Half a century of Volvo wheel loaders

This May will see the 50th anniversary of Volvo’s entry into the wheel loader market – a market it didn’t so much enter as create.

This May will see the 50th anniversary of Volvo’s entry into the wheel loader market – a market it didn’t so much enter as create. Still a dominant market leader today, the combination of productivity, reliability and operator comfort has meant that technological development has always taken place on human terms.

The etymological beginnings of the modern term ‘wheel loader’ began in May 1954 when the pioneers at Bröderna Lundberg's Mekaniska and AB Bolinder-Munktell turned an ordinary tractor back-to-front and launched their innovative back-end loader. By placing the loader unit over the bigger rear wheels, they created possibilities for heavier loads and higher breakout forces than with the traditional tractor-based front-end loader approach.

A further benefit of using the small rear wheels for steering is that maneuverability was also increased markedly. Volvo’s first wheel loader, the H10, was also the world’s first with attachment bracket, parallel movement and double acting lift cylinders. It instantly became a success and it was the starting point for a succession of ever more popular machines, culminating in the E-Series available today.

The early days
While the Volvo wheel loader is 50 years old, Volvo Construction Equipment’s history can be traced back more than 170 years, when Johan Teofron Munktell came to Eskilstuna to develop the local engineering industries. In 1832 he founded Eskilstuna Mekaniska Verkstad.

In 1932, the company merged with the Bolinder brothers and the new company was given the name Bolinder-Munktell, or BM as it was called. During the 1930s and 1940s, BM was one of the major manufacturers of agricultural machines and tractors in Sweden. It was these tractors that later became the foundation for the H10. Bolinder-Munktell and Volvo started cooperating during the Second World War, a cooperative venture that successively became solidified and resulted in Volvo purchasing BM in 1950.

In 1960, the plant in Arvika – now the mainstay of wheel loader manufacture – became a part of Volvo BM, and six years later the first wheel loader was assembled in the plant – the LM840. The chassis, engine, transmission, axles and wheels were all produced in nearby Eskilstuna, but final assembly took place in Arvika. Loader units and cabs for the LM840 were made in Arvika.

Decades of progress
By the mid-1960s Volvo was breaking new ground with its fast, operator-friendly all-round wheel loaders that featured powerful engines, Power Shift and four-wheel drive. In 1969 Volvo also introduced the world's first hydraulic attachment bracket, further entrenching the company's leading position. In the 1970s and 1980s, improvements came in rapid succession in the development of the modern articulated wheel loader with, among other things, load-sensing steering system and the world's first automatic shifting system (APS) for wheel loaders. But most of all, it was at this time that Volvo assumed its position as the leader in operator comfort and environmental care with Comfort Drive Control (CDC) joystick steering, Boom Suspension System (BSS) and low emission engines.

In 1973, the company changed its name to the simpler and clearer Volvo BM. Four years later the decision was made to exit the farming and forestry sectors and to focus on construction equipment. Cylinder and cab production moved from Arvika to Hallsberg, which is still the hub for manufacturing such components. In addition to Arvika, wheel loaders are also produced in Volvo’s plants in Pederneiras, Brazil, and Asheville, North Carolina, USA.

Volvo launched the revolutionary L150 in 1991. It was a breakthrough in a number of ways and it heralded many of the features we see on today’s machines, such as the lift arm system TP-linkage with its superior breakout capacity, the more comfortable Care Cab and the electronic monitoring and control system Contronic.

The new millennium was only a year old when Volvo launched its E-series wheel loaders, which combined productivity and operating functionality. Volvo wheel loaders were already known for high productivity and low fuel consumption and, with the E-series, the company took another step in that direction. Because Volvo designs and manufactures major componentry in-house, the best coordination between drive trains, hydraulics and the lift arm system has been possible, helping make the E-series the market's most productive wheel loaders for the lowest possible cost.

May 6, 2004

For further information, please contact
Beatrice Cardon, Volvo Construction Equipment
Tel: + 32 2482 5021
Fax: + 32 2675 1777