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Despite adjustments, Kenworth remains optimistic for 2016 and beyond


KIRKLAND, Wash. – Kenworth Truck Company and Paccar held an editor’s event at its office in Kirkland, Wash. Aug. 12, where it highlighted several company initiatives, including the launch of the more fuel efficient T680 Advantage Day Cab, bidding adieu to an old favorite and how the year has been shaping up so far.

Mike Dozier, general manager of Kenworth and vice-president of Paccar, said the first half of the year has been profitable.

“We feel very good about the first half,” Dozier said of Kenworth and Paccar’s 2016 numbers. “We’ve capped off 111 years for Paccar of very superior performance and our 77th year of net profit.”

The company has generated $8.7 billion in revenue during the first half of the year.

Dozier said the company’s year-end sales numbers have been adjusted to better reflect the current market, with estimates going into 2016 between 260,000 to 280,000 units sold being downgraded to between 220,000 to 240,000.

Kenworth also made a number of adjustments on the manufacturing side to be ‘well positioned’ to fit production with where the market sits.

Dozier said fleet profitability has continued to be positive, despite not being on the same level as 2015.

“I think we’re certainly looking at 2016 as a good year,” he said, “but requiring more focus than perhaps last year did. With the year overall, we’re looking at a good year. Certainly things have come off slightly since last year, but from a standpoint when we look at the metrics, fundamentals, GDP growth through the second quarter, we do have growth…we have an economy that continues to grow.”

Part of the growth, Dozier said, is thanks to positive performance in the construction sector.

Freight tonnage also continues to climb, but rates can be a concern for some.

“We noted freight rates in yellow,” Dozier said. “That’s one thing we hear from customers, that the common theme is freight pressures. That highlights that it’s so important to be close to the customer and understand their businesses and how we can help them be more successful, because those rate pressures obviously translate into the overall success of their businesses.”

With the release of the T680 and T880 models a few years back, Dozier, who was chief engineer at the Kirkland location prior to relocating to Australia until his return to the Kirkland location in April, said he was proud to see the project he worked on come to fruition.

“It’s not often in a career in this industry you get to see an entirely new product platform come to life,” Dozier said. “The growth of those products to essentially 80% of what we build today, being those 680 and 880 platforms…it’s something we are very proud of.”

T680 Advantage Day Cab

The new T680 Advantage Day Cab offers an optimized powertrain with the 2016 Paccar MX-13 engine or Paccar MX-11 and the Eaton Fuller Advantage series 10-speed automated transmission.

It also features aerodynamics to help the powertrain with improved fuel efficiency, which Kevin Baney, chief engineer, said offers a 6% improvement, 5% coming from the powertrain and 1% from aerodynamics.

“We’ve leveraged some of the key fuel-efficiency optimization specifications and special aerodynamic treatments on the Kenworth T680 Advantage 76-inch sleeper – our most fuel-efficient truck – and brought them to the day cab market,” added Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing manager. “Customers who purchase new T680 Day Cabs will receive real-world, fuel economy benefits from these specifications and key aerodynamic features designed to help maximize operating efficiency.”

Baney said company delivered an improvement of 15% when it comes to fuel efficiency since 2013 and have more planned for next year.

Kenworth has also optimized the trailer gap, releasing flared fairings and placed the fuel fill under the sleeper to allow more space around the frame rail.

“This year, we’ve done a lot for customers for needed flexibility,” Baney said. “One of the things we’ve heard loud and clear from customers is that they need the ability to package around things chain anchors and APUs.”

Baney said the Kenworth/Paccar lineup represents ‘the newest and most comprehensive trucks and engines in the industry.’

Kenworth’s T880 day cab sleeper model will also feature enhanced aerodynamic and powertrain features, and will be launched Aug. 22.

Bendix

Bendix’s Wingman Fusion was on full display during the Aug. 12 editors’ event, and I had the chance to ride along in a truck equipped with the new technology.

During three trips around the track, Bendix highlighted how the Wingman Fusion brings the truck to a full stop if it detects a vehicle stopped in front, slows the truck down if there is a slow-moving vehicle it is approaching and a variety of other features, such as lane and speed sign recognition and notification when traveling too close to another vehicle.

“This system is designed to help drivers keep their trips safe and uneventful, and do it with minimal interference,” said Jason Skoog, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. “Bendix Wingman Fusion can help drivers maintain safe distances, mitigate collisions with other motorists who change lanes suddenly, and safely operate in rapidly changing and difficult-to-see conditions like snow, rain, fog, dust, or smoke.”

Thirty per cent of Kenworth’s T680 models are equipped with the Wingman Fusion.

Bendix's Wingman Fusion stops a truck approaching a parked car at the Paccar test track Aug. 12.

Bendix’s Wingman Fusion stops a truck approaching a parked car at the Paccar test track Aug. 12.

TruckTech+

Kenworth has also improved its diagnostics with TruckTech+.

“I think the key to TruckTech+ and the beauty of the system is in its simplicity,” Skoog said.

The program offers diagnostics on the vehicle in real-time allowing the driver to avoid serious damage to their truck by driving the vehicle while there is a fault that needs addressing.

“Our customers tell us that the fact that they get the notification while the truck is on the road,” explained Skoog, “that a lot of time what happens before you get remote diagnostics is you get a driver who sees a light and they do one of two things – they take immediate action, which can potentially be an overreaction, or they do the opposite and they ignore it, and they continue driving, which can cause a major problem down the road.”

Skoog added that due to the simplicity of TruckTech+, drivers tend to take the right action, which leads to better uptime for the entire fleet because they don’t run into a major scenario that can sideline a truck.

Kenworth now has 18,000 units with TruckTech+, and have logged more than 600 million miles.

Farewell

Kenworth announced the end of one of the company’s biggest sellers – the T660.

After a decade in production, only 500 more units will be produced and the sun will set on the vehicle by the end of 2016.

“The Kenworth T660 has been a fantastic truck for our customers with more than 60,000 T660s sold since its introduction in 2007,” said Skoog. “Due to its popularity, we continued to offer the T660 after introducing the award-winning T680 four years ago. Since that time, more and more T660 customers have converted to the T680. We want to give our excellent customers one last chance to own this industry favorite.”


Derek Clouthier

Derek Clouthier

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media industry as an editor, reporter and now as editor of Truck West. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels. derek@newcom.ca @DerekClouthier
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