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Tough tests for the Volvo FMX

Volvo Trucks gave the FMX construction truck a particularly tough test program at its Hällered test facility located deep in the forests of western Sweden

 

Before Volvo Trucks releases a new truck model onto the market, it undergoes a battery of tough tests. These tests were taken a stage further for the Volvo FMX construction truck, which has undergone a specially tailored program of particularly tough testing at Hällered, Volvo’s enormous test facility located deep in the forests of western Sweden.

 

Testing of the various components, systems and complete vehicles takes place according to a standardized program. Initially the tests are conducted virtually, followed by a variety of laboratory tests. Once the new truck has come so far in its development that a complete, driveable prototype is available, it is time to subject it to tough physical tests at the Hällered Proving Ground.


Northern Europe’s largest test facility

The proving ground, one of the largest in Europe, was inaugurated in 1972 and has been steadily expanded ever since. The 700 hectare facility is surrounded by 12km of fencing to keep out wild animals and uninvited guests. Just inside the fence is the oval 6.2km-long high-speed circuit, the longest of the 15 test tracks on the site.


The Hällered Proving Ground is used to test trucks and cars round the clock. And it is here that the Volvo FMX was put through its paces 24 hours a day for six months, being subjected to some of the most rigorous testing a truck has ever undergone.

 

“Here at Hällered we carry out two different test programs,” states Patrik Lessmark, complete vehicle project manager for the FMX project. “We carry out both reliability and lifecycle tests at high speed, something that in our Volvo jargon is known as the AET or Accelerated Endurance Test,” he explains.


The lifecycle tests consist of six to eight months of round-the-clock driving. A number of test drivers run the trucks in shifts, putting the vehicles through about 10 highly demanding tests, time after time, throughout the entire test period.


“The aim of the lifecycle tests is to assess how the truck is affected by the total wear and tear that can accumulate throughout the vehicle’s expected lifetime,” adds Lessmark.

 

The reliability tests have a different purpose. Here the vehicles are driven without stop for 16 weeks, following a test regime that corresponds to a full year’s operation under normal conditions.


“With the reliability tests we assess how the truck will cope daily in the hands of our customers,” explains Bengt Johannesson, global lifecycle property specialist at Volvo.

Left: A tough truck doesn't need to have a spartan interior. Long shifts can be completed in comfort, aiding worker morale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 different properties
“All told we assess 32 different properties on the truck, divided into five main categories: quality, safety, the environment, fuel economy and transport efficiency,” says Johannesson. “Each of the properties has a different specialist whose job it is to measure and evaluate the results from every single test. 32 people in all, in other words.”


If any one property fails, Volvo’s engineers have to quickly come up with a solution that is then evaluated in new tests, in a 'loop process'.

 

Tailor-made tests

“There are naturally different tests for different truck types,” says Johannesson.

 

A construction truck is driven in a different way and is subjected to entirely different stresses than for instance a long-haul truck, which spends most of its life cruising on smooth asphalt. That is why the Volvo FMX has undergone an extended test program, in which it has been heavily subjected to particularly large amounts of dust, gravel, sticky mud and water. As well as plenty of driving while hauling a full load – 26 tonnes of crushed rock – on the special construction test track at Hällered that imposes especially high stresses on the truck’s frame and suspension system.


“What is more, the engine and power take-off get to work much more on a construction truck,” Johannesson points out. This too naturally influences the content of the test program.

 

Surpasses expectations
So just how well did the Volvo FMX do in its tests? Is Volvo Trucks’ new construction vehicle ready for hard work and long shifts at construction sites throughout Europe?


“Without a doubt,” confirms Patrik Lessmark. “The new truck is based on a tried and tested design, but the Volvo FMX has nonetheless surpassed our expectations in several respects. The test drivers were particularly appreciative of the comfort, and the truck’s driveability on poor surfaces is fantastic, not least thanks to the new software package for the I-Shift transmission.

 

“It’ll be interesting to see how the Volvo FMX is received on the market. My colleagues and I are certain there are going to be no disappointed customers,” concludes Lessmark.

 

Tough love

Some of the important tests that the Volvo FMX has undergone at the Hällered Proving Ground:

Hill-climbing: The truck is driven fully loaded both up and down hills of different gradients. The engine and transmission are subjected to extremely high stresses through repeated uphill starts hauling a full load.

Washboard: A section of the test track where the truck is subjected to vertical shaking at different frequencies. This test assesses durability, build quality and in-cab noise levels, among other things. The test is carried out with the truck both empty and hauling a full load.

Belgian pavé: A section of road that replicates an uneven, stone-flagged country highway. Subjects the vehicle to continuous shaking at different frequencies, both vertical and lateral. Immense stress on the springs, suspension, steering, wheel bearings and cab suspension. This test is carried out with the truck both empty and hauling a full load.

Hollow: The truck is driven at high speed through a deep dip in the road. This puts considerable shock load on components such as the springs, suspension, steering, wheel bearings and cab suspension. The test is carried out with the truck both empty and while hauling a full load.

Water and mud dip: The truck is driven through a deep trough filled with a mixture of salt water and fine-grain clay. This blend is very precisely specified by Volvo. The test subjects the undercarriage and wiring to considerable dirt exposure, water spatter and corrosion.

Construction track: A 750 metre long, exceptionally hilly test track filled with large bumps and potholes to resemble a typical construction site. This test is run with a full load. It subjects the frame, suspension and all the joints to considerable stresses.

 

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