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Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Kenworth T600 - The Truck That Pioneered Aerodynamic Technology

My Tractor  #308
Memories of and Tribute to the T600 “Anteater” Kenworth

I was working for Frigo Cheese in Lena, Wi in 1985 when news of the revolutionary new Kenworth came out. The traffic manager we had at the time was blown away by the concept and started to research ideas of how he could get these new tractors into our fleet.
We were only two years into five year leases on our Freightliner tractors from Penske and you just can’t cancel leases with the click of your fingers. He talked to a Kenworth dealer in Green Bay and managed to get a T600 demo tractor to use for a couple of weeks at no charge. We drivers took turns behind the wheel and the consensus was, it was a great tractor with a good ride and plenty of power with the Detroit Series 60 engine. Although very odd looking, almost all the drivers gave it a thumbs up. These tractors were so revolutionary, I remember the stares and horns we would get from 4-wheelers and other trucks going down the highway! I stopped at the house in Crivitz to give my ex-wife a short ride and she made the comment that it looked like I was driving a spaceship!
Our boss then started working numbers with Penske about ordering a new fleet of T600s and turning in our current tractors. The penalty it would cost Frigo was about $50,000 for eight tractors, which was a lot of money in the mid 80’s, even for a company the size of Frigo!
After considering the cost, he came up with a brilliant idea that he took to his superiors. By being the first fleet in northern Wisconsin to obtain these new tractors, the value of the publicity, free advertising and exposure for the company would more than offset the costs of breaking our lease! After some serious consideration, the CEO agreed and gave his approval, the tractors were ordered!

It took a couple months to get them in as we all were excitedly waiting. The day we went down to Green Bay to pick them up, our boss had all the local news media there to cover the story as our convoy of eight new 1986 T600s headed back north to Lena. They had camera crews on the overpasses of the freeway to film us as we went by. I’ll tell you what, we were some pretty proud drivers, and for many months we enjoyed all the looks and attention from everyone. They must have gotten more than their money's worth with all the publicity, as our traffic manager received a promotion not long after!

Below is a review by from 2005 on the 20th anniversary.
Kenworth's T600 - The Truck That Pioneered Aerodynamic Technology Celebrates 20th Anniversary  2005-08-25 by
DALLAS, Texas - This year marks the 20th anniversary of the aerodynamic Kenworth T600 which helped revolutionize the trucking industry. Kenworth is exhibiting a new, fuel efficient, 2006 model T600 with world-class quality, comfort and productivity this week at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

Kenworth's T600 has evolved and changed significantly over the past 20 years, undergoing numerous aerodynamic and creature comfort updates. Today's T600 has a 26% lower drag co-efficient as compared to the very first T600, making it a truck model with a fuel-economy performance that is still very much cutting-edge.

The "cutting edge" story of the Kenworth T600 began nearly 30 years ago. In 1976, PACCAR director of research and development Larry Orr, who passed away in 2001, and a small team created wood and wax models, testing different shapes and configurations, often at the University of Washington's wind tunnel in Seattle. Later, in the early 1980s, Orr's group built a prototype and ran tests at the PACCAR Technical Center. "It confirmed the whole idea of aerodynamics and fuel economy," he recalled in a 1997 interview.

While the Kenworth T600's sloped hood drew most of the attention, the truck was loaded with other innovations. A set-back front axle allowed for easier front axle loading. New 64-inch taper-leaf springs provided a much improved ride, and the turning radius was 23% less than on other conventional trucks. The new design reduced splash and spray by 50%, to the great benefit of other vehicles on the road.

But the truck's biggest selling point was economy. "The fuel economy numbers we got in wind tunnel testing were pretty significant," Orr said, "and we were confident those numbers would prove themselves-but we had to do some real-life testing to confirm our calculations."
The next step was testing a standard straight hood conventional tractor and computing its fuel use at the PACCAR Technical Center test track. Then the hood was removed and the truck was reconfigured like the Kenworth T600, while leaving the power train and other components as is. The T600 turned out to be 22% more fuel efficient than the straight hood conventional.
The new truck was officially introduced at Kenworth's 1985 dealer meeting. Reaction was positive. "The aerodynamic advantages were so obvious that anyone who didn't jump on that bandwagon would be out of the band," recalled one dealer.
"There's no doubt the T600 revolutionized the industry," said another dealer.

The truck's fuel economy numbers were too substantial to ignore: the first users of the Kenworth T600 saw a significant reduction in fuel bills, which accounted for 20 to 25% of operating costs. By year's end, T600 sales represented more than 40% of Kenworth's new business.
Kenworth's first fleet customer was Glenn Brown, now chairman and CEO of Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI) in Joplin, Mo. CFI had nearly 500 leased operators working for the company, but wanted to bring on its own trucks. Brown, a CDL driver himself, looked closely at the T600. "I recognized that it was innovative and different. We were looking for ways to improve our efficiencies and decided to order 100 of the trucks. We were hoping the new design of the T600 was something we could use to get a head start on the rest of the industry. It was definitely a gamble to be the first in the market to put the truck on the road, but it proved out." CFI's fleet average for fuel efficiency increased by about 1.5 miles per gallon.
Today, CFI has more than 1,600 Kenworth T600s in its fleet. What's more, the company is so fond of the T600 that it still has the very first T600 it purchased back in 1985.
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1 comment:

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing this review Kenworth T600. I want to drive that truck also because I'm sure that I am easy to teach. I want to work in a heavy hauling company driving that truck.

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