The articulated hauler concept is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2006, marking four decades of transporting earth, gravel and a host of other materials over rough, muddy, slippery, steep or otherwise impassable terrain. And the company that commercially launched the concept in 1966 - Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) - is still the market leader. In 2006 Volvo CE sees the 50,000th unit roll off its (smooth and flat) production line. Painted not in the familiar yellow, to celebrate both events, the 50,000th unit is being painted in distinctive 'Volvo blue' livery and is being displayed at the Intermat exhibition in Paris in April.
1966 was the year that the soviet's Luna 9 made the first rocket assisted landing on the moon, The Cultural Revolution began in China, England won the World Cup and the Rolling Stones were banned from 14 New York hotels. With so much going on it was easy to overlook the launch of the DR631, the birth of the articulated hauler. Essentially a development of an agricultural tractor (which Volvo then made) and a trailer, they were permanently joined via an articulating hitch, and the front axle of the tractor removed. Nicknamed 'Gravel Charlie', it may have had only a meagre 10 ton payload, but it set the stage for greater things to come. Surprisingly though, its popularity grew only slowly to start with, sales in the early years being confined to its home Swedish market.
One of the main reasons for the ongoing popularity of Volvo's haulers has been its consistent development of the concept. Only one year after its launch, in 1967, the company introduced the DR860, the first articulated hauler with a bogie, meaning that the material in the load body remains level and stable (reducing spillage) while the wheels cope with very uneven road surfaces. The first hauler with a turbo-charged engine - the DR860T - arrived in 1970, and in 1979, things literally started to speed up, with the launch of the 5350. Capable of 50km/h, the 'Off-road Express' was able to maintain previously unheard of speeds thanks to a suspended front axle and an automatic transmission. Traction was further increased with the addition of a six wheel drive system.