‘The toughest truck in the woods’

CHARLESTON, S.C. — When Tracy Gunter Jr., founder of Tracy’s Logging, buys a new Mack truck for his fleet, productivity improves before it even hauls its first load. That’s because he’s been known to park it in the yard and watch the drivers compete to see who will be awarded the keys.

“When I buy a new truck, I park it in the yard for about a month before I put it into service,” Gunter Jr. told press at a recent Mack Trucks Born to Haul event. “You talk about hauling wood; those drivers stay late, they come in early, trying to get that new truck. That’s a tool I use sometimes.”

Tracy Gunter Jr. and his son, Tracy Gunter III, stand on a job site with one of the Mack Granites they use in their logging business. (Photo by Carmen K. Sisson)

Gunter Jr. is passionate about Mack trucks. He grew up in the South Carolina timber business and founded Tracy’s Logging in the mid-70s. Today, it produces about 300 loads per week, hauled by a predominantly Mack Granite fleet.

“I don’t know who is responsible for naming that truck the Granite,” he said. “I tell you, that’s a very appropriate name. I think that truck is as hard as a rock. It’s certainly an appropriate name because of its durability, its longevity, and my drivers do love that truck. The only problem I have with buying these new trucks is I can’t buy one for everybody at one time and the ones that don’t get it are all puffed up.”

Tracy’s Logging’s trucks are spec’d with Mack MP8 engines with 445 hp and 1,860 lb.-ft. of torque, as well as mDrive and mDrive HD automated manual transmissions.

“It’s the toughest truck in the woods,” Gunter Jr. insisted, noting 50% of the fleet’s miles are off-road.

His son, Tracy Gunter III, runs T3 Chipping. He said some features of the Mack Granite that make it the company’s top choice are: a Cornerstone chassis that provides maximum ground clearance and strength for off-road trucking; excellent visibility for improved safety; a tight turning radius; large radiator openings for improved cooling; a durable hood that flexes independently on uneven terrain; and a steel cab. Oh, and telematics?

“One of the major selling points for us was the GuardDog component,” he added, citing Mack’s remote diagnostics platform. “Coupled with our local dealer, it is providing us with a more proactive plan for fleet management. We’re not reactive anymore.”

Loggers have traditionally been reactive, Gunter III admitted, but using remote diagnostics has enabled the company to increase its uptime and boost its bottom line. This is especially important since the trucks could be operating 15 miles into the bush.

Pat Barber, president and CEO of 40-truck specialized trucking company Superior Transportation, is equally passionate about Mack trucks. He has been a lifelong Mack fan and formed Superior in 1998 at the age of 29 when he found an unserved local niche, handling oversized loads for automotive parts manufacturers and the energy sector, who would ship the equipment through the local Port of Charleston.

“No local-based trucker was able to handle the automotive expertise,” he said. “I invested everything I ever earned and bought some equipment.”

Sometimes, Barber said, he has to design the trailer around the cargo, which is often designed without any thought of how it will get to its final destination. To further complicate matters, Superior is often called on to deliver oversized equipment, such as cranes, to construction sites in downtown Charleston with its narrow streets.

This is where the Mack Pinnacle axle back day cab fits the bill.

Pat Barber stands in front of a Mack truck at Superior Transportation in North Charleston South Carolina.

“We have some of the tightest intersections in all the country,” Barber said. “I would rather drive in Manhattan than downtown Charleston. The cranes that come down here, we usually play a role in delivering and taking those back out of town. We have to have something that’s maneuverable and does the job.”

Barber spec’s Pinnacle trucks with mDrive transmissions and MP8 engines. The lightweight combination gives him a competitive advantage, he claimed.

“I can build that truck so much lighter than some of my competitors, that I can do with eight axles what it takes my competitor 11 axles to do,” he said.

Drivers love the mDrive automated manual transmission, Barber said. It has also improved fuel mileage, from about 5 mpg to 5.2 mpg in an application that’s generally overweight and even grosses 90,000 lbs at times while deadheading, due to the heavy specialized trailers they pull.

Cargo through the Port of Charleston remains a big part of Superior’s business, especially with the expansion of the Panama Canal. Barber said from June of last year to May of this year, there’s been about a 20% increase in container volumes moved through the port.

“Every container that moves through the port at some point travels on a truck,” Barber said.

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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