SAFETY has been the priority of Volvo Trucks since it began its business, but without the proper knowledge and training, a driver may not be able to fully utilise the safety features of their trucks, said Volvo Trucks Malaysia driver trainer Rosdi Muhammad Ishak.
“Even if you drive safely, without proper training and knowledge, you may not be able to react accordingly during an emergency event,” said Rosdi during an interview with Cars, Bikes and Trucks.
We spent a day with Rosdi and discovered skills and knowledge needed by truck drivers to perform their daily tasks.
Rosdi grew up in a plantation in Sabak Bernam, Selangor. At the age of 25, he took the E-Full (with articulated) driving license and started his truck driving career. Rosdi has transported containers and petroleum products, for various companies for five years.
“I’ve learnt a lot about safety and improved my driving skills during the time when I was working for an oil and gas company,” Rosdi said.
He said throughout that duration, he met three minor accidents, where he walked away unhurt.
“In two of the accidents, my truck was hit from behind while the other one was a near miss after a ‘jackknife’, due to harsh braking on a slippery road conditions. Two of the incidents happened on the highway, while one happened on a trunk road,” said Rosdi.
Rosdi added that after four years of truck driving and the final incident where he experienced the near-miss “jackknife”, he resigned from the company.
“I continued working as a part-time truck delivery driver, and it is during this time, I met my mentor and trainer, Azmin Mohd. He advised me to continue pursuing a career as a driver trainer. I took his advice and it changed my life.”
In 2009, Rosdi managed to secure the driver trainer position in Volvo Trucks Malaysia. In his 11 years (9 years with Volvo Trucks Malaysia) of training bus and truck drivers, he trained nearly 9,000 truck drivers in Malaysia and Singapore. He is a key evaluator for the participants in Volvo Malaysia Fuelwatch Challenge.
What is Volvo Fuelwatch Challenge?
Volvo Fuelwatch Challenge is an annual competition, which aims to promote safety driving and fuel saving skills among truck and bus drivers around the world. Held around the world, the drivers are tested on the fuel efficiency, overall driving skills, performance and driving behaviours. The finalist will represent their respective country in the world finals held in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The best results Malaysians ever achieved in the world finals was a fifth placing in 2016. This year alone, the Fuelwatch Challenge competition attracted about 12,000 participants and in the World Finals, there were finalist from 33 countries.
“When the Fuelwatch Challenge first started in Malaysia, in 2010 until today, I’ve trained more than 150 Fuelwatch participants. Fuelwatch is about safety during driving, following driving distance, stop distance and fully utilising a truck’s features.
“Even though the driver may be able to drive fuel efficiently, but without driving safely, they will not have accomplished their objectives. It takes planning and skills, such as following and braking force,” Rosdi said.
Rosdi said being a truck driver was not that different from being an airline pilot.
“The more hours drivers put in, the more driving experience they have. As they drive, they can do self-research and development,” said Rosdi.
He added that he had to constantly update himself with the lastest features and technologies available by the Volvo Trucks.
“Technology evolves everyday, Volvo Trucks consistently improves its quality and introduce lifesaving technologies as its (products) progress through facelifts,” Rosdi said.
He said earlier versions of the the company’s trucks did not have many electronic control units and sensors.
“Then Volvo Trucks introduced the Version 3, which was a facelift. That variant added on alcolock system, lane keeping support, lane changing support, adaptive cruise control. Moving forward to date, the Version 4 variants has less 30 per cent wiring and the standard safety features include traction control system, auto differential lock, electronic brake stability, electronic stability programme and all sorts of safety technologies,” said Rosdi.
Rosdi added Volvo Trucks aimed to provide customers maximum up-time.
“Volvo Trucks Malaysia has introduced the Fast Track Service to fleet owners. With an up-front appointment, they can get their truck serviced in two to four hours. The company provides 24 months part warranty,” Rosdi said.
We sampled the FH 16 and FM440. We were given a ride on the FH16 powered by a 16-litre 650hp engine, mated to the i-Shift double clutch transmission with low crawler gears.
It is equipped with Volvo Dynamic Steering, I-ParkCool, electronic climate control with air-quality sensors, hydraulic retarder and electronic stability programme.
The FH16 has enormous space. A 220cm tall adult can stand in the cabin, without worrying about headroom. It has plentiful of storage and the design of the cockpit is driver centric, with switches and buttons are at the fingertips of the driver. It has one of the most comfortable and fully adjustable seats, which is perfect for long-distance driving.
After a short truck specification briefing by Rosdi, he started to drive and explained its features and functions. He gave us an example of how and when to use the low crawler gears. The low crawler gears are suitable when the truck is hauling an extremely heavy item.
It enables the truck to start from standstill with loads of up to 325 tonnes, and drive at speeds that are less than 2kph. This helps when performing precision manoeuvres, especially during reversing the vehicle.
We hopped into the FM440 and Rosdi drove us to an area in Port Klang, to give us a heads up on being a truck driver. The FM440 we tested was equipped with a 15-tonne trailer, Volvo Engine Brake, I-Shift transmission, air suspension and Volvo Dynamic Steering, i-Roll.
With the technologies available in a truck nowadays, anyone with a car driving license can manoeuvre a truck with ease, especially those with automatic gearboxes. However, if the truck is hooked to a trailer, it takes lots of skill to drive it.
The view from the driver seat of the Volvo Truck is clear and has fewer blind spots compared with other brand of trucks. It is made possible, thanks to the truck’s multiple side mirror, which eliminates most blind spots.
However, driving the truck with a trailer behind presents a different driving experience. The driver must allocate sufficient space and angle the truck correctly before taking the corners, otherwise, the trailer might run over the divider or knock into everything on the side. This can damage the tyres or cause them to be punctured.
That is why, it is dangerous for car drivers and motorcyclists to stay side-by-side with a trailer during corners, as the driver is forced to take part of the next lane for it to turn the corner.
After a couple of rounds, Rosdi asked us to do a three-point turn, which is an easy task when it comes to driving a car, but not so for a trailer. It needs a lot of space to complete the three point turn and the angle is different compared with driving a car. If without his guidance, we could not do so.
We were instructed about coasting with the trailer, which is letting the trailer move forward with the momentum generated by the weight behind. This is also one of the key skills needed during the Fuelwatch Challenge, because only with a correct estimation, the driver would use less fuel by letting the trailer coast further, and use less brakes when it comes to the junction.
Before we handed the wheels of the truck to Rosdi and headed back to Volvo Trucks Malaysia headquarters in Shah Alam, he asked us to align the trailer and ensure sure it was straight. After it was aligned, we were told to reverse the trailer straight backwards. On the first few tries, we failed to do so, as it easily goes off the line, even though we made sure the steering was straight.
We could only do so after Rosdi guided us. There was so much steering input needed just to get the trailer reversing straight. We need to continuously turn the steering wheel, left and right in order for the trailer to reverse straight.
After an interesting day with Rosdi and Volvo Trucks, we have greater respect for the difficulties and the challenges a truck driver has to go through to perform their daily tasks.