Daimler opens new proving grounds

by Sonia Straface

MADRAS, Ore. – Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has officially opened its Oregon-based High Desert Proving Grounds.

DTNA invited trucking journalists across North America, as well as local dignitaries and local press to attend the grand opening event on May 18 to mark the occasion. The grand opening featured speeches from DTNA executives, full facility tours, and a ride and drives on the newly paved 3.5-mile test track.

The grounds, which required an $18.7 million investment by the company, encompass 87 acres in total. It comes complete a test track, a brand new 32,000 sq-ft office building that will soon be home to about 40 employees, and a sizable workshop with 14 service bays for technicians to work in. There’s also a driver lounge and conference rooms with large picture windows for all employees to enjoy the mountainous view.

According to Roger Nielsen, DTNA’s newly-appointed president and CEO, the proving grounds were built to serve a two-fold function.

The first, to solidify and validate DTNA as North America’s undisputed market leader and become a louder player in the realm of research and development. The second, to bring innovative technology to the market faster than before.

“We’re excited to be a more predominate player in the testing of durability, reliability of our brand and brands around the world,” Nielsen said at the grand opening. “Putting our investment here is one more piece of the foundation we’re putting together to solidify our place as the North American leader. For sure you’re going to see…trucks platooned and paired up here, you’re going to see autonomous vehicles driving up here. It’s truly a place for us to bring product to market faster and quicker and honestly, with higher quality.”

Wilfried Achenbach, senior vice-president of engineering at DTNA said that Madras was specifically chosen as the place for the proving grounds because of its proximity to Portland, Ore. where the company’s year-old new headquarters is situated. The drive between the headquarters and the proving grounds about 120 miles, which allows the engineering team to travel by car to access the testing facility.

“It will save us time, and bring our engineers closer to the product,” said Achenbach. “Together with our full-scale wind tunnel other state of the art engineering test facilities in Portland, the proving grounds will help us stay ahead of the competition.”

In addition, the 120-mile drive is helping the company out even more as the route provides vehicles real world validation by including portions on the interstate, rural roads, and mountainous terrain through the Mount Hood pass. The route itself  has been used to validate potential gains of truck platooning, one technology that DTNA is exploring for the future.

Achenbach added that the new test track is similar to those Daimler has in Germany and soon in Brazil. The track’s surfaces, which are highly engineered, will help DTNA determine a truck’s full service life in just six months.

“This is a great day for Madras. Having Daimler Truck North America invest in our city is a testament of a long partnership,” said Royce Embanks, Mayor of Madras. “Daimler Trucks North America has a long history with the City of Madras and the partnership has been a win-win for both parties..We look forward to the future and supporting the undisputed market leader in the commercial vehicle industry.”




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