The logistics for American Furniture could be considered backwards. It front-hauls a variety of goods in their 53-foot van trailers out of the Denver and Phoenix area. Then, the company back-hauls furniture from manufacturers around the United States to one of American Furniture’s three distribution centers in the Denver area, and two in Phoenix.
“It is unique,” said Mike Dowell, who serves as fleet safety manager. “We have 12 stores in Colorado and two in Phoenix and keep them replenished with a truckload each day. But before we make that delivery from one of our distribution centers, we have to get the furniture into those distribution centers. We have 126 Class 8 tractors picking up furniture from 34 domestic manufacturers, who have facilities from California to Georgia and Mississippi. We deliver our outbound load to a business near a manufacturer, then pick up our furniture load and head home.”
Mike Dowell, American Furniture fleet safety manager
In addition to its long-haul fleet, 15 tractors are used for ‘local’ warehouse-to-store deliveries. The company is standardizing on the Kenworth T680 with 76-inch sleepers. The trucks come equipped with the Kenworth Idle Management System, which provides engine-off air conditioning and heating.
“Reliability and fuel economy were the two biggest reasons we decided on the T680,” said Dowell, who started his career with American Furniture as a driver. “After a large amount of research on the emission system reliability, the fuel mileage with the automatic, and the quality of the Kenworth system, we decided the Kenworth T680 was a great value for American Furniture Warehouse.”
According to Dowell, the T680 with PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 455-hp offers 1/2 to 1 mpg better fuel economy than other trucks in its fleet. “We run a lot of miles with about 130,000 to 150,000 miles for our solo drivers and double that for our 12 teams,” Dowell said. “So, improved fuel numbers are saving us hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our best drivers are topping 8 mpg with the T680.”
Jake Jabs, president and CEO of American Furniture
Dowell said equipment and a corporate decision not to micro-manage drivers has helped stymie any driver turnover issues. “We pay well, get our drivers home one or two days a week, and don’t govern the engines. Our drivers will cruise at 75 mph if that’s the speed limit. We also think the Kenworth T680 is making a difference. Our drivers have been commenting about the smooth and quiet ride. They’ve been saying nothing but positive things. And, they really like the Kenworth Idle Management System, which is tied directly into the T680 ducting system.
“We’ve tried all kinds of APUs in the past – generator-powered, and battery-based,” he added. “Reliability was always an issue. But, our drivers have been very happy with the Kenworth system. Some of our trucks go into Arizona and are operated on days well over 100 degrees, and the battery air conditioning system kept the cab and sleeper comfortable for 10 to 12 hours. That keeps our idle times low, so it’s not only benefitting our drivers with a comfortable environment, but it’s saving us on fuel as well.”
As the fall and winter months approach, the Kenworth Idle Management System will transition to heating with an engine-off fuel-fired heater. Both heating and cooling are adjusted with a control panel in the sleeper, which gives drivers full system information, including remaining battery power, and three fan speeds for airflow.
“The Kenworth system works great. I really like it,” said Jeff Klein, who has been driving for more than 25 years, the past nine with American Furniture. “It’s nice being able to shut off the main engine and just use the battery system. This summer, I just pulled the curtain over the main windshield and the truck remained comfortable.”
Jeff Klein, American Furniture driver
Klein said he’s a big fan of the rotating passenger seat and the table that swings out for meals and paperwork. “I cook all my own meals, and normally use my microwave with dishes my wife prepared. It’s nice being able to sit in the seat and eat at the table, versus having to sit on the bed.”
On summer nights, Klein said he shut the bunk curtain and the sleeper stayed nice and comfortable – giving him a good night’s sleep. “I do sleep well,” he said. “That makes a big difference in how you perform the next day. I had many days of temps over 100 degrees this past summer and didn’t have a problem with battery life for the air conditioner. The sleeper and APU system I have now is so much better than what I had before in my old truck. I just love it. “
According to Dowell, the company has T680s parked in front of the corporate headquarters when not in use. “We have drivers come in and ask if we’re hiring,” he said. “That tells you something about drivers wanting to drive a particular truck.
“Another indicator of the quality of the trucks is with its resale value,” Dowell added. “We saw that for ourselves when we looked at used trucks. We plan to hold onto these Kenworths with a trade cycle set at 700,000 to 750,000 miles. We expect to do very well when it comes time for a trade-in.”
About American Furniture
American Furniture Warehouse is owned by Jake Jabs, who has been in the trucking and furniture business for decades and believes in the principles of hard work, long hours, and a commitment to environmentally friendly solutions for the transportation industry.
About Kenworth Truck Company
Kenworth Truck Company is the manufacturer of The World’s Best® heavy and medium duty trucks. Kenworth’s Internet home page is at www.kenworth.com. Kenworth is a PACCAR company.