Ed Saxman, an engineer and product manager at Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks for a combined 44 years, has retired. He was involved in many equipment advances that are now common in modern trucks, and was working on another up to his last day at Volvo, which was April 30.
“Everywhere I’ve been, it’s been fun,” said Saxman, who worked with corporate colleagues developing engine and driveline components, then explained their advantages to customers and industry journalists.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Saxman earned a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh in 1970. He went to work at Mack for 13 years, then switched to Volvo White, at that time a recently established competitor, where he worked in marketing and product development for 31 years, until this week.
He remembers working on the first air-to-air intercooling system in the world, the so-called tip-turbine cooler that was mounted on Mack diesels in 1973. He was in charge of the marketing of the industry's first full aerodynamics package, for a White conventional, while at Volvo White in 1983.
Saxman recalls being heavily involved in every product introduction activity Volvo had, including the adaptation of Swedish Volvo engines and the I-Shift automated mechanical transmission, to American-made White and Volvo trucks.
Early on he was a proponent of the 6x2 axle configuration, with one driving axle and one liftable axle in the rear tandem, that is now catching on among some operators of highway tractors.
In 2012, Saxman accepted the Technical Achievement Award from the Truck Writers of North America for Volvo’s efforts in increasing fuel efficiency through engine “downspeeding.”
Saxman’s last assignment at Volvo Trucks was as product marketing manager for alternative fuel trucks. That included developing fuel handling systems to burn inexpensive dimethyl ether, or DME, in Volvo compression-ignition diesels.
“It’s comin’,” he said of the fuel, which can be made from biomass that otherwise has to be discarded. A DME engine doesn’t need spark plugs or high-pressure fuel injection but does need a more powerful fuel pump. “It burns more fuel but the cost per mile will be less.”
Saxman said he and wife Nancy, who have two grown children, will stay in the Greensboro, N.C., area. He hasn’t yet figured out what he’ll do with his new free time, but “at first I won’t do anything.”