IRVING, Texas, June 4, 2015 – When it comes to selecting a truck model to use in the National Carriers fleet, Jim Franck is quick to the point. “Reliability and cost of ownership are key to me,” he said. “The key is to find a truck that gives you uptime, and a truck that drivers like to drive. And, that truck has to have a low cost of ownership, otherwise it won’t make you money.”
As president of National Carriers, Franck said he’s found the right balance with the Kenworth T680 with 76-inch sleeper, which has become the “standard” for the reefer division’s fleet. National Carriers operates 670 tractors, of which 70 percent are company-owned. “The T680’s aerodynamics, reliability – and that of the PACCAR MX-13 engine – coupled with driver acceptance, is what sold us,” Franck said. “From a dollars and cents standpoint, we’re seeing a 1 mpg improvement in fuel economy over the performance of our previous standard truck. Our fleet also is now equipped with APUs and idle time has been reduced to less than 10 percent. That reduction represents about half of our savings – so all told we have a fleet average of 7.5 mpg*, with our best drivers getting around 8.”
With most routes south of I-80, National Carriers hauls beef in about 40 percent of its loads with the other 60 percent a combination of refrigerated, frozen and dry loads. Its on-time delivery rate is exceptionally high, testament to the reliability of its equipment and diligence of its drivers.
National Carriers, known as the “Elite” Fleet®, began transitioning into the Kenworth T680 two years ago, purchasing the driver-friendly, aerodynamic trucks through MHC Kenworth – Dallas. The company’s latest Kenworth T680s are specified with the 455-hp PACCAR MX-13 engine and driven through the Eaton Fuller Advantage™ 10-speed automated transmission. “We really spec’d these trucks with driver comfort in mind,” said Franck. “And we feel they contribute in part to our low driver turnover, which is well below the industry average.”
According to Franck, the T680s feature rotating tables so they can be used as desk top, or dining table. The trucks also feature a drawer style refrigerator/freezer, TV installation package, and inverter for converting DC power to AC power for use with microwaves and other appliances.
While reliable trucks are critical to National Carriers’ success, so is dealer support. “MHC Kenworth has been a fantastic partner with us,” said Franck. “Their dealership locations fit our footprint. With a fleet as large as ours, there will also be issues, but how you handle them – and how fast you handle them – is the key ingredient and MHC bends over backwards for us, here and on the road.”