The launch of a new model in the US and the Mack Anthem breakout opened up long haul possibilities for the truck maker, not only in North America, but also here in Australia. Diesel News traveled to the US to see what it’s all about.
To a certain extent here in Australia, but to a much larger extent in the US, Mack Trucks has not been a big player in the long distance highway truck market. It is not that the trucks weren’t up to doing the work and handling the task, it was about the cabin itself. Sleeper cabs tended to be add-ons to the basic day cab, rather than fully-integrated high roof sleepers.
The Mack Anthem’s first outing at a truck show was at the recent Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. Diesel News was there to see the new truck, to get a look and feel of the new model, before it heads over to Australia, some time soon.
The new Mack Anthem coming to Australia will be using the new platform released into the US market last year as a basis for new models to be developed. The Mack Anthem has now go into production in Mack’s plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania for the US market.
This week, Diesel News got a chance to drive the new US models at the company’s test track in the US. This represents a step change for the US truck maker and not only changes the outward appearance of the Mack brand, but also brings all of the latest technologies used by the newest truck designs into a Mack for the first time.
Mack in Australia looks set to introduce new models using the new vehicle architecture and picking up the new angular look on the Anthem, as well as bringing the Anthem name to some Mack models to be made in Australia.
Precise specifications and details of the new trucks is yet to be finalised, The distinctive angular fuel saving bonnet is bound to be a signature of the new model. The sharp interior design with a more modern looking dash, larger colour screen, improved switching and distinctive flat-bottomed steering are all very likely to get a guernsey.
The latest electronic systems bringing concepts like predictive cruise control and other smarts are also going to become available to the Australian Mack buyer, as the Volvo Group extends the availability of these kinds of technology across its brands.
Mack Anthem saw the company’s highway and vocational truck range in North America re-engineered, redesigned and bringing the latest in new technologies to the Bulldog brand. The distinctive new look is claimed to improve aerodynamics to get a three per cent reduction in fuel consumption.
In addition to a new bonnet and grille, Mack engineers redesigned the roof and chassis fairings, mirror covers, and front bumper and air dam to more easily cut through the wind.
Gauges on the instrument panel have been positioned higher for better driver visibility, the new steering wheel contains illuminated controls for cruise control, Bluetooth and the audio system and behind the steering wheel, Mack’s Co-Pilot display has been updated with a new full-colour screen for improved visibility and more intuitive navigation.
“Every detail on the Anthem was designed with purpose,” said Jonathan Randall, SVP Sales, Mack Trucks North America, at the launch last year. “We surveyed thousands of drivers and incorporated their feedback to deliver a functional, strong, efficient highway truck with an authentic design unlike anything on the road today.”
Here’s an introduction to the latest new model from Mack, the Anthem. This new truck was unveiled in the US last month with plenty of fanfare and dry ice. It represents the Mack brand in the US coming up with a more modern look while still retaining the ‘traditional’ Mack look and feel. This, in itself, is a difficult feat to achieve, as Mack had always lacked a genuinely contemporary image.
This is probably a good time to point out the fact that this model is very unlikely to appear on our roads in this form, or with this name, at any point. Mack in Australia retains a separate model range. That being said, we can certainly expect this angled bonnet shape to influence what we might see down the track in Australia. Elements on the dashboard will definitely feed through, as will the electronic architecture.
The clunky but switch-laden steering wheel is an optional extra in the US market and may remain so for Australian truck buyers. Expect the LED lighting system to come though with the next big launch
In common with a lot of US truck launches, this one is pretty light on the nitty gritty details. All of the publicity is about the you beaut interior with its LCD screen and electronic controls, plus all of the driver comforts behind the seats, with a walk-through, and well-appointed, cabin providing the US truck driver with all of the latest luxury items.
In fact, the truck comes with either the 11- or 13-litre MP engine rated up to a maximum of 505hp. Torque tops out at 1,860 ft lb. There are two manual transmissions, Mack’s and Roadranger’s, plus an Allison Auto and the ubiquitous Mdrive AMT
This second video is a bit more comprehensive but is made in 360°. To watch 360° videos, you need the latest version of Chrome, Opera, Firefox or MS Edge on your computer. On mobile devices, use the latest version of the YouTube app.
This video from the US shows us Eaton and Cummins getting closer as they offer a more integrated driveline to US truck buyers. This particular AMT has just gone on sale in the US and is not destined to appear here for some time.
The gearbox is part of a comprehensive program where Eaton and Cummins are working very closely together to come up with a fully integrated package. The engine and transmission communicate seamlessly with each other and with whichever truck they are fitted into.
Both Eaton and Cummins have seen a series of developments in the US truck market making it more and more obvious the future for many truck buyers is to look at buying trucks with a proprietary driveline.
Volvo, Mack, Freightliner and Western Star are all available as a truck with a chassis, engine and gearbox all supplied by the same company. For Daimler Trucks the elements are branded as Detroit but are clearly from the same entity, Some elements on the Mack driveline are branded Mack, but come from the same source as the Volvo elements.
The odd ones out are International and the Paccar brands, Kenworth and Peterbilt. Paccar and International do have their own engines but no history with gearboxes. They also sell a lot of their trucks with someone else’s engine, Cummins. Transmissions come from either Eaton or Allison, but predominantly Eaton.
To protect their position in the US market, the two component suppliers, Eaton and Cummins have started to work more and more closely together top create a kind of ‘proprietary’ driveline for Paccar and International.
International have become more and more reliant on Cummins as their own engine program has been in some disarray following its failed 15 litre engine program which got into regulatory strife a few years back. At the time, Cummins stepped into the breach and supplied the engines to enable the Chicago-based truck maker to continue in the heavy duty truck business.
Paccar are in the engine business, but have not been willing to invest the kind of vast funds needed to develop a 15 litre engine to go in their heavy duty offering. Instead, the company has worked closely with both Eaton and Cummins to get a virtual proprietary driveline.
There is a Mystery Mack Truck on its way, to be unveiled in the US by the company on 13 September. Of course, these models will be for the US market only, but you can be sure the Mack organisation here in Australia will be there to see the unveiling and examining of the new trucks to see which items in the catalogue of innovations they will be able to introduce into the product built here in Australia.
There looks like there will be plenty to go at, as Mack unveils little titbits one at a time, building the anticipation. The big-ticket items will be shown on the day, stuff like engine specifications, chassis layouts plus hood and cabin design will be a surprise in September.
The introduction of LED lighting looks to be one of the items. This is becoming an inevitability, one of the options that will come to Australia. What about the steering wheel with all of those buttons on it? Are we ready for this, in a Mack? The answer is, almost certainly, yes. If the new Kenworth features buttons on the steering wheel, then so can a future Mack.
One major break with tradition looks like being the single catch to open the bonnet. Whatever next? Those reliable rubber and steel contraptions have been a staple of the North American truck for a long time. They are also a pain to use, checking the fluids in the truck entails a series of walks around the front of the truck. A single catch for the bonnet? Why not? A single catch for the bull bar? Not going to happen!
Anyway, all is going to be revealed in September, and we can be sure there will be continuing hype leading up to the final reveal. The Mack PR department will be working overtime drip-feeding snippets to us all.
The rough roads of far western Queensland are not good for the major joints in livestock trailers. The road conditions the trailers meet every day on very rough roads can cause damage. Items like the top corners and the frames on the doors all get extra reinforcement on trailers belonging to Surat, Queensland, livestock operator Mark Johnstone. This does mean the trailers are slightly heavier than the norm, but Mark has learnt the hard way.
“Ninety per cent of the time, the roads we drive on are pretty ordinary,” says Mark. “We go as far as Epsilon Station, out at Cameron’s Corner. Then we go just over the South Australian border, down the Birdsville track.
“Come winter, in the cooler months, that’s when we start pulling cattle out of remote South West Queensland. We take the stock through to Grantham, in the Lockyer Valley. The abattoir there does all organic meat.
“When we bring the cattle in from out there we have to do a layover with them, then we can sell them in Wyandra or Cunnamulla. You’ve got to be careful, it has to be somewhere which has organic hay.”
There are only a few places in outback Queensland where the right organic feed is available. Even some of the bigger sale yards do not have organic facilities. Organic cattle need to be kept separated, at all times, from ordinary animals, with their own loading ramps and yards, etc.
Ninety-five per cent of all of Mark’s loads comes directly from farms. He spends little time loading out of sale yards. Cattle from farms in the area to the west of Surat are hauled to places like Roma, Dalby, or sometimes even as far as Biloela in Central Queensland.
Most of the time Mark is dealing directly with the farmers who own the cattle. Mark prefers to operate face to face with the owner, not necessarily via an agent. These relationships are long term and both parties can feel comfortable dealing directly with each other.
The seasonal nature of the work suits Mark’s business. In the colder months, when Mark’s work is further west in the more remote areas, there are quite a few livestock trucks working in the Surat region. However, in the summer, many of those competing operators move over to bulk grain transport, while Mark picks up livestock work in the area.
“When the seasons are good, it’s really good for everyone,” says Mark. “Everyone’s got enough work, but when it gets dry, it’s hard. We have found in every drought we’ve been through. There’s plenty of work and you can make money, but when it rains big time, for the next twelve months there’s nothing.
“If the seasons flow just right, the fellow on the land has got money in his pocket, and you always seem to have a bit more money in your pocket.
“When there’s a drought, everyone hangs on until the last minute. You can’t blame them for doing that, but then they have got to move, and it’s got to go today. You miss out on half of your customers. Once the drought breaks, customers will try and work you in with the timetable and ask you when you can do them. This only lasts for about two months, and then it’s just ‘sit down time’.”
This week on Diesel News we have a New Mack Launch, a New Benz Unveiled, Diesel from the US and Show and Shine on the agenda.
This video is one of a series of teasers being released by Mack in the US in the lead up to the revealing of the new range on 13 September. Of course, Australian Mack trucks are a different range. However, new features added into the US range will likely start appearing in the Macks here in Australia in time.
New Benz Unveiled
In Cape Town, South Africa, Mercedes-Benz Vans announced the new X-Class ute will launch in Europe in November 2017, with Australia and South Africa to follow early in 2018, as well as Argentina and Brazil at the beginning of 2019.
“The high level of interest and anticipation in the lead up to revealing the new X-Class has been a reflection of just how engrained dual-cab utes are in both the Australian and New Zealand culture,” said Diane Tarr, Managing Director Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand. “The fact is we love utes and we are showing a desire to incorporate this type of vehicle into our lives in more ways than we did in the past. Not just for work, but also increasingly for private use.”
Diesel from the US
Business press reports tell us BP is shipping diesel from the US to Australia. This is an unusual move for the oil company and likely to be a short-term solution to a supply shortage caused by refinery repairs in the usual supply refineries in Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
A tanker called Jupiter Express with 35,000 tonnes of diesel is due to unload in Botany Bay, according to shipping data.
Show and Shine
A Show and Shine event celebrating 50 years of Western Star Trucks is set for 9 September, to be held at the Mount Cotton Training Centre in Brisbane. Anyone wishing to enter needs to contact their local Western Star dealer before the registration deadline of 18 August.
Around the time Mark Johnstone was first thinking about how to buy a truck, a local livestock operator in Surat, Queensland, wanted to get out of his business and move across to a sand and gravel operation on the coast. Mark took over the existing work, starting off with one double-deck trailer, soon to be joined by a second.
“I realised things were going to go alright, so I started building the business,” says Mark. “I had three going at one stage, not for very long, but I have mainly worked with two trucks. At the time we had a Mack Superliner, then I went out and bought a Titan with the 610hp V8 engine.”
By this time, the second driver was Mark’s son, Jamie. Over the next few years, as the business developed, circumstances changed, and now Jamie runs his own truck, a Kenworth, hauling his own set of trailers, but working alongside Mark, dealing with the same set of customers.
At the beginning Mark was wary of spending too much on equipment. All of the trucks Mark had run at the time were second hand; he thought he couldn’t afford anything newer.
“All the time I thought I couldn’t afford to pay a new one off, but I had an accountant from Brisbane sit down with me and he asked why I didn’t buy a new truck,” says Mark. “I told him I couldn’t pay it off, but he said no and told me to look back through my figures. He showed me how I would buy truck and then spend so much money doing up the motor or the gearbox, and so on.
“He showed me how to buy a new truck, look after it for five years and then turn it over on another new one. The trick is not to take the money you make out of keeping the old truck in good condition and put it into the new truck. Put it into the trailers instead. I am at the stage now, where I own nearly all of my trailers. You build a little bit of an asset each year.”
Mark has become a fan of the Bulldog brand of trucks.
“I loved the V8 Mack motors and when they stopped making them, I had to decide whether I wanted Caterpillar or Cummins,” says Mark. “I went with Cummins and they did a pretty good job.”
The prime mover Mark runs now is a Mack Titan with a 685hp MP10 engine, driving through the M-drive automated manual transmission. However, this is not the standard model. Mark has had a 72-inch sleeper fitted to the truck, much bigger than the factory-fitted option. There’s 2,100 litres of painted fuel tanks on the chassis along with 260 litres of Adblue, but under the trailers there’s another 800 litres of fuel in the belly tanks.
Mark’s comment is ‘you can never get enough horsepower’, but he has found the truck capable of handling the work he does.