With tremendous uncertainty still plaguing the housing market and therefore the construction sector, Denny Slagle, president and CEO of North American Trucks, the parent company of Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks North America, sees the on-highway market leading the recovery. And he says Mack is more than ready.

"We've made good use of the downturn to drain the swamp, so to speak, and get everything we do right," Slagle told a group of fleet customers and dealers gathered in Allentown, Pa., last week for the opening of Mack's new Customer Center. "We haven't seen numbers like we have for the past two years since deregulation, but it's starting to feel like this recovery has legs."

Pent-Up Demand

Pointing out that the U.S. fleet is now almost 8 years old on average, Slagle said there is huge pent-up demand out there, and noted that Mack's order intake in the third quarter was up 86 percent compared to the same quarter in 2009, and 40 percent higher than the previous quarter in 2010.

"All of the '07 generation engines are gone, and the engine replacing them is better in every respect; better fuel economy, better reliability, and the order books reflect that. The Mack engine is the model within the group," he said.

The only lingering cloud on Slagle's horizon remains the lagging vocational sector, specifically construction.

"The construction market still way off," he says. "There are still problems with the housing market, and that's holding everything back. We might see something of a comeback by 2011, possibly not until 2012. We just don't know."

At Mack

Recently, Mack consolidated all of its heavy truck manufacturing at Macungie, Pa., and added an automated transmission to its line of proprietary driveline products. Topping it off, Mack has opened what it calls a Customer Center in Allentown on the site of the company's former engineering development and test center. The facility includes a product showroom, an 18,000-square-foot modification center and a two-lane, .73-mile oval track, allowing customers to put their vehicles to the test. The track has multiple grades, on- and off-road durability courses, and a skid pad.

"We're burnishing the brand image with our Customer Center," said Slagle. "And I really believe we're in better shape now than any time in the past 10 years."