Knife River Puts Kenworth T880s into the â€˜Mix'
To coin a phrase, "it turns on a dime." And for the drivers at Knife River at locations throughout Minnesota, the sharp turning radius of the Kenworth T880 Vocational Truck makes their job a whole lot easier.
"We normally order mixers with a set-forward front axle, but the maneuverability and turning we're getting with our Kenworth T880s with set-back front axles are things we've never seen before," said Jerry Lang, Vice President of Ready-Mix Operations for Knife River's North Central Region. "It allows our drivers to navigate tight residential areas much easier."
Knife River has more than 100 operations in the North Central region, and the vast majority of truck purchases in Lang's territory over the past five years, have been Kenworths.
"With Minnesota and North Dakota increasing their overall length from 40 to 45 feet, we decided to try the T880 in our mixer operation," Lang said. "We added about three and a half feet to our overall length, but the outstanding turning radius of our T880 mixers, more than makes up for the additional length. Plus, we can haul the same payload - 11 yards, with a new platform truck that has been very welcomed by our drivers."
Purchased through Rihm Kenworth, Knife River's North Central Region is running 80 Kenworth T880s in mixer, dump and tractor configurations.
"We've been adding to our fleet," said Lang. "We've been seeing about 7 percent annual growth over the last several years in our region, and overall, Knife River is expecting revenues to be close to $2 billion in 2015. We're one of the top 10 nationally when it comes to aggregate producers, and we're right there in concrete as well."
The T880s with McNeilus mixer drums were spec'd with the PACCAR MX-13 engine, rated at 380-hp and driven through Eaton Fuller 11-speed transmissions. The dumps, which can haul up to 14 yards of aggregate, and tractors, which haul bulk cement tankers, were spec'd with the 455-hp PACCAR MX-13 engine and driven through Fuller 10-speed transmissions.
"Even though driver turnover is not a big issue here, we do want to give our drivers a truck they want to drive and we think the T880 is that truck," said Lang. "In Minnesota, we have a six-month window so our guys work very hard. Last year, I went to a Kenworth ride and drive event and drove the T880, and the ride was very smooth. All the truck's interior features - from better visibility [50 percent larger windshield surface area than the T800], amount of room between the seats, dash layout and lower dash height for better sight lines down the hood for our shorter drivers [3-inch lower hood crown height], to the seat travel - all were very impressive. It was the nicest truck I had ever driven. I also liked that the hood is modular and that it's easy to replace just the fender for reduced cost and downtime."
For veteran driver Kyle Smith, the new T880 was a welcome sight.
"The ride is smooth and the quietness of the cab is something," said Smith. "And, the turning radius is amazing. This will turn in places I never thought possible. I can now wait longer before having to start my turns."
Smith said the workout his leg used to get when driving other trucks with clutches is now gone.
"When you're driving two miles per hour and riding the clutch all day long, your leg will be burning up by the end of the shift and your knee won't feel good either," Smith said. "There is virtually no pressure required to engage the clutch on the T880, which has an air assisted hydraulic clutch requires only half the pressure of a traditional clutch, that means no fatigue at the end of the day."
According to Lang, Knife River companies normally have a trade cycle of nine years or less for its ready-mix trucks.
"We sell them ourselves and we know the resale value for our Kenworths is a bonus - we absolutely get more money for our Kenworths," said Lang. "The trucks age very well and hold together. It's why they command a premium."
The Kenworth T880 Vocational Truck with the PACCAR MX-13 engine was selected as the 2015 ATD Truck of the Year by a panel of commercial trucking journalists and a professional driver. The T880 was ranked high for exceptional handling, power, torque and outstanding visibility from the driver's seat.