ALLENTOWN, Pa. – As he settles into his new role as president of Mack Trucks, Martin Weissburg is well aware he has taken the reins during a surging truck market and he’s grateful of the groundwork that’s been laid by his predecessor.
“Smoking” and “explosive” are a couple of the terms Weissburg used to describe the current truck market during an introductory roundtable discussion with the trucking press here Aug. 20. The key to building on Mack’s success in the wake of the launch of its new Anthem highway tractor, is to continue playing offense, added Weissburg, who stepped into the role June 1.
“Mack’s newest member of the family (the Anthem), couldn’t have come at a better time,” he said. “We ramped up production in the first quarter of this year and demand for this product has greatly exceeded our expectations.”
Weissburg said Mack has grown its on-highway segment market share with the launch of the Anthem. He said customers are using it as a tool to attract and retain drivers, or to reward top-performing drivers. Some fleets are parking it out front of their facilities during recruitment fairs, he said of the distinctive Anthem.
“It’s a driver’s truck,” he said. “The timing is good and demand is super high.”
To put the demand into perspective, Weissburg said Mack has taken twice as many orders for on-highway trucks so far this year than its total retail sales in the segment all of last year. Demand also remains strong in its other core segments, including refuse and construction, but it’s the on-highway segment that’s seeing the strongest growth. But with this strong demand comes challenges, including managing a stretched supply chain and staying on top of suppliers to ensure they can continue meeting such high demand.
“We have our share of challenges with a stretched supply chain as well. The whole industry is facing that,” said Weissburg. “There’s no single major point of pain. Just right when you fix one, another point of pain pops up. I’m close with our suppliers, I empathize with their challenges.”
One of the greatest challenges facing suppliers, said Weissburg, is finding enough employees in a low-unemployment environment.
“A lot of them have the ability and capacity from a fixed asset standpoint, but from a labor standpoint it’s very stretched,” he said.
The new Mack Anthem.
Mack has been heavily investing in its own facilities, and its dealers have followed suit. Weissburg said the company has invested more than $80 million into its Lehigh Valley plant over the past few years, where 2,400 employees now work. It has also been focusing on uptime, with the launch of its Greensboro, N.C.-based Uptime Center and new services such as over-the-air software updates. The latter allows fleets to save significant time when updating powertrain software by doing so remotely without taking the truck out of service. It is being rolled out gradually with certain fleets to ensure a smooth deployment.
“This is the backbone of what we do – transportation solutions,” said Jonathan Randall, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Mack. “It’s all about limiting breakdowns, and when downtime or dwell time occurs, making it as little time as possible for those wheels to not be turning earning revenue.”
Weissburg added one customer told him the fleet’s not making money if its windshield isn’t killing bugs. “We want to keep killing bugs,” he quipped.
For Weissburg, taking the top job at Mack is a homecoming of sorts. He has overseen Mack Financial Services and later served as the head of Volvo Construction Equipment – a US$9-billion business that saw him relocate to Europe for the past four years.
Weissburg wanted to relocate back to the U.S. to be closer to family and the Mack job was a perfect fit. The time spent in Europe only reinforced his appreciation for the iconic Mack brand.
“For me, Mack is like the cherry on top,” the 56-year-old Maryland native said of his career, all of which was spent in the truck, trailer and equipment industries. “It’s the dream job. To join as leader of this iconic brand and with this great team is a wonderful opportunity for me.”
And while he knows he’s taking over while business is booming, he’s optimistic the bottom won’t fall out anytime soon.
“Every indication is that 2019 will be another strong year, and we’re planning accordingly,” he said.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies