YOUNTVILLE, Calif. – Daimler Trucks North America enjoys a significant share of the on-highway truck market, but Western Star president David Carson knows there is room for growth in the vocational business segment.
Vocational vehicles account for about 30% of North America’s truck market, he said during a media briefing in California. They also account for about 70% of Western Star’s business. But Daimler Trucks North America accounts for about 14% of the related market.
“We have clear opportunities there,” Carson said, offering the example of construction activities that involve everything from dumps and cement mixers to cranes. “We can address those by getting closer to our customers and understanding their specific needs.”
Addressing the varied needs of vocational users can be a complex task, however.
Vocational truck users often keep their trucks significantly longer than their over-the-road peers, he said as an example. And they tend to establish smaller fleets, often buying one to five trucks at a time. Large fleets in this segment might include 50-100 trucks at most.
“We can’t just take a one-size-fits-all approach,” he stressed. “The customer oftentimes are telling us what they need, what it looks like.”
While there are limits to what can be customized, there are still ways to focus on product features, advantages and benefits, he said.
Western Star sees a particular advantage in a suite of safety technologies.
Vocational buyers are increasingly showing interest in the options, especially where larger businesses are purchasing smaller regional operations and bringing with them a refined focus on risk management, Carson said.
“We have a fully complementary suite of products from Daimler Trucks North America to meet the needs of the marketplace,” he added, standing in front of a Western Star 4700 equipped with collision mitigation systems and cameras. “We’re the only OEM that really has that breadth and that expertise.”
The search for a larger share of the vocational business will also involve efforts to expedite service work.
“We need to go where the customer is, and provide that service at that location,” says Stefan Kurschner, Daimler Trucks North America’s senior vice-president – aftermarket. That will also involve rethinking where required parts are warehoused to support such businesses, often around remote mines or in oilfields.
“We will create those tailor-made solutions for the vocational segment,” he said. “This is part of the customer journey we have to understand.”
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