Test drive: 2018 International LT

NEW CARLISLE, IN. Following up on a spectacular unveiling of the new International LT series at Las Vegas, Navistar invited truck editors to the company’s 700-acre test facility here to put the Class 8 flagship tractor through its paces.

“The reception from customers—and most importantly, from drivers—has been absolutely spectacular,” said Jeff Sass, senior vice president, North America Truck Sales and Marketing at Navistar, who also reported more than 3,000 orders already. “I can’t be more excited. Everything we’re doing is based around the driver.”

Indeed, the "DriverFirst" design of the LT series addresses a critical part of the cost-of-ownership equation: driver retention.

“What’s the number one thing to keep drivers happy? The truck has to work,” Sass said, and he did the math on the staggering cost of replacing drivers when the industry is averaging a turnover rate of 100%. “Uptime and fuel economy comes under that, but it’s all about driver retention.”

And it really is that straightforward, added Denny Mooney, ‎Navistar group vice president for global engineering.

“We have big fleets, CEOs that look me in the eye and say, ‘if the drivers don’t want to drive your trucks, we’re not buying your trucks,” Mooney said.

Of course, uptime is a factor; and the New Carlisle Proving Grounds has had in important role in the development of the LT, Mooney continued.

“For me in engineering, when I think about uptime it’s really about reliability and durability. It’s about making sure the truck never has to come in unless it’s about scheduled maintenance,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything worse for a driver than to be on the side of the road with the truck not running.”

A former executive at GM, Mooney noted that the truck business is different from the automobile business in that a brand can “earn” its way into a fleet through real-world testing and performance.

“The proving grounds has been a huge enabler for us,” Mooney said. “It’s been the icing on the cake to make sure our trucks are reliable.”

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