Mack Trucks and Red Classic: An American Partnership

September 28, 2017


Red Classic — a subsidiary of the largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the United States — has seen very strong growth across its divisions, and Mack Trucks is helping the company meet the equipment and logistics challenges that come with such rapid expansion.

Prior to 2011, Red Classic was the in-house transportation arm of Charlotte, N.C.-based Coca-Cola Consolidated. When the parent firm spun Red Classic into a separate entity, the door opened for impressive market ­advancement.

“By spinning off (Red Classic) into a separate company, we were able to gain backhaul opportunities,” says Wendy Smith, region manager, maintenance operations South, for Red Classic. “Before that, we were going out full, coming back empty, and it just didn’t make sense. We had old equipment and not as many drivers.”

Since Red Classic was established, its transportation services have seen very strong growth, and the company launched two new divisions: a brokerage segment that has grown fourfold since it was founded and an outside maintenance segment — derived from its former, internal-only maintenance operations — with triple-digit growth. The maintenance division services light-duty vehicles to material-handling equipment to class 7 and 8 tractors, and offers tractor and trailer bodywork for “everything from touch-up painting to full accident reconstruction,” Smith says.

To keep an older fleet on the road, Coca-Cola Consolidated had performed its own maintenance and even completely refurbished many of the trucks.

“Once Red Classic got established and started growing, we realized that model just didn’t make sense, because no matter what you do, it’s still a 20-year-old truck by the time you get through refurbishing it,” Smith says. “We decided to really be efficient and operate the way we should, we had to invest in new ­equipment.”

Red Classic Mack Pinnacle

Red Classic bought its first Mack® truck in 2012 and now buys more than 100 trucks per year, primarily Mack Pinnacle™ day cabs with tandem axles, MP7 engines and the mDRIVE™ automated manual transmission.

Smith says Red Classic chose Mack over other brands because of fuel economy and driver preference, but aesthetics were at play, too. “I love the way the Macks look with our decals and pulling our trailers,” she says. “To me, it’s such a striking visual.”

Red Classic buys all its Mack trucks through McMahon Truck Centers, which operates seven locations in five states, including North Carolina. Smith says they rely on McMahon’s strong maintenance department and parts network. David Locke, director of fleet sales for McMahon says he feels privileged to partner with the Red Classic group and be part of contributing to their continuous growth. “We worked hand-in-hand with Red Classic to make improvements to their specs for fuel economy gains, weight savings and lowered maintenance costs. They enjoy the full spectrum of Mack benefits including retention and recruiting benefits from the mDRIVE.”

“I can’t express how much it means to be a business partner with a company with such strong moral character,” Locke says.

Red Classic is expanding out of its Southeast footprint into the Midwest, and has approximately 445 trucks, 87 locations, 613 drivers and 262 technicians.

The company’s fleet, of which 69 percent are Mack trucks, typically hauls pallet loads in a mix of city and highway conditions. For its parent company, Coca-Cola Consolidated, it hauls preformed bottles, cans and ingredients to production centers, then carries finished products to distribution and sales points.

Red Classic, like most trucking companies, feels the struggle to recruit and retain drivers but says operating Mack trucks gives them a competitive advantage.

According to Smith, their drivers love the Mack trucks’ ride quality, visibility, Bluetooth technology and the comfortable seats. “We spec the premium seats,” she says. “And everything is very accessible from the driver’s seat — there’s not a lot of bending and reaching.”

At first, there was resistance from some drivers to an automated transmission. “We had guys who loved their trucks,” Smith explains. “They’d been in them for 15 years, and they didn’t want to drive an automatic. Once you get them into that Mack, if they have to drive one of the older spares, even for a day, they’re all upset.”

The mDRIVE transmission also improves safety and corrects driving mistakes, Smith says. “It allows less experienced drivers to be as efficient as the most experienced drivers and lets all drivers concentrate on driving rather than shifting gears.”

The uptime Red Classic achieves comes from using Mack services such as the GuardDog® Connect telematics network, Mack OneCall™ and the ASIST system and is key to the company’s success, Smith says.

GuardDog Connect helps the company to anticipate vehicle service needs, which in turn allows drivers to focus on the task at hand, says Eric Turner, external invoice processor/service writer for Red Classic. “Drivers already have a lot of responsibility and this technology helps us monitor vehicle condition without adding to drivers’ workload,” he says.

Through Mack’s Uptime Solutions, trucks are diagnosed and repaired quickly. Red Classic receives updates throughout the process. “We can track everything that’s going on from the time the truck hits the door until we get it back,” Smith says. “It makes sure our trucks are on the road and running as much as possible. It helps us out a lot that Mack is doing the legwork versus us having to stop what we’re doing and call around to dealerships we might not be familiar with. That’s support I’ve not seen from any other OEMs."

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