Only weeks after stepping into his new role as vice president of global brand and marketing for Mack Trucks, David Galbraith spoke to HDT about the latest trends driving the Class 8 market. Galbraith is responsible for marketing strategy, brand management, marketing communications, product marketing, and digital marketing for the OEM. His remarks here are more extensive than those included in a recent HDT article on trends in Class 8.
HDT: Any update on resolving production slowdowns due to shortages of microchips and other components?
Galbraith: Mack’s Lehigh Valley Operations (LVO) is working hard to meet customer requirements in the face of significant supply chain constraints affecting automotive and truck manufacturers globally. We’re continuing to do everything we can to minimize the impact on our customers and maintain the flexibility to adjust production as needed.
HDT: Has the rollout of Phase 2 GHG standards developed by EPA and NHTSA had any sizable impact on the design and performance— and thus the market acceptance— of on-highway and/or vocational trucks of model years 2021-2022?
Galbraith: Since the announcement of the Phase 2 standards, which apply to Model Year 2021-2027 semi-trucks, we’ve announced several technologies, software enhancements, and tools for our clean diesel products to support our customers’ goal of improved fuel efficiency on Mack models. These include:
- Extended chassis fairings for the Mack Anthem, which were introduced in October 2019, further enhancing the benefits of the model’s aerodynamic design for fuel efficiency
- The MP8HE+ Powertrain Package for highway applications and the Mack Anthem, which was announced in October 2020
- The availability of a factory-installed FlowBelow Tractor AeroKit system on Mack Anthem highway models, which further improves fuel efficiency, as announced in October 2020
- The Mack Fuel Savings Calculator, which was rolled out in January 2021, to demonstrate the benefits of the next-generation Mack MP8HE+ Powertrain Package
- Mack Over The Air (OTA) remote programming solution, which offers quicker software updates for improved uptime and efficiency, was enhanced in January 2021 to include driver-activated updates as standard. In March 2021, Mack further enhanced Mack OTA through unlimited parameter updates
- A new factory-installed Idle Free eAPU for the Mack Anthem was announced in October 2021, which resulted in reduced idle time and increased fuel savings.
Mack Anthem retail sales have increased by more than 20% in 2021, highlighting the market acceptance of Mack’s latest products and technologies that are helping fleets reduce their fuel consumption.
HDT: Where do you stand with electric vehicle offerings, those now available? Any other electric models or model expansions planned for introduction in 2022? Are there any programs you have to help fleets integrate electric trucks and/or add charging solutions at domiciles or over the road? And how high do you gauge the general interest of fleet buyers for electric?
Galbraith: We look forward to the start of serial [full] production this quarter of our Mack LR Electric, the fully electric version of our Mack LR refuse model. Our industrial footprint is ready, as we’ve made major investments in LVO and in our Hagerstown powertrain facilities to prepare for commercial launch. The adoption of battery-electric vehicle technology for refuse customers is very specialized and must be tailored to each customer’s operations. Our sales team of trained e-mobility experts work very closely with customers and dealers to support the unique operating requirements and body integration for refuse applications. We also spend time helping them plan for the proper charging requirements, route optimization, and appropriate service needs over the life of the electric truck. Additionally, Mack has identified and communicated incentive and grant programs that our customers are eligible to apply for to help improve the total cost of ownership and stimulate the transition to cleaner transportation.
To further support Mack customers as they begin their e-mobility journey, we announced in October that the new Mack Ultra Service agreement will be bundled with the Mack LR Electric. The comprehensive uptime package is tailored specifically for the needs of battery-electric vehicles, addressing scheduled maintenance, preventative maintenance, monitoring battery health, and a battery performance guarantee covering the health of the batteries to help ensure durability and reliability.
HDT: What about hydrogen fuel-cell power? Will trucks using it be available next year? At another possible future date? Once available, in what applications might hydrogen fuel-cell be preferred over BEV power?
Galbraith: The Volvo Group, of which Mack Trucks is a part, announced in April that it is invested in developing fuel cell technology through cellcentric, a hydrogen-based fuel cell joint venture with Daimler. A focus of the joint venture is on enabling us to offer our customers the best vehicle options, depending on the application and geographic region.
HDT: Any new developments in advanced safety assistance systems and other improvements designed to reduce accidents and better protect truck drivers?
Galbraith: While there are no new Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) products, Mack continues to offer industry-leading safety technology with the next generation of Bendix Wingman Fusion, standard on all Mack Anthem models and as an option for the Mack Pinnacle and Mack Granite models. The camera- and radar-based system provides collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning capabilities.
HDT: Any new developments in your post-sale service support (dealers, telematic offerings, etc.) offerings? Are fleets in general responding well to these initiatives?
Galbraith: Based on positive customer and dealer response to Mack’s uptime-boosting Mack Over the Air (OTA) remote programming solution, Mack announced earlier this year that it was expanding the popular update feature to allow customers to make unlimited parameter updates. Standard on Mack Anthem, Granite, and Pinnacle models, Mack OTA simplifies the vehicle update process by allowing customers to update software and parameters remotely, saving customers time and money by removing the need to visit a dealer for updates. Most driver-activated software updates can be completed in less than 13 minutes. Driver-activated parameter updates are usually completed in less than one minute. Mack OTA is made available through Mack GuardDog Connect, Mack’s fully integrated telematics platform.
Mack announced in October that Boise, Idaho- based Mack dealer Northwest Equipment Sales is now a Certified Electric Vehicle (EV) dealer. They are the first Mack dealer in the Northwest United States to achieve EV dealer certification status.
HDT: Regarding driver comfort and lifestyle, any new specs or options that specifically address improving the driver environment?
Galbraith: Mack announced in March that its active steering system, Mack Command Steer, was entering production in Mack Granite axle back models. Available for Mack Granite and Mack Anthem models, the highly advanced active steering technology reduces driver effort by up to 85%, greatly alleviating strain on the driver’s body and creating a safer and more comfortable work environment. Through a system of sensors and an electric motor added to the hydraulic steering system, the truck monitors road conditions and applies torque as needed when events like high winds and tire blowouts happen, or in normal conditions to smooth steering feedback when encountering road disturbances, such as surface irregularities or potholes.
HDT: Can you provide an update on your progress toward autonomous trucks, denoting by SAE autonomy levels?
Galbraith: There are no new updates from Mack Trucks at this time regarding autonomous trucks.