Daimler AG named Martin Daum, the chief executive of its North American division, to head its global truck and bus business.
He replaces Wolfgang Bernhard, who announced plans to resign earlier this year.
Daum directed the German automaker’s operations in North America, where the company’s Freightliner line is the trucking industry’s top selling heavy-duty truck brand.
He recently oversaw the introduction of the manufacturer’s 2018 Freightliner Cascadia semi-truck, its first full redesign since the truck’s introduction in 2007.
Daum is known as an innovative thinker who pushes for technological and other changes in trucks. Freightliner was the first truck manufacturer to launch tests of self-driving trucks in the U.S., and has tested such vehicles on Nevada roads since 2015.
He’s argued that regulations need to catch up with technology.
Eliminating the mandate, for example, to have big side-view mirrors that create drag and suck up energy would advance fuel economy, Daum told Trucks.com last year.
“We don’t need mirrors anymore. We can use digital displays and remove those big ears that just block wind,” Daum said. “But it isn’t legal at the moment.”
Daum has said there are many situations were automatic systems in trucks can do a better job of driving than humans, but isn’t looking to get people out of the cab.
Automatic braking technology, for example, is one area where a computer can stop a truck faster and better than a human can, he said.
Meanwhile, adaptive cruise control – which measures the distance between vehicles and slows down and speeds up with traffic – also is advanced enough to control a truck. It does a better job of managing fuel economy than a human driver, and it is safe because it better matches the speed of the truck to road conditions, he said.
“I want to introduce that sticker in a truck that says, ‘Keep your foot off the pedals,’” Daum said. “Within just two or three years I think that can happen.”
While he sees autonomous systems controlling how the truck moves forward at the pace of traffic, slows and stops, for now, safety requires that a driver remains in control, handling turns and making steering adjustments, Daum said.
“With Martin Daum, we are appointing a very successful and experienced executive to the board of management as head of the Daimler trucks and Daimler buses divisions,” stated Manfred Bischoff, chairman of Daimler. “He looks back on 20 years of experience in the industry and knows the cyclical commercial-vehicle business from all perspectives.”
Daum took over Daimler’s North American business in 2009, overseeing Freightliner Trucks, Western Star Trucks, Thomas Built Buses, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation and Detroit Diesel Corp.
Previously he worked for Mercedes-Benz Trucks in Europe, also part of Daimler, and at one time was responsible for the Mercedes-Benz plant in Wörth, the world’s biggest truck plant. Daum started his career in the trainee executive group of Daimler-Benz AG in 1987.