Truck Spotlight

Lucinda Coulter | May 04, 2010

Volvo VNL 730

The Volvo VNL 730’s cab is made of high-strength steel, which has the highest strength to weight ratio of such materials, say Volvo's Frank Bio.

By Lucinda Coulter

The closely matched transmission and engine make this mid-roof sleeper tractor stand out for driving ease and safety.

The Volvo VNL 730 mid-roof sleeper is designed for pulling flatbed or lower trailers with heavier loads such as fuel tankers or grain haulers. The model was engineered down from the VNL 780 for better fuel economy, positioning it as the truck maker’s workhorse.

“We designed the vehicle for comfort and easy driving,” says Frank Bio, product manager at Volvo Trucks North America. “Owner-operators can appreciate it for the quality of life they might have.”

For both its ability to handle steep grades and its fuel economy, the Volvo I-shift is key, Bio says. “We’re unique in the industry because we’re an integrated manufacturer,” he says, noting that because the truck maker builds both the automated transmission and engine, the steps of the transmission can be perfectly matched to the engine’s torque curve.

The Volvo VNL 730 is designed to pull heavy loads with tankers or lower trailers, minimizing weight without compromising power in the engine.

Examples of the close

communication between the transmission and engine include the I-shift’s inclinometer, which senses acceleration to optimize shifting for fuel economy, and the Eco-Roll feature. Eco-Roll disengages the engine when the truck is in top gear on a slight downgrade to allow the engine to idle and save fuel, Bio says.

The model’s fuel efficiency is further enhanced with 2010 selective catalytic reduction equipment. Volvo’s diesel particulate filter is set apart from others, Bio says, because it requires no active regenerations. “It’s like driving a 2002 model in that respect,” he says.

Beth and Kenn Zelten enjoy the 53-in. mattress and other in-cab features such as sliding curtains that cover windshield and side windows. “We get a good night’s sleep,” Kenn says.

The tractor’s safety has been further enhanced with stability technology, which is standard. The anti-roll, anti-jackknife system works in conjunction with anti-lock braking and traction control to prevent turns being made too sharply at any given speed, Bio explains.

The cab’s high-strength steel construction contributes to safety and the truck’s quiet ride. “Even though we have a shorter roof, we’ve maximized the storage space,” Bio says.

Emphasis on comfort makes the model especially attractive to owner-operators, such as husband-wife team Kenn and Beth Zelten. The cab “has a thermostat, like one in a house,” Kenn says, “The visibility is really excellent. And that steel cab – it’s the safest one in the industry.”

The Zeltens say their 2010 Volvo VNL 730, powered by a 500-hp D13, is the best of the eight Volvos they have owned in their 21 years as owner-operators. They haul paper from near their Menominee, Mich., home to California and return with produce or milk. “It’s just awesome, especially on the hills,” Beth says of the automated transmission. “It also helps with the fuel economy.” Averaging a 60-mph cruise speed, the couple’s mileage has improved with the new 2010 model to to 6.8 mpg from 6.2 in their 2007.

The Zeltens are impressed with the cooler running engine and their tractor’s clean exhaust stack, too. “There’s not a stitch of soot on it,” Kenn says. Since the couple took the 2010 on the road in January, they have started buying urea in bulk at California truck stops. n



• 188-in. bumper to back of cab


• Volvo D13, 240-380 hp

• Volvo D16, 500-625 hp

• Cummins ISX, 400-500 hp


• Batteries: Volvo dual purpose

• Alternators: 12-volt Delco Remy: 110 amp 35 SI pad mount; 135 amp 35 SI pad mount; 165 amp high efficiency 36 SI pad mount; 145 amp 24 SI pad mount


• Volvo 12-speed I-shift automated (available with overdrive)

• Eaton Fuller FR, FRO, RTO, RTOC, RTLO 9-, 10-, 13- and 18-speed; manual, AutoShift and UltraShift


• Front: Volvo, Meritor, Hendrickson, Dana Spicer – 12,500-14,600 lb.

• Rear: Meritor RT40, RT46 and MT40, hypoid-generoid and amboid gearing, interaxle and full diff lock; Dana Spicer DST40 and DST41


• Parabolic leaf spring – 12,500, 13,200 and 14,600 lb.

• Hendrickson AirTek – 12,500 and 13,200 lb.


• Volvo and Hendrickson air – 38,000-46,000 lb.


• 77-in. mid-roof integral sleeper

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