Truck Tech

Freightliner's Inside Man

March 7, 2017

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Martin Daum Photo: Daimler Trucks North America
Martin Daum Photo: Daimler Trucks North America

Martin Daum is the type of fellow who gets things done. Case in point: Last year, in his role as president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, Daum got The Rolling Stones to play at the American Trucking Associations' convention in Las Vegas to help Freightliner celebrate the launch of its new Cascadia.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to negotiate with Mick Jagger or to get The Rolling Stones to do anything?

Last week, Daimler Trucks North America potentially caught a huge break when the Supervisory Board of Daimler AG – essentially the strategic/leadership committee that guides Daimler’s worldwide operations – named Daum to its Board of Management with responsibility for the company’s global truck and bus operations. He is succeeding Wolfgang Bernhard, who left for personal reasons, Daimler said, after overseeing some of the most stunning technological advances the trucking industry has witnessed in decades.

I have to think my friends at Daimler Trucks North America were turning backflips when the announcement was made. Martin Daum oversaw Freightliner attain the dominant position in Class 8 marketshare during his tenure and is intimately familiar with the wants and needs of this market. The news that he will now head up Daimler’s global truck and bus business cannot be construed as anything but positive for the Freightliner and Western Star brands.

North America – and the United States in particular – remains the preeminent truck market in the world. Daimler has hardly ignored this part of the world, as its recent technological and marketshare successes confirm.

But now, with the global head of the company’s truck and bus operations taking over fresh from the States, it seems logical to assume that Daum’s intimate knowledge of this market, the concerns of both fleets and owner-operators, as well as the potential for Daimler’s technological, ergonomic and design capabilities to address those concerns, will be given an increased focus and decisions will be made with a greater depth of understanding concerning the significance and import of those actions.

I think it’s a signal that the white-hot technology race underway among both OEMs and top-tier suppliers is about to get even more intense.

In other words, Martin Daum will have the full suite of Daimler’s global engineering expertise at his command. And instead of being in a position where he has to make a case for certain design elements or engineering and technological advancements and features, he will now be able to direct those assets anywhere on the planet he thinks they will do Daimler – and Daimler’s customers – the most good. And it is difficult to imagine a scenario where North America – and the U.S. in particular – doesn’t fare well in that new management structure.

What will that mean for the trucking industry in North America as a whole?

I don’t think that we’ll see robot trucks roaming the highways next year. But I do think it’s a signal that the white-hot technology race underway among both OEMs and top-tier suppliers is about to get even more intense. That could mean an accelerated timetable for a host of emerging technologies, from platooning to autonomous vehicles to integrated aerodynamics to advanced vehicle telematics systems.

That’s pure speculation on my part. However, I can make one prediction with a high degree of certainty: No matter what course of action Daum and his successor ultimately pursue, it will not be to launch technology simply for technology’s sake. Every initiative undertaken during Daum’s tenure in North America kept Daimler’s customers – fleets and owner-operators – squarely in mind. And there is no reason to think that approach will change anytime soon.   

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Author Bio

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Jack Roberts

Senior Editor

As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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