Mack puts sleeper misconception to bed
May 1, 2003 12:00 PM
THERE'S BEEN some speculation about the Bulldog's future in the sleeper market recently, and Bob Schaupp, president of LCL Bulk Transport Inc, has heard it.
“After Mack was acquired by Volvo, our drivers and mechanics began expressing concern about the future of the Mack sleepers,” Schaupp said recently. “We've been 100% Mack for almost 10 years. Our drivers really like the roominess of the Mack Vision sleepers, including the mid-rise and flat-top models. Our mechanics were worried that if Mack stopped making sleepers, not only would we lose access to a very dependable product, but the availability of parts for our current trucks could also become a problem.”
Schaupp voiced these concerns to Kevin Flaherty, Mack senior vice-president-sales, who quickly laid them to rest.
“Mack is committed to the sleeper business,” Flaherty said. “It is true that we are no longer offering the 70" and 80" high-rise versions of the Vision sleeper. This decision was made after careful consideration of the market, because the demand for these products simply did not develop as we anticipated. But the mid-rise and flat-top versions of our Vision sleeper will continue to be a key part of our business going forward, and they are increasingly the vehicles of choice among tank customers and other regional and local haulers. In terms of parts and service, we will always fully support the Vision high-rise sleepers that are already out there.”
Flaherty said the company's recent focus on its new Vision DayCab might have contributed to the perception that Mack was de-emphasizing its sleeper products.
“We have been very aggressively marketing this new vehicle, but we are equally committed to our sleeper products going forward,” he said. “We believe that the Vision line as a whole, both the mid-rise and flat-top sleepers as well as the new DayCab, offers our bulk haul customers the best value for their money, and we are actively seeking to grow our presence in that market segment.”
Edible-foods hauler pleased
This comes as welcome news to LCL Bulk Transport, an edible-foods hauler with headquarters in Green Bay WI.
“We were very pleased with Mr Flaherty's response,” said Schaupp. “It's not that we aren't excited about the new Vision DayCab — we are running some of these trucks right now, and our experience with them has been extremely positive. But we were really glad to learn that the Mack sleepers will continue to be available to us, as well.”
Powering all Vision Sleeper and DayCab models is the Mack ASET Highway engine, which uses cooled exhaust gas recirculation and variable-geometry turbocharging to meet EPA ‘02 emissions requirements. Available horsepower ratings range from 310 to 460, including a new 380/410 horsepower MaxiCruise, high-torque rise engine.
Tom Davis, the company's marketing manager for highway products, said, “We understand the difference between dry bulk and liquid bulk haul applications. We also recognize that within these broader categories, each individual customer has a unique set of requirements.”
Overall vehicle weight considered
Davis said that in developing the Vision line, Mack engineers paid particular attention to overall vehicle weight.
“We'll build vehicles from lightweight 4×2s and 6×4s to ultra-light 6×2s with wide-base tires and aluminum bracketry. It's common for Mack to build a 6×4 bulk haul spec in the 13,800-lb range,” Davis said. “A 6×2 with super-singles and ultralight components saves almost another 1,000 pounds. We offer axle-forward or axle-back chassis designs to provide optimum weight distribution for any application.”
In addition to weight, Davis said the Vision products reflect attention to detail in other ways.
“We've designed our own bulk-haul-specific crossmembers with more rigidity to meet the vigorous demands of the application. We pay attention to small details such as fuel tank diameter for ground clearance on gasoline haulers that must go over curbs at delivery,” Davis said.
Air Products and Chemicals Inc, based in Trexlertown PA, has in its tank fleet about 650 Class 7-8 tractors, 98% of which are Mack. Forty percent of these vehicles are currently the Vision 56" flat-top sleeper model.
“Like all bulk haulers, weight is one of our primary concerns,” said Ron Szapacs, Air Products power vehicles maintenance specialist. “But service support is a key factor in our purchasing decisions, as well. Throughout the 35 years that I have been involved with Mack, their performance in this area has been excellent.”
“We also need to keep our drivers happy,” Szapacs said. “When the Vision model was first introduced, we opted for the 48-inch sleepers. But by working closely with Mack to incorporate new lightweight componentry, we were able to develop a spec on the 56" sleeper model that weighed the same as our original 48s. So we're now running the larger sleepers with the same tare weights, and driver acceptance has been tremendous.”
This type of reaction comes as no surprise to Mack.
“In developing the Vision series, we listened very closely to what drivers wanted,” said Davis. “Materials were chosen to buffer engine noise, reduce vibration, and combat driver fatigue. Even the dash and gauge coloring were selected to reduce eye fatigue during night driving.”
The company also meets customer needs behind the cab.
“Instead of using a trailer-mounted diesel engine to operate our pumps, we now run a Drum hydraulic system,” said Szapacs. “Mack provided a way to mount this system on the tractor, allowing us to go to shorter wheelbases, which reduced the combination weight by 800 pounds. This means we can now haul an additional 800 pounds of product on every run. The PTO features that are standard in the Mack V-MAC electronic control system allow us to efficiently and effectively operate the Drum system.”
“We recognize that the controls on the bulk tanker are not common between manufacturers,” said Davis. “So we also offer multiple trailer hook-up lighting options to properly illuminate the controls for the operator. We will factory-install air switch controls and provide the necessary clearances for PTOs, blowers, and product pumps. We even offer vehicle electrical provisions to accommodate gasoline tanker overfill protection systems.”
Steps to ensure vehicle security
Unfortunately, vehicle security must also be taken into consideration. Mack has developed a programmable theft deterrent system requiring an access code that prevents a vehicle from operating if it is stolen. The company also offers a “theft access code” that, in case of a hijacking, allows the vehicle to operate only for less than a mile.
The company also recently introduced InfoMax Wireless, a fleet management tool that uses Wi-Fi technology to provide key information about the performance of up to 127 trucks at a time. As a truck returns from its route, a module mounted out-of-sight under the dash automatically transmits information from the DataMax system, Mack's onboard data logger, to the customer's existing computer network. InfoMax software then sorts, analyzes, plots, or reports this information. All fleet managers need to do is review the reports and analyze the data.
Mack plans to continue designing products for the bulk haul industry. The company also sees an increasing interest in disc brakes and the addition of ABS stability control. The use of automated transmissions should also become greater as experienced drivers become harder to find.
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
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