Every day you'll see three shiny Kenworth T370 medium duty tractors hauling double 28-foot Budweiser trailers across the Seven Mile Bridge - one of the longest water passages in the world. It connects Knight's Key to Little Duck Key in the picturesque Florida Keys - home to one of the best vacation spots in the country.
"And, it's home to Bud drinkers," laughed Fredes Pacheco, director of operations for Eagle Brands, which distributes Anheuser-Busch products throughout Dade and Monroe counties. "We deliver more than a million cases a year to the Keys. That's a lot of beer. We haul the double trailers, loaded with up to 2,000 cases and kegs of beer, down from our distribution center in Miami, which is 160 miles away. We have six domiciled Kenworth T370s that then distribute the beer throughout the Keys, while the other three Kenworths backhaul the empty trailers."
That's just one portion of Eagle Brands' business, which sells more than 7.4 million cases of beer annually - 95 percent of which is under the Anheuser-Busch umbrella. It has more than 4,500 retail customers.
To handle the loads, Eagle Brands has standardized on Kenworth T370s for its medium duty tractors, plus it runs eight T800s with 48-foot trailers for bulk deliveries to supermarkets and big box stores.
According to Pacheco, the move to Kenworth began six years ago when Eagle Brands upgraded its fleet of tractors consisting of different brands. "We looked at all the different models the truck dealers offered. Several of them lent us trucks for test drives and evaluations. Combined with input from our drivers on what they'd prefer to drive and overall vehicle value and performances, we decided that the Kenworth T370 would be our model of choice going forward."
Today, 65 of the company's 72 trucks are Kenworths, "and we should be 100 percent Kenworth in two years," said Pacheco.
The latest T370s, purchased through Kenworth of South Florida, feature the PACCAR PX-7 engine, rated at 325 hp with 750 lb-ft of torque, and driven through Allison automatic transmissions. "Those are the tractors that haul the doubles down to the Keys, so they're grossing out at 80,000 pounds, for doubles," said Pacheco. "Their pulling power is just perfect. Our other T370s with PACCAR PX-7 engines are rated at 280 hp. That's plenty of power, since we don't have hills, and they're pulling 28-foot back-loading trailers and 30 and 33-foot side-loading trailers on short routes with a declining payload."
The short routes, along with the Keys run, put Eagle Brands' fleet average at about 1.1 million miles a year or about 15,000 miles per vehicle. "That means we plan to hold onto the trucks for a good long time," said Pacheco. "We expect 13 to 15 years delivering for us and the older Kenworths are well on their way to a successful life."
According to Pacheco, sun and salt air can do a number on trucks - especially paint finishes. "Anheuser-Busch has a policy to repaint trucks after three years, if they need it," he said. "And, company reps come out once a year to meet with us - and they do look at our fleet when they're out here. We want the trucks representing our brands looking great. We're happy to report that we've never had to paint a Kenworth - the paint and the fit and finish is excellent. We expect the Kenworths to stay looking sharp until they're ready for the pasture."
While Pacheco said he has seen first-hand the quality of Kenworth since Eagle Brands began running Kenworths in 2008, he said a trip to the PACCAR assembly plant in Ste. Therese, Quebec, solidified that impression. "It really did," he said. "We went up on an invitation from Todd Hays (dealer principal at Kenworth of South Florida) to see our three newest Kenworths being built. I remember going to the beginning of the process where there were two long pieces of iron - the frame rails. Our tour guide said, 'there's your truck.' We walked with the truck from station-to-station and the synchronization and precision just amazed us. No one was running and hurrying - everyone knew exactly what they were doing and you could just see quality in front of your eyes. It was impressive."
With little driver turnover to speak of, Pacheco said he still believes the truck you drive helps keep drivers content. "And there is the image factor," he said. "Our drivers are assigned to their Kenworths and they keep them looking sharp. They appreciate driving a quality piece of equipment and it shows in how they care for their trucks."
What's more, beer drinkers love the trucks. "We go to numerous events each month with our Kenworth trucks," said Pacheco. "We'll bring our refrigerated (36-degree) keg T370 to a special event - they not only deliver, but they serve. We have service holes in the side of the trailer, which allow keg taps to come off the trailer - it's pretty cool. Inside, the kegs stay cold, and our drivers make sure everything is in working order. Not an event goes by that our Kenworths aren't the subject of cameras."
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.