Mack building presence in the west

PORTLAND, Ore. – Mack Trucks, perennially strong in the conventional straight truck and low-cabover engine segments, now feels it has the right truck for linehaul, too.

Rich Baek uses Mack Anthems to pull his custom race haulers.

That, of course, is the new Mack Anthem, which is getting the company into some new fleets and interesting applications. The truckmaker is now pushing for a stronger presence in the west, where it took trucking industry press to highlight some of its new and long-running relationships.

In Portland, Ore., the press was introduced to Vital Speed Motorsports, whose founder Rich Baek bought two Mack Anthems to haul his fleet of Ferrari race cars to events across the U.S. Baek was as giddy over his Anthems and custom-built trailers as he was the Ferraris themselves. He recounted how one of his truck drivers visited the Mack dealer to take the Anthem for a test drive after ordering a truck of a different brand.

When he drove the Anthem, and learned it was fully loaded while performing as though it was empty, he canceled the original order and bought two Anthems. Kevin Swartout, director of strategic programs for Vital Speed, said “Ferrari is the pinnacle of the benchmark for speed and precision, and for us, Mack Trucks is the benchmark for quality and toughness for trucks. Having the Anthem in front of our trailers has been pretty fantastic. The durability, quality, and performance has been great.”

A Vital Speed Mack Anthem hauler.

Roy Horton, director of product strategy, Mack Trucks, said “Anthem has been doing extremely well for us.”

He highlighted four key areas in which it provides lower total cost of ownership for customers: fuel efficiency; driver recruitment and retention; dealer network strength; and uptime support. He noted the Anthem is up to 9.5% more fuel efficient than its predecessor, when spec’d with turbo-compounding. The dealer network continues to grow, with 95 service points now available in Canada and 345 more in the U.S.

Mack also took visiting journalists to Seattle, where it highlighted several long-term customer relationships in the vocational segments. Some of the latest enhancements brought to the Granite include a new interior that mirrors that in the Anthem, as well as an mDrive HD automated transmission that now accounts for 40% of Granite sales. Both the Anthem and Granite are capable of over-the-air software and parameter updates.

Horton said that since October 2017, more than 350 customers have done remote updates on more than 6,200 vehicles. They’ve averaged 22 minutes, eliminating more than 1,900 days of downtime. There are now more than 100,000 Mack Trucks on the road that are equipped with the company’s GuardDog Connect telematics suite.

City Transfer and Silver Streak were two Seattle-area fleets Mack highlighted. They both deliver aggregate products to construction sites in the area. TEC Equipment, a Mack dealer that covers the entire west coast, has fostered a strong relationship with the two customers. It even hosts an annual barbecue for Silver Streak’s employees and their families at their own yard.

A City Transfer Mack Granite pictured in a nearby quarry.

Kevin Benson, owner of City Transfer, spoke of the Mack’s reliability.

“We have never had a de-rate event in the field,” he said, noting the company has bought about 200 Mack trucks beginning in about 1965. “The over-the-air updates have been really helpful. We’re not chasing that equipment up to Mack.”

Silver Streak is owned by Tina Benson, who purchased it from her mother in 1998. She merged it with her own trucking company called T-Max, which she founded in 1993. It’s one of the largest non-union trucking companies in the Pacific Northwest. It operates 75-135 trucks in the peak season.

“We’ve never had a tow with any of our Granites,” said Kevin McCann, operations manager.

Mack officials said they’re confident they can grow their presence in the west, but some education is required. Mack doesn’t offer a 15-liter engine, and big bore power is still the preference in this region. The company claims its 13L is fully capable of handling the vast majority of the loads moved out here – even over mountainous terrain.

Silver Streak has a long history with Mack. It recently restored this 87 Mack Superliner.
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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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