PHILADELPHIA -- Kenworth Truck Co. is the latest truck manufacturer to say it will not exhibit at the Mid-America Trucking Show next year in Louisville.
KW’s general manager, Preston Feight, talked about the decision while responding to reporters’ questions about products and services he covered during a news conference here on Sunday afternoon. It was among meetings scheduled during the just-opened annual American Trucking Associations' Management Conference & Exhibition.
“It was a Kenworth decision” to skip MATS and not one made by Paccar Inc., parent of KW and Peterbilt, Feight said. The money saved will be spent during the year on other marketing efforts and outreach events aimed at truck operators, drivers and the press.
The move toward skipping the show – the largest trucking event in North America – began with Daimler’s announcement several months ago, when it said it will alternate attendance at MATS with the IAA show in Hannover, Germany, which will be held in the autumn of 2016. Volvo, Mack and Navistar International soon followed suit.
Kenworth’s ATA press conference was to talk about new products and services, and Feight said the company has introduced at least one in each of the last five years. Its focus is on fuel economy, driver satisfaction and maintenance advances toward improving truck uptime.
Its TruckTech+ program involves telemetric signaling of data describing a truck’s health status to owners, dealers and Kenworth service people “so we can watch how the truck is doing,” Feight said. He quoted one fleet manager as saying it is “the best remote diagnostics system” he’s ever seen.
A PremierCare Gold Certified program is rolling out and will involve enhanced service at participating Kenworth dealers. To be certified for the program, dealers must commit to diagnosing service problems within two hours of a truck’s arrival; dedicating technicians to this work; operating their service departments on extended hours, including nights and weekends, and setting up a “premium” lounge where drivers can wait for work to be finished.
It’s hoped that at least 80% of KW dealers will certify for PremierCare Gold status. Meanwhile, there are now 4,800 service bays in 380 locations run by Kenworth dealers. Dealer principals have spent many millions of dollars improving their facilities, he said. In the last five years, 25 dealers have spent at least $1 million each, and some have invested much more.
Fuel and drivers
Although fuel prices have “softened,” fuel economy remains important to fleet managers and so does keeping drivers happy. “I don’t operate trucks but I talk to people who do,” Feight commented. “And they say it’s always drivers and fuel” as the top expenses in running a fleet.
KW’s modern T680 and T880 models help in both regards, he said, and two new sleeper options will increase their usefulness. Seventy-six-inch mid-rise and 40-inch low-roof sleepers both save weight compared to longer and higher-roof models, and will serve various segments of trucking.
The Paccar MX-11 diesel, announced earlier this month, likewise saves weight while providing good performance for vocational and regional applications, Feight said. The new 10.8-liter engine weighs 400 pounds less than the 12.8-liter MX-13 and experience indicates the smaller diesel also delivers about 2% better fuel economy.
The company plans to add automatic stop/start capability to its engines, with or without its Idle Management system, and will offer wheel-well fillers as additional ways to save fuel.
2015 has been “a wonderful year” for Kenworth, which now enjoys 15% market share in heavy duty sales and 8.6% in medium duty, Feight said. The company will meet the tighter requirements of the Phase 2 greenhouse-gas and fuel-economy limits that were recently proposed, as it has for Phase 1 limits.
“We’re not afraid of technological advancement” needed to attain some of the federal agencies’ goals, he stated.