Even before the next-generation Kenworth T680 was unveiled to the market, Kenworth General Manager and PACCAR Vice President Kevin Baney was looking at the road ahead:
• Evolving consumer demands: “I think the pandemic really accelerated the last-mile deliveries, and so we’re seeing a more rapid increase in that segment than I think you traditionally would have without the pandemic,” he said.
• Regulatory shifts: “The biggest thing regulation-wise is really what CARB [California Air Resources Board] is doing around the battery electric requirements and the adopter states. With the new administration, we are eager to see what’s going to happen,” he noted.
• Continuing truck technology development: “PACCAR recently announced our partnership with Aurora to develop, test and commercialize autonomous trucks. We’re really proud of the work that we’re doing and what that’s going to afford us,” he stated.
I had the opportunity to chat with Baney in the lead-up to the next-generation T680 launch. Here’s his take on truck development, evolving markets and a shift in service to boost customer uptime.
Expanding service at new TRP locations
PACCAR’s dealer network grew to 431 locations last year. Currently, PACCAR has 278 full-service locations with another 97 locations that are parts and service. That leaves 56 parts only and TRP locations. Baney noted that its aftermarket parts brand, TRP, will be opening additional locations that offer both parts and service.
“We’re encouraging dealers [to add service bays] as they open new TRP locations,” Baney explained. “The opportunity in the U.S. and Canada to expand parts is really exponential. TRP locations are smaller footprint stores, and what we’re finding is that to add, let’s say, eight to 10 service bays to [new locations] is a good combination because it gets us in urban areas and adds the ability to serve customers that we wouldn’t get at the larger dealerships.
“The TRP parts locations are our fastest growing category,” he continued. “The thought is with the introduction of electric vehicles and where that might be going, that having more locations that are a little smaller and more nimble is the right direction for us.”
On top of that, the Kenworth PremierCare Gold Certified program continued to grow, even throughout the pandemic. There are currently 138 locations in the program, which requires dealer locations to meet a stringent criteria, including offering dedicated ExpressLane technicians to support quick diagnosis and estimated repair time and cost, as well as roadside assistance services. More recently, the program integrated into the PACCAR Solutions Service Management, a behind-the-scenes service dashboard that integrates connected truck data.
“Before the pandemic, all of our technician training classes were in person because of the nature of the hands-on learning; last year, we rolled out virtual training pretty much overnight through some partnerships out in the industry and completed over 100 virtual training programs,” Baney said. “So we are really proud about our ability to maintain that high level of PremierCare Gold status.”
Strength of the trucking market
The pandemic brought plenty of uncertainty to 2020, but the heavy-duty market kept trucking. FTR pegged 2020 Class 8 truck orders at a total of 283,000 units. Baney expects 2021 to be similarly strong.
“We’re forecasting 250,000 to 280,000, and we’re thrilled that we’re probably on the higher end of that,” Baney said. “The last three months [November 2020 to January 2021] industry orders were 135,000. So there is strong order intake in the industry.”
Medium-duty is poised for a comeback too, after facing 2020 pandemic headwinds.
“The medium-duty side finished around 75,000 orders last year. It was impacted by reduced lease and rental business; we’re seeing a return of that lease rental. We should find the medium-duty market back to the levels of pre-2020 prior to the pandemic,” Baney said. “We feel really good about the medium-duty market.”
Continuing truck technology development
If you’ve been paying attention to the industry headlines, it’s pretty easy to guess what the biggest focus in new truck technology is right now.
“The disruptive shifts that regulations are driving is the need for battery electric vehicles,” Baney confirmed. “We’re full speed ahead there.”
In October, Kenworth announced that a battery electric version of its Class 8 T680 truck was available for order. The zero-emission Kenworth T680E has an estimated operating range of 150 miles, depending on application, the company says. It uses a CCS1 DC fast charger with a maximum rate of 120 kWh and estimated 3.3-hour charging time. Initially available as a day cab as either a tractor or straight truck in a 6×4 axle configuration, the T680E is designed for pick-up and delivery applications.
Regardless of the type of truck that Kenworth manufacturers and services, connectivity is the link between all things Kenworth.
“Every truck is connected now, and it gives us the ability to leverage that information around a whole host of things,” Baney said, “whether it’s unique information that we can provide the customer with to make their business better or information we can use from a diagnostic standpoint to use in the design process.”
You can see that in the design of the next generation Kenworth T680 that the company unveiled earlier this month. Read our full write up of the truck features and improvements here: