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TMC 2024


Volvo Showcases Redesigned VNL Publicly for First Time

Aerodynamic Shape Catches the Eye; Cab, Trailer Gap Narrows
Volvo VNL
Left: The acute angle of the windshield aids aerodynamics. Right: Overhead comparisons of the redesigned (left) and legacy VNL tractors illustrate aerodynamic enhancements. (Volvo Trucks North America)

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NEW ORLEANS — Volvo Trucks North America in the first public showcase of its redesigned Volvo VNL tractor outlined the aerodynamic improvements that the new truck offers over its predecessor.

“Like airplanes and bullet trains, we’re trying to bring out something that is rounded — a smooth link,” said VTNA Director of Product Johan Agebrand during a March 4 interview from the 2024 Technology & Maintenance Council Annual Meeting and Transportation Technology Exhibition. TMC is part of American Trucking Associations.

“You want to divert the air around and under it. And that’s where we have the improvements with this truck with this design,” Agebrand said. Overall, Volvo crafted a wedge-shaped cab, narrowed the gap between the truck and road and lowered the hood. The VNL 840 74-inch midroof sleeper on display at the show featured side skirts and a lowered fairing, wheel covers, and extenders that close the gap between the cab and a trailer. The new truck’s hood is also narrower, and the angle of the windshield is considerably more acute than the outgoing model, all changes meant to improve the aerodynamics and fuel economy.

“A lot of people talk about weight, but most trucks will be loaded to the maximum,” Agebrand said. “That’s how they make money. So, when people talk about a lightweight truck, that does not matter as much. Aerodynamics are much more important for fuel economy than weight when it comes to longhaul trucking. The truck is going to be 80,000 pounds no matter what we do.”

Agebrand said the new truck is 18% more aerodynamic specific to air flowing around the cab compared with the legacy VNL tractor, which helps with fuel economy by directing air around the truck. “The most aerodynamic shape is a raindrop. How does a raindrop look when it falls? It is a material that shapes itself for the least resistance,” he said.

The truck’s A-pillar leans backward and inward to allow the windshield to push air around the cab, said Agebrand. The windshield rake on the legacy VNL was 68 degrees, whereas the latest VNL has a windshield rake of 52 degrees. The back of the cab features side extenders to maintain the aerodynamic shape. The extenders can be folded out.

“You’re always going to get turbulence at the end of the trailer, but our key move is to minimize the turbulence between the tractor and trailer,” Agebrand said. “It’s a big square box that we’ve got to get air around. That’s the challenge with any truck.”

He added, “Everything comes down to the trailer gap. You’ve got to have a smooth line.”

The side extenders are made via a proprietary lightweight honeycomb design with a type of “plastic foam” that is only an inch thick, said Agebrand.

Johan Agebrand

“Everything comes down to the trailer gap. You’ve got to have a smooth line,” Johan Agebrand says. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics) 

“There are no false vents on this truck, everything is functional,” Agebrand told reporters a day later at a March 5 press conference.

The theme at TMC 2024 was “Quality Spec’ing for Optimal Performance,” a mantra not dissimilar to what Volvo aims to achieve with the updated VNL. The truck’s aerodynamic improvements allow a downspec’ing on the engine, said Agebrand, largely through faster rear axle ratios, which decreases the rpm an engine is required to turn. The legacy VNL at 65 mph, with an average load, on flat land, requires 350 horsepower to move the load, whereas the latest VNL with the same variables, requires 315 hp to maintain 65 mph, he told TT.

The VNL order book will open in April and production is set to start in the third quarter. The truck will be available in six cab configurations.

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