Kevin Keeney feels he hit the jackpot when it comes to trucks and productivity. In the past few months, the vice president of Arcadia, California-based Food Express has put into service Kenworth T680s powered by the PACCAR MX-11 engine, and has seen a dramatic change.
Photos Credit Brady Gillman
“It’s been a trifecta in improvements,” Keeney said. “There’s less weight so we can carry 1,500 pounds more product; increased fuel economy of up to 1 mpg; and driver acceptance that we’ve never seen before. With the success we’ve experienced with our initial order of 26 T680s, we have another 26 on order now. We see the Kenworth T680 as our new flagship.”
Food Express has made its mark hauling flour, malt barley, corn starch and sugar throughout states west of the Rockies. With a fleet of 200 tractors and 360 trailers, the company has offices and terminals in six locations. Its business is divided into local hauls – such as in the Phoenix area – and in longer hauls originating from Southern California and Arizona.
The initial T680s, purchased through Inland Kenworth – Montebello and financed through PACCAR Financial, are in service in Phoenix and Fresno. In addition to T680 day cabs, Keeney said the company also purchased T680s with 40-inch sleepers. “That’s as a safeguard for our longer runs,” he said. “It gives our drivers space for naps, or downtime during weather delays. The 40-inch sleeper is the perfect size, and is very light in weight compared to other sleeper units in our fleet.”
According to Keeney, in early 2016 the company decided to offer a challenge to five truck makers. “We wanted to start with a clean slate and find a truck that could lower our weight and offer other improvements,” Keeney said. “So, we worked with five dealerships and challenged them to build a truck that would fit our needs. To make it an apples-to-apples comparison, if we found a component we liked and wanted to incorporate it, we shared it with all the dealers.”
The end result – Food Express chose the T680 day cab. “It was more than 1,500 pounds lighter than the previous generation of trucks we had in service,” said Keeney. “The biggest contributor to the weight loss was the PACCAR MX-11 engine, which provides the power and torque we need, in a package that saves us 400 pounds.”
The T680 day cabs, in a 6x2 configuration, use the PACCAR MX-11 engine spec’d at 430 hp with 1,550 lb.-ft of torque and driven through an Eaton Fuller Advantage™ 10-speed automated transmission.
Since Food Express charges by the truckload, Keeney said he uses the weight savings as a value-added service for his customers. “They now get more payload hauled, and we view it as a customer retention tool,” he said. “If we can haul more than our competitors, our customers see great value in that, and in our company.”
While the weight savings fills the customer satisfaction ‘bucket’ for its clients, Food Express is reaping rewards of its own in terms of vehicle performance and reduced operating costs. “The MX-11 is huge for us,” he said. “Not only are we seeing better fuel economy, but the power in that engine is remarkable. PACCAR did a wonderful job with this engine – we’ve been very impressed. We have the Grapevine Hill that borders the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles. It’s a five-mile hill with a 6 percent grade and the T680 with MX-11 engine averages 3 mph faster up that hill than our other trucks. Impressive. That shows how potent that engine is.”
The T680 has been a hit with drivers, according to Keeney. “The drivers love the truck – the wide cab gives them lots of room and the visibility is so much greater. And, it’s so quiet. The combination of the PACCAR MX engine and the insulation package really means a nice driver environment. If you were to poll our drivers, the T680 would be the truck that comes out on top. The Kenworth brand itself lends itself to pride and driver satisfaction. The quality of the T680 just puts it over the top.”
The Keeney family has roots deep into trucking – Kevin’s dad, Walter, is the president of the company, and his mom, Joanna, is secretary-treasurer. “My grandfather started in trucking back in the 1930s,” said Keeney. “And, it’s a family affair now at Food Express. My folks have no plan to leave – we don’t retire in my family. And my four kids are all actively involved in the business. My daughter is our safety manager, one son is in operations, another in administration, and my youngest son is in maintenance. It makes for an interesting balance, being ‘dad’ on one hand, and their supervisor on the other. But, the trucking industry is in our blood; it’s been great to us and it will be for the years to come.”
Kenworth is the driver’s truck. See what drivers are saying at www.kenworth.com/drivers.
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.