Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) recently celebrated the completion and official opening of its new High Desert Proving Grounds in Madras, Oregon.  

The total High Desert Proving Grounds project required an $18.7 million investment by DTNA. Work began in June 2015 to clear the land with construction commencing in May 2016 by general contractor Kirby Nagelhout. The new proving grounds provide two distinct functions: firstly to merge real-world validation of DTNA’s research and development and engineering initiatives and secondly to help bring new technologies to market faster than ever before.  

The 87 acre High Desert Proving Grounds is critical for assurance of reliability, durability and fuel efficiency for Freightliner, Western Star, Thomas Built Buses and Freightliner Custom Chassis vehicles. The track will serve as a key component in the company’s ongoing testing in the areas of truck platooning and autonomous vehicles.  

“Daimler Trucks North America is the undisputed leader of the North American commercial vehicle market. That doesn’t happen by accident; it takes countless hours of research and development, testing, and validation to engineer and deliver products that pace the industry in safety and fuel economy,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO, Daimler Trucks North America. “The opening of this facility will ensure the future reliability of our products, as well as expedite of future technologies that enhance our customers’ bottom line.” 

Attending the facility’s grand opening celebration were Roger Nielsen, president and CEO, Daimler Trucks North America; Wilfried Achenbach, senior vice president of engineering; and Madras Mayor, Royce Embanks. Additional local and state officials as well as trade and local media attended to witness the opening.     

“This is a great day for Madras. Having Daimler Truck North America invest in our city is a testament of a long partnership,” said Royce Embanks, mayor of Madras. “Daimler Trucks North America has a long history with the City of Madras and the partnership has been a win-win for both parties..  We look forward to the future and supporting the undisputed market leader in the commercial vehicle industry.” 

The High Desert Proving Grounds is located approximately 120 miles southeast of DTNA’s Portland Headquarters, allowing the engineering team easy access to the testing facility. The proximity to the engineering team and variable climate options were vital pieces of the location selection. The route from Portland to Madras also provides vehicles real world validation by including portions on the interstate, rural roads, and mountainous terrain through the Mount Hood pass. Most recently the route has been used to validate potential gains of truck platooning, just one technology that DTNA is exploring for the future benefit of our long-haul fleet customers.      

“The new High Desert Proving Grounds give our engineers the resources to rapidly and accurately evaluate advances in the areas of safety, fuel efficiency, and connectivity,” said Wilfried Achenbach, senior vice president of engineering, Daimler Trucks North America. “Together with our full scale wind tunnel other state of the art engineering test facilities in Portland, the proving grounds will help us stay ahead of the competition.”

The test track is 3.5 miles of highly engineered surfaces that allow engineers to simulate a typical vehicle’s full service life in approximately six months. The 32,000 square foot office building will be home to up to 40 employees, the majority of which will be hired locally, with responsibility for both driving and test engineering. Additionally, there are 14 service bays for technicians to work on and inspect the fleet of durability test vehicles.