Although it may take up to nine months to get the necessary government approvals for AB Volvo's acquisition of Mack Trucks and its European parent RVI, Volvo's president and CEO has begun talking publicly about how the merged companies will approach the North American and other world truck markets.

Speaking yesterday during a visit to Mack's headquarters in Allentown, Pa., Leif Johansson indicated that diesel engines would be one of the company's first priorities in North America. Volvo currently imports heavy-duty diesel engines built in Europe, which it says are spec'd in 25% of its North American trucks. Mack is the only integrated heavy-duty truck builder in the U.S., building its own diesels in Hagerstown, Md.

"Volvo doesn't have an engine plant in North America," Johansson said. With the merger, the company would have enough volume to justify building a North American plant "to supply both Volvo and Mack with a new-generation engine." A decision on a new-generation 12-liter diesel could come "fairly early," with a 16-liter model following at a later date, he said. While the two brands would share an engine platform, Johansson added that the two would have different operating characteristics and "clearly be Mack and Volvo engines."

Declining to offer a timetable for opening a joint engine plant, Johansson said that "clearly there is enough time for technology transfer" before the next round of U.S. diesel emissions standards takes effect in 2002, but "not enough time for a completely new engine." Even more stringent levels that will require significant advances in diesel engine technology are scheduled for 2004 and 2007, but Johansson would not speculate on whether Volvo would have a new-generation engine ready for those deadlines.

Overall, Johansson said, Volvo's goal is to develop "a common truck architecture for separate RVI, Mack and Volvo products," with separate dealer organizations and product lines.

"Clearly, Mack is an ideal partner for us in America because they build trucks the way we do," the Volvo president and CEO said. "And in Europe, RVI is strong where we are not, and we are strong where they are not."

Turning to other world truck markets, Johansson said that Volvo would soon release a new medium-duty truck developed jointly with Mitsubishi Fuso. He added that efforts to split Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Co. from its parent, Mitsubishi Motors, were moving ahead and that Volvo would own 20% of the new company once it was formally incorporated.

Volvo Trucks North America recently signed an agreement to distribute Mitsubishi Fuso medium-duty trucks in Canada, and the company "is looking at the option of distributing them in the U.S. as well," Johansson said.

While Volvo is flush with cash from the sale of its automobile business to Ford Motor Co., Johansson doesn't foresee any more "big acquisitions on the truck side." However, the Volvo chief executive added that the company "does have very strong ambitions to invest in soft products," such as software, communications, financing and other components of "transport systems."

The Next Generation Hub Piloted Wheel from Alcoa Wheel Products International can boost payload by as much as 630 lb. over steel hub-piloted wheels and up to 724 lb. over steel ball seat wheels.

The wheel carries a 7,300 lb. load rating. The 22.5x8.25 wheel size weighs only 47 lb., and the 24.5 x 8.25 size weighs 55 lb. All wheels are 10-hole hub-piloted mounting with 285.75 mm bolt circle.

Kenworth has made the following vehicle-specific engine options available: for select T2000, T600, T800, C500 and W900 models, the Detroit Diesel Series 60 14L diesel rated 550 hp. is offered; for W900S, T800SH, T800 CityCab and T800 Workcab vehicles, Cummins ISL engine ratings are available; for its T300 medium-duty conventional model, Kenworth is offering the Eaton Fuller 6-speed AutoShift transmission with Caterpillar 3126 and Cummins ISC engines.

Diesel engine maker Rodi Power Systems has purchased a 159,200-sq.-ft. facility in Abbeville, La., for production of its HT1-450 diesel engine. Rodi is scheduled to move into the new plant in July and start producing the engines by January 2001. For more information, go to www.rodi.com.

Lightweight under-beam lift (UBL) from Hendrickson Trailer Suspension Systems allows operators to put the advantages of INTRAAX to work in liftable applications. When combined with the conventional INTRAAX top-mount or INTRAAX AAL (low ride/liftable), UBL provides the lightest integrated lift system in the industry. Check www.hendrickson-intl.com.

Jacobs Vehicle Systems has reorganized the company with a team that's dedicated to the integration of engine braking and implementation of e-commerce activity. Jackie DeMatos will head up the group as program manager. Technical direction will be provided by newly named vice president/chief technical officer Adish Jain. Susan Coyne has been named director of e-commerce and aftermarket.

Chevron Products says its new Delo SF synthetic grease is specifically formulated to provide premium wheel-bearing lubrication on commercial trailers.

According to the company, Delo SF "slumps back" into the bearing cavity much faster than the leading NLGI 00-grade product on the market, thereby maintaining sufficient lubrication to maximize equipment life. As an NLGI 0-grade product, Delo SF is slightly heavier than NLGI 00 grades, which Chevron says makes for easier filling.

The grease is a full-synthetic product with a smooth, semi-fluid texture that is recommended for use in all trailer axle wheel bearings. Chevron says it flows smoothly and evenly at temperatures as low as -50 deg. F, and continues to lubricate efficiently at temperatures up to 375 deg. F.

Other performance advantages of Delo SF listed by Chevron include:

* Low incidence of leakage compared to the "traditional" wheel-bearing lube, SAE 80W90 gear oil

* Better flow than leading synthetic semi-fluid greases, for quicker replenishment of bearings in cold temperatures

* Superior oxidation resistance at high temperatures, along with exceptional anti-wear/low-friction performance, rust protection, and water resistance.

"Leaking wheel-bearing seals are a major operational concern, leading to environmental issues, lubricant-soaked brake shoes, heavy fines, and unscheduled downtime," points out Randy Baer, market manager. "It's also well known that the useful life of a bearing depends to a great extent on proper lubrication. Delo SF is designed to effectively minimize leakage and extend equipment life."