Mack Trucks launched a comprehensive fleet management portal for its connected trucks and offered some economic and industry insights during the American Trucking Associations Management Conference & Exhibition in Austin, Texas.
Jonathan Randall, president of Mack Trucks North America, said GDP numbers appear to indicate a soft landing for the economy. But the economic slowdown affects trucking segments differently.
For instance, he explained, high interest rates are driving some softening in housing starts, but for non-housing construction, "particularly segments where Mack has a strong position, we’re not seeing a slowdown," with commercial construction and infrastructure projects such as roadwork remaining strong.
The USMCA market (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) currently is at a pace to end the year about 330,000 units, Randall said.
"The anticipation is we’lll see a pullback from that, but the forecast says any pullback is going to be in that longhaul business."
"We have seen very robust order intake since we opened our order books in August," Randall said, although "there's some hestitancy in the over-the-road business in placing some of those orders from a replacement standpoint."
He shared truck registration figures showing 2022 long-haul tractors making up 52% of registrations, but only 49% through August of 2023. Regional-haul tractors, on the other hand, are up as a percentage of registrations, from 26% last year to 29% year to date.
Looking forward, he said, demand for Mack products remains strong.
The medium-duty Mack MD line, he said, is "a great success story and even a lttle surprise to ourselves." It was introduced at the Work Truck Show in March 2020 and Randall said it's hit its market share goals much faster than it projected. Last year it finished with 5.5% market share, and Randall said expectations are for it to be the same this year.
Production of the new Mack MD Electric begins this quarter, with two versions, Class 6 or 7, with a 150- or 240-mile range. "We believe the payback on this truck will eventually be equivalent to the diesel version. And it can in today's configuration be a one for one replacement for a diesel counterpart, which is one of the barriers for electrification, the ability to run the same routes."
Randall said Mack is making continued investments in sustainability, including compressed natural gas and Mack's electric refuse trucks.
But trucks are only part of what truck makers like Mack need to be able to provide to customers, Randall said. "That’s where Mack is focused in the future," including uptime solutions. "We have a suite of services I view as table stakes to be able to be competitive in the commercial truck market in North America," Randall said, including GuardDog, Mack OneCall, Mack Assist and others.
"And there’s going to be more. When you talk about new products for Mack, it was always exciting to talk about the iron, about the truck, but it also includes the soft products that are equally important."
The latest of those is Mack Connect, a comprehensive fleet management portal enabling customers to digitally access information about the Mack-powered trucks in their fleet.
Critical Operating Data in One, Easy-to-Access Place
“Mack Connect improves customer visibility into the health and performance of their vehicles and simplifies the process to access the data,” Randall said. “We listened to our customers and developed this portal to help fleets improve their operational efficiencies and profitability, while also allowing them the visibility to ensure their trucks are operating at peak performance.”
Mack Connect gathers data about critical aspects about a customer’s trucks, services and their specific application, which fleets can use to improve fuel efficiency, safety and productivity.
Mack's first comprehensive fleet management portal, Mack Connect will "provide access to more critical information the customers are not typically used to seeing or interacting with on a day-to-day basis," said Patrick Brown, senior strategy and sustainability manager.
"More importantly, it provides us a stronger foundation to continue building connected services in the future."
The Mack Connect toolbox includes data about asset location, idle time, traffic information, fuel efficiency, safety performance and vehicle speed. Customers can access the status of their Mack vehicles through a 4G Telematics Gateway, factory-installed at Lehigh Valley Operations, Macungie, Pennsylvania.
Mack Connect offers visibility to the Mack GuardDog Connect integrated telematics solution so customers can easily manage fault events, providing visibility to over-the-air updates when available.
Reporting and analytics are available so customers can analyze the data to determine whether adjustments need to be made to improve efficiencies.
Mack Connect and Integrated Uptime will be standard on all model year 2025 Mack-powered units for two years and will co-term with premium service contracts.
For Mack trucks already in service, it co-terms with an active Integrated Uptime subscription. Eligible trucks without active subscription can get a free six-month trial.
Mack piloted Mack Connect with several customers. Hilco Transport, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, was one of the customers that participated. About half of the 500-vehicle Hilco fleet are Mack trucks. Currently, more than 200 of Hilco’s Mack vehicles are using Mack Connect.
“I’m a data-driven kind of person, so I like to be able to pull up the data that Mack Connect provides in real-time and present it when we have our executive meetings,” said Mike Laughead, director of maintenance for Hilco. “We are impressed with the system, and it helps managers keep tabs on operations.”
Laughead said aside from the reporting of data, he’s most impressed by the map feature, which allows users to locate and click on a vehicle and access all the data associated with that truck.
“It’s very user friendly and easy to navigate,” Laughead said.
Mack Connect with integrated uptime is standard on all new Mack-powered Model Year 2025 vehicles for two years.
Customers with both Mack and Volvo trucks using the brand's powertrains can use either Mack Connect or Volvo Connect, also unveiled at the show. Other truck and engine makes are not currently supported.