ST. PAUL, Minn. – Mack Trucks is predicting another strong year in the construction segment, including the concrete industry, where its Granite and TerraPro models have been top sellers for the company.
“Getting to number one in these types of segments, it doesn’t happen by accident…it takes time,” said Roy Horton, director of product strategy for Mack.
Horton was speaking during a press event at one of Mack’s leading partners in the pump truck sector, Schwing America, the largest concrete pump manufacturer in North America.
During the event, which included a tour of Schwing’s 350,000 sq.ft. facility in White Rock, Minn., just outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Mack provided an overview of its business for 2019 and where the industry is going in the coming year.
Jonathan Randall, senior vice-president of North American sales and marketing, said July was a strong month for Mack, as the company’s retail sales were strong.
Mack is currently working through a backlog, resulting in a drop in the number of orders the company is presently seeing.
“You cannot fill an already full cup,” Randall said, adding that he expects 2020 orders to remain strong.
Mack anticipates rolling 325,000 trucks out of production by the end of this year (there were 30,000 orders in July alone), and believe 2020 will prove similar.
On the concrete pump side of things, Randall said the industry sells roughly 750 trucks each year for this application.
Though housing starts in the U.S. are currently flat, Randall said they are seeing very positive trends in the construction business, which is not the case in many other sectors.
Infrastructure upgrades, such as bridges and roadways, are an area Mack sees a lot of potential for business in the coming years. Randall said there is a lot of stressed infrastructure in need of repair. He added that Mack supports the employment of user fees and raising fuel taxes to generate revenue for such projects, but only in targeted ways.
“The reality is something needs to happen here,” said Randall. “It’s been languishing for way too long.”
Horton said Mack’s Granite and TerraPro models have found success in the concrete pump truck application due to those model trucks’ ability to meet the demands of a very diverse industry that requires customization of equipment for specific needs.
The Granite comes with up to 505 hp and has flexibility for various concrete applications, while the TerraPro’s chassis boasts a 120,000 psi steel frame and multiple steer, drive, and axle options. It also comes with either the Mack MP7 or MP8 engine, ranging from 325 hp to 505 hp.
Marrying truck and pump
Schwing manufactured the world’s first pump truck in 1963. The company merged with Stetter, a company that released the first truck mixer in 1948. And in 2012, Chinese company Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group (XCMG), the 11th largest global construction OEM, made a significant investment in Schwing, expanding the company’s worldwide reach.
Tom O’Malley, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Schwing America, said prior to the 1980s, it was common for customers to have a pump mounted on a truck they themselves provided. Today, 80% of the trucks Schwing uses for its concrete pumps are Mack.
Truck mounted pumps make up 45% of Schwings overall sales, with truck mixers second at 16%.
Pump booms vary in weight anywhere from 50,000 lbs. to 140,000 lbs., depending on length, which also ranges from 20 meters up to 65. The size and weight of the pump depends on the application, as well as a region’s road weight regulations.
In an effort to best meet its clients’ needs, Schwing typically orders generic trucks that are less specific to any particular application. Once a customer places an order, Schwing can then tailor the truck to meet the needs of the customer, and do so at its location in White Rock.
O’Malley said the company is also finding alternative uses for its boom technology, including in fracking operations in Western Canada. Schwing recently provided the articulating boom to another company, which is developing the necessary technology to put the apparatus to use in the oil and gas sector.
Schwing has local representation in parts of Canada to sell and distribute its products, though O’Malley said the Canadian market has been sluggish. In the west, competition in the Vancouver, B.C., area has made it difficult for Schwing to make much headway, but business in Ontario and Quebec has improved.
O’Malley said the used pump business in Canada was strong 15 years ago, but the current exchange rate has had a negative impact in that area.
A concrete pump truck destined for Montreal, Que., with eight axles and a 61 meter pump, the largest allowed in the province.
Schwing does not shy away from large projects, having had its concrete pump technology used for such endeavors as the Freedom Tower in New York City, where two high pressure stationary pumps pumped concrete 1,600 vertical feet.
The company’s latest and greatest piece of equipment is the Schwing S 36X with a revolutionary boom. This 36-meter boom boasts third and fourth sections with hydraulic motors at the knuckles enabling it to spin the fourth section 360 degrees continuously, and the third section 330 degrees.
In the U.S., concrete pumps are a $1.75 billion market, with 45% of concrete being tailgated and 34% pumped, up from 20% in 2000.
The lifespan of a concrete pump depends a lot on size, with larger units going for about 10 years and smaller versions lasting up to 20. Ready-mix concrete has a shelf-life of around 90 minutes, and a typical concrete pump sets about 800,000 lbs. of concrete in an hour.