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April 28, 2017 10:00 AM, EDT

Western Star Showcases Highway, Vocational Trucks to Mark 50th Anniversary

Fran Matso Lysiak/Transport Topics
PHOENIX — Western Star Trucks held a 50th anniversary event here on April 27, showcasing its custom trucks for highway and vocational applications and saluting its history rooted in Canada.

Western Star was launched in 1967 by the White Motor Co. to handle the rugged demands of logging customers in the West and had its origins in Kelowna, British Columbia.

The company is “primarily a vocational truck company, and we see that as having a lot of opportunity for us as an organization and a great place for us to be able to build on our roots and to grow,” said Kelley Platt, president of Western Star Trucks.

Western Star, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America.

During the event, news reporters enjoyed ride-and-drives of Western Star vocationals, including dump trucks and cement mixers and its on-highway trucks, including the 5700XE. 

Daimler Trucks acquired Western Star in 2000. Platt said that the engineering to introduce new models (the 4700 and 5700, both since 2011) and bringing in the Daimler powertrain (the Detroit engine, transmission and axles) were two of the most significant changes that took Western Star trucks “to a whole different level.”

She said 2016 was a great year for Western Star, noting the company was “the only OEM that retail sold more trucks in 2016 than they did in 2015.”

“We see that continuing to grow,” Platt said. “Our market share grew from 2.6% in the U.S. and Canada in 2015 to 3.4% in 2016.”

Peter Arrigoni, Western Star’s vice president of sales, said that the company’s overall Class 8 retail market share is higher in Canada than in the United States. “Canada has a very well-developed distribution network and, obviously, we have our roots there, so we have very good representation and very good brand equity in Canada,” he said.  

Platt by Fran Matso Lysiak/TT

In the United States, Western Star has “a big mandate” to continue to grow service and sales locations out west and “make sure that we have 100% coverage of the country,” Arrigoni said.

Platt said several indicators are moving in the right direction for the vocational truck market overall.

The industry is seeing an increase in spending on infrastructure and seeing housing starts go up, she said, noting they hit new highs in March this year. Oil prices are also starting to stabilize at $50 a barrel or a bit higher, “which means you’ve got more people going back into the oil fields and putting more rigs online.”

However, the on-highway market overall is up against some challenges, Platt said, pointing to continued weak freight rates and overcapacity in some cases. In addition, used truck prices have fallen significantly, she said.

Meanwhile, during the event, Western Star gave the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association a new 5700XE truck for its “Spirit of the American Trucker” tour, the third time that Western Star partnered with OOIDA on this event.

Jon Osborn, a decorated trucking industry veteran, once again will drive the “Spirit Truck.” He and the truck will visit shows, conferences and truck stops throughout the United States to promote independent truckers and the trucking industry.

The truck features Western Star’s brushed metallic blue Phantom II Graphics Package.

The partnership with OOIDA started several years ago as a chance for Western Star to work with a group that supports owner-operators, Platt said, noting OOIDA has hundreds of thousands of members across the United States and Canada.

“For us, it was a way to work with an organization that supported a lot of our customers who are owner-operators and who do work in that space,” Platt said. OOIDA has partnerships with other OEMs, so it’s not an exclusive arrangement but “one that we think is good for both of us.”

Western Star also announced that it added a new option to its XD off-road line. The XD-25 has a 25-ton capacity that makes it ideal for smaller, off-road applications, such as construction, mining and quarry site hauling, the company said. “These units are specifically designed to handle off-road jobs without compromising fuel economy and cycle time efficiency,” Platt said.