Growing the breed

Mack's engineers had their work cut out for them when it came time to build new Bulldogs to unleash in the construction market. On the one hand, says Steve Homcha, any new vehicle had to uphold the OEM's stronger-than-dirt reputation in this rugged vocational segment. On the other, Mack wanted to offer the latest technology in vehicles that would appeal to the widest possible customer base. Homcha

Mack's engineers had their work cut out for them when it came time to build new Bulldogs to unleash in the construction market. On the one hand, says Steve Homcha, any new vehicle had to uphold the OEM's stronger-than-dirt reputation in this rugged vocational segment. On the other, Mack wanted to offer the latest technology in vehicles that would appeal to the widest possible customer base.

Homcha states unequivocally that the recently introduced Class 8 Granite fits both bills — thanks to its two variants, each designed to meet the needs of a particular type of construction-truck buyer.

“Going in,” says Homcha, “we knew Mack's historic strength in the vocational market has been trucks that can handle anything. That's something we would not walk away from. But along with serving customers who were after out-and-out ruggedness, we wanted to offer a truck that was more weight-sensitive for certain applications.

“So,” he continues, “we went with a split strategy and decided to offer both a Granite base and a Bridge Formula model. This approach presents the market with a balanced focus — a line of trucks that addresses weight-sensitive applications as well as ruggedness for other applications.”

He calls the Bridge Formula Granite a “weight-focused vehicle” that is intended for construction fleets that typically don't run over unimproved roads. And he says the full-range Granite can be viewed as matching the capabilities of the erstwhile RD Model Mack, albeit in a more technologically advanced package.

Even having let these new dogs out, Mack is not putting the RD to sleep anytime soon. “While we view the Granite as its replacement,” notes Homcha, “we have no plans to phase out the RD. Many construction customers are conservative and will have to get to know the new truck before switching.”

But that's not to say Mack hasn't done its homework in crafting a worthy successor to the RD — a truck that's been a king of the hill since 1965. “The RD has certainly evolved,” says Homcha, “but its basic configuration has been in place for 35 years now.

“Over the last five to six years,” he continues, “we tried to discover what RD buyers would buy instead — while also working to design a vehicle that would appeal to all those who viewed Macks as ‘too heavy.’”

Homcha reports that focus groups of both Mack and non-Mack customers were put together to help the OEM design a new truck line that would draw in customers from all parts of the construction field.

“And to date we've been pleasantly surprised by the feedback we've received in the marketplace since rolling the Granite line out,” he says.

Besides its broad operational appeal, according to Homcha, a hallmark of the Granite series is its focus on using various technologies to benefit both the driver's comfort and the owner's efficiency.

Heading up his list of technological improvements are “substantially improved visibility, enhanced cab environment and several new advanced electronic features.”

As for the issue that's on the minds of all engine makers, Homcha reports Mack's diesels will “be in place in a good way for October '02. We have engines that have been running within those emissions limits for a year or more now.

“Of course,” he adds, “we had to re-prioritize to satisfy all the vehicle-engine issues. For example, EGR engines also impact the cooling system. Fortunately, we can develop the engines hand in glove with our other vehicle systems. Undoubtedly,” he adds, “emissions is a challenge we will continue to face in the years ahead.”




Each month this column looks at emerging truck technology issues through the eyes of a leading engineer.

Name: Stephen Homcha, executive vp-Class 8 programs, Mack Trucks, Allentown, PA

Background: With a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State University, Homcha joined Mack in 1974 as a test engineer. In his current position since 2000, he is responsible for the development, release and mid-life progress of all Mack heavy-duty products. He is a registered professional engineer and a member of SAE and of his alma mater's Pennsylvania Transportation Institute board.

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