Photo: Kevin Jones / Fleet Owner
DTNA president and CEO Roger Nielsen speaks at the opening of the company's test track in Madras OR.

DTNA’s Nielsen expresses ‘high hopes’ for 2018

Feb. 28, 2018
DTNA president and CEO Roger Nielsen discusses projections for 2018 market, lists major goals for the year.

Coming out of its highest achieved market share ever across North America last year – at 39.8% – Roger Nielsen, president and CEO at Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), has even higher hopes for 2018.

During a 2018 outlook call this week, Nielsen announced that, globally, Daimler Trucks sold more than 470,000 trucks last year. In North America, the OEM sold approximately 151,000 trucks, chassis and buses – 120,000 of which were sold in the U.S. alone.  

For 2018, DTNA expects the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) market to be somewhere in the range of 420,000 units sold.

“It could be higher, especially if the current market dynamic continues on and is sustainable for the months ahead,” Neilsen noted. “We definitely anticipate a significant increase in overall sales for NAFTA in Class 6-8 across the market.”

To meet that market demand, DTNA is increasing its market demand capacity, and Neilsen disclosed six goals the company strives to meet for 2018.

Goals for 2018

1. Put customers first.

Nielsen stressed that putting customers first means “taking care of customers as if we are running their business.”

What he means is keeping in mind fleets’ real cost of ownership and what it takes to purchase, operate, and maintain equipment. All those elements translate to uptime – a fleet manager’s most critical aspect of the real cost of ownership.

Nielsen highlighted areas that DTNA is concentrating on to deliver increased uptime for its customers. He explained that means designing uptime into the products themselves in an effort to increase reliability and durability. For instance, DTNA has increased the service intervals of up to 45,000 miles between maintenance for its DD5 and DD8 engines.

To piggyback its uptime efforts, DTNA is expanding its service network. Nielsen stated the company now has over 1,100 service locations in the U.S. and Canada, including 600 full-service dealerships. It also has more than 270 certified elite dealers, and is in the midst of launching a service tracker that gives customers transparency.

“One thing we learned from customers is that if [their] truck is down, you need to communicate with [them] constantly about when [they] can get it back on the road,” he explained. “Right now, 55% of all repairs now are completed within 24 hours. What we learned from customers is that’s honestly not good enough. They’d like to get the repair serviced within 10 hours – matching the [hours of service] break of the driver. We are stepping up our game and learning that and showing our customers that turning their truck around quickly is the key to increasing their uptime.”

In addition, DTNA is using data to help enable quick decisions after a fault event and to give the fleet managers real insights into overall vehicle performance via its Detroit Connect remote diagnostics platform.

According to Nielsen, the next step for increasing uptime will be predictive analytics. “This is going to change how trucks are serviced,” he stressed. “Customers want to avoid costly downtime, they want to avoid costly repairs, and they really want to avoid unscheduled repairs. The more that we can predict when a truck is going to fail, the quicker we’ll be able to get trucks to the shop and repaired during that driver’s down period.”

2. Continue Detroit Diesel efforts.

Daimler introduced its Detroit engines nearly 10 years ago. According to Nielsen the company has made an effort to show it is “still serious about powering trucks with Daimler components.”

As it moves forward, DTNA is turning its attention to continuing the rollout of its medium-duty line with the new DD8 engine.

3. Manage the market cycle.

To “successfully” manage the market cycle, Nielsen said: “We have the capacity in place to manage this market cycle. We have a flexible manufacturing network. On top of that, we are a global company with a global supply chain and part of our task now is to manage the supply chain and make sure everybody keeps pace with the demand we see coming for our customers.”

4. Upgrade and expand parts business.

DTNA recently opened a Des Moines, IA, Parts Distribution Center (PDC) and expects to hold a grand opening ceremony in May. Neilsen said the additional center brings the company’s total count of PDCs in the U.S. and Canada to nine.

“With this, over 80% of our dealers now are within 350 miles of a PDC,” he emphasized. “Dealers closest to a PDC are now able to get same-day delivery. That’s the goal. Once we get a truck into the service bay, the goal is not to move it out until it is completely repaired.”

He also mentioned that DTNA has ramped up its e-commerce business through its Pinnacle Truck Parts website. DTNA is also working to open new Alliance Truck Parts retail stores throughout the country – something Neilsen said is key to expanding availability of aftermarket parts.

5. Leverage global resources and technology.

Neilsen referred to DTNA’s sister divisions Mercedes Benz and Mitsubishi Fuso in terms of electric mobility and developments. “Our big goal for the year is to focus on leveraging our global resources and development in the fields of electrification.”

6. Drive future technology.

Nielsen noted that all of DTNA’s customers are interested in future technology and trends; however, they are only interested in the trends that make sense to them and give them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

“Fleets, truck drivers, trucking companies and delivery companies don’t want technology for the sake of new technology,” he explained. “They want it because they believe it can reduce their real cost of ownership. Forget all that fancy stuff. If it doesn’t reduce their real costs, they’re really not all that interested.”

In order to meet its goal, DTNA has resolved to spend more than $620 million for research and development in connectivity, electric mobility and automated driving for trucks in 2018 and 2019. DTNA began its connectivity journey seven years ago with the introduction of Virtual Technician remote diagnostics platform. Over the past three years, the company developed a suite of connectivity solutions called Detroit Connect, which includes Virtual Technician.

As its Detroit Connect platform continues to evolve, Nielsen explained that many customers are using telematics services from third-party providers to give them hours of service applications to meet ELD requirements.

“We have signed agreements with telematics service providers to offer their services via the Detroit Connect platform,” he said. “Our goal here is to reduce the number of individual devices with a SIM card on the truck so that our customers and fleets only have to manage one account.”

“Our customers want flexibility in interacting with the data and capturing it from their fleet,” he added. “We are developing a mechanism to have the data pipeline directly into their backoffice systems the way they want to.

Announcements regarding future partnerships will be coming in the month or so, Neilsen said. In addition, DTNA is continuing to test its developments in electrification and automation.  

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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