We are renowned for the huge road trains that ply the Outback, but Volvo have taken the idea to new extremes with the 33-axle MegaQuad Series 3.

For anyone who’s been to the red centre, a huge truck hauling three trailers pulling up in a cloud of bulldust is a familiar sight, but nothing prepares you for the scale of the new MegaQuad that mining services provider, Mineral Resources Limited (MRL) have just put on the road.

This beast is 60 metres (195 feet) long, has 128 wheels on 33 axles and weighs 71 tonnes un-laden. Fill it up with 163 tonnes of ore, and the gross combination mass climbs to an immense 234 tonnes. Despite this massive load, the Volvo FH700 10x6 out the front gets the train up to its maximum allowable speed of 90 km/h with ease.

We originally bought the truck as a 600hp to run as a SuperQuad, but the Volvo dealer and the trailer manufacturer got together and thought they could go one better. When they presented the idea of a MegaQuad we said we’d be interested in trying it

Kyle Sutherland, General Manager of Bulkline Haulage

who carts MRL’s product

Volvo FH BUlkHaulage MegaQuad

Clayton Cowley of Truck Centre WA arranged for Volvo Engineering to work closely with trailer manufacturer Howard Porter. While Howard Porter designed the four enormous trailers, Volvo Engineering made some modifications to the FH, increasing the engine horsepower, modifying the EBS brakes and strengthening the axles to take the higher GCM. The result was the biggest on-road truck in the country.

“Nothing about this truck was simple,” says Clayton, “the combination required careful electrical design because we had to run two EBS trailer electrical circuits, one circuit for the dollys and one circuit for the trailers. We’ve built a similar FH16 before, it’s hauling a tri-axle quad combination at 199 tonnes GCM, but this was in a new league.”

Clayton also had to deal with several licencing bodies to get this combination over the line.

“As this truck is outside all the normal regulations we designed it from the start using Performance Based Standards as a guide,” says Clayton. Once again it was team effort, with the three partner organisations consulting with the PBS assessor to get all the approvals.

The SuperQuad Series 3 is 12 percent longer than a standard quad road train and carries half as much payload again as the previous design. The rear axle on each of the four quad-axle trailers is steerable at speeds below 30 km/h, giving some much-needed manoeuvrability.

“The truck runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Kyle Sutherland, “it does doing ten trips from the Iron Valley mine to Utah Point at Port Hedland, which is a round trip of about 700km. You won’t see it coming up in your rear-view mirror though, because it’s limited to 90km/h.”

Volvo’s Driver Trainer Per Hansen said “Driving a truck this size takes some specialised techniques. The Volvo Trucks International Division will be helping BulkLine Haulage with driver development so they can get the best possible fuel economy out of the FH700, and be confident in the safety of the driver and all other road users.”

The FH has also impressed with its fuel economy.

“The truck is running a continuous route,” says Clayton, “and although we’re yet to hook it up to Dynafleet, we’re seeing some impressive fuel consumption statistics, it’s already beaten a competitor’s truck.

Bulkline chose the FH for the job because the Volvo had the load capacity and the level of driver comfort they needed.

“It gets pretty hot out here,” says Kyle, “and the drivers have been very impressed with the comfort of the Volvo. While this was a once-off trial to see if we could do it, if we get the opportunity in the future we’ll do it again, it’s been a successful experiment. Volvo made it very easy, I only had to deal with Clayton, and it was a good example of three organisations working together to make something unique.”