Kenworth T800 Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, the trucking industry witnessed the birth of the Kenworth T800. Since then, Kenworth has produced more than 235,000 Kenworth T800s for service throughout the United States and Canada. (Graphic: Business Wire)

LOUISVILLE, Ky.--()--Twenty-five years ago, the trucking industry witnessed the birth of the Kenworth T800. Since then, Kenworth has produced more than 235,000 Kenworth T800s for service throughout the United States and Canada.

Line all those T800s produced up end-to-end from Seattle, where the first T800 was built in 1986, and one would have to travel more than 1,300 miles. It wouldn’t be a boring drive either. Those lined-up T800s would be configured as line-haul tractors with day cabs or small to large sleepers; vocational trucks such as mixers, dump trucks and heavy haulers; tankers and even snowplows. And the list goes on.

As the truck model celebrates its 25th anniversary, the T800 has become Kenworth’s all-time most diverse truck, and is still the company’s top seller in vocational markets. Introduced in 1986, a year after the revolutionary T600 – the industry’s first truly aerodynamic truck model – the Kenworth T800 quickly made a name for itself in vocational markets, and as a more robust line-haul tractor.

“The T800’s calling card is its versatility to meet a variety of specifications and applications,” said Gary Moore, Kenworth assistant general manager for marketing and sales. “The sloped hood gives the T800 exceptional visibility and aerodynamics, while the set-back front axle gives a tight wheel cut for greater maneuverability. It can be spec’d with engines rated with a wide horsepower range, offers several radiators sizes up to 1,780 square inches for added cooling, and has a variety of rear axle ratings to meet specific customer applications requirements. The Kenworth T800 is built to handle anything from regional hauling to extreme heavy hauling.”

One of the first to buy the new truck model was Allen Logging out of Forks, Wash. “It made a big impact on our operation,” recalled Gerry Lane, who serves as general manager for the company. “I remember when our first units came in. We would park them in a row right along our property off Highway 101. Others in the logging industry would pull over to look at the truck – they brought their cameras too. We started off with five T800s to haul wood chips, and you know, in the 25 years since that first purchase, we’ve never bought another truck model. It’s been just the T8. At the get-go, we were getting about a mile per gallon better in fuel economy than our previous truck, and the wheel-cut and sloped-hood for better visibility was a big hit for our drivers. We held those first T8s for about 1-1/2 million miles before we traded them in for more T8s. They’re tough and dependable trucks. It’s why you see so many of the guys around here in the logging industry driving them.”

The T800 made a big impact on construction companies as well. Vecellio Contracting was just beginning operation in South Florida as the company acquired a road building/asphalt paving company. “With the acquisition of Ranger Construction, we inherited some Kenworth W900s in their fleet, but we wanted to take a fresh look at what truck would work best going forward for our operation and trade cycle,” recalled Michael Slade, president of Ranger, one of several construction companies under the Vecellio Contracting umbrella.

“We looked at different brands and makes, and then looked at the T800, which was new on the market. We liked the truck and the component options. We even toured the Kenworth plant to see how it was constructed. Our goal was to run the truck 10 to 20 years, so we wanted to feel confident in the truck we chose. And we chose the T800 and it hasn’t disappointed.”

According to Slade, the T800 exceeded all expectations. “From that initial order of 20 T800s (outfitted as dump trucks to support its highway construction business hauling asphalt), we sold them just three years ago – 22 years after we bought them,” he said. “And they were still running well.

“We run our trucks hard, day and night,” added Slade, who has bought the company’s T800s from Kenworth of South Florida over the years. “We run an all-Kenworth fleet and have 40 T800 dump trucks in operation. They’ve been our go-to truck. They’ve just been a great truck for us over the years.”

For many Kenworth dealers specializing in vocational sales, the T800 was and continues to be a staple in truck sales.

“The Kenworth T800 took off in this market very fast,” recalled Hatch Barrett, co-founder of Trebar Kenworth in Boise, Idaho. “It quite quickly established itself as the standard when it came to visibility and maneuverability. It’s by far been the biggest home run in the vocational market that Kenworth has ever produced and I feel it’s been the ultimate in work trucks – it fits so many different applications. Over the years, the T800 represented the bulk of our sales for all the years I owned the dealership.”

For Al Koenig, founder of Midwest Specialized Transportation, based in Rochester, Minn., the T800 was the go-to truck for the company. “We standardized on that truck as soon as it was available. We ran flat-beds, heavy haul and van trailers,” Koenig recalled. “The T800 gave us the added advantage of aerodynamics and the versatility of multiple configurations for our operations. We’d go with different sleeper sizes and day cabs for each segment in our operation. The three-piece bumper and split windshield were added features we really liked – there was a lot of wildlife to deal with and the T800 was easy to repair. We also loved the resale value of the T800. We never had to trade them in. We always had grain haulers contacting us – we actually had a waiting list for buyers once we were ready to sell. That says a great deal about that truck.

“There is also historical importance for that truck,” added Koenig, past president of the American Truck Historical Society. “It was the continuous evolution of what we have today. It was a stepping stone for the rest of the industry when it came to features and attributes, such as the sloped hood for a vocational truck and the set back front axle.”

Kenworth Truck Company is the manufacturer of The World’s Best(R) heavy and medium duty trucks. Kenworth’s Internet home page is at Kenworth. A PACCAR Company (NASDAQ: PCAR).

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Kenworth Truck Company
Jeff Parietti, 425-828-5196

Release Summary

Twenty-five years ago, the trucking industry witnessed the birth of the Kenworth T800. Since then, Kenworth has produced more than 235,000 Kenworth T800s for service.


Kenworth Truck Company
Jeff Parietti, 425-828-5196