Freightliner Trucks is an American truck manufacturer and a division of Daimler Trucks North America. The division is known mainly for the heavy duty class 8 diesel trucks it offers, as well as class 5-7 trucks. It was founded in 1942 as Freightliner Inc. The headquarter is located in Portland, Oregon, U.S. The key people of the company are Roger M. Nielsen (President, CEO),
In the 1930s, Consolidated Freightways (CF) decided to manufacture their own truck line from reconstructed Fageols, after finding most heavy trucks lacked sufficient power to climb the steep mountain grades in the western United States. The trucks were recognized “Freightliners”, with the first units manufactured in Consolidated Freightways’ maintenance facility in Salt Lake City around 1942.
In 1961, manufacturing started in Burnaby, British Columbia, to reduce the duty penalty on the complete vehicles sold in Canada. Assembly plants in Indianapolis and Chino, California complemented the main plant on Swan Island in Portland, serving the US market. A new assembly plant was opened on North Basin St. in 1969. It was then converted to parts production.
In the 1970s White Motor Company became troubled. Expansion into appliances and agricultural equipment consumed capital without producing a return, and the relationship with Consolidated Freightways became frayed. The distribution agreement was terminated in 1974. Freightliner Corp. started life as a freestanding manufacturer and distributor. In 1979, a new plant in Mount Holly, North Carolina and a parts manufacturing plant in Gastonia, North Carolina, were constructed, both in the Charlotte metropolitan area. Volumes continued to increase.
Three years later, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 relaxed weight and length standards and imposed a new excise tax on heavy trucks and the tires they use. No longer was the overall length of semitrailer combinations restricted. It sold its truck manufacturing business and the Freightliner brand to Daimler-Benz in May 1981, allowing it to concentrate its management attention and financial resources on its traditional trucking business.
In 1985 Freightliner launched a new Medium Conventional series (FLC), using the passenger portion of the cabin from the then recently launched Mercedes-Benz LK. Mercedes cabins gradually became used for a number of Freightliner trucks. In 1989, Freightliner obtained a standing plant in Cleveland, North Carolina, near Statesville. It had been manufacturing transit buses for German manufacturer MAN.
after years of poor sales, parent company Daimler ended its sales of Mercedes-Benz medium-duty trucks in North America. In their place, Freightliner entered the medium-duty truck segment (Class 5-7) with the Business Class FL-series. In 1997, Sterling Trucks, a subdivision, was created as Freightliner obtained the product rights to the newly designed Ford Louisville/AeroMax Class 8 trucks from Ford Motor Company along with the North American production rights to the Ford Cargo. In 1998, Thomas Built Buses, of High Point, North Carolina, was obtained. It was a manufacturer of all classes of school bus bodies, and forward control chassis.
2000s – 2007s :
In 2000, Western Star Trucks, Inc., the successor to the White Motor Co. of Canada, and its assembly plants in Kelowna, British Columbia, and Ladson, South Carolina were obtained. A number of small fire and rescue apparatus manufacturers were acquired throughout this era and rolled into the American LaFrance entity. By 2001, the company was awash in used trucks it could not sell due to questionable business decisions made by Jim Hebe. The company was burdened with a number of poor-performing operations at a time when the core business, still the Freightliner over-the-road truck offerings, was in recession.
2007s – present :
On April 2, 2007, the Strike Committee of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 3520 called for a strike at the Freightliner Trucks’ assembly plant in Cleveland, North Carolina. This strike ended only one day. Freightliner laid off 800 US workers from its Portland, Oregon plant in 2007, relocating manufacturing work to a new multimillion-dollar plant in Mexico. However, plans to close the plant completely were dropped in September 2009, and it remained open to manufacture military vehicles and Western Star trucks.
Daimler Trucks North America’s Mount Holly, North Carolina plant started making natural gas trucks in 2009. The company built 700 trucks of that type in 2012. On August 22, 2014, the Cleveland plant built Daimler Trucks North America’s 3 millionth truck, a Cascadia Evolution, the first to use a Detroit powertrain to be launched in January 2015. As of October 2017, the Cleveland plant had nearly 1500 employees making five Freightliner models and three Western Star models.