Trucks at Work

The Daum view

Got a chance to listen to Martin Daum (below), president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), speak this week on a range of topics – from his view of what direction truck sales in the U.S. are headed in to the potential of building a commercial vehicle capable of attaining a fuel consumption rate of 10 miles per gallon (mpg).

This isn’t just any old executive speaking his mind, by the way (though he’s very good at it) for Daum’s been a truck guy for a long time now, with significant experience in Europe and the U.S.

After graduating from Germany’s Universität Mannheim with a master’s degree in economic studies back in 1985, he joined Daimler A.G. in 1987 and quickly began shifting over the truck side of that international company’s business operations.

Some of his executive positions over the years include: general manager of finance for the now-defunct DTNA subsidiary Sterling Truck Corp.; head of controlling for the light truck concept in Portland, OR; head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks controlling; senior vp-production for Mercedes-Benz Trucks; and head of the Unimog Special Vehicle division; and finally becoming a member of the executive committee of Mercedes-Benz Trucks in Europe back in 2002.

He took the reins at DTNA as president and CEO in June 2009 and hasn’t looked back, helping to inject new life into DTNA’s Western Star division as well as driving what I call a “design focus” shift at Freightliner towards improving fuel economy, reducing total cost of ownership, and meeting ever-tighter exhaust emission mandates.

Like most OEM executives in the truck-building business – and I’ve met more than a few of them – he speaks in very upfront and often blunt terms. For example, in his market outlook below, he believes more good portents exist than bad for truck sales in North America:

Yet Daum also tempers that market view when he focuses in on the U.S., readily recognizing that while the monthly numbers still paint a good picture, it’s not as good a picture as earlier in the year:

Yet despite the month-to-month (if not week-to-week) alternations he makes to his market view, Daum remains at heart what he jokingly refers to as a “visionary,” especially when it comes to changing the fuel economy matrix of the U.S. trucking business.

In fact, three years back when he became DTNA’s president & CEO, Daum publicly stated building a truck capable of achieving 10 mpg in terms of fuel consumption is a more than achievable goal – indeed, based on one of Freightliner’s latest truck model designs, that 10 mpg goal is now well within the reach of this industry’s engineers:

It'll be a pretty exciting day when production-line diesel-powered big rig pulling 80,000 pounds down the road not only can do it while making the air cleaner but do it using just a gallon of fuel to travel 10 miles. That’ll be an engineering and scientific achievement worth celebrating, no matter who does it first.

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