When it comes to heavy-duty, long-haul trucks, the kings of the road are long-hood conventional big rigs with the latest comforts of home behind the cab. And chrome. Lots of chrome.
Kenworth Truck Co. took this seriously in the all-new W990 for 2020.
Where total cost of ownership (TCO) is the great equalizer in new equipment purchases, Kenworth markets the W990 as a recruitment and retention tool to keep drivers feeling appreciated at their current employer while driving a rolling advertisement to entice new drivers.
Some fleets find that offering the opportunity to drive a new truck influences drivers to stick around as much as pay increases and bonuses in a hyper-competitive environment where 83 percent of for-hire truckers change employers every year.
Keim TS in Sabetha, Kansas has driver turnover of just 30 percent, much of it due to retirements of long-time drivers. Keim runs a trucking school to train replacements.
“You ought to see the smile on their face when they jump up in there,” said owner Stan Keim, who purchased 42 W990s for his all-Kenworth fleet of 215 trucks.
His all-Kenworth fleet has plenty of interest from drivers.
“It’s already paying dividends,” Keim told FreightWaves. “Ninety-eight percent of those trucks have a driver in them.”
The W990 comes in four models, including three sleeper cabs and one heavy-haul day cab. Wheelbases range from 251 inches to 300 inches for the top-of-range W990 mid-roof with a 76-inch sleeper cab and 19-inch sleeper side extenders. The truck stretches 131.5 inches from bumper to the back of the cab.
“You’d be surprised how much space there is in a 76-inch sleeper when it is designed right,” said Tom Bogle, who drives for Western Distributing in Denver. He delivers beer to California and returns to Denver with fresh produce. Bogle stands 6-feet-6 inches.
”I’ve heard that Kenworth factored in tall drivers when developing the sleeper,” said Bogle, who began driving the W990 this spring. He calls himself and “old-school driver” because he likes driving a long-hood rig with the Eaton Fuller 18-speed manual gearbox. It is mated to a Cummins X15-liter engine which puts out 605 horsepower and 2,050 pound feet of torque.
Even with a heavy engine and transmission, the W990 tips the scales at about 18,000 pounds, leaving ample freight capacity. The Kenworth W900L weighs about 1,000 pounds more. For Keim, that meant assigning the heaviest loads to the Kenworth T680, which weighs in at about 17,500 pounds.
“We have not had to adjust my customer’s weight with the W990,” Keim said. “That 500 pounds here or there has not made a bit of difference.”
Fuel efficiency and uptime
Keim said Kenworth’s promise of fuel efficiency improvements over the W900 are holding up. His fleet of W990s is averaging 6.6 miles per gallon compared with 6.8 mpg for the more aerodynamic T680 that makes up most of his fleet.
The average truck on the road gets about 6.4 mph, according to Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency.
Bogle said he is getting about 20 percent better fuel economy in the W990 compared with his last truck. Kenworth cautions that fuel economy from the 225-gallon tank (the day cab capacity is 160 gallons) depends on use, road conditions and other factors.
Independent driver Larry Martin from Montrose, Colorado, said the 455-horsepower rated PACCAR MX-13 engine “is performing flawlessly” in the W990. Keeping maintenance costs low and minimizing downtime matter to him because he makes time-sensitive deliveries of machinery, robotics, glass and industrial equipment.
W990 interiors resemble luxury cars down to the way Kenworth describes them.
The W990 Limited Edition interior comes in midnight black with glossy Ravenwood door and dash trim accents, a black leather-embossed W990 logo, royal blue double-stitched diamond door pads, black leather steering wheel with royal blue stitching and driver and passenger seats with suede charcoal inserts and perforated leather with royal blue backing.
The W990 Driver’s Studio comes with a 180-degree swivel passenger seat and rotating table for two people, a drawer-style refrigerator and a space for a microwave. Kenworth’s premium audio package features a 320-watt amp, 10-inch subwoofer and eight speakers. A swivel TV mount can accommodate up to a 28-inch flat screen TV. EpicVue pre-wiring for satellite TV is optional.
The sleeper compartment features a full-size wardrobe for hanging clothes, multiple storage drawers and a storage space under the lower bunk. An 1800-watt inverter includes a shore power connection and four standard 120-volt outlets.
Driver dash and safety
Kenworth TruckTech+ remote diagnostics system and a seven-inch color in-dash display includes truck-specific navigation, roadside assistance, vehicle data, hands-free calling, audio controls, blind-spot camera input and internet connection.
Safety equipment includes predictive cruise control, electronic stability control and driver performance assistant, a built-in virtual driver’s coach and a tool to improve driver performance for fleets and owner operators. Collision mitigation, lane departure warning and side object detection are optional.