I still recall my first meeting with a T800. It was in the fall of'86, the year the truck was introduced and a little more than a year after the T600 had made its game-changing debut.
The word going around the company at the time was that we were getting a bunch of new Kenworths. Being eternally optimistic as drivers are, many of us assumed we'd soon be at the helm of one of those new “anteaters,” as they were known back then.
The disappointment was palpable when the first few T800s arrived in the yard. The industrial-looking, boxy T800 was not the slippery new aero truck we were all hoping for. By the spring of'87, however, you couldn't have pried us out of the trucks. They won instant favor for their handling and performance, the room and, for some, the styling. I guess it grew on us.
I suspect drivers’ initial reactions will be different when the first T880s begin arriving in customers’ lots. It looks every bit as good as the T680, it features the same mid-sized cab that's currying so much favor, and it's a bit more rugged than its long-haul counterpart.
And it's shorter, too — a customer priority, we're told, for P&D and regional operations.
The T880 has two bumper-to-back-of-cab lengths: 122.5 inches with an ISX and 116.5 inches when spec'd with Paccar s MX engine. In both cases, it's almost 3 inches shorter than the T680 hood. Wheelbase is a customer preference, but our test truck had a sporty 189-inch wheelbase, which made it highly maneuverable. I actually made a full U-turn with a 48-foot trailer on a five-lane roadway near Louisville during the test drive.
With a choice of six tractor versions (four that could be realistically spec'd for regional and P&D work), Ken-worth customers certainly have a few options.
The wider and longer cab is standard, offering greater driver comfort than even the extended-cab version of the W900, T660 or the T800.
For high-GVW applications, the front end can handle axles up to 20,000 pounds with flotation tires and fender extenders.
In short, it's a do-all, go-anywhere Class 8 model that mixed fleets could integrate easily into a number of applications without the cost and complexity of maintaining a huge parts crib.
On the road
The truck we had was close to the top end of the spec sheet, with the Diamond VIT interior, an Eaton Fuller 13-speed transmission, dual exhausts and plenty of bright metal. It wasn't a typical fleet spec, but that was just to impress the editors — and it worked.
It was a very quiet ride, which is important in a fast-moving urban environment. Smooth, too, thanks to the AG400 suspension. I thought the Sheppard power steering on the day-cab model was fine, despite the difficulty Tom had with the Ross steering on the dump truck. I too noticed that the transmission bound up a time or two, but I think that's due to the lack of break-in time.
I know the clutch linkage is air over hydraulic, and that Kenworth spent a lot of engineering resources getting the feel of the pedal just right. Since the T880 has the same cab and clutch linkage as the T680 — and I've had no similar experiences in three of those trucks I've driven — I'm willing to put the lever binding down to newness.
Visibility, an all-important consideration in town, was great. The low-cut window on the passenger side is just the ticket, and that's coupled with a low-mounted mirror. I had no issues with rear views or lateral vision at intersections where some big aero mirrors tend to obscure approaching traffic.
As I believe I remarked on the T680 test drive, the throttle pedal location and angle is just about perfect for me.
In a P&D situation where you're doing a lot with the clutch pedal, having it on too steep an angle (a complaint on previous Kenworth cabs) can make for a frustrating drive.
The cab shared by the T680 and T880 would be a great place to spend a 12-hour workday.
And with everything else going for it, the T880 is pretty easy on the eyes - another reason I think drivers will be pretty happy to see a bunch of these new trucks parked against the fence waiting to be stenciled up and put into service.
To read Senior Editor Tom Berg's article on his Test Drive of the Kenworth T880 Dump Truck click here.