Right off the busy floor of the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, HDT had a few minutes to talk trucking with Preston Feight, who in January was named the General Manager of Kenworth Truck Co. and a Paccar Vice President. A 17-year veteran of Paccar, he previously served as Kenworth’s Assistant General Manager, Sales and Marketing, and prior to that as the truck builder’s Chief Engineer.
Q: Let’s start with your projection for U.S./Canada heavy-truck sales in 2015?
A: We’re currently projecting Class 8 sales in the neighborhood of 250,000 to 280,000 units. Since 2014’s number came in at 250,000, we’re looking at a 10 percent plus-or-minus change for the year.
Q: How about your outlook on medium-duty sales for this year?
A: As for Class 6 and 7, we’re expecting industry sales of between 65,000 and 75,000 trucks, which would be slightly up from last year.
Q: Looking ahead, what’s your current sense of how Class 8 sales will turn out next year?
A: It’s hard to put a number on where 2016 sales will end up from this far out. But I see no reason that next year won’t be a good one for heavy duty, perhaps as good as this one will be. For one thing, there will be no major engine emissions changes in play. For another, fleets are making money so they will continue to buy new trucks.
Q: What’s your take on the upcoming second round of GHG/MPG regulations for new trucks?
A: Phase 2 of the rules are supposed to be issued in 2015. We prefer that they do come out this year. We view the GHG rulemaking as an opportunity. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from trucks produces a benefit for our customers-- it increases their miles-per-gallon performance. What is still up in the air is whether this next round will result in issuing a comprehensive vehicle regulation. There are so many contributions to truck fuel economy, including what trailers can influence.
Q: From a truck builder’s perspective, what are the top three trends to stay on top of through 2015?
A: Along with the GHG rulemaking, I’d say fuel efficiency in general, the driver shortage and the industry’s greater focus on safety all bear close watching. Certainly, truck driver availability and the role played by FMCSA’s Carrier, Safety, Accountability system are interrelated. Safety and the driver recruitment/retention issue are twin concerns for the industry. Providing trucks that offer a high degree of safety features, excellent visibility, even automated transmissions, can all be part of that driver conversation for fleets. Of course, good drivers are also concerned with how much they earn cumulatively each year. Above all, they know they need to be kept moving.