NEW CARLISLE, Ind. – A refreshed International Trucks product line is being rolled out as demand for new trucks strengthens, which should make 2018 a good year for Navistar.
“I’m very bullish on 2018,” Jeff Sass, senior vice-president of sales and marketing with Navistar told journalists, who were visiting for an International Trucks ride-and-drive. He noted freight rates are up, the economy is strong, and load volumes are increasing, all of which should carry into 2018. “I think it’s going to be a big year for trucking and for truck manufacturers,” Sass said.
However, he remains concerned about how the impending electronic logging device (ELD) mandate will affect the used truck market. Sass said fleets could initially see an 8-12% productivity loss as they deploy ELDs, and he wonders how the fleets that typically run used trucks will adapt.
“Right now, we’ve got half the freight in America being hauled by a second or third owner,” Sass said. “Most of those second and third owners have not implemented ELDs. Will they be able to maintain their standing?”
A stronger truck market in 2018 will be welcomed by Navistar, which is refreshing its entire product line. Sass said the company is already seeing its market share improve this year, about 3% in the medium-duty segment and 0.5% in Class 8. Sass says it’s largely because of Navistar’s focus on uptime, and its driver-centric approach to truck design.
“For major fleets, their number one cost of total operation was driver retention,” Sass said. “Fleets have told me they have more loads than drivers and they’ll buy every truck I can sell them with a driver in it.”
To this end, International Trucks product updates have been driver-focused. Sass pointed to the switches, the placement of the air horn lanyard, the instrument clusters, mirror placement, etc., as items that were enhanced with driver input.
Denny Mooney, senior vice-president of product development, said International will continue to roll out new products over the next two years. It has already replaced its ProStar with the LT, the ProStar 113 with the RH for regional haul, the PayStar with the HX, and most recently, the WorkStar with the new HV. It also updated its classic-styled LoneStar, and brought to market a 12.4-liter A26 engine.
“We really tried to make these products, products drivers want to drive,” said Mooney. “When you go talk to our big fleet customers, they tell us ‘If our drivers don’t want to drive your trucks, we’re not going to buy your trucks’.”
The company conducted driver clinics and even brought clay models of its interiors to fleets, to collect driver feedback when refreshing its product line.
It is also pushing safety technologies more aggressively. The company has doubled its air disc brake penetration rate in the last two years, and made them standard on the LT series this year. It also made collision mitigation standard on the LT and has seen the take rate climb more than 50%. And automated transmissions are now being spec’d in more than 70% of International trucks.
Visiting journalists were given the opportunity to drive the full line of International trucks, at the company’s sprawling New Carlisle, Ind., proving grounds. We’ll have a full report soon.
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