Mack Defense Featured In The May Army Magazine

Mack Defense was featured in Army Magazine, discussing the new dump truck testing and its importance to the mobility efforts of the Army. Read more…

New Dump Truck Testing Ready to Roll

By Scott R. Gourley, Contributing Editor


It may not enjoy the same spotlight as some Army platforms, but the dump truck is important to mobility across the operational spectrum.

“Dump trucks are assigned to engineer units, which support construction and maintenance of all the over-the-road supply facilities, helipads, airfields, semi-improved landing strips, motor pools and other infrastructure,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Jurand, Heavy Dump Truck (HDT) Program Manager in the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support. “If the Army goes to an austere environment and needs to build something, dump trucks are going to be part of it.”

The Army is preparing to enter production vehicle testing of the initial units of the newly acquired M917A3 HDT, with feet modernization plans calling for fielding to replace aging or obsolescent dump truck models now in Army engineer inventories. Jurand said the Army’s current dump truck feet includes some M917A0 variants now 45 years old.

“Those ‘A0s’ will likely be the first to be replaced by the M917A3 once the Army has actually filled some of the shortages that exist,” he said. “The next-oldest variants are the ‘A1’ models. We have got a couple of hundred of those in the Army inventory, with a 25-year average age and some of them significantly older than that. Imagine the difference between the capabilities of 1990 technology vehicles versus what we can have today.”

The M917A3 HDT program sought to level that capability by pursuing a modified commercial off-the-shelf approach that leverages the strength of the commercial auto and heavy trucking industry.

“Commercial industry knows dump trucks better than the Army knows dump trucks,” Jurand said. “We just had to sprinkle in the military-unique requirements that make a military dump truck able to perform its mission and in all types of environments. …The benefit of staying with a commercial-based design is that that already exists. We’re not paying extra for it. It’s just the state of technology, which our current soldiers don’t have with their legacy systems.”

The M917A3 HDT contract, which was awarded to Mack Defense LLC in May 2018, refected a competitive down-select between two contractor teams.

Mack based its entry on the Mack Granite chassis, which the company describes as “one of North America’s most popular and proven Class 8 trucks.”

“Everything from its frame to its fuel-efficient engine was tuned to maximize fuel efficiency and reduce weight while retaining its strength and durability,” said Jack Terefnko, HDT program manager for Mack Defense. “Mack configured the M917A3 Heavy Dump Truck to meet all requirements and allow for future armor growth capacity.”

Asked about specific modifications to meet M917A3 military requirements, he said, “Mack Defense engineering began a process of evaluating drivetrain and suspension configurations, component compatibility and component ratings. During this process, the chassis system and all components were evaluated by Mack Defense engineering, their axle partner Meritor Defense, and suspension partner Hendrickson. Specific focus was on carrying capacity and off-road maneuverability as well as the integration of the Crysteel [Manufacturing Inc.] dump body into the overall vehicle package.


Both images above: The M917A3 Heavy DumpTruck is being developed and tested to replace older models (Top Image: Mack Defense, LLC. Second Image: U.S. Army)

“Mack Defense selected Crysteel as their body supplier for the M917A3. Crysteel was the obvious choice based on their proven track record as a supplier of dump body systems to the U.S. Army. Te collaborative effort allowed for the integration of an 18-cubic-yard, 27-ton payload capacity, meeting the objective of the payload requirements.”

Along with state-of-the-art component technology, Jurand said the modified commercial design approach allows the Army to tap into expanded capabilities within the commercial design.

“For example, one of those things that we may grow into that already relatively fits with the commercial dump truck program is condition-based maintenance,” he said. “Te sensor packages are already embedded in the vehicle. Mack Defense has the telemetrics, which is the ability to download the data from vehicle health monitoring and send it back to monitoring stations. So we can look at condition-based maintenance, since they already have that built into the system.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us to figure out how to leverage the use of that information and data given Army cybersecurity concerns, but it’s something that we didn’t have to pay extra to install. But certainly condition-based maintenance, when you talk to senior leaders in the Army, is a pretty big deal.”

One of the key military requirements applied to the program involves force protection for the crew.

Mack Defense met the crew protection requirements with a “swap-cab” armored cab solution, Jurand said, adding, “In this case, we said that we were not going to impose any type of force protection solution, allowing either an armor add-on kit or a completely new cab. We let them innovate. And in this case, Mack Defense chose a new cab as the easiest and best solution to meet the requirements.”

Noting that Mack Defense teamed with TenCate Advanced Armor on its force protection approach, Terefnko said the solution “begins with an armor replacement cab [that] inherently protects occupants to a base threat level and accepts exterior panels and underbody protection.

“Additional protection is also available for the fuel tank,” he said. “Tese components can be installed or removed independently of one another and can perform as a system or independently. Other key aspects of the armor solution include blast floor mats and state-of-the-art [Jankel Tactical Systems BLASTech] mine seats with reset for slam-down capability.”

JWF Defense Systems LLC will be responsible for fabricating and painting the complete armored cab system, which will then be installed by Mack Defense.

Plans call for one-third of the M917A3 HDTs to come with an armored cab, Jurand said. “We may not mount them initially. They will probably go into storage for use at a time and place when we actually need an armor package. But every truck is going to be capable of receiving it, and they’re all interchangeable,” he said.

The Army expects to receive the first five dump trucks for testing in May, with program schedules calling for testing, to include destructive live-fire testing, starting later this year and running through 2021.

“We anticipate a full-rate production decision in [fiscal 2022] and fielding the initial units later” that fiscal year, Jurand said. He offered a number of lessons learned that could be applied to other programs, beginning with a requirements process that featured strong communication with industry through multiple requests for information (RFI).

“When we looked at the collection of RFI responses, there were a number of areas where we had put things in there inadvertently that would have added costs,” he said. “The [original equipment manufacturers] told us, and we listened. And in many cases, we were able to relax the requirements where we absolutely could and challenged our own thinking.”

Summarizing his program message for warfighters, Jurand said, “Without roads, airfields and infrastructure, the brigade combat teams and the soldiers that are forward in the fight will be unable to maintain the pace of operations that are required to win on the modern battlefield. It’s that simple. And the heavy downstroke there is that the Heavy Dump Truck is a critical enabling tool for the engineers to ensure that those supply routes are maintained, which will allow supplies to get forward and even the brigades themselves to move forward into harm’s way.

“If you don’t have roads to drive on, it’s a lot longer drive. And if you don’t have good roads that you can maintain or airfields that you can repair, then your ability to sustain combat operations at the tempo required to win is probably severely hindered.”

He said, “Dump trucks are a critical piece of that pie, although not a glamorous piece of the pie by any stretch of the imagination. But the dump trucks help build and maintain the roads. And without the roads to get the supplies, the fuel and the ammunition forward, things would go pretty bad for the soldiers at the front.”

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