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The driving factor: Kenworth stays focused on driver-centric features

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Standing in the center of Kenworth’s massive booth at the equally massive Mid-America Trucking Show, it wasn’t hard to pick out the OEM’s primary focus: the driver. You know there is a driver shortage threatening the industry, so we won’t rehash the numbers. The OEMs are also all too well aware of the impact. That’s why Kenworth is doubling down on driver-focused features to keep drivers happier working for fleets and safer as they work more productively.

Technology integrated into the truck—from collision mitigation systems to driver behavior scoring to predictive maintenance—is impacting drivers like never before. Drivers tend to resist new technologies, but according to Mike Dozier, general manager of Kenworth and vice president of PACCAR (pictured above center), and Patrick Dean, chief engineer for Kenworth (pictured above right), drivers are transitioning from technology skeptics to the systems’ most outspoken proponents.

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“The acceptance of proven technology is growing,” Dozier said. “That’s the key: proven technology. Drivers are not interested in systems—whether it’s adaptive cruise, collision mitigation or blind spot warning—until it’s proven that they work. The level of requests for these systems is already high. They wouldn’t be requesting them if drivers were dissatisfied with them.”

“Cameras are an interesting example,” Dean said. “A number of fleets have implemented driver cameras and forward-looking cameras. Initially, there was certainly pushback. Drivers felt like they were being monitored. But where it’s been proven is in the event of a collision when the footage is reviewed and it shows that the truck driver was doing everything correctly and was not at fault.”

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“That’s when drivers become big supporters,” Dozier said.

“Right, and it only takes one of those for a driver to say, ‘Wow, this technology works,’” Dean added.

In the way of driver retention-focused creature comforts, Kenworth announced a premium “Driver’s Studio” package for the T680, which features a 180-degree swivel passenger seat and swivel table option set, a swivel TV mount ideal for flat screen TVs up to 28-in., a premium audio package with 320-watt amp, 10-in. subwoofer and eight speakers, and the optional EpicVue pre-wire for satellite TV, as well as a drawer-style refrigerator and a convenient space ideal for a microwave, in addition to the numerous storage spaces.

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The new Kenworth TruckTech+ Service Management platform rolling out to Kenworth dealers is among the OEM’s latest news. The new platform, powered by Decisiv, will give Kenworth dealer service staff detailed chassis information, parts catalogs, service bulletins, warranty and repair history that will help them to more quickly and efficiently diagnose, estimate and complete service work.

Today, more than 30,000 Kenworth Class 8 trucks are equipped with Kenworth TruckTech+ Remote Diagnostics, which enables fleets to view real-time vehicle health in the PACCAR Solutions web portal. Those Kenworth trucks have combined to travel 1.5 billion miles. In the coming months, Kenworth will expand its integrated fleet portal that will help fleets seamlessly manage their service events and truck assets through the platform.

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