Wouldn’t it be great if drivers talked about how quietly and smoothly Volvo Trucks’ new longhaul truck drove? How much easier it was on their arms and shoulders and backs?
If they continually noticed how all the switches and controls are right where they need to be, easy to find and use?
Continually Impressive “The nicest part of a really good design is when you notice things even after owning it for a year or two,” chief interior designer Brian Balicki says — and he’s worked hard to make that happen with the new Volvo VNL.
First, to create a sense of a refined, performance-oriented product, Balicki drew from F1 auto racing, where choices blend form and function. “That’s the intention behind the raven color for the dash,” Balicki explains. “It puts everything in background so you don’t focus on the physical form of the instrument panel. Instead you focus on the features and functions baked into instrument panels.”
When drivers sit in the seat, everything they interact with has been improved
Improving Improvements From there, every time the team improved something, they thought about how to improve it more. When they upgraded the truck’s seat to better fit drivers’ hips and to allow more movement, they also redesigned the seat control panel to adjust more easily and quickly. When they added an all new driver information screen, they tweaked everything surrounding it to provide the clearest line of sight.
New at the wheel The new steering wheel is one example, says marketing product manager Jason Spence. The innovative three-motion Position Perfect™ steering wheel, the only one of its kind in a truck, allows drivers to tilt the wheel on the column, so they can drive more like an automobile. But adding that wasn’t enough, Spence said. The team made the wheel even more functional by moving key control buttons to its face.
“We encourage drivers to always have hands on the wheels, so we put all controls they need running down the road within easy and quick hand reach,” says Spence.
That emphasis extends throughout the cab in small, convenient details. One-touch window controls, like those in cars, mean drivers spend less time with their hands off the wheel.
Making work easier for the driver was the intent of every new development in the Volvo VNL.
“Complexity is tremendous in today’s trucks, and if we can make that easier to understand that’s a great benefit to the driver,” Spence says.
Next-Level Focus Balicki agrees that an extra level of innovation—often coming after drivers spent hours in test model—defined the design process.
“It helped us drive some of these intuitive features no other original equipment manufacturers are focusing on at this moment,” Balicki says. “These are also the kinds of things that are going to make drivers proud to have this truck.”
Which is why Balicki knows that, two years from now, a Volvo VNL driver will notice for the first time that the mat in the “birdbath” in-dash storage area can be removed for cleaning. Or that the angled storage space in the center console is the perfect fit for oversized drink bottles. Or how the diffused light-green backlighting in the cab is better at night, less fatiguing to the eye.
“We took it as a challenge to show people how much we’re focusing on driver productivity,” he says. “As they sit in the seat of this new truck, everything they interact with or can see has been improved. Anything we can do to help them focus on what’s outside the vehicle helps them be safer, better drivers.”
Happier drivers are more productive drivers, Whitt says – but it goes further than that.
Getting good drivers “If you give owners the opportunity to make a driver a lot happier in the equipment he’s running, he’s going to treat that equipment with a lot more respect,” Whitt says.
“Drivers are irreplaceable. We have to do all we can to promote the next generation of drivers. With the new Volvo VNR, we want to make driving as attractive as possible, so our customers can get the best drivers.”