The Volvo Trucks assembly plant on the Durban South Coast was recently upgraded in order allow for the production of models featuring the latest Active Safety Technology. Reuben van Niekerk reports
The plant assembles a variety of Volvo models that are delivered from Sweden in CKD form. The plant was inaugurated in 2006 and currently employs 100 people.
It takes 10 hours to assemble a Volvo truck from start to finish, and every day nine of these vehicles roll off the assembly line outside Amanzimtoti. This number is made up of a mix of models, depending on the orders received.
Compared to other vehicle assembly plants, this operation was fairly low tech. There are no robots in sight, and the only computer I saw was the diagnostic machine that checks all systems before the new truck rolls off the production line.
The problem with that setup was that this plant was not able to produce the latest models with their high-tech camera and radar-based Active Safety Systems.
With a growing demand for this technology in sub-Saharan Africa, these models were being fully imported at a premium of 12% compared with a locally assembled unit.
Volvo Trucks recently invested R6 million in their Durban plant by building a calibration facility that will allow workers to calibrate these safety systems following their local assembly. The system first squares the truck using a laser wheel alignment system, and then calibrates the radar and cameras on a target, much the way that you zero in the armoury on an aeroplane.
This was a significant investment by the local assembler, but they believe that it is important to embrace the latest technology, especially when it comes to safety, as they believe that trucks have a bad reputation
Volvo have set themselves the goal of zero deaths by the year 2020, though admittedly 90% of all traffic-related deaths are due to human error. And the suite of Active Safety Systems now being installed in the plant will aid in reaching that goal.
The safety features now available include Collision Warning with Emergency Brake, Lane Keeping support, Lane Changing support, which checks your blind spot and Adaptive Cruise Control. Driver alert support monitors driver behaviour to see when the driver gets tired and then warns them that they need to take a break.
These assistance systems are available on any Volvo model equipped with stability control for a price premium of only R43 000, and have already proved popular with approximately 300 units already on SA roads.
Customers now also have the option of equipping their trucks with a factory-fitted Alcolock system, which prevents the truck from being started if the driver is over the influence.
Also available is a high-tech touchscreen infotainment system that includes, spotify, Internet radio, maps, weather information, an Internet browser and the Dynafleet Onboard fleet management system.