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September 4, 2015 8:30 AM, EDT

Kenworth Expects Sales to Stay Strong, Celebrates MX-13 Engine Milestone

KIRKLAND, Wash. — The combination of higher freight tonnage, near total truck utilization, the elevated age of the average fleet and strong earnings reports from carriers point to a continued strong market for new truck sales into 2016, said Preston Feight, general manager of Kenworth Truck Co.

Feight projected industrywide retail sales of Class 8 trucks in the United and Canada to be 270,000 to 290,000 this year, during a media presentation at company headquarters here on Aug. 26.

He added that sales “can’t keep accelerating at such a high level” forever.

Kenworth’s Class 8 market share in the United States and Canada through August was 14.7%, a figure that Feight projected will grow as the year progresses.

In 2014, U.S. retail sales were 186,342, the highest since 2006.

Kenworth and Peterbilt Motors Co. are part of Bellevue, Washington-based Paccar Inc.

As part of the media event, the 50,000th Paccar MX-13 engine installed in a Kenworth was presented to UPS Inc. UPS ordered its first Kenworth trucks in 2012 and has ordered about 1,750 more since then, Feight said.

He presented a plaque to UPS executive Robert Filosa, and Katie Guest of MHC Kenworth-Atlanta also attended. UPS, which is based in Atlanta, ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics list of Top 100 for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada.

Separately, Paccar said that petroleum and chemical tank carrier Kenan Advantage Group purchased the 100,000th MX-13 engine made by the company.

The engine will be placed in a Peterbilt Model 579 for the North Canton, Ohio-based Kenan, which ranks No. 20 on the for-hire TT100.

Paccar has made MX engines at its Columbus, Mississippi, factory since 2010. Kenworth officials estimated about 40% of overall sales for 2015 will include the MX-13 engine.

The new MX-11 engine will launch in the first quarter of 2016, the company said.

Among other highlights:

• Greenhouse-Gas Proposal

Kenworth is working with the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize the next phase of greenhouse-gas rules for heavy-duty trucks. Company officials called the proposed targets “aggressive” but were confident the proposal would be sorted out before implementation deadlines are set.

“We want to make sure it is right for the environment and right for the industry,” said Kevin Baney, Kenworth’s chief engineer.

In the meantime, Kenworth is focused on optimizing the powertrain and rolling out aerodynamic improvements that boost fuel efficiency.

Examples include predictive cruise control and neutral coast, which leverages topographical GPS information to regulate engine speed and torque, offering as much as a 3% gain in fuel economy. The system is standard with MX-13 engines with the Eaton automated manual transmission.

• Icon 900

Kenworth officials said more than 350 of the Icon 900 models have been sold and the first delivery made. Initially unveiled at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, the limited-edition premium truck comes standard with chrome and stainless steel accessories.

The first one went to Keim TS, a flatbed and dry van carrier based in Sabetha, Kansas. Stan Keim, owner and president, said he plans to use the vehicle as part of his driver recruitment and retention efforts. It also will be shown at local truck shows and parades.

A second Icon 900 is being used as a driver reward truck, starting with Myron Wiebe, who has driven more than 3 million miles during his 21 years with Keim.

• Future Technologies

Feight and Baney were somewhat cautious when asked about platooning technology and autonomous-driving trucks, saying it will take a number of years for the public to accept these concepts and for legal and regulatory hurdles to be overcome.

Advancements in vision, radar and predictive cruise control systems will help the technologies become a reality.

• Natural Gas

With diesel prices at their lowest levels since 2009, sales of natural gas-powered trucks have slowed, the Kenworth executives said.

But Baney said there remains “an opportunity in play with natural gas, and Kenworth has the product line to support it.”

• Gliders

The Kenworth executives said sales of glider kits have grown about 100% from a year earlier and should top 1,500 by the end of 2015.

Though it is likely gliders will need to be phased out in 2018 as part of the greenhouse-gas proposal, Baney said Kenworth plans to fully meet the market need until that time comes.