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Chrysler Transport leasing UAW-made Mack Trucks

DETROIT – Chrysler Group Transport has begun the process of replacing its entire fleet of trucks, providing yet another sign of the company’s progress and recovery.

Chrysler Group Transport's new fleet of Mack Trucks also carry the UAW logo behind each cab's doors.

Chrysler Group LLC and UAW officials at the group’s Detroit Terminal took delivery on May 17 of the facility’s first new truck in nearly five years. The vehicle, a new Mack Truck Pinnacle Series Daycab highway hauler, was the first of 324 UAW-made vehicles the company will lease at its three terminals to replace the entire current fleet whose leases expired nearly two years ago.

“We’re refreshing our entire fleet, and we’re setting a course for this group to move forward with the company,” said Jean-Paul “JP” Barrette, Head of Chrysler Group Transport Inc.

Chrysler Group Transport delivers parts from suppliers – mostly from the company’s stamping and powertrain plants, but also from some outside suppliers – to Manufacturing’s assembly plants and Mopar’s parts distribution centers. The group operates terminals in Detroit, Toledo, Ohio, and Windsor, Ontario.

The new deal with Mack will send 167 trucks to Detroit, 67 to Toledo and 90 to Windsor.

“I think it’s a really good deal,” said Paul Lavin, a 16-year mechanic and the Skilled Trades Committeeman for UAW Local 212, which represents Chrysler Transport workers. “I really like the truck from a mechanic’s standpoint. They seem to be an extremely well-built truck and very well put together.”

Lavin said a team of drivers, mechanics and union leaders sat in on all meetings regarding the selection of the new trucks. A group even traveled with management to Mack’s headquarters and plant in Allentown, Pa., to evaluate the trucks, Lavin noted.

“I really appreciated management’s openness with the union in making this purchase,” Lavin said. “The driver and union input was extremely instrumental in the decision to purchase the Macks. It was not a ‘here’s what we’re buying and you’ll drive’ deal. They looked to us to tell them what we wanted and needed.”

Barrette agreed about the importance of drivers and mechanics helping to pick the vehicle.

The group compared the Mack to Kenworth, Freightliner and Volvo and rated the Mack best for ride, safety, maintenance and price. Mack assembles its Pinnacle Series edition in Allentown.

Mack Trucks Pinnacle Series Daycab highway haulers.

During the pilot phase of assembly, the slogan “built by the UAW for the UAW” emerged, characterizing the commercial relationship that developed between Mack Trucks and Chrysler Group Transport.

“It was a team – and not the guys up here in the front office -- who picked them,” Barrette said. “Guys like me don’t know much about tractors, and so we got the guys who drive them and work on them to pick them. And we got input from all three terminals too.

“The trucks we had were well beyond their useful life and lease terms,” Barrette said. “They were 39 month leases and we were at 60 months on many of them because of the bankruptcy.”

The new vehicles will save money on the leases, use less fuel and require less maintenance, Barrette said. The trucks, all of which meet the new and tougher 2010 U.S. EPA emission standards, will reduce emissions by 85 percent.

The Macks will provide about a 5 percent improvement in fuel economy, according to Dave Costello, Operations Manager at the Detroit Terminal. That’s about 1 mpg better than the current Freightliner models the company uses. The current trucks get a little better than 6 mpg on the freeway while the new Mack truck should yield about 7 mpg, Costello said.

“Basically, we’re getting a brand new piece of equipment for what we were paying for our five-year-old trucks,” Costello said. “And our employees are just thrilled that we’re replacing them. The Mack brand is perceived as a very desirable piece of equipment, and we think it’s going to be more reliable.”

Currently, Chrysler Group Transport makes about 2,700 deliveries each day when all plants are operating. With more than 700 employees at the three locations, the group includes drivers and mechanics who are trained to do all the service work on the vehicles covering engines, powertrains, electronics and body work.

The new trucks are a big deal to the employees of Chrysler Group Transport, Costello said. They also provide a visible sign of the company’s progress to all the other employees in the company too, he said.

“In the big scheme of things, I say these trucks are delivering a sense of renewal and optimism,” Costello said. “It’s tangible evidence of what a difference a year can make. We’re refreshing our fleet. We have a future. We’ve survived and we’re moving forward.”

The UAW represents Mack Trucks workers through Locals 677 in Allentown, Macungie, and Middletown, Pa; Locals 171 and 1247 in Hagerstown, Md.; Local 2301 in Baltimore and Local 2420 in Jacksonville, Fla.


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