There are many things that fleets do to attract drivers, and certainly plenty of options that drivers look for when choosing a fleet. When Mack Trucks was designing its new Anthem highway tractor – it’s first new on-highway model since the introduction of the Pinnacle in 2005 – it turned to drivers.
It costs close to $7,000 to recruit, train and onboard a driver, said Roy Horton, director of product strategy, and with an existing driver shortage and driver turnover rates above 75% as a result, retaining drivers is “more and more important than it has ever been for our customers,” he said.
Fleets will like the efficient powertrain – up to 3% increase in fuel efficiency over a Pinnacle model with a GHG17 Mack MP engine – and the connectivity, including Mack’s GuardDog and Mack Connect solutions, that will speed repairs and boost uptime. But they will also like the driver comfort touches Mack has included as ways to both entice new drivers and retain current ones.
Stu Russoli, highway product manager, detailed the process Mack followed in designing its truck during a press briefing on Thursday at the Mack Customer Center. Russoli said Mack visited drivers in truck stops, surveying them on what they liked and didn’t like about their current trucks regardless of make, and touring the inside of those trucks to see how drivers set up the interior for life on the road.
The result is a bevy of interior options.
Start with things like the all-in-one roof, creating a solid, leak-proof sleeper. Mack has also eliminated the window in the sleeper roof, citing driver feedback that found they didn’t like to have to cover all the windows for a good night’s sleep. There are two side windows with screens to allow air to flow in but not rain, and they also include aircraft-style built-in shades to completely seal out light.
The 70-inch sleeper itself provides 12 inches of additional headroom (6-foot, 11-inch height) above the driver’s seat, allowing drivers well over 6-feet tall to easily stand up and walk to the back of the sleeper, which has an interior roof height of 7 feet, 11 inches.
Russoli said the Anthem’s exterior certainly represents Mack – bold and strong – and may attract a driver initially, but interior touches will also keep those drivers.
For instance, the new dash moves common controls within easy reach of the driver. “It’s much safer for the driver who doesn’t have to reach around,” he said.
Taking a cue from racing, the steering wheel features a flat bottom that is “real sporty, it’s really nice, but [functionally] it offers more belly room,” Russoli said, which makes getting in and out of the truck easier. The steering wheel also features automotive-style controls with phone and cruise control on the left-hand side. Russoli said adding cruise was a request many fleets made, hoping that drivers would be more likely to use it if it was easy to reach.
Rocker switches are now laser etched, which doesn’t seem like a significant change, but one that Russoli said was needed so the switches remained readable as they wear. “If you only buy used trucks, your impression of our brand is of that used truck,” Russoli noted. “We want that truck in its second life to have (the same brand experience).”
Mack is offering Sears Seating in the vehicle, with 30 different combinations of styles and fabrics. There are vinyl, cloth and ultra-leather options.
From an interior lighting standpoint, just like the exterior lighting, all lights are LED. There are six dome lamps, pipe lighting, task and reading lamps, red wash lighting, and red ambient floor lighting, all dimmable.
To help drivers with pre-trip inspections, there is a Pre-Trip assistant that is part of the optional 7-inch infotainment package. The Pre-Trip assistant provides a checklist of tasks and will also turn on all exterior lighting – including brakes – so drivers can easily walk around the vehicle and ensure all lights are working.
The infotainment package interfaces with the steering wheel buttons and includes satellite and weather band radio, TomTom navigation, Apple CarPlay and optional backup camera. An optional D-panel offers four optional auxiliary gauges (if the D-panel is not installed, that space becomes storage and the gauges are included in the standard 5 in. Mack Co-Pilot display).
The 70-inch sleeper is available with either a single or double bunk, and depending on how the sleeper is spec’d, up to 27 cubic feet of space – or enough room to place approximately 18,000 golf balls inside the cab.
There are overhead cabinets above the driver and passenger seats in the 70-inch sleeper along with optional side storage spaces above the doors that are 10 inches deep. Three under-bunk bins – accessible by lifting the bunk – are also available as is standard under bunk storage.
Other options include cabinets that include a pullout work surface, wardrobe space, shelving, TV prep kit, refrigerator and microwave hookups.
The sleeper control panel includes controls for heating and air conditioning, USB outlets, stereo control, and lighting controls. There is a phone charging system on the dash, as well, that allows drivers to plug in their phones.