In the race for profits, those fleets that keep their operational costs down the most typically win.
"Profit margins can be so thin that sometimes the only way to make money is to run an efficient truck fleet," said Jim Bechtold,
Kenworth chief engineer. "Controlling lifecycle costs is one of the fleet manager's most important duties and vehicle serviceability plays a key role in that effort of keeping cost per mile low."
Operating trucks that are easy to service is often an underrated factor in striving to lower life cycle costs. "Vehicle serviceability is often glossed over in the buying decision, and it shouldn't be," Bechtold says. "Every hour you save in servicing means an hour more in productivity for your truck, and an hour less in maintenance costs. That's why Kenworth designs serviceability into every truck it offers. It's another way we help reduce
the cost per mile for customers."
Bechtold advised fleet managers to have their lead technician do a serviceability walk around on the truck they're interested in purchasing.
"The electrical system is the most important from a serviceability aspect and one area to really analyze," he said. "Check to see if all the wires are color coded and numbered. Kenworth models incorporate comprehensive 'family' color coding and numbering on the wiring to make it easier and faster to do maintenance. Each wire features a circuit designation which tells the technician the wire's purpose, destination, and function."
For example, "P21AL" means that the wire is Power from the Alternator with 21 indicating an all black wire. "P84SR" indicates Power to the Starter Relay, and 84 tells the technician to look for a black wire with an orange stripe.
Bechtold said to check to see if there are plenty of spare circuits to handle additional power loads. "By having pre-wired circuits you'll save a lot of time and frustration. In many cases, we have up to 35 spare circuits to more than handle electrical requirements," he said. Kenworth's power distribution box also puts all circuit protection elements, including fuses, relays and breakers, in one quick-to-reach location.
Under the hood, Bechtold said some OEMs locate the engine in a doghouse in the firewall. "Kenworth, however, places the engine forward of the cab which gives the service technician more room to work," he said.
Next, check to see where the engine is located in the frame. "Mounting the engine in a raised position provides better and easier access to filters and components which is a real time saver," Bechtold said. "It's easier to check fluid levels and change fuel, oil and water filters while standing on the ground - not on a tire."
Also check to see how wiring harnesses are routed through the engine and cab. "Do they protect wiring and air lines from chaffing and debris? If they don't you could be looking at premature wear and downtime," he said.
Consider the serviceability of other key maintenance items, such as the HVAC system. "Is the air conditioner mounted in the cab or outside, on the firewall, and is it difficult to access?" asked Bechtold, noting that Kenworth mounts the HVAC motor, electrical master connectors, windshield wiper motor and washer reservoir all on the firewall for easier maintenance.
Also it's important to be able to easily troubleshoot and detect small leaks in the A/C system. "Kenworth uses state-of-the-art dyes in its A/C system which fluoresce when a technician shines a black or blue light on the A/C hoses or components," he noted.
Another aspect of serviceability often overlooked is cab and paint maintenance. "Those with steel cabs need to spend a lot of time repairing minor dings and dents to prevent rust, which can occur rapidly," Bechtold said. "Aluminum and fiberglass composite materials are far more corrosion resistant which can save significant maintenance dollars over the truck's life."
It's also important to be able to minimize repair time in cases where there is damage to a quarter panel, bumper or panel on the sleeper. "Kenworth has designed ease of body repair into our trucks," he said. "For example,
replacement panels come with pre-drilled holes so the repair is fit and finish. Otherwise you're stuck with the more time-consuming matching and drilling."
All told, Bechtold concluded, buying a truck is so much more than initial purchase price. "It's a combination of cost per mile which includes
everything from maintenance and repairs to resale value; driver retention; and serviceability of that vehicle. If those three buying criteria are followed, your bottom line can be vastly improved."
About Kenworth Truck Company
Kenworth Truck Co., a division of PACCAR Inc, is a manufacturer of heavy and medium duty trucks.
Kenworth is the recipient of the 2003 J.D. Power and Associates award for Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Pickup and Delivery Segment Class 8 Trucks.
Kenworth's Internet home page is at www.kenworth.com