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March 22, 2018 4:00 PM, EDT
Mack Cites Comeback of Longhaul Market in 2018
Jonathan Randall of Mack Trucks Randall by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Fleets in the longhaul segment are increasingly spurring Class 8 demand as the highway market makes a comeback, according to Mack Trucks, whose new Anthem model is aimed directly at that segment.

“Things continue to hum. What was happening in 2017, we see continuing into and through 2018 — employment levels, consumer spending, business investments, tax cuts and global growth,” Jonathan Randall, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Mack Trucks North America, said during a March 22 presentation at the Mid-America Trucking Show. Mack is a unit of Volvo Group, Mack expects the nation’s gross domestic product to increase at a rate of 2.8% this year, Randall said. GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.5% in the fourth quarter of 2017 and was 3.2% in the third quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported in February.

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Class 8 truck sales in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2018 are expected to reach 280,000 units compared with 243,000 in 2017, he said, noting that “upward pressure” already is building on that forecast.

Mack has hired 400 people since January and stepped up its production rate 40% in February. It expects that output level to continue throughout the year, Randall told Transport Topics.

In the past rolling five-month period, the industry order intake for longhaul has equated to about 48% compared with about 43% earlier, he said.

At the same time, day cabs continued to outpace orders for straight trucks, indicating they have overtaken the vocational segment, Randall added.

 

“That being said, we still see the construction segment as being very strong,” he said.

At Mack, about 90% of total orders across all five of its models include a specification for either an automatic or automated manual transmission.

North American orders for Class 8 trucks kept accelerating in February, passing 40,000 for only the ninth time.

Net North American Class 8 orders hit 40,271, according to ACT Research Co., which was the eighth-best order month on record.

Sales volume should soon start to equal the earlier months-long stretch of strong orders, Randall said.

Mack has expanded its recently launched Mack Trucks Configurator to include the Mack Anthem model. With the online tool, customers can virtually build and customize the Anthem model that best meets the unique needs of their business, the company said. The Anthem is available as a 70-inch sleeper, 48-inch sleeper and day cab.

Turning to President Donald Trump’s recent tariff proposals on steel and aluminum, Randall told TT that Mack buys from multiple suppliers and that he was opposed to the tariffs.

“We don’t know, yet, how we are going to address that, but it will certainly have [a negative] impact on prices,” he said.

Trump last month announced exemptions on aluminum tariffs for U.S. trading partners, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Korea and the European Union. Canada and Mexico were left off the initial list of countries subject to the tariffs — reported to total $60 billion.

The trucking industry is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to the economy, and as such first reflects changes in the larger market, Randall added.