Mack Trucks Makes mDrive AMT Standard on Pinnacle Model

Roy Horton by John Sommers II for Transport Topics
SAN DIEGO — Mack Trucks Inc. said its proprietary mDrive automated manual transmission is now standard equipment on its Mack Pinnacle highway model.

Stephen Roy, president of Mack’s North American sales and marketing, said that decision reflects the company’s stance that its in-house AMT is the best available option for both fuel economy and driver satisfaction.

“As of today, Mack is making mDrive standard on the Mack Pinnacle,” he said at an Oct. 6 press conference here in the exhibit hall at American Trucking Associations' Management Conference & Exhibition. “We’re doing this because, quite frankly, it’s the best component matched with the best engine to drive fuel economy, improvement in driver productivity and customer safety.”

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By simplifying the shifting process, the mDrive can help fleets address the industry’s shortage of qualified drivers, Roy said. “The one topic you hear over and over today is trying to attract and retain drivers.”

He said manual transmissions continue to have a place in certain applications, but AMTs make the most sense for over-the-road operations.

Roy Horton, Mack’s director of product marketing, said customer selection of the mDrive has increased each year since its introduction in 2010, so making the product standard on the Pinnacle Axle Back is “really just a natural next step.”

Today, more than 50% of Pinnacle models sold are equipped with the transmission, the company said.

Horton said a key factor in the mDrive’s growth has been Mack’s “total vehicle integration” strategy, combining Mack’s MP engines with the proprietary AMT.

The tight integration between the engine and transmission improves the efficiency of shifting, which boosts fuel economy while also reducing wear and tear on the equipment, he said.

The mDrive is available in both direct drive and overdrive configurations and offers a torque capacity of 1,920 pound-feet, Horton said.

He also said the product offers greater ease of operation than a manual.

“Productivity is improved by allowing the driver to work faster and smarter simply by eliminating traditional shifting, keeping his focus on the job at hand — operating the equipment in a safe and reliable manner,” Horton said.

Roy added that AMTs can also make it easier for fleets to train new drivers.

“The time it takes to learn to drive a truck with an automated manual transmission is substantially less,” he said.

Fleets that switch to AMTs typically see some initial resistance from long-time drivers, but once the change has been made, they don’t want to go back, Roy said.

Mack’s promotion of its mDrive product is part of the company’s broader effort to grow its business in the longhaul segment of the trucking business as a complement to its established strength in the vocational market, especially in construction.

Roy said Mack and its dealer network have demonstrated its commitment to the highway segment through greater investments in maintenance infrastructure and staff.

That includes $380 million in spending on facilities by Mack dealers since 2010, he said, adding that bay capacity has increased by 35% and spare parts availability has expanded by 69%.

Today the company’s coast-to-coast network features nearly 430 service points in North America, Roy said.

Mack has also taken aim at enhancing vehicle uptime with its GuardDog Connect remote diagnostics platform.

In the week prior to MC&E, Mack announced its plans to offer third-party fleet-management services through integrations with its own telematics hardware.

Mack’s first fleet-management partnership is with Telogis, but the truck maker is also having discussions with other providers as a way to give customers the flexibility to pick a fleet-management product that works for them, Roy said.