PORTLAND, OR – The plant that builds Western Star trucks will add a second shift next year and raise its employee count by nearly 50 percent by the end of 2012, according to an announcement by Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).
Some 350 new jobs will be created as production ramps up starting early next year, 330 of them in the shop, where 700 employees presently work. As well, 20 engineers will be added to the current roster of 50.
The 475,000-sq-ft Swan Island manufacturing facility, once home to Freightliner, is now devoted exclusively to Western Star. Launched by White Motor Company in 1967, the iconic brand was built in Kelowna, B.C. home before production was moved to DTNA headquarters in Portland, and there was once speculation that it would move to Mexico. Its Oregon residence now seems assured.
Sales, marketing, customer support and custom application engineering functions are located in Fort Mill, SC.
Western Star trucks currently represent about 2 percent of all North America truck sales, and 10 percent of the Australian market. Its newest vehicle, the 4700 model (see photo), was launched earlier this year, targeting municipal and construction markets.
The increase in production capacity and hiring comes in response to a strong and steady rise in Western Star orders throughout 2011 and company expectations for continued growth in 2012, says DTNA.
“Western Star is known as a serious work truck, and for good reason,” said Martin Daum, DTNA president and CEO. “They’re built here in Portland with a heritage of the toughest vocational uses: logging, mining, specialized heavy hauling and military use. Despite global economic challenges, Western Star has been able to leverage its well earned reputation and access to Daimler resources and technology to capture market share, leading to our announcement today.”
The current hiring activity is the first time since 2006 that DTNA has had open-market hiring for shop positions at the Portland plant. Hiring of new employees will begin in November and the new production shift is slated to be at full capacity by February 2012. A second wave of hiring is planned for next summer. Online applications for some positions are already being accepted.