Sometimes, the best path to fuel efficiency is picking the right truck. National Carriers, a coast-to-coast fleet hauling refrigerated goods and livestock and offering logistics services, has found that to be the case.
Two years ago, the company began converting its fleet of 670 tractors (70% company owned) to Kenworth’s T680 tractor with a 76-in. sleeper. Now the standard truck for National Carriers, which calls itself the “Elite Fleet,” the driver-friendly, aerodynamic trucks purchased through MHC Kenworth–Dallas are already paying dividends.
“From a dollars-and-cents standpoint, we’re seeing a 1 mpg improvement in fuel economy over the performance of our previous standard truck,” Jim Franck, vice president, says. “Our fleet also is now equipped with APUs, and idle time has been reduced to less than 10%. That reduction represents about half of our savings. All told, we have a fleet average of 7.5 mpg, with our best drivers getting around 8.”
The vehicles are equipped with 455 hp. Paccar MX-13 engines mated to Eaton Fuller Advantage 10-speed automated transmissions.
“We really spec’d these trucks with driver comfort in mind,” says Franck. “And we feel they contribute in part to our low driver turnover, which is well below the industry average.”
According to the company, about 40% of National Carriers’ hauls are beef with the remainder a combination of refrigerated, frozen and dry loads.
“Reliability and cost of ownership are key to me,” Franck says. “The key is to find a truck that gives you uptime, and a truck that drivers like to drive. And that truck has to have a low cost of ownership, otherwise it won’t make you money.
“The T680’s aerodynamics and reliability—and that of the Paccar MX-13 engine—coupled with driver acceptance is what sold us,” he adds.
Knowing that happy drivers can be more efficient drivers, the trucks feature rotating tables so they can be used as a desktop or dining table, as well as a drawer-style refrigerator/freezer, TV installation package, and inverter for converting DC power to AC power for use with microwaves and other appliances.
Goldie Seymour, a 40-year veteran driver and the company’s 2014 driver of the year, says she was hesitant about the model, particularly the automated transmission, before she drove one.
“I’m old school and had never driven an automated—not even in my car,” she says. “I’ve just always wanted full control of my vehicle. But I’ll tell you what—you can teach an old dog a new trick. I wouldn’t want to go back to a manual.”
Seymour says that she initially started driving the truck as a company driver, but quickly switched to a program to purchase the truck, and she is getting fuel economy in the range of mid-7 to low-8 mpg depending on load.
“You couldn’t get me out of this truck with a crowbar,” says Seymour. “Since I’m now paying my own fuel bills, those mileage numbers are important to me.”
And with a driver like Seymour proving the value of the Kenworth T680, it’s no wonder National Carriers has adopted the truck as its new standard.