A new partnership with telematics firms, a new uptime “command center” facility, and a renewed focus on the Class 8 highway side of the North American market are just some of the new initiatives being kick started at Mack Trucks this year, according to Stephen Roy, newly-installed president for the OEM.

On the job two months, Roy sat down with reporters last week at the Mack Customer Center in Allentown, PA – the OEM’s former research and development facility – to illustrate a range of new endeavors the company plans to tackle in 2014.

First up will be the integration of Telogis and PeopleNet services into Mack’s telematics offerings for its customer base.

“In partnership with them, we’ll be able to transform the data we can gather from our trucks through our telematics system and transform it into valuable information for fleets,” Roy explained. “We’re never going to be a core telematics service provider; there are too many good companies out there already doing it. So we’re going to focus on uptime and maintenance while Telogis and PeopleNet focus on ‘productivity’ offerings – routing and electronic logs for hours of service data – for our customers.”

By September or October this year, Mack also plans to officially open a three-story “uptime command center” building at Mack’s headquarter campus in Greensboro, NC,; a campus shared with brother company Volvo Trucks. This uptime center will integrate Mack’s parts experts, technical support, and One Call personnel on one floor in order to help better expedite truck repairs for customers.

“Vehicle uptime has really been a focus for us for five years now but we’ve had people critical to this effort scattered all over our campus,” Roy said. “So now we’re putting them all together in one location.”

That facility is also expected to play a role in what Roy characterized as a “renewed” effort by Mack to build market share in the Class 8 highway tractor sector this year, with better on-road support through its telematics services and “uptime command center” critical to adding “value” for customers.

“We believe we’ll bust above 10% market share in the U.S. and Canada in 2014,” Roy said. “We hit 9.5% in the third quarter last year, then 9.8% in the fourth quarter, and with the backlog in orders and sales activity we see now, we should reach that.”

He stressed that the renewed push into the highway market won’t come at the expense of Mack’s efforts in the vocational segment. “We’ve had a clear role on the vocational side for some time and the last four or five years we’ve made great strides in the regional haul/day cab [tractor] market,” Roy said. “Now it’s really time to put the focus on the highway side.”

Investments made by Mack and by its dealers since 2010 have been geared to offer the kind of product support necessary to compete more effectively in the highway market as well, he noted.

Roy pointed out that Mack’s dealers invested over $300 million over the last three years or so in new or expanded facilities, increasing the number of services bays by 40% and the ranks of dealer technicians by 50%, with one in four of every Mack dealer technicians now certified as a “Master Tech” with diagnostic and drivetrain component-focused skill sets.

He added that Mack’s dealer network is now comprised of 428 primary and secondary locations, with many dealers adding second or third locations in major metropolitan areas.

Mack has also created a unique geofence protocol through its GuardDog Connect service that will eventually surround every one of its dealerships so the OEM can track the time trucks brought in for service are on a particular dealer’s lot.

“This is not ‘Big Brother’ with us watching the dealers all the time,” Roy quickly explained. “Rather this tool is designed to help a dealer manage their workflow. If we see a customer’s truck is sitting there for several days – in other words, something out of the ordinary – we can be proactive and reach out to the dealer to see if we can help by providing technical support or expediting parts to them. It’s part of our overall effort to integrate us as the OEM better with both the dealer and the customer.”John Walsh (left), Mack's VP-marketing and tephen Roy, Mack's new president.

John Walsh, Mack’s VP-marketing (seen at right with Mack's President Stephen Roy) added that the upcoming ConExpo show Mack plans conduct what he termed a major brand “re-launch” to try and connect these and other initiatives together back to the company’s Bulldog icon.

“We’ve been so focused on the products that we’ve allowed the brand to ‘wander’ a little bit,” he said. “Outside of the vocational and refuse markets we haven’t done a good job to explain what the Mack brand can do for customers. We’re getting there with the day cab market; now we need to take that to the highway side.”

Roy also touched on a number of other items in his wide-ranging roundtable conference with reporters, including:

  • Mack plans to unveil a new automatic “side loader” refuse product in 2014, which it expects will go into full production in 2014 after fleet tests this year;
  • The OEM expects Class 8 truck sales in North America to reach 250,000 units in 2014, a slight uptick from the 230,000-235,000 expected to be posted for 2013;
  • Mack’s MDrive automated mechanic transmission is now spec’d 40% of its regional day cab tractor orders, up from zero two and half years ago;
  • Mack expects to “re-engineer” its Macungie, PA, assembly plant this year to incorporate “lean manufacturing” principals. After $20 million in investments since 2010, Roy noted that Macungie will undergo a “metamorphosis” in 2014;
  • Mack will continue to focus on the natural gas truck market, where Roy said the OEM remains a “top 3” player, though he said more focus will be on CNG versus LNG. He said 4,000 natural gas powered trucks were sold industry-wide in 2013, some 2% to 3% of the overall market;
  • Mack expects to take advantage of its parent company’s 2013 investment in in-cab video camera system maker Lytx, formerly DriveCam, going forward to help customers in their driver-training efforts;
  • The owner-operator segment of the highway market will get just as much attention as the fleet side of Mack’s renewed push in the Class 8 sector, though Roy said private fleets and regional carriers are expected to be the most receptive segments to Mack’s value proposition;
  • Mack plans to focus on building its share in the Mexican truck market over the coming years, largely as the collective age or Mexican trucks is very high and due for replacement with Euro V emission-compliant technology;
  • The enlargement of the Panama Canal and the resultant shift in freight to East Coast ports should help boost potential trucks sales for Mack as its assembly operations are all located on the Eastern seaboard.