Volvo FH B-Ride N3 - Tipper truck review

Colin Barnett
June 30, 2019

Jump to: Limited protection, Twist 'n' tip, Highlights, Global vision, Vehicle specifications

Volvo’s FH13 tipper may not tick all the boxes for everyone, but it comes into its own in the construction sector.

The combination of a 26.6cu m Wilcox aluminium bulk tipper – a nicely crafted bit of kit with lots of nice touches – and a Globetrotter sleeper cab means the FH13-460 8x4 rigid tipper is aimed at an entirely different sector to more conventional products, not least because filling it to the top would take 40 tonnes of gravel. For lower-density material though, such as animal feed or biomass, carried for long distances, the Volvo is ideal.

Limited protection

This type of work is reflected in its off-road protection, limited to guards for the headlamps, rather the full body armour of its FMX cousin. That doesn’t mean the FH can’t operate in mild off-road conditions, although it does provide the only bit of drama at the group test. It isn’t the Volvo’s fault, though, as any of the seven would have achieved the same result. When we’re sharing an operational workplace to play at being truckers, we do our best to stay out the way of the professionals. This time our good intentions backfire slightly, as we enter our collection site just ahead of a Cullimore artic. We overdo moving over to let it past, but in doing so, lack of local knowledge sees us drive onto the uncompacted edge of the haul road. Less than a truck’s length later, it is game over as all of our left-hand tyres dig holes for themselves.

Seconds after the three elements are connected, “Tom Pinch” (a wheeled loader) has us extracted from our shallow grave. No harm is done, and we leave with a greater respect for even innocent-looking terrain.

The FH comes with a couple of other innovations that really prove to be at their best in the construction sector. Traversing slippery site surfaces requires as constant and smooth a flow of drive as possible during gear shifts, something where even the best conventional automated transmission can’t always match the gentle touch of a skilled driver in a manual. However, the Dual Clutch version of the Volvo I-Shift has a break of drive measured in milliseconds, not enough to create a loss of traction. It also gives a small but measurable improvement in journey times on tough on-road terrain. The other highly beneficial option is the VDS steering, where the ability to shunt an 8x4 with virtually no physical effort is particularly welcome when working on site.

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Twist ‘n’ tip

When we do get into position to tip, the Wilcox body requires us to manually open the tailgate, and once back in the cab, the tipping lever location involves a bit of a twist to reach. Volvo has also fitted an interlock that means we can’t tip in gear, which slows down operations a bit. The PTO engagement control is a proper Volvo switch on the dash, with a separate switch fob for the sheeting system. Many functions such as PTO, tipping and warning lights can be operated from the remote control on the A-pillar.

Out on the open road, the 460 engine and Dual Clutch transmission make for lively performance at 32 tonnes. The FH is equipped with Volvo’s tough but lightweight all-steel B-ride tandem rear bogie, but the heavier-duty steel T-ride or off-road optimised air suspensions are options. The B-ride is actually far more comfortable than you would expect from steel, and the handling is precise. The VDS may be a little light at higher speeds for some tastes, but on future versions you’ll be able to adjust the assistance to suit your own taste. Brakes are fine, and kept fresh by a three-stage retarder and engine brake system that integrates both at all levels.

Global vision

Big cabs like the Globetrotter may not please London’s politicians, but out in the real world of country roads, the enhanced visibility over hedges and the like is a real safety benefit. The FH’s excellent mirrors are supported on this example by a 360-degree camera system whose images are shown on the latest top-of the- range TomTom b infotainment unit, with other features that include touchscreen truck-specific sat-nav, Dynafleet integration, DAB radio, dual Bluetooth and connectivity to run Apple and Android smartphone apps.

The FH Globetrotter cab, Volvo’s second-largest after the Globetrotter XL, has been around long enough to be familiar to most readers. You wouldn’t want to use it for a milk round, but after reaching the rather high first step, access is surprisingly easy. Once inside, a week’s tour of farms and feed mills wouldn’t challenge its storage facilities. Whether driving or resting, the leather Comfort seats justify their name, with two armrests each, with the driver getting a full heating and ventilation package. The FH may not suit everyone’s needs as a tipper, but when it does, it does it brilliantly.

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About the Author


Colin Barnett

Colin Barnett has been involved in the road transport industry since becoming an apprentice truck mechanic and worked on Commercial Motor for 27 years

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