Volvo, a name not just synonymous with Luxury but was forefront in bringing new technologies and features way beyond what is been mandated by laws. ABS, Front Under run Protection systems, ECAS are few of the many to be named. Though Safety, Quality and Environmental protection were the three words which Volvo uses in the official communications, luxury was always associated with Volvo and no wonder they simply redefined the word luxury in bus travel.
Fully built Solutions
Most prominently Volvo was also very particular is selling fully built solutions. Though there is a model of selling chassis by Volvo else where, in India Volvo sold only fully built Coach. In India majority of buses are sold as Chassis and body is built by external body builders. Unlike West, In India we don’t have a fully tooled up set for body building and even major players still rely on, more of general engineering and not on a mass volume setup.
Quality, consistency, reliability, safety were all a concern with body builders due to reduced tooled up set up. Thanks to Volvo that they didn’t opt the easy way of selling chassis. When a Chassis is sold, anything what is required by a customer can be built. This means, you can build a bus as sleeper, seater and every singe permutation combinations are possible. This takes a huge toll of safety and reliability of the bus bodies built.
When we speak about safety, its not just the quality of body building, but also the seat pitch that should be provided for safer and convenient journey, the min passenger door size and window aperture size, that need to provided for quicker exit during emergency etc. But there are no such regulations now, and is now left to the mercy of builder and Customer to choose. Also we need to remember the struggle, Indian Bus body builders are facing to implement the Bus Body Code – AIS 052.
AIS 119 – Sleeper Coach regulations
Sleeper coaches are in the increased demand from the passengers due to the superior comfort they offer. Unfortunately there is no regulations available in India and the lawmakers are simply going in circles to publish standards for sleeper buses. A regulation for sleeper coaches, AIS 119 – Requirements for Sleeper Coaches, was framed in 2012. But it’s yet to be published due to mixed views on the safety aspects associated with sleeper buses. Countries like China which had once the largest population of sleeper buses have now banned it. Many Indian states do not give permits for sleeper buses. So basically sleeper coaches are built without regulations due to the demand from Passengers.
Now with so much happening with the bus body builders and bus bodies ,Volvo was simply miles ahead when they started selling only fully built products. Customer need to simply buy and run the coach, which is fully certified by Volvo. Volvo didn’t bother to hear the plea of Customers, when there was a request from them for selling Chassis. But now, off late Volvo started selling Chassis, making Customer’s to choose the body they want.
Volvo B9R Multi axle Shell
With no provision for selling sleeper coaches, when the demand for sleeper coaches picked up, Volvo offered an option of Shell. This means, the body will be unfinished without seats, and interiors. Fleet operators bought the shell and built sleeper from the body builders.
This was the first step, when Volvo started to move from core values of safety. This shell is designed for a seater and while modifying it for a sleeper, head room, leg room were compromised during body building, especially towards the rear.
Volvo B9R 9400 Shell Interior
If existing body is not suitable, the the only option to overcome this, is to build the structure or a body, suiting to sleeper from a bare chassis.
Volvo B9R Multi axle Chassis
This seems to be a right option, but in reality the story is completely different. When its sold as a chassis, in order to accommodate the berths, and to provide a reasonable head room, the interior height is raised by body builder.
Volvo B9R Chassis
The gangway width, sleeper widths all are compromised for the want of more sleeper berths. This is evident in the recently rolled out coaches and this puts question mark on the Volvo’s legacy of safety and quality. One of the prime reasons for Volvo’s run away success is “Passengers felt the same rhythm, no matter which ever routes they travelled or operated by any Customer as Volvo buses looked and had same comfort”. Now with the body builder working on superstructure, high chances that they need not be in the same level what Volvo established so long and may vary between body builder.
Body built on Volvo B9R chassis by Prakash Body Construction company, Bengaluru.
Volvo legacy getting questioned
Volvo was criticising Indian bus manufacturers, for selling chassis. To our understanding, there is no clear view of What is a true bus chassis?, which Volvo proudly claimed so far. If its because they make body over a rear engine chassis, it cant be, as Volvo do have front engine chassis and was in sale in locations like Africa.
Or if its because they sell only fully built coaches, and not sell drive away Chassis, now Volvo is offering Chassis just to entertain a body, which basically doesn’t have any regulation. With due regards to Volvo in bringing a comfortable travel to Indian’s, we need are raising our concerns over the newer strategy Volvo is adapting in India. The concern is only over the safety of coach, which now left to the body builder’s scope.
While Volvo was setting benchmarks sometime ago, now it seems to be a distance past. Selling fully built is one aspect which was differentiating Volvo, from other bus manufacturers. But now it seems that Volvo has picked things from their Indian counterparts. Though we understand the Chassis sale is limited for few numbers and limited time frame, we could see Volvo has not just become more Indian but also moving in a direction which was criticised by them so far. With sleeper bus regulation coming in place, We wish Volvo takes full control on the body building and ensures the quality of body building.