Amidst the boom in North American truck sales, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has announced a 39.8 per cent market share across the larger Class 6-8 truck segments in 2017, an all time high for the company.

Speaking at the company’s HQ in Portland, Oregon

DTNA president, Roger Nielsen, said the company is forecasting a total Classes 6-8 market of 420,000 vehicles in North America this year, matching the extremely robust levels last seen in 2015.

“It could be higher, especially if the current market dynamic continues on,” Nielsen said.

“We definitely anticipate a significant increase in overall sales.”

He said January orders were the strongest since 2006, and February continued to show strength, and may in fact turn out to be the strongest February for truck orders in history.

“And of course, we are very satisfied with our level of participation,” he said. In January, Nielsen said, DTNA grew its market share to 42.3 per cent, building on last year’s success.

“The new Cascadia continues to be a significant driver of our stronger market share,” he said.

DTNA built 151,000 trucks in 2017 adding that its Western Star brand also achieved a new market share record, and the company also achieved greater penetration of its proprietary components.

Nielsen said 96 per cent of Freightliner Cascadias are ordered with Detroit power, and 75 per cent of Cascadias and Western Star 5700s are being spec’d with the company’s DT12 automated transmission. Nearly 90 per cent of Cascadias are being ordered with the DT12.

“If you take a look at the penetration rate, it far exceeds what we expected,” he said.

Nielsen said the company is focusing on designing uptime into its trucks, in the form of longer-lasting LED lights, an improved electrical architecture, and remote diagnostics.

Another goal for DTNA in 2018 is to continue growing the acceptance rate of its proprietary parts. In addition to new highs for Detroit engine and transmission penetration rates, Nielsen said customers are now spec’ing Detroit front axles on 73 per cent of their vehicles, and rear axles on 46 per cent. It plans to grow those numbers, while also pushing its new medium-duty engine line.

“We are focused on giving choices to our medium-duty customers,” he said, “choices they don’t necessarily have anywhere else in the industry.”

Nielsen said the company as a global truck maker must leverage the expertise it has in other markets. Examples of how it has done this in the past include the introduction of engines and transmissions from Europe to the North American market. In the future, said Nielsen, electrification is an area where achievements made elsewhere in the world can be adapted to the North American market.

Electrification is coming to Class 8 trucks in North America, Nielsen acknowledged, hinting at announcements to be made in the middle of 2018.

When it comes to automated driving, Nielsen emphasized the goal is not to replace drivers.

“The main reason we are working on automated driving is not to take the driver out of the cab, but to make driving safer for drivers and the motorists around them,” he emphasized. DTNA will continue to develop advanced driver assistance systems to help improve safety.

Platooning, which Nielsen dubs “pairing,” is another area the truck maker is actively exploring. Nielsen said a fleet customer will begin testing the technology on public highways in the coming weeks, using its own equipment, drivers, and freight. But Nielsen stressed such technologies will only find a home where they make sense.

AIML“Customers are interested in this new technology, but only if it will pay off,” he said. “It has to be safe, it has to be reliable, and it has to be durable.”