Mack sees vocational market recovering

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Leaders at Mack Trucks like where the brand is positioned, in light of trends that favour its strong position in vocational and regional haul markets.

Perhaps most importantly to Mack, the construction market is finally seeing signs of life. Speaking at the Mid-America Trucking Show, Kevin Flaherty, president of Mack Trucks North American Sales and Marketing, noted demand is increasing for concrete pumps.

Some concrete pump manufacturers have indicated they’re on pace to double their orders this year, which is good new to Mack, which Flaherty said gets about 90% of the concrete pump business.

The concrete business was so bad during the recession, Flaherty said the industry estimates as many as 2,000 concrete pumps were exported out of the US.

“Now, the feeling is, right now it is coming back,” Flaherty said. “We are seeing orders coming in for mixers.”

He said most vocational fleets are taking a cautious approach by placing small orders, and that volumes should strengthen into 2014. “But at least they’re back in the marketplace,” he said.

Overall Class 8 truck sales are expected to be on par with 2012, at about 249,000-250,000 units in the US and Canada, Flaherty noted. That’s significantly better than the 216,000 sold in 2011.

Mack is also seeing growth in its regional haul segment, thanks largely to the popularity of its mDrive automated manual transmission.

“It’s a game changer for the Mack company,” Flaherty said, noting 40% of Mack tractors are now being ordered with mDrive transmissions. “We don’t see customers going back to a 10-speed transmission. Once they’re in the mDrive, they’re staying in the mDrive, without a doubt.”

Flaherty also said Mack stands to gain from the increased use of natural gas-powered trucks. About half of the refuse trucks it sells are now powered by natural gas.

“We think that is going to grow and grow,” Flaherty said. “Our used truck guys are still getting a feel of, what is that truck going to be worth at the end of a cycle? I think the biggest challenge for the used truck department is, what is the value of that gas truck? Who is that second buyer? I think over time, that is going to play out and we’re confident this gas activity is not a flash in the pan. It’s going to continue.”

Highway products manager, Jerry Warmkessel, speaking about Mack’s new Twin Y suspension, echoed Flaherty’s excitement about how the brand is positioned.

“I really feel in my heart that this new product, along with the vocational business in an upturn and with the Panama Canal expansion and a lot of long-haul customers transitioning to local haul or regional haul -which has always been our forte – that given those factors, we could be on the threshold of one of the greatest upsurges in the history of the Mack company,” Warmkessel gushed.

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