Coming off of a slow sales in 2016, Mack Trucks is confident that it will strengthen its position in the construction vocational truck market despite continued weakness in Class 8 truck sales. But the company sees bright spots, such as strong uptake for its mDrive transmissions.

Speaking to reporters at the World of Concrete trade show in Las Vegas on Jan. 17, Mack senior vice president of sales Jonathan Randall laid out the company’s position. “We rounded up the year down in 2016 versus 2015, which was a banner year,” he says. “But the good news about 2016 was that within our core segments we performed pretty well, and that we were particularly strong vocational areas like construction—we’re gaining share in those segments.”

Looking more broadly, Randall said the truck manufacturer expected 2017 to continue the trend. “We anticipate the 2017 Class 8 market will fall,” he says. “We believe that last year the market finished at about 243,000 sales, and we’re forecasting the national market to be about 215,000 sales.”

While Mack doesn’t expect sales to pick up in 2017, they are seeing greater adoption of their mDrive transmission. First introduced at World of Concrete in 2015, the automatic transmission is now standard on many of Mack’s vocational trucks. “We go 80% penetration with mDrive in the Pinnacle [models],” says Randall. “On the Granite [models] we got 20% penetration with mDrive, and we expect to continue to grow this year.”

The mDrive system previously had a 12-speed automatic transmission, but Mack is adding 13-gear and 14-gear models with creeper gears. “These low-ratio gears allow our customers to have on-road fuel efficiency but also have that low creeper for jobsite production,” says Tim Wrinkle, Mack Trucks product manager for construction. He adds that the 13-speed will now be standard on the Granite model truck body, with a focus on concrete mixer applications. Other new features include a rolling start that will allow the truck to shift from neutral to drive without applying the brake. This can reduce unexpected stops when a mixer truck is working as part of a road train with a paver. 

This focus on construction applications is part of Mack’s effort to improve it’s market share in the construction sector, according to Randall. “Through [last] November we continued to maintain our number-one share in construction,” he told ENR. “And in 2017 we expect our share growth to continue.”