Council puts faith in 4x4 FMXs with Powertronic 06 January 2012

The first FMX snowploughs in the UK, including the first FMX 4x4 variants, have entered service with South Gloucestershire Council.

These are also the first Volvo gritters to be operated by the authority, with the order, for a total of 11 vehicles, comprising eight FMX-330 6x4 26-tonners and three FMX-330 4x4 18-tonners.

Highways manager Owen Jenkins explains that the council maintains 1,500km of road but is also required to keep access roads, delivery ramps and shoppers' car parks clear in urban Bristol.

Hence, in part, the choice of its all-wheel drive 4x4 FMX snowploughs, which can work in car parks as well as on rural main roads, such as the A46 and A38 and market towns like Thornbury, Yate and Marshfield.

Jenkins says that the short wheelbase 4x4s are ideal for this application, as they need to work on icy surfaces, on steep hills and between rows of parked cars to keep roads open.

Delivering power consistently for this kind of work is the latest D11C 11-litre engine, rated at 330hp, matched to the Volvo Powertronic PT2106 six-speed fully-automatic planetary gearbox with integral retarder.

The PT2106 was designed for heavy-duty applications and enables smooth gear changes, without interruption in power delivery, in both automatic and manual modes.

Jenkins says that results in smooth start-ups and good traction, even on gradients and demanding terrain, thanks to the electronic gear selection and torque amplifier, with automatic lock up.

As for braking, he states that drums were specified to reduce maintenance costs in the aggressive winter environment.

Looking at the bodywork, it's all by Econ, with the FMX 6x4s having nine cubic metre salt spreading bodies, complete with the company's 'low throw' distributor. Meanwhile, the 4x4s have been equipped with six cubic metre equivalents.

All the Volvos also feature the latest Econ Spargo gritter management system. According to Jenkins, this reduces waste, since each truck is only loaded with enough grit to treat the route it is working on.

And he adds that to further cut wastage and maintain legal axle weights during operation, Red Forge weigh cells have also been fitted.

Jenkins explains that South Gloucestershire Council carried out a comprehensive evaluation programme, including testing a number of demonstrators. The new FMX gritters and snowploughs are the highest specification yet implemented by the council, he says.

Brian Tinham

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