Crawling along with Volvo’s new gears

By: Steve Skinner

Very different loads but the same big 750hp version of the Volvo FH with I-Shift crawler gears.
Very different loads but the same big 750hp version of the Volvo FH with I-Shift crawler gears.

New crawler gears are demonstrated to make light work of heavy loads


By now you might have seen the Volvo "stunt" video in which a Volvo prime mover with crawler gears pulls a 700-tonne set of containers loaded with Volvo parts for 100 metres along a dock.

That dock is at the Swedish port city of Gothenburg, HQ of Volvo, which I recently visited courtesy of Volvo Trucks.

Volvo’s tried and true I-Shift automated manual transmission is now available out of the factory with those crawler gears.

There’s the option of one or two extremely low gear settings in addition to the usual 12.

Amongst other things they enable you to crawl at nearly full throttle, and even set the truck to cruise control at one kilometre per hour, which is a slightly bizarre experience.

I used a 32:1 ratio crawler gear in a demo 750 horsepower prime mover pulling a 74 tonne all-up truck and dog logging combination.

From a standing start on the 12 per cent gradient hill at Volvo’s demo centre track in Gothenburg, the crawler option made moving off with 74 tonnes a piece of cake.

The truck automatically chooses crawler gear if it thinks it’s needed.

And with Volvo’s new parking brake control, you don’t even need hill start assist to prevent rolling back.

With the parking brake on, you simply put your foot on the throttle and go, which deactivates the brake.

Volvo expects crawler gears to be a winner for super heavy haulage in Australia, up to around 300 tonnes.

At those weights the extra 50 kilograms for the heavier gearbox won’t be noticed.

The crawler gears also work in reverse of course, and I reckon a reverse crawler would be handy for any operation anywhere in Australia, for hooking up trailers.

That’s because autos sometimes reverse a bit quickly: you can’t control backing onto a trailer kingpin as finely as feathering the clutch on a manual gearbox, which of course the Europeans don’t seem to offer any more.

Speaking of the parking brake, that’s the only thing I don’t like about the latest Volvos – it’s a button you only need one finger to use, like in a lot of cars these days.

I like the old lever: even with a simple glance you can easily be sure whether the parking brake is on or off. And if you are a new driver to the truck, you can find it straight away.

The new button is a bit camouflaged into the dash.



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