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August 28, 2008 Vol. 4, No. 18

FIRST OFF, MY APOLOGIES to all for the troubles we had with my last e-newsletter on Aug. 13. Actually, it should have gone out on the 13th, but was delayed until the following day. The issue was a technical one, of course, as we were retiring one server and switching to a new and – on paper at least — more powerful and reliable one. It’s working properly now, I’m assured.

That said, this newsletter is a day late again, so more apologies are due. You can blame this delay on major glitches in the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority’s own computer system, and a thunderstorm or two that hit Houston, Texas on Tuesday as I was heading home from Mexico. The end result was that I spent untold hours in a little regional jet both in the air and on various brands of tarmac, and ultimately in a somewhat cheesy Texas hotel after missing a connecting flight – by a lot. All that time should have been spent at the keyboard, of course.

Such is the joy of air travel these days. Such is also the joy of our digital world. But enough whining.

ARVINMERITOR’S FIRST NEW MANUFACTURING PLANT in 19 years is what took me to northern Mexico, to CiĆ©nega de Flores specifically, where the Michigan company is now building non-drive steer axles and matched crown and pinion gear sets. It’s a state-of-the-art factory with absolutely the latest gear-cutting technology – it takes 2 minutes and 44 seconds to cut a pinion gear there, for example, which is just a tad faster than the hour or more it would take using traditional means. It’s a dry process, with no oil applied in the cutting, which seems wrong but obviously works a treat. It’s not unique technology, but it’s very impressive, and being in a machine shop without the smell and feel of oil in the air must be a welcome change for all concerned. It will be the company’s primary gear plant and it represents incremental capacity, though its steer-axle production will replace that of an existing plant in North Carolina.

Initially, the plant will produce gearing and steer-axle assemblies for U.S. and Canadian truck assembly plants, including those of Freightliner, Kenworth, International, and Peterbilt, as well as feeding other U.S.-based ArvinMeritor assembly sites. The facility will also provide the infrastructure to support targeted growth areas in off-highway components and the aftermarket.

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to

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