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January 30, 2020 11:15 AM, EST

Mack Unveils Medium-Duty Truck Plant in Southwest Virginia

MackVirginia Gov. Ralph Northam (left) and Mack President Martin Weissburg shake hands after unveiling a Mack bulldog statue. (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

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SALEM, Va. — Mack Trucks opened a facility to produce a new series of medium-duty trucks in southwest Virginia.

Mack executives joined Virginia officials to unveil the plant, called Roanoke Valley Operations, on Jan. 30. The site will specialize in assembling medium-duty commercial motor vehicles. The 280,000-square-foot space, perched in the Blue Ridge Mountains, was converted from an industrial printing facility.

The company invested $13 million, a sum that covered equipment, tooling and building enhancements. The plant is scheduled to start production in July. Mack will start taking truck orders immediately.

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Government officials and Mack representatives cut the ribbon. (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

“It’s a new product, it’s a new facility here, and it’s new jobs,” Mack Trucks President Martin Weissburg said. “We know this is the right place for this big investment.”

Specifically, the plant will be used to assemble the Mack MD series. The Mack MD6 is a Class 6 truck that has a gross vehicle weight rating of 25,995 pounds. The Mack MD7 is a Class 7 truck that has a weight rating of 33,000 pounds.

The trucks will be equipped with new lightweight chassis. Also new is the series’ air-suspended cab, which Director of Product Strategy Roy Horton said is meant to improve driver comfort and vehicle durability. The trucks are furnished with multiple grab handles, which a driver can use when entering and exiting the vehicle.

The interior of each cab features a wraparound dashboard and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. The trucks are equipped with cruise control as well as power window controls and door locks.

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An interior view of a medium-duty cab. (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

“For us, strength is at the very core of our image,” Horton said. “It’s a sharp-looking truck.”

The trucks will be supported with Go Rugged telematics devices, produced by fleet management company Geotab. In terms of powertrain, the trucks will have Cummins B6.7 engines, Allison transmissions and Meritor front and rear axles.

Each truck will feature a silver bulldog on its hood. The silver ornament signifies the truck contains components (such as an engine and transmission) that were not created by Mack. Gold bulldogs, which Jonathan Randall, senior vice president for North American sales, called the “purebred,” means a truck has all Mack components.

Roanoke Valley Operations is projected to create 250 jobs, according to Gov. Ralph Northam, who approved a $700,000 grant from the commonwealth’s Development Opportunity Fund to support the project.

“It is especially rewarding when we come to more rural parts of Virginia,” Northam said. “We have one of the most talented workforces.”

This series marks Mack’s re-entry into medium-duty trucks. The Mack Freedom was discontinued in 2002.

Randall noted the MD series will translate into various applications, such as flatbeds, dump trucks, tank trucks and refrigerated loads. He said the customers who probably will find these vehicles useful specialize in something other than trucking, such as beer distributors and lumber professionals.

“This is a natural extension of our brand,” Randall said. “Now, our family portrait, we believe, is complete.”

Although Mack’s world headquarters is in Greensboro, N.C., its vehicles built for the North American market are made at the company’s assembly plant in Macungie, Pa., about 10 miles southwest of Allentown. Randall told Transport Topics that Roanoke Valley Operations will not take capacity from the Pennsylvania plant.

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A model medium-duty truck and the silver bulldog. (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

Engines and transmissions for the North American market are built at Mack’s powertrain plant in Hagerstown, Md.

Salem, which lies 7 miles west of Roanoke, toes Interstate 81. A major freight corridor, I-81 runs through Virginia for 325 miles. Weissburg said the new plant’s location complements Mack’s Mid-Atlantic footprint. Parent company Volvo Group has a manufacturing facility in Dublin, Va., about 45 miles west of Salem.

Randall agreed with Weissburg, noting that I-81 provides an important artery connecting southwest Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

“If you look at our footprint, we’ve got a lot of traffic already up the I-81 corridor with suppliers and vendors working their way up into Lehigh Valley [Pennsylvania],” Randall said. “It just seemed like a natural fit.”

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