Trucks at Work

Truck stunts and the supercharging of truck marketing efforts

A couple of years ago I found myself scrolling through an interesting analysis of future global truck trends projected out to 2020 penned by some of the experts at the quirkily-named Strategy&, a unit within global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

(You can read that analysis here by the way)

The authors of that piece – Michael Rüger, Fredrik Vernersson, and Colin Brash – offered a wide range of advice, but made this interesting observation:

“Although growth is expected overall between now and 2020, there is no stable environment coming for the global commercial vehicle market. The truck industry and especially its original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will therefore have to negotiate a tricky balancing act. They will need to be prudent when entering into new obligations and at the same time prepare themselves to grasp appropriate market opportunities as they present themselves.”

Later on, they boiled that down even further: “Expand your presence in countries you already know and find better ways to compete there.”

For some reason, that brought to mind the growing number of “truck stunts” concocted over the past few years – stunts not just crafted by truck OEMs, either.

Indeed, such “stunts” seem to be way of helping firms both within and in some cases outside the trucking business cut through the “marketing clutter” in today’s visually saturated advertising world more effectively

For example, let’s start with Ford Motor Co. How do you convey the supposedly “strongest ever” chassis frame underneath the 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty? Well, you bring in John Brenkus, host and creator of ESPN Sport Science, to hang more than 60,000 lbs. from Super Duty frame: the weight of eight F-150s and an F-750 Tonka dump truck.

Volvo Trucks put together a similar stunt several years ago to showcase the “toughness” of its FMX frame – a simple yet stunning visual scenario that even included Claes Nilsson, the president of Volvo Trucks.

Of course, truck owners don’t mind seeing more showbiz-style “pizazz” either: high-speed, rubber-burning action garners wide appeal.

Take this short film by Monster Energy to tout the racing prowess of “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin and his 800 horsepower Trophy Truck (which features a modified fiberglass Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck body by the by).

Blasting down the city streets of Ensenada, Mexico – the home of the Baja 1000 off road race – is quite spectacular.

Big trucks are not to be outdone in this kind of Hollywood-style epic. For instance, watch renowned Pikes Peak race champion Mike Ryan take his Castrol Oil Freightliner on a rip-roaring tour along the docks of Long Beach harbor in the second of his “gymkhana” films, Size Matters 2.

Probably one of the most famous truck stunts in recent years involved iconic action movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the split between two Volvo FM tractor models driving in reverse on a closed course in Spain; a stunt designed to showcase the Volvo Dynamic Steering system.

Volvo raised the stakes significantly in another stunt on an unopened highway in Croatia to highlight the “precise handling” of its FH tractors by putting record-holding gymnast Faith Dickey on a high-wore strung between two speeding tractor-trailers:

Sometimes, though, it’s not about the trucks themselves but the capabilities of the people who are in charge on fixing and maintaining them – the focus of a stunt called “Project Rebirth” put together by Ryder Fleet Management Services.

Of course, sometimes a stunt is just a stunt for the sake of simpler goals, like setting a world record.

Last August, Gregg Godfrey, 46, jumped a modified Freightliner tractor 166 feet – smashing the previous world record of 83 feet – over the fully-restored tractor-trailer ensemble once used by Evel Knievel.

I'll wager we'll see more such stunts as the year progresses.

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