June 5, 2017 11:00 AM, EDT

Driver Comfort Guided Volvo VNR Interior Designers

Volvo Trucks North America

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Drivers are proud of their trucks, so many were happy to invite Volvo designers into their cabs when the manufacturer was developing the interior design for its new VNR model, a company representative said.

“A lot of this design is intentional and is based on driver interviews and feedback,” Jason Spence, a Volvo product marketing specialist, told Transport Topics during a test drive of a Volvo VNR 300 day cab on June 1.

The company met with about 2,000 drivers and fleets while developing the truck, which was unveiled in April.

For example, he pointed out the six charging ports — four 12-volt jacks and two USB ports — that come standard in the truck. The two USBs and one 12-volt are mounted on top of the dash, a departure from the traditional spot low in the center stack, and high enough to be near spots where drivers tend to stash devices, he said. This design cue, he added, addresses the issue of charging cables being run up from low-mounted jacks, blocking HVAC and other controls. That said, there are two more 12-volt jacks installed lower down, near storage bins.

Helping drivers stay comfortable behind the wheel is also vital, especially considering the breadth of new recruits entering the industry. They include women, said product marketing manager Allison Athey, who discussed the challenges female drivers like her sometimes face. She pointed specifically to the truck’s adjustable seat belt and three-way adjustable steering wheel as features that help drivers of varying sizes find the right fit.

“I can get the setup exactly where I want it,” she said from behind the wheel of a VNR 420 that was pulling a flatbed trailer along a North Carolina state highway. She also said that the VNR has more space around the accelerator pedal than the VNM model it replaces, a nod to drivers who wear large boots.

From behind the wheel, the truck’s new 5-inch, color data screen is configurable to display three driver-selectable digital gauges from a menu of more than 20, including transmission temperature, oil temperature, DEF tank temperature, oil and fuel levels, and fuel economy. And there are benchmarks a driver or fleet can set. Also tucked into the menu are settings that control the volume of, for example, the sound indicator for the turn signal.

The wheel itself features 19 buttons that control such functions as Bluetooth connectivity, integrated engine braking and cruise control, gauge cluster backlight and audio volume and buttons that permit drivers to flash their headlights or taillights at other drivers, Chris Stadler, product marketing manager, said in an interview with TT.

Volvo also rethought the placement and number of switches, Stadler said. “We put them where they need to be and minimized the switch blanks.”

Buyers also have a choice of seven seats, including a RollTek unit that is designed to protect the driver in a crash. If sensors in the base determine a crash is imminent, Spence said, the seat will drop and slide back. The seat also features a side-mounted air bag, which is in addition to the standard driver-side steering wheel-mounted air bag.