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Mack mDrive HD Made to Handle Most Vocational Duties

April 30, 2015

By Tom Berg

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Mack is making the mDrive HD standard on Granite vocational models, though a manual or Allison automatic may be chosen instead.  Photo: Tom Berg
Mack is making the mDrive HD standard on Granite vocational models, though a manual or Allison automatic may be chosen instead.  Photo: Tom Berg

Mack’s mDrive HD automated manual transmission will handle most vocational duties with three programmable operating modes – Easy Shift, Enhanced Construction and Heavy Haul -- when it goes into full production in mid-May, the company’s executives said at a presentation and driving demonstration Thursday in Allentown, Pa.

The on/off-road heavy duty product, introduced in February, has extra-tough gears and synchronizers and uses higher-viscosity synthetic lube oil than the on-highway mDrive that came out in 2010, said Curtis Dorwart, Mack’s vocational segment marketing manager. It’s rated for up to 2,060 lb-ft, and is available only with Mack MP7, MP8 and MP10 diesels.

The mDrive HD will be standard in Granite vocational trucks and tractors and available in the Titan extra heavy duty model. About 40 vehicles have been built with it on a limited production basis since January. All Macks are built in Macungie, Pa., and mDrives are assembled at Volvo Group’s drivetrain plant in Hagerstown, Md. Workers at that plant also build I-Shift vocational and highway automated transmissions for Volvo Trucks, Mack’s sister company.

Special keypad selector for mDrive HD includes buttons for Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Manual, and up- and down-shifts. Photo: Tom Berg
Special keypad selector for mDrive HD includes buttons for Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Manual, and up- and down-shifts. Photo: Tom Berg

Mack has a long heritage in vocational trucks, and the heavier duty mDrive was extensively tested before entering that product line, said Stu Russoli, the former vocational manager who just moved into marketing highway vehicles.

“We didn’t want to put it in construction applications until we knew it would stand up to frequent shifts and heat seen in off-road running,” he said. Aside from strengthened interior parts and the thicker oil, mDrive HD’s oil cooler was mounted to one side of the casing so it’s closer to the heat exchanger up at the radiator.

The three available operating modes are a function of programming mDrive’s electronic controls. They can be altered and parameters reset at Mack dealers. An available Performance button on a dash-mounted selector raises shift points and adds power and torque as engine revs rise, making a truck noticeably livelier during acceleration.

A 12-speed mDrive HD weighs 237 pounds less and costs “significantly less” than a similarly torque-rated Allison fully automatic torque-converter transmission, heretofore the only self-shifting alternative to a multi-speed manual in Mack vocational models, Dorwart said. A single-countershaft mDrive weighs about the same as a comparable Eaton manual transmission with twin countershafts and less than a triple-countershaft Mack manual. He and Russoli declined to cite price details.

The mDrive will be available on Titan extra heavy duty models, where it is rated for up to 120,000 lbs GCW. This rig weighed about 105,000 pounds. Photo: Tom Berg
The mDrive will be available on Titan extra heavy duty models, where it is rated for up to 120,000 lbs GCW. This rig weighed about 105,000 pounds. Photo: Tom Berg

An mDrive HD will handle most vocational applications, Russoli said, “but there are some where we’ll say, ‘You should stay with an 18-speed manual or stay with an Allison automatic, and we’ll still offer them all.”

Easier driving with an automated transmission will expand the potential driver pool for vocational fleets, and help attract and retain good drivers, Dorwart said. Better fuel economy will help pay off the upfront premium. Higher fuel efficiency is selling freight-hauling fleets on the mDrive, and about half of all Mack highway models are now spec’d with it, underscoring the industry wide trend toward automated transmissions in heavy trucks.

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