Volvo Hauling Modularity Concept

Abstract

Road transportation grew by 3.3 % per year over the past ten years which is faster than the economic growth of 2.3 % per year. European Commission plans for an increase of 55 % for road transportation between 2000 and 2020. This growth puts pressure on current trucking industry considering fuel consumption, emissions of green house gases, and traffic congestion.
High demand logistics industry and current pressure creates trends towards flexibility and longer vehicle combinations for efficiency and to reduce the number of engines on roads, challenging the current coupling methods of the trailers.
Primary method called 5th wheel coupling comes from a similar coupling used on 4 wheel horse-drawn carriages of the 19th century which is reliable in terms of attaching truck and trailer but has significant safety, efficiency and comfort issues for driver and the vehicles-people around.
So what if hauling setup could be safer and smarter?

Inspiration and Method

Trucks, being heavy duty vehicles, are operated in variety of logistical scenarios, climate and road conditions on both high and low speeds, and in connection with other means of transportation. These simultaneous concerns led the research to cover different areas and methods:
•Literature research: Goods transportation, logistics and future logistical concepts, regulations and technical information, previous and ongoing Volvo researches
•Qualitative field research: In-depth interviews with truck drivers, other operational and logistical staff, engineers, road and sea transportation companies in combination with rail transportation, test drive of a 16,5 meters semi trailer truck at Volvo Demonstration Center for experiencing maneuver behavior of the vehicle, 36 hours delivery trip in subarctic conditions (limited daylight, frozen roads, as cold as -37 ° C observed) involving different loading unloading scenarios, switching trailers, sleeping in the cab of the truck, maintenance of frozen equipment on the go
•Group and individual brainstorming with mock-ups (foam, cardboard, LEGO)

Result

Final result is a new type of modularity concept for trucks that offers; safer (for truck itself and other road users) and faster coupling process which doesn’t require driver to leave the truck, uniform extendable modules, controlled articulation of the vehicle, flexibility, low center of mass for stability and for higher load capacity.
Safety, flexibility, compatibility and standardization are substantial keywords for this project and it is considered as the replacement of conventional trucks for their shortcomings. However, since a high-amplitude change like this can be convenient and effective if it’s the mainstream configuration of trucks and trucks somehow change slowly since it’s a part of complex web of relations in the logistics industry, it’s essential to test the concept in pilot scenarios. For that, “inland transportation of ISO containers in intermodal transportation scenarios” is defined as pilot area and product is designed also considering standards of ISO containers.