. The changes for the FM range have been a little more substantial with a new look front end. The grille, front panel and headlight array from the FH have now migrated across to the FM range giving it a more substantial look as well as including options like the turning illumination light for FM customers. Engine options see the 13L available as a 460 or 500 hp model while the 11L Volvo engine will be available from 330hp to 450hp.
A new option for Volvo FM buyers is the inclusion of the Globetrotter high roof cabin in the specification lineup. Volvo sees this as a model aimed specifically at a different part of the market. Intrastate operators may have applications where the low entry FM cab is preferred as it is a distribution task but due to the kind of distance traveled, the driver may spend several nights a week in the truck and prefer the larger living space offered by the Globetrotter.
Another new look FM is also on the way but will only appear in limited numbers. The Volvo FMX had been released in the European market as a more robust range of trucks capable of coping with the off-road construction industry requirements there. It will be introduced here only as a 6×6 model specifically for those rough terrain applications where all wheel drive is vital. These vehicles will be imported directly from Europe and will not be manufactured here in Australia.
It was Volvo’s manufacturing capability here in Australia which was the centre of attention during the recent launch of the Off-line Process Facility at the Wacol plant in Queensland, one of 15 manufacturing facilities Volvo operates around the world. The importance of the occasion was underlined by the attendance of Senator Jacinta Collins, Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, Warren Truss (Acting Opposition Leader on the day), Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and Chairman of the ATA, David Simon.
The new facility addresses a problem area in the production process for Volvo and Mack. A bottleneck had developed in the safety and quality testing of the trucks at the end of the production line, the old system couldn’t cope with high production levels. By introducing this modern facility, vehicle testing will be able to keep pace with the plant’s stated capacity of 16 trucks a day. The attention of the Wacol plant management has now turned to improving the overall production system it is using.
“Now we are concentrating in areas where we probably don’t need so much capital investment, we are looking at the whole process,” says Mona Edstrom Frohm, General Manager, Volvo Truck Production Australia. “We are looking to reform the whole process and find where there are bottlenecks. We are looking at everything: quality, safety, our way of working, how we store the materials, how we get the materials to the line and so on.”
As the truck market begins to recover both here and globally, the manufacture of trucks will again become a growing industry. Volvo’s faith in the relatively small plant, in global terms, here at Wacol, where it has committed to a major investment during a global downturn does augur well for the future production here in Australia, of both the Mack and Volvo brands.