Mack's contract with U.S. government to make trucks for gulf is put on hold


ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Mack Trucks Inc. has come close to being drafted into Operation Desert Shield, sources close to the company said yesterday.

The U.S. government has been talking with the Allentown-based truck-maker about a $40 million contract for 500 tank-hauling trucks with high-powered E-9 engines, the sources said.

Delivery was originally set for Jan. 10 -- five days before the U.N. deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to pull his troops out of Kuwait.

But the deal is now on hold because Mack wasn't able to produce the tank haulers in such a short time, the sources said.

"They wanted them faster than we could make them," a union official said yesterday. "Right now, it's up in the air."

Mack officials said yesterday there was no deal.

Army officials in Washington said they were looking into the contract and had no further information.

Employees were informed of the possible deal Monday when United Auto Workers union officials and Mack's top management met at Mack's Allentown world headquarters, according to the Unity News, a UAW newsletter handed out to about 700 employees Thursday at Mack's assembly plant in South Carolina.

During the meeting, Elios Pascual, Mack's chairman and chief executive officer, told Bill Casstevens, UAW secretary-treasurer, that the company had received "confirmation" on an order for the 17,000-pound tractors, the union newsletter said.

Work on the high-powered V-6 engines and transmissions would be done at Mack's 1,500-worker power-train plant in Hagerstown, Md.

The trucks would be assembled at the 750-employee Macungie, Pa., plant, which was to prepare a special line for their production.

Mack subsequently told writers for the union newsletter

Thursday that the deal was off, according to a

Mack spokesman.

But truck industry experts said Mack, like no other truck-maker, would have the capacity to make large tank haulers quickly because it is the only U.S. company that still makes its own engines and transmissions rather than hiring subcontractors.

"The RD 800 models used as tank haulers are super big," said Jim Winsor, executive editor of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine. "They are also used to haul logs in Canada and coal in our Appalachian states. They are the backbone of the off-highway business."

Throughout Mack's 80-year history, the company's vehicles have maintained a reputation for ruggedness.

It was the Mack AC model that the English nicknamed "the bulldog" during its use in France during World War I.

In World War II, Mack specialized in military vehicles, including a support vehicle for tanks, according to the book on Mack written by John B. Montgomery.

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