Pacific Heights

Noelle Parlier was born and raised in Kirkland, Washington, which is a city close to Seattle and is the traditional home of Kenworth trucks.

“I am a homegrown PACCAR loyalist, she says with pride.

Noelle studied at Seattle University (B.Sc. – Electrical Engineering and Physics) and earned her MBA from Eastern New Mexico University. After graduating shortly after the infamous date of September 11 in 2001, Noelle worked at a ski resort in Montana for a year prior to seeking an engineering role.

She moved back to Washington State and commenced with PACCAR at the technical centre in Mt Vernon where PACCAR performs its validation work for Kenworth, Peterbilt, and DAF brands as well as the PACCAR MX-13 and MX-11 engines.

“With the MX engine we had to make sure it met the customers’ needs before we launched it so we had a very intensive validation program doing millions and millions of miles of field tests,” says Noelle.

In-vehicle validation commenced in 2005 and the MX engines were launched in mid-2010. When Noelle left the US to come to Australia in mid-2018 the MX engine had been in production for eight years and was almost 50 per cent of the sales for Kenworth and Peterbilt in North America.

“That speaks volumes for the dedication PACCAR has to the product,” she says. “I’m very proud of that project.”

Following on from her time at technical centre, Noelle moved to the Kenworth division back in her home town of Kirkland and continued to work on the engine program and added Cummins integration to her brief.

She soon was appointed to the position of Section Manager with responsibility for the powertrain integration as well as the cooling and transmission functions.

As Assistant Chief Engineer she had the powertrain division reporting to her. This included remote diagnostics which is basically a connected truck platform. From there she moved to Australia as Chief Engineer.

Noelle’s Montana-born husband loved the idea of a change and relocating ‘Downunder’.

“When we got here we didn’t know what to expect but as soon as we arrived we absolutely loved it,” she recalls. “We’ve had a great time, met amazing people and on a family level the kids have adapted well. They even play AFL footy. From a cultural standpoint Australia is not that different from Seattle and for my boys it’s been an easier transition because the language is the same, so it’s not as traumatic as if we had moved abroad somewhere else.”

Noelle has been most impressed by the openness of Australian PACCAR customers.

“Getting their feedback and incorporating it into our product is something that I think speaks volumes about why it is so important to have engineering on the ground here because these are custom engineered trucks and it’s all about customer needs,” she says.

Noelle considers manufacturing such custom specification trucks as an opportunity for PACCAR to demonstrate its engineering abilities and acknowledges, as a manufacturer, there is a more fundamental aspect in what they do.

“We design these trucks for the customers who are buying them in order to feed their families,” she says. “These trucks are tools for them to be successful in business and life, so if we can do anything to help improve that we’re going to do it for them.”

She foresees a strong future for the iconic Kenworth cabover K series despite the influx of European vehicles in the market in recent years.

“The set forward front axle is the unique aspect of the K200 which makes it a moneymaker for its owners,” Noelle says. “We still see the value of the K200 in Australia and we are going to continue on with it, but we also have the DAF XF to give customers the opportunity to have more of that, I guess, European flair. We see both platforms having space in Australia in the near future. I think we’re going to let the market decide as we move forward.”

At current, Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in the introduction of emission standards equivalent to Euro VI and Noelle is confident PACCAR in Australia is ahead of the game.

The DAF product line is Euro VI compliant and Kenworth will be offering Euro VI vehicles with Cummins and MX engines well before local legislation demands it. Local field testing with selected customers has already commenced. Noelle’s technical interests, however, extend beyond Euro VI.

“In the PACCAR global strategy we have been working very strongly in the area of autonomous trucks and that technology certainly has a place in Australia, although I wouldn’t say in the next five years, but probably further out than that,” she says. “We are also working on the electrification of power trains, and we will have product in Australia in the next few years. We’ll also have some hybrid electric trucks and we are working on hydrogen cell power as well.”

The development of new power sources, of course, is not without its challenges.

“There’ll be a lot of growth in the technology area to look for cleaner energy trucks, but I still think diesel will still have a place in the foreseeable future,” she says. “We also have the payload issue due to the size and weight of batteries and the need to ensure enough power for the range that the truck operates on a daily charge basis. Electric trucking sounds great and fantastic but then you start thinking of all the different challenges that are going to have to be solved, not just in the truck. How long does a recharge take?  What kind of power facilities? Are they going to be charging multiple trucks at the same time?

“There’s definitely a place for the technology but there are a lot of challenges that have to be solved which is pretty exciting for the industry, really. Hydrogen requires specialised infrastructure and we have solutions for that globally and look forward to introducing them into Australia as well. The industry is definitely changing towards becoming more of a service provider than just a truck manufacturer.”

Noelle recently became a Board member of the Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia.

‘It’s a great organisation’ she says of the SAE-A. ‘I’m very passionate about promoting engineering and promoting the industry to younger students and I’m inspired by their programs.”

Noelle Parlier doesn’t just engineer trucks, she is capable of driving them as well and is the holder of a Multi-Combination licence.

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