In what is being described as a landmark deal by Volvo Trucks, the commercial vehicle manufacturer has announced it has agreed to provide its first commercial autonomous solution in Norway.
Brønnøy Kalk AS will use six driverless Volvo FH trucks to transport limestone from pit to port, a five-kilometre journey through a network of tunnels between the mine site and crusher.
The agreement, reportedly a first of its kind for Volvo Trucks, involves a deal whereby the customer buys a total transport service and pays per tonne delivered. An operator of a wheel loader will manage the autonomous Volvo FH trucks from hub to hub in a controlled environment near Velfjord in Norway.
While tests for the operation have been ongoing, they are set to continue into the latter half of 2019 when it is anticipated the commercial solution will become fully operational.
It’s a first for Volvo Trucks who will be selling the transport solution rather than just autonomous trucks to Brønnøy Kalk.
Raymond Langfjord, Managing Director of the mine said it was an important first step given competition in the resources sector was always tough.
“We are continuously looking to increase our efficiency and productivity long-term, and we have a clear vision of taking advantage of new opportunities in technology and digital solutions,” he said.
“We were searching for a reliable and innovative partner that shares our focus on sustainability and safety.”
“Going autonomous will greatly increase our competitiveness in a tough global market,” said Langfjord.
Volvo Trucks, according to its President Claes Nilsson, is providing an autonomous solution that will meet the challenges of its customers in terms of safety, reliability and profitability.
“Global transport needs are continuously changing at a very high pace and the industry is demanding new and advanced solutions to stay ahead,” he said.
“Our aim is to be the leader of the development of products and services to respond to these demands” he said.
Reaching this point of introducing autonomous solutions, according to Sasko Cuklev, Volvo Trucks Director Autonomous Solutions, was exciting.
“By working in a confined area on a predetermined route, we can find out how to get the best out of the solution and tailor it according to specific customer needs,” he said.
“This is all about collaborating to develop new solutions, providing greater flexibility and efficiency as well as increased productivity.”
The new headquarters houses offices, a dealership dedicated to Volvo, Mack and UD trucks, which all had models on display and a 33,000 square metre workshop at the new Metroplex Westgate business park.
It features a Leonardo Di Vinci-inspired helix central staircase made of muted Scandinavian timber and a seven-metre glass hangar door inside a 12.5 metres high atrium to accommodate the display of heavy vehicles.
The company employs more than 1500 employees around Australia and has produced more than 60,000 trucks from its Wacol factory since 1972 when it first began manufacturing in Queensland.
Volvo Group international President and CEO Martin Lundstedt said the refurbishment of the nearby Wacol truck plant attests to the strong outlook of the company as it ramps up production.
“Our increase in market share towards 27 per cent over the past five years in combination with a strong heavy-duty truck market, makes it necessary to further increase our production capacity,” he said.
“In the past five years alone, production at our Wacol factory has increased by 40 per cent.”
Mr Lundstedt said the investment in the new Wacol facility will provide a boost to its 85 local component suppliers.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk welcomed the announcement at the opening of the new facility, which employs 500 workers and is a significant part of the state’s manufacturing base.
“Volvo Group is the only truck manufacturer to be awarded ‘Australian Made’ certification, and we’re particularly proud to call them Queensland-made,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Their commitment to the state is a vote of confidence in our future and testament to the State’s economic strength.”
Outgoing Volvo Group Australia President Peter Voorhoeve said the building housed 200 staff.
“It’s a beautiful building but more than that it’s a tangible demonstration of Volvo Group’s commitment to its future operations in Australia,” he said.
The company has unveiled a new version of its XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid SUV that has several of its plastic components replaced with equivalents containing recycled materials.
The XC60’s interior has a console made from renewable fibres and plastics from discarded fishing nets and maritime ropes. The carpet contains fibres made from PET plastic bottles and a recycled cotton mix from clothing manufacturing offcuts.
The seats also contain material from PET bottles, with used car seats from old Volvo cars being used to create the sound absorbing material under the bonnet.
It follows the company’s announcement that it will electrify all new Volvo cars by 2019, stating that it aims to make fully electric cars 50 per cent of its global sales by 2025.
President and CEO of Volvo Cars Håkan Samuelsson said Volvo Cars is committed to minimising its global environment footprint.
Environmental care is one of Volvo’s core values and we will continue to find new ways to bring this into our business. This car and our recycled plastics ambition are further examples of that commitment,” he said.
Senior Vice President of Global Procurement at Volvo Cars Martina Buchhauser said the company already work with suppliers when it comes to sustainability.
“However, we do need increased availability of recycled plastics if we are to make our ambition a reality. That is why we call on even more suppliers and new partners to join us in investing in recycled plastics and to help us realise our ambition,” she said.
JJ Richards & Sons has started a seven-year contract to provide kerbside collection services for the City of Whittlesea, Victoria, with 20 new Volvo FE side-loaders.
The City of Whittlesea said in a statement that the waste collection trucks feature Euro VI–compliant environmental design, demonstrating its commitment to investing in sustainable equipment that reduces the impact of vehicle emissions. The contract began at the end of April.
The trucks are also fitted with the JJ Richards–designed j-Track in-cab computer system that provides real-time service tracking and information, reducing the likelihood of bins being missed. Data is reportedly updated within minutes and records every bin lift with location, date and time.
The vehicles are also fitted with Black Moth Mobile Vision System comprising an on-board dual-touchscreen computer as well as up to five wide-angle smart cameras, giving the driver access to 360° vision around the vehicle.
The Volvo side-loaders have also been engineered to be significantly quieter, with advanced engine braking systems and a thick layer of insulation under the cab to help reduce engine noise, therefore ensuring as little disruption to residents as possible.
Last year, JJ Richards & Sons invested in 20 new waste recovery trucks for a new nine-year kerbside waste and recycling contract in Cairns.
The FE Electric garbage truck is set for launch by Volvo Trucks in Europe. Developed with refuse equipment builder, Faun, the new truck will reportedly be operational in Hamburg, Germany, early 2019
The first Superior Heavy Vehicle Licensing (SHVL) program for women will be delivered in partnership between Wodonga TAFE’s Transport Division DECA, Transport Women Australia Limited (TWAL) and Volvo Group.
The program has been created to help women qualify for their heavy vehicle licence. Volvo will supply a prime mover for the four-week intensive training course designed to provide students with behind-the-wheel experience.
By encouraging female drivers to participate in the course, DECA was looking at a solution to address the driver shortage across the road transport sector.
At the recent Transport Women Australia Conference in Canberra, Women Driving Transport Careers was launched. Offered in Metropolitan Melbourne, the course will be arranged in conjunction with Volvo Group Australia Driver Academy.
Simon Macaulay, National Manager Transport at DECA, said the training will assist females obtain a high demand skill for which to fast-track their entrance into the heavy transport workforce.
“We provide participants with the industry standard skills and know-how. We take them through areas that are barely mentioned in a lot of licence instruction, such as safety protocols and health and safety procedures, road maps, fatigue management, chain of responsibility and use of technology,” Macauley said.
Volvo Group Australia has found the average age of truck drivers in Australia is 47. Meanwhile 52 per cent of employers, according to its research conducted in 2016, struggle to attract the quantity of drivers needed and 46 per cent are already experiencing a shortage of available drivers.
President and CEO of Volvo Group Australia Peter Voorhoeve said the company is working hard to attract new and more diverse talent into the heavy transport sector.
“Australia is standing on the precipice of a serious truck driver shortage, the effects of which will be felt far beyond the transport industry. If the industry does not find ways to attract more drivers to the industry, we will all feel the pain in higher prices for the things that trucks move up and down our highways – food, clothing, construction materials, medical supplies and consumer goods to name just a few.
“As the leading manufacturer of trucks in Australia, we take our role in the industry seriously, which is why we are constantly looking for new ways to grow the heavy transport sector workforce and champion greater diversity in the driver workforce.”
The FE Electric garbage truck is set for launch by Volvo Trucks in Europe. Developed with refuse equipment builder, Faun, the new truck will reportedly be operational in Hamburg, Germany, early 2019.
This follows the roll out of Volvo’s FL Electric garbage truck earlier this year as it continues its pursuit of alternative fuel vehicle development.
The FL Electric is set to enter operation in Gothenburg, Sweden, where Volvo headquarters is located.
Volvo has yet to confirm whether this recent development accelerates its goal of introducing electric trucks into the U.S. market, as has been previously stated by the company.
“This opens the door to new forms of cooperation with cities that target to improve air quality, reduce traffic noise and cut congestion during peak hours,” Claes Nilsson, President Volvo Trucks said.
“Commercial operations can be carried out quietly and without tailpipe exhaust emissions early in the morning or late at night.”
The Volvo FE Electric will be powered by two electric motors, with a range of up to 200 kilometres. Gross vehicle weight will be around 27 tonne. The smaller Volvo FL Electric will have a range of up to 300 kilometres.
Volvo Trucks is testing and researching how automated vehicles can improve safety.
DPCcars reported the company is working with Swedish waste management organisation Renova using similar systems to those fitted in the Kristineberg Mine in northern Sweden since autumn 2016.
The devices uses a GPS and lidar-based system, which is said to allow for mapping, positioning and scanning of the area around the vehicle.
The automated refuse truck also features automatic control of steering, gear changing and speed and an automatic stop if an obstacle on the road appears suddenly.
“Driving a heavy commercial vehicle in an urban residential area with narrow streets and vulnerable road users naturally imposes major demands on safety, even when the vehicle’s speed doesn’t exceed a normal walking pace,” said Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic & Product Safety Director, Volvo Trucks.
“The refuse truck we are now testing continuously monitors its surroundings and immediately stops if an obstacle suddenly appears on the road. At the same time, the automated system creates better prerequisites for the driver to keep a watchful eye on everything that happens near the truck.”
The automated refuse truck is driven manually the first time it is in a new area, while the on-board system constantly monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. The truck knows which route to follow and at which bins it has to stop the next time it enters the area.
At the first stop, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it in a standard process.
Once completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin after receiving the driver’s command. The driver takes the same route as the truck to maintain full view in front of him.
“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,” said Hans Zachrisson, Strategic Development Manager at Renova.
Reversing is otherwise a risky manoeuvre since 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 with 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 is allowed to reverse. DPCcars reported the solution being tested has been designed to eliminate these issues. Sensors monitor the area all around the refuse truck, ensuring driving is equally safe no matter the direction in which the vehicle is travelling. If the street is blocked by a parked car, the refuse truck can automatically drive around the obstruction provided there is sufficient space alongside.
DPCcars reported that although the technical scope already exists, a lot of research, testing and development remains before self-driving refuse trucks can become a reality. The current joint project will continue until the end of 2017 and will be followed by a thorough evaluation of functionality, safety and community and driver consultation. Vehicles with varying degrees of automation will be introduced earlier in other applications, where transport assignments take place within strictly confined areas such as mines and cargo terminals.