On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it to Dee Dee Harris to drive a comfortable truck? “It’s way past a 10, I can tell you that,” she said.
As a driver/mentor for Houston-based Best Redi-Mix, Harris has been in numerous trucks during her 25-year trucking career – the past four with Best Redi-Mix.
“When you’ve been around trucks as long as I have, you know the difference between trucks after sitting behind the wheel up to 11 hours a day,” she said. “At 5’11”, I have long legs and it’s no fun bumping your knees getting out of the truck. But, I tell you, the Kenworth T880s we now have in our fleet are making a difference. There is more room, better visibility, and the T880 has a smooth ride. It’s the nicest truck I’ve ever driven. I physically feel better at the end of the day.”
As owner of Houston-based Best Redi-Mix, that’s what Roger Bertling was hoping to hear when he took delivery of 10 Kenworth T880s in the fall of 2014. “Driver retention is important to everyone,” he said. “I know our Kenworths help retain our drivers – the new T880 is getting great reviews. We started converting to Kenworth many years ago and the T800 made a big impact and an upgrade over the trucks we had been running,” he said. “But the T880 takes Kenworth to another level.”
Operating a fleet of 42 mixers with 10.5-yard McNeilus bodies, 19 tractors (hauling end dumps and pneumatic tankers) and three concrete pump trucks, Best Redi-Mix began as an offshoot of Best Sand and Trucking in 1980. “My dad had a successful business, and at 19, I was driving trucks and working in the shop,” recalled Bertling. “But, he saw an opportunity in ready-mix. So, he bought a new plant and three trucks. Then, he gave me the keys to the office, and said, ‘now go run it.’ ”
Empowered to succeed, Bertling said he did virtually everything at the plant – selling concrete, then batching, then driving loads to customer sites. “I grew up fast,” he said. “As a company, we took our time and I learned everything about the business.”
Today, Best Redi-Mix has three plants – the original Houston location, plus plants in Hockley and Conroe, Texas – each working a 25-mile radius. “By adding concrete pump trucks in 2007, our business really began growing,” said Bertling. “It gave us complete coverage from supply, to delivery to pumping.”
According to Bertling, the move to Kenworth began after a ride and drive event with his local Kenworth dealer – Performance Kenworth. “My dad had his preference on trucks, but after seeing the fit and finish of the Kenworths and the quality of the truck, plus how it drove under load, I decided the Kenworths would be right for our operation,” he said. “We were very happy with the T800, but the T880 offered our drivers much more. The first thing I noticed was the increased visibility out of the truck – the windshield is huge (50 percent larger windshield surface area than in the T800), and the cab ergonomics and more space between the seats are great.”
In the mixer fleet, the Kenworth T880s are spec’d with the PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 380-hp and driven through Allison automatic transmissions. The T880 tractors feature the PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 455-hp and driven through Eaton® UltraShift® PLUS automated transmissions.
“Those PACCAR MX-13 engines are performing beautifully,” said Bertling. “And we like the fact that the trucks and engines can be taken to our Kenworth dealer for service – there’s no finger pointing between our engine supplier and truck supplier. And our fuel efficiency has gotten better. Compared to the few non-Kenworth mixers we still have in our fleet, we’re getting a 10 percent boost in mpg; the tractors are getting up to 20 percent better in fuel efficiency. That’s huge with our tractors since some of those will average close to 100,000 miles per year.”
While fuel economy and the reception from drivers have been pluses to the company, Bertling said the attention to detail in making Kenworths easy to work on can’t be underestimated. “I know our shop appreciates having the color-coded air lines and electrical systems – it makes life easier. And we really like the fact that the T880 has a five-piece hood for easy repairs. If damage ever does occur, the repair will be simple and less costly.”
The flagship Kenworth T880 vocational truck with the PACCAR MX-13 engine was selected as the 2015 ATD Truck of the Year by a panel of commercial trucking journalists and a professional driver. The T880 was ranked high for exceptional handling, power, torque and outstanding visibility from the driver’s seat.
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.