June 5, 2017 2:00 AM, EDT

Growth of Regional Hauling to Lift VNR Sales, Volvo Says

Volvo Trucks North America

This story appears in the June 5 print edition of Transport Topics.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Volvo Trucks North America expects market shifts that range from the expanded Panama Canal to the strongest construction market in a decade to lift demand for its new VNR regional- haul model, company representatives said.

“We see this as a common workday tractor that goes out on local deliveries, supporting the communities, supporting the cities, supporting farming — it is a work truck,” Chris Stadler, product marketing manager for VTNA, said during the manufacturer’s ride-and-drive media event here June 1.

Specifically, he listed local deliveries in cities and rural regions as applications that the company is targeting with the truck, which was introduced in April at ExpoCam in Montreal.

During the truck’s development, Volvo talked with about 2,000 fleets and drivers to learn what they needed in a regional- haul truck, he said. That included hearing from drivers “what they have to say when they are operating in these markets,” he said.

Models in the ride-and-drive event included the Volvo VNR 300 with a 28-foot trailer, a Volvo VNR 300 with a 28-foot refrigerated trailer, a Volvo 400 6×4 flatbed and a Volvo 6×2 flatbed.

And market shifts are key to Volvo’s business outlook for the truck, said Magnus Koeck, the company’s vice president of marketing and brand management. At the top of the list is the expanded Panama Canal, and the volume of cargo that is moving through East Coast ports as a result.

“It is happening. We don’t see the full effect of this yet, but it is something that we are monitoring very carefully,” he said.

Among business segments, Koeck said, the company is seeing some recovery in the gas and oil field sectors, which will boost demand for tanker trucks. The construction industry is another sector that is mounting a comeback, experiencing its strongest performance since 2007, he said.

“The construction sector has grown, and we continue to see that probably into next year,” he said.

In terms of vehicle registrations, that growth has come at the expense of longhaul, due to weak freight demand and rates, and excess used-truck inventories, he said. As it relates to new trucks, Koeck said, inventory-to-sales ratios remain steady as dealers are maintaining less inventory and restocking more frequently.

“We are very pleased with the positive customer response we’ve seen since we launched the Volvo VNR,” Göran Nyberg, president of VTNA, said in a press release issued in conjunction with the event. “Our order intake, especially for the VNR 640, has exceeded our expectations, and we look forward to delivering the truck that meets all of the unique demands of the regional-haul market.”