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NPL Construction Considers All Variables in Truck Selection

Some companies might take a more simple approach when deciding how to replace rolling equipment after the trucks they operate are discontinued. Not NPL Construction Co.

Instead, over a period of more than a year, the management team from the Phoenix, Ariz.-based firm poured over the company's own resale, operating and maintenance records; determined resale values on comparable truck models by examining thousands of sales; visited several truck manufacturing and testing facilities, parts distribution centers and truck dealerships; and spoke with employees and executives at North America's top truck manufacturers.

"We have an operationally focused committee made up of 11 managers that looks at ways to optimize our supply chain, leverage company purchases, and standardize our major purchasing decisions," said Jim Connell, director of supply chain resources at NPL Construction Co. "When the truck model our company operates was discontinued, we saw an opportunity to look closely at standardizing our company's next truck model."

Holistic approach

Throughout the selection process, Connell said the company's overriding objective was to take a more holistic approach to the selection process.

"We didn't want our own perceptions making the decision for us," he said. "We treated this like a multi-million dollar decision and needed to back up our choice with data to support what truck was best for our operation. We knew over the years we'd be buying trucks to support our company, so the decision we made now would impact us for years to come.

"We looked at what we would get for comparably spec'd trucks in terms of resale value and how much they would cost to operate over their lifetimes," added Jeff Green, NPL Construction regional manager. "We looked at the manufacturing processes to build those trucks and the after-the-sale support we would receive from local dealers, dealer networks and parts distribution facilities. And we considered the attitudes of employees and company leaders at each of the truck manufacturers and distributors."

The committee of 11 managers found that the Kenworth T800 offered not only the highest resale values, but also its dealer network offered the best after-sale support, with a strong dealer franchise (Inland Kenworth) in its hometown of Phoenix, as well as locations close to NPL's 17 other offices in 12 states.

"We found the difference in the average resale value between the Kenworth T800 and the model with the next highest resale value was a double-digit percentage spread," Green said. "And, we were impressed with Kenworth's continuing track record of receiving J.D. Power and Associates awards, which spoke to a commitment to its customers and products."

But what had a great influence on the committee's deliberations wasn't something quantifiable by resale values or several awards sitting on a shelf, Green added. It was the report fellow committee member Ron Turnbow gave after he visited the PACCAR Technical Center in Mount Vernon, Wash., and the PACCAR Parts Distribution Center and Kenworth manufacturing plant in Renton, Wash.

"When I walked through the manufacturing plant in Renton, I was very impressed by the quality control and the very rigorous process Kenworth has in place when assembling its trucks," Turnbow said. "There's an attention to detail that I just didn't see when touring other manufacturing plants, not to the extent I saw at Kenworth."

Strong support

NPL chose to go with T800s equipped with the 455-hp PACCAR MX engine, providing 1,650 ft.-lbs. of torque powered through an Eaton 8LL manual transmission. Beginning late last year, the company took delivery of its first chassis with dump and horizontal drilling bodies, and has so far purchased more than 40 Class 8 trucks for its 18 locations. A majority will be equipped with dump bodies to haul rock and other materials for excavation work and other construction services for utility companies and energy producers and distributors.

"We've been extremely happy with the work that Inland Kenworth has done to coordinate delivery of the trucks to the body builders and then getting them to us when we need them," says Todd Davisson, capital equipment buyer for NPL Construction. "Inland Kenworth has also taken the lead role in arranging for our trucks to be serviced. From the beginning, we've felt like Kenworth and its dealer network led by Inland Kenworth have been committed to our operation by getting to know what we do and then providing well-built trucks to meet our needs."