Trucks at Work

Simplicity is the thing

The phrase “ain’t much to write home about” is often used to describe situations where nothing of much import is occurring; a blandishment for the routine, the everyday, the boring.

In that light, most would consider such a string of words a definite negative – but that’s not the case here, where vocational truck transmissions are concerned.

You see, when it comes to driving a dump truck or concrete mixer day in and day out, you don’t want surprises – in fact, the more boring and routine operating such vehicles are, the better.

[Click here for a one such example of what I mean.]

You don’t want to go home with aches and pains after a long day in the truck cab, your arm and right leg worn out from shifting gears all day long. If you get bogged down in some thick-goo mud, you don’t to spend a sweaty half hour jamming the gears and gunning the motor to get unstuck; it would nice just to touch a button to get out of such a fix.

Indeed, from a fleet manager’s perspective, it would nice to know up front that – no matter the skill level of your drivers – you’re going to get the best fuel economy possible from your trucks during every-day routine operations.

And, if something does go wrong on your truck, you take it to your shop or a single dealership down the road – no pinging back and forth between transmission shops, engine shops, axle shops, etc., trying to fix a problem.

In short, it’s all about simplicity – and that’s what Mack Trucks is trying to nail with its mDrive HD (with the “HD” short for “heavy duty”) automated manual transmission (AMT).

[This is a more rugged version of the mDrive Mack released last year for its highway trucks.]

I drove a dump truck equipped with an mDrive HD AMT for a stretch this week, around a smooth asphalt track, through a rough-and-tumble durability course, and up and over a 15% grade a few times. [Click here to view more photos of trucks in action during that event.]

Nothing to it.

Just buckled the seatbelt, keyed the ignition, released the parking brake, and off we went.

Dan Danko, director of marketing operations for Mack Trucks North America served as my co-pilot and the only time he had to directly involve himself on our ride occurred when I tested out the “Power Launch” feature of the mDrive HD.

He had to show me what switch to throw and what button to hold down so I could get a little extra “boost” to get out of some thick gravel.

Not much to it.

And frankly, isn’t that what fleets want their drivers to experience – at least to a certain point – when operating big trucks? That it is fairly simple and straightforward to operate such equipment safely during their shift?

Because to my mind at least that’s where the commercial driver’s focus needs to be – on safe vehicle operation, not what gear the truck is in or whether it’s getting the best fuel economy or not.

If all of that can take care of itself, then a driver’s full attention is on the road ahead and the vehicle’s surroundings: pedestrians, cross traffic, hey, is that kid chasing a ball into the street?

That’s the real benefit of simplicity.

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