PowerTorque’s European Correspondent, Will Shiers, meets with UK family-run heavy haulier Kings Heavy Haulage, who reckon you don’t need 16 litres to get the job done.
Within minutes of arriving at Kings Heavy Haulage’s yard, located in Avonmouth, just outside of Bristol in the south west of England, I’m boring MD Steve King with my Australian stories. And why not, after all, thanks to my few days in a Volvo FH16 road train in 2019, I’ve got something in common with him. I too know something about running over-length and over-weight.
“And here’s us at 52m and 110 tonnes,” I say, proudly scrolling through dozens of photos of the FH16 600 heading into the Outback. “Of course ideally we would have been in a FH16 750, but incredibly they don’t sell them down there.”
I can immediately tell, from the look on his face, that I’ve said something wrong. Don’t tell me Kings doesn’t bother with the top horsepower Volvo either? Surely not! I mean one of its regular jobs is moving Airbus wings over 1,000km from England to Toulouse in the South of France. Surely you need 750 horses for that right? Wrong!
“You don’t need 16 litres to get the job done,” explains Steve. “To get the extra power you are just chucking fuel at it, and you don’t get there any quicker anyway. If you’re pulling a low-loader with X amount of weight on it, you have to slow down because of what it is anyway. A big engine just isn’t needed.”
As he’s talking I discreetly glance behind him at the trucks parked-up in the yard. There’s not a single FH16 in sight!
In fact, as I’m about to learn, Kings runs a 29-strong fleet of 13-litre FHs, and swears by the smaller engine. In addition to being more fuel efficient than its 16-litre sibling, Steve claims that it’s more reliable too.
“So much development has gone into that engine, and I don’t think we have ever worn one out, says Steve. “In fact, it’s been over 20 years since we last replaced a crankshaft. I do fully understand the psychology behind buying FH16s, as some people just want the biggest truck, but I don’t know how they can afford the fuel.”
Kings moved to an all-Volvo fleet in the late 1990s, the last truck not to sport an iron mark on its grille being a 1997 Iveco.
“It’s an extremely durable and rugged product that totally meets our requirements,” says Steve.
These are sentiments echoed by his father Richard King, who founded the company 51 years ago, and who praises both the reliability and the back-up from the local Volvo dealer.
While the 44-tonners on the fleet get the I-Shift transmission, all heavy haulers are specified with a manual gearbox.
“We have tried autos, but our drivers prefer manuals when they’re running heavy,” explains Steve’s 21-year old son Harry King, who both drives and works in the transport office. “The autos are all about fuel economy, so they try to change gear when you might not want them to. With that much weight on, fuel economy isn’t always top of the agenda. The safest thing is to climb a hill and worry about the gears when you get to the top.”