Long-distance bus travel has become synonymous with Volvo, as the Swedish company has redefined bus journeys in India. From offering multi-axle long-distance coaches to city buses, Volvo quickly became the go-to manufacturer for luxury buses. Volvo currently operates in 35 cities in India, and to keep up with the growing demand for road travel, Volvo has launched a new 39-seater sleeper coach that measures 15-metres long, called the B11R sleeper.
The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, also called KSRTC (it is the same acronym for Karnataka), has ordered eight of these luxury coaches. The new Volvo B11R sleeper offers 39 berths and 12.5 cu.m of personal luggage space. Also, with the government’s ease on state permits for buses, the bus market, especially the sleeper coach market is on the rise.
Volvos can run long hours without a break, as Akash pointed out. The buses can run for multiple hours under harsh conditions – such as India – without damaging the internals. This accompanied by safety features, make the Volvo a suitable choice for operators to connect places in India overnight. Also, safety being a crucial aspect and NCAP testing cars here, Akash said, “We are working closely with SIAM. The government has a set of norms in place and we abide by them. However, what we are looking to solve are the standards that are in place for a company that builds buses and the body, which are high, versus just the bodybuilders who have a lower standard set by the government.”
The new B11R sleepers are built using high-strength carbon steel structures, that are coated with anti-corrosive paint to maximise durability as well. The new sleeper also gets fire-retardant grade fabrics, plywood, cushions, and ABS surfaces in the cabin. The buses get a list of active and passive safety systems, keeping the occupants safe.
The buses are built in India, at Volvo’s plant in Hoskote, on the outskirts of Bangalore. This is one of Volvo’s three bus manufacturing facilities globally, while Volvo has one in Mexico and, the other in Poland. In India, the buses are predominantly hand-built, apart from the paint-mixing process and pipe bending procedures are automated. The automaker employs almost 400 people in its Hoskote plant, including more than 90 welders. To complete a bus from raw material to a fully-finished product, Volvo takes 18 working days, and the bus, throughout its assembly process, takes 4 hours at each station. However, this may take longer if customisation is required.
All Volvo buses, including different models, can be built on the same line, one after another, since Volvo has a flexible assembly line. In the Hoskote plant, Volvo has two assembly lines, each with a capacity to build 500 buses.
Coming to the B11R sleeper, the new bus gets a powerful BS-VI diesel engine mated to a 12-speed I-Shift gearbox. Handling is taken care of by electronically controlled air suspension, and bringing the sleeper to a stop is an electronic braking system. In recent times, like most automobile manufacturers, Volvo has taken a hit sales, however, the company has utilised this time to prepare for future demands, including alternative fuel vehicles. Volvo will make use of the existing EV subsidies, to further strengthen its portfolio, while the ongoing semiconductor shortage and CNG crisis have been a hurdle. Akash stated that the container shortage has no impact on production.