ALLENTOWN, Penn. – It was all fun and games for trucking journalists who were invited to Mack’s Ride and Drive 2017 Powertrain event on September 1 in Allentown, Penn.
Mack welcomed trucking press to its Customer Center where journalists and editors were encouraged to get into the shiny new trucks and drive them along the facility’s multiple test tracks and courses.
Mack Granite dump truck
Notably, journalists were invited to drive a Mack Granite dump truck along the center’s new off-road course and drive around the test track that circles the main center with the Mack Pinnacle. All trucks were equipped with the company’s new 2017 MP series engines, that Mack unleashed earlier this year. Company representatives claim the new 2017 engines boost fuel efficiently from 2.1% to 8.8% compared to its prior model year engines.
The trucks driven at the event on September 1 had the Mack MP8 engine in either 445 or 505 horsepower with 1,860 lb-ft of torque.
“We took our already proven engine platform and improved that,” said Roy Horton, director of product strategy. “So we’ve simplified the maintenance on it and…we’ve improved the fuel efficiency from 2.5% to 5.0%. It’s available for order now and production start in October (2016).”
But the event wasn’t just your average ride and drive.
The Mack team set up a mock roadeo for the writers and editors to attempt to complete like the professionals in the National Truck Driving Championships. So along the main test track, journalists had to attempt to successfully complete a maneuverability test where with a fully loaded Mack Pinnacle they had to drive though a set of diminishing cones without knocking any over. (I only hit one cone on my right hand side – not bad for someone who doesn’t drive trucks often or hold a CDL.) Other tests including backing up into a simulated dock with little clearance on each side and stopping test. (I didn’t do so well on those).
Writers were scored on their performance accordingly. You lost points if you knocked over any cones or got stuck in the mud and rocks on the off-road course – just like the pros in a roadeo would be scored.
But most of all the event really showcased all the new features of the trucks that Mack is excited for. Like the Grade Gripper and its popular mDrive and mDrive HD automated manual transmission.
When we took the Mack Granite dump truck out for a spin on the center’s new off-road track, complete with a series of difficult and bumpy terrains that one could expect in a vocational setting, the ride was surprising smooth considering the truck was pulling 70,000 lbs.
While we descended a steep heal on the track, Tim Wrinkle, Mack’s construction project manager instructed me to come to a complete stop once I reached the middle of the hill and remove my foot from the brake.
“This is the Grade Gripper at work,” he said once we didn’t roll forward and stayed in a limbo. “This truck is fully loaded at 70,000 lbs and for three seconds, this feature will allow the driver to have enough time to move his/her foot from the brake to the accelerator.”
On the rest of the test tracks, Mack executives showed just how easy the mDrive was to use. This was a feature I especially enjoyed since I can count the amount of times I’ve driven with a manual transmission on one hand. But as Stu Russoli, Mack’s highway product manager put it, “This isn’t just a great product for drivers who have never driven a manual transmission. It’s great for all drivers because now they aren’t concentrating on switching gears, they’re concentrating on everything else around them.”
It worked just a like a car. Press R for reverse, D for Drive. Or if you have some rough terrain or a steep heel to get up with a fully loaded trailer, you can push the PERF button (short for Performance) and let the transmission do the thinking and put it in the best gear for you. Or if you prefer, drivers can hit the M button for Manual.
“This lets the driver set it into whichever gear they want,” explained Wrinkle adding that it gives drivers in off-road application a lot more control.
Mack also provided a brief update on its Certified Uptime Centers – something they’ve put a tremendous focus on this year. To date, the company now has 49 Certified Uptime Centers and 10 are currently in the application and certification process. Start to finish, Mack says it takes nearly eight weeks for a center to be certified because “it’s not just a rubber stamp of approval” according to John Walsh, Mack’s v.p. of global marketing and brand management.
So far, the company is pleased with the certified shop’s results. To date the certified shops are increasing repair orders closed by 21%, increasing shop efficiency by 8%, and cutting the average four day repair wait time in half.