The first integrated two-way communications system offered by a heavy-truck manufacturer has been introduced by Volvo Trucks North America. Designed for simple operation and low cost, Volvo Link provides wireless messaging and tracking as a factory installed option and is now available from Volvo dealers on new VN and VHD truck orders or as a retrofit for recent models.

Intended for small and medium-size fleets currently operating without wireless communications, the system allows simple messaging between drivers and fleets, as well as remote monitoring of vehicle operating information and GPS tracking. The system's onboard hardware consists of a remotely mounted transceiver, a hidden GPS receiver and a special windshield wiper control arm that lets drivers send pre-formatted messages or create their own text messages. All messages are displayed on the in-dash Driver Message Center, which has been installed in all Volvo on-highway trucks since 2000.

Two-way satellite communications over the Orbcomm LEO (low-earth orbit) network provides ubiquitous coverage for the system throughout North America in near real-time.

The management portion of the system is browser based, requiring only a PC and an Internet connection to send and receive messages from drivers, as well as retrieve vehicle operating information carried by the J1708 data bus and position information from the GPS system. The system is hosted on Volvo servers, which means fleet users will not have to install, maintain or update software.

Monthly service charges for Volvo Link will be $14.95 per vehicle plus approximately $0.20 per message. There is also an initial $100 start-up fee and a one-time fee of $45 for each administrator registered to use the system.

Go to www.volvotrucks.us.com or circle 333 on reply card.