“We had drivers halfway out the door when we told them our entire fleet was transitioning to automated transmissions,” recalled Dan Toderean, Ozark’s general manager. “At the time, most of our drivers had only operated manual transmissions, and they were against parting ways with it. Over the years, we’ve done well with driver retention, so we didn’t want to lose our experienced drivers.
“Fortunately, we convinced our drivers to give them a chance, and boy, have their perceptions of automated transmissions changed.”
According to Toderean, Ozark turned to the PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission for its Kenworth T680s to make life easier on the road for its established drivers and operating the trucks simpler for new drivers. Toderean said the company’s operations often require drivers to traverse mountain passes, such as Donner Pass (elevation 7,057 feet) on the California and Nevada border, and to drive in-city, which often results in drivers spending time in traffic.
“With the PACCAR automated transmissions, our drivers are more relaxed on the road. They don’t need to constantly shift gears,” Toderean said. “Plus, by operating a fleet of Kenworth T680s with automated transmissions, we’re having an easier time recruiting new drivers who have limited or no experience driving manuals. We’re noticing that some of the drivers entering the industry have licenses that only certify them to drive automatics.”
For Tony Ginyard, who has driven for Ozark Trucking for 15 years, the transition to operating a Kenworth T680 with the PACCAR 12-speed transmission is making life more comfortable on the road.
“For most of my career, I had driven tractors with manual transmissions, so it was a bit of an adjustment for me at first,” Ginyard said. “Since I often travel over mountain passes and other areas that would require constant shifting, I’m finding the PACCAR automated transmission to be more driver-friendly.”
Ozark, a transportation company based in Sacramento, specializes in regional delivery of refrigerated and frozen goods in Northern California and Nevada. The company operates a fleet that consists of 100 Kenworth T680s spec’d with 455-horsepower PACCAR MX-13 engines. In 2017, the company began spec’ing its T680s with the complete PACCAR powertrain, adding the PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission to join the PACCAR MX-13 engine and PACCAR 40K tandem rear axles. The company purchases its Kenworths through NorCal Kenworth – Sacramento.
According to Toderean, Ozark is noticing a half-mile per-gallon fuel economy improvement since transitioning to operating tractors with the integrated PACCAR powertrain. Toderean said these Kenworth T680s consistently average 8 mpg.
“The majority of our drivers are making multiple deliveries a day from our warehouses to grocery stores in Northern California,” Toderean said. “Plus, we have drivers making runs into Nevada, which require a lot of mountainous driving. Considering the stop-and-go driving our drivers experience and steep grade mountain passes, we’re pleased with where we’re at with our fuel economy.”
The PACCAR MX-13 with 1,650 pound-feet of torque has been the engine of choice for Ozark Trucking since the company took delivery of its first Kenworth T680s in 2012. According to Toderean, the engine’s reliability and the exemplary service the company receives from NorCal Kenworth-Sacramento, are the primary reasons Ozark Trucking continues to spec its tractors with the MX-13 engine.
“We’ve worked with Tom and Bryan Bertolino at NorCal Kenworth for as long as I can remember, and they’ve always been great to work with,” Toderean said. “They know us and our operation well. They’re so good at working with us on preventative maintenance schedules so that we get our tractors in and out of the shop quickly. The service we’ve received on our engines encouraged us to begin spec’ing tractors with the full PACCAR powertrain. It’s nice to have a one-stop shop to take care of all of our maintenance needs.”
To keep operations running as efficiently as possible, Ozark utilizes Kenworth’s TruckTech+ Remote Diagnostics service. When an engine fault code is triggered, TruckTech+ sends a notification to Ozark and NorCal Kenworth. The information allows Ozark to make informed decisions on whether to direct drivers to keep driving or proceed to the closest Kenworth dealer for service. Kenworth dealers are notified of the fault code diagnosis prior to a truck arriving to expedite service.
“On-time delivery is huge for us, especially since the majority of our business is working with retailers and grocery stores,” Toderean said. “During the early days of COVID-19, our drivers were working overtime to keep up with demand. It was an all-team effort. It’s important for us to provide reliable services to our customers, especially in today’s environment.
“With Kenworth TruckTech+ Remote Diagnostics, we have insight into each truck’s status. If a fault code comes on, we are better able to communicate with our drivers on whether or not to proceed on their route. The technology helps us minimize downtime on issues that are minor and don’t require immediate service.”
According to Toderean, company culture and providing drivers with new equipment have helped the company maintain a good rapport with its drivers over the years.
“We’ve experimented with other truck makes in the past to see how they’d fit in our operation, but Kenworth always comes out on top,” Toderean concluded. “It’s why we’re a 100% Kenworth fleet.
“The reliability and support we receive from NorCal Kenworth and high driver acceptance are some of the benefits we see from running Kenworths.”