Photo: Neil Abt/Fleet Owner

For design director, developing the Kenworth W990 a balance of emotions

Sept. 30, 2018
When Jonathan Duncan, Kenworth's design director, set out to create the W990, he faced “more emotional than functional details."

LAS VEGAS - When Jonathan Duncan, director of design for Kenworth Trucks, and his team set out to create the next generation of the W900, he said they were facing “more emotional than functional details.”

Since its debut in 1961, the W900 had bas been a vehicle that “makes other truckers stare and nod their heads in appreciation,” he said.

After working on the project for more than two years, the new W990 was unveiled Sept. 27 at the Las Vegas Speedway during an event for fleet and dealer representatives.  

“The Kenworth W990 represents the pride, image and freedom of trucking, and captures the spirit of what trucking is all about,” said Mike Dozier, general manager of Kenworth.

The following morning, during a ride-and-drive event for journalists at the nearby Kenworth Sales Las Vegas dealership, Duncan said every step of the process focused maintaining the “wow factor” from the W900, while trying to improve it.

“Balancing the legacy with true innovation was really rewarding for our design team,” Duncan said. 

He called the grill the “face of the new W990” and discussed how the hood complements the stainless steel air intakes. 

The bumper-to-back measures 131.5-inches - 1.5 inches longer than the existing W900L.

The cab is based on the T680 and T880, so there are eight more inches between the seats, making it easier to move around the cab. The mirrors were lowered for better visibility and the bolt-on fender makes it easier to get on and off. 

Kurt Swihart, Kenworth’s marketing director, said the W990 is viewed by many fleets as an important component of their driver recruiting and retention programs. 

He called it a “reward truck,” with an exterior that displays pride and small details on the inside that drivers appreciate.

That feeling was shared by Kyle Cousins, vice president of operations of Fleetnor Bros., who was on hand to take the keys to one of the first W990s. 

“A well-spec’d long-hood conventional stands out in a crowd,” he said. “The big hoods get you noticed; and customers, as well as our, drivers love them. I know it’s helped in our recruiting and retention.”  

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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