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Mack to add workers

April 23, 2004|By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Mack Trucks Inc. is boosting its Hagerstown work force by more than 100 people this spring to meet increased demand for its trucks.

Most, if not all, of those hired will be Mack workers who were laid off when the company closed its Winnsboro, S.C., plant in November 2002.

Local union officials say they hope that if truck sales continue at such a healthy pace, this summer the engine manufacturing plant will be able to hire its first new workers since 1999.

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"We've been waiting a long time to see an increase in production," said Maurice Kaiser, president of United Auto Workers Local 171.

To meet demand, the company needs 118 new workers at its Hagerstown plant, Mack spokesman John Walsh said.

Former Winnsboro employees have accepted 80 of those positions. Mack offered jobs to 143 Winnsboro employees, expecting that not all would accept, he said.

With the new hires, the plant's work force will be close to 900, Kaiser said.

Walsh declined to speculate on future hiring.

Kaiser said he anticipates a need for more workers and doubts there will be any layoffs through 2006.

"I know we have good times ahead of us," he said.

The company already has a waiting list of new workers from the Hagerstown area who have been tested and could be hired quickly, he said.

The truck manufacturing industry is enjoying a rebound due to improvements in the economy generally, Walsh said.

Companies that delayed truck purchases during uncertain economic times now are making the investment.

"There is a lot of pent-up demand for trucks," he said.

The heavy truck market had been depressed since fall 2002, after new federal emissions-control standards went into effect.

There was a spike in buying just before that, although Mack is hoping the cycle won't be repeated when even stricter emissions standards go into effect in 2007 and 2010, Walsh said.

Mack is retooling the Hagerstown plant so it can begin manufacturing engines for its parent company, Volvo.

The company is spending $147.5 million on the new line and a new engine development lab at the plant.

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