Kenworth Aims T470 at Vocational Work

Sept. 28, 2010

Truck: 2008 Kenworth T470, conventional Extended Day Cab, BBC 123.5 inches + 22.5-in. forward frame extension, GVW 66,000 pounds

Engine: EPA 2007 Cummins ISL w/FEPTO (front engine power take-off), 345 hp @ 1,600 rpm/1,150 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm, w/Jacobs Engine Brake

Transmission: Allison 3000RDS 6-Speed w/4th Generation shift controls

Some folks who live in the northern tier of states like to say that “we have two seasons — winter and construction.” They presumably eat yellow snow and have rocks in their heads because they think you've never heard that very old funnyism before. If they had real brains they'd visit the nearest Kenworth dealer to check out one of the builder's latest products that'd be very effective at handling both seasons, the T470.

You could call this beefy looking conventional a heavier-duty T370, heretofore KW's strongest Class 7 truck, or a lighter-duty T800, its husky Class 8 model. But in fact, the T470 bridges the gap between the two. It's what people at Paccar, the corporate parent of Kenworth and Peterbilt, describe as a “heavy 7,” and what others term a “Baby 8.” It's got a midrange-size power train that reduces the cost of a heavy-duty chassis built to do some serious work.

Kenworth T470 Test Set

Truck: 2008 Kenworth T470, conventional Extended Day Cab, BBC 123.5 inches + 22.5-in. forward frame extension, GVW 66,000 pounds

Engine: EPA 2007 Cummins ISL w/FEPTO (front engine power take-off), 345 hp @ 1,600 rpm/1,150 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm, w/Jacobs Engine Brake

Transmission: Allison 3000RDS 6-Speed w/4th Generation shift controls

Steer Axle: 20,000-lb. Dana Spicer D2000 20K w/TRW TAS65 dual hydraulic power, on 22,000-lb. Taperleafs w/ shock absorbers

Rear Axles: 46,000-lb. Dana Spicer D46-170H, on 46,000-lb. Chalmers 854-46-H-HS 46K walking-beam, w/6.14 ratio

Wheelbase: 220 inches

Brakes: Bendix ES S-Cam w/Bendix ABS

A base T470 is rated at 33,000 pounds, just a pound shy of Class 8, but most 470s will be rated at over 33,000, with heavier frames, axles and suspensions, like our bright-blue test truck. Its gross vehicle weight rating was 66,000 pounds, as it had 46,000-pound tandem rear axles and a beefy 20,000-pound rear-set steer axle designed to take the weight of any payload plus that of a 10-foot steel snow plow.

Two engines are available: Paccar's 8.3-liter PX-8 (a private-branded Cummins ISC), and Cummins' heavy-duty 8.9-liter ISL, which is what this truck had. Both fit well under the roomy hood. The T470's standard fixed grille stays vertical as the hood tilts down around a plow's hoist hanger and pump (one of the differences between it and the new T440, whose grille tilts with the hood).

This truck's frame rails were the standard 3/8-inch steel, 10-3/4 inches high with 3-1/2-inch webs, but with full-length inserts. Taller rails are optional, and they'd eliminate the inserts and the between-channel corrosion that can form. A pusher axle is another factory option, though then the steer axle would be of lesser capacity because a T470's GVW rating cannot exceed 68,000 pounds.

Like other KW conventionals, the T470 has a stout aluminum cab with doors hung on piano hinges. It features large windows, a “big-rig” instrument panel and air-ride driver's seat. Almost nothing in it looks “automotive” except the steering wheel, and its four smoothly contoured spokes provide a place to comfortably rest your hands while cruising. The steering column tilts and telescopes so you can get the wheel just right. The cab is narrower than some competitors offer, but few “plow trucks” carry a second person.

On this trip I did have a passenger, Jared White, Kenworth's Chicago-based Great Lakes regional sales manager. He met me at KW's assembly plant in Chillicothe, Ohio, to brief me on the test truck, which had been upfitted with the dump bed and other equipment at Beau-Roc over in Illinios. Even with several tons of crushed stone in the bed, the truck got a-bouncin' on a stretch of bowed concrete on our route over state and U.S. highways to Athens, about an hour east of “Chilli,” but the ride otherwise was orderly, the steering rather precise and noise levels low.

We cruised through the campus of Ohio University (not to be confused with Ohio State U in Columbus), and I remarked that the view through the big windshield and side windows and over the sloped hood allowed me to spot everything easily. The truck turned rather sharply for having big “duplex” tires up front, and I could go from curb lane to curb lane in a right turn at a street corner — impressive.

One thing bothered me, though: Early in the run I had to look to see where the brake pedal was so I wouldn't miss it with my right foot. While waiting at a red light in Athens, I noticed that I had to press down really hard on the pedal to overcome the torque coursing through the Allison automatic, so I punched it into Neutral. My legs were at an almost 90-degree angle because the smallish cab forced the seat close to the controls, same as in a T170 that I had previously driven and complained about.

But wait — the T470's cab had the optional 6-inch extension, and I realized that I could slide the seat farther back. When I did I could stretch my legs more, so could bring my body weight to bear on the brake pedal, which now also seemed better positioned on the floor. Moving the seat back improved the seating position and my comfort by about 1,000 percent, and I'm not tall. If you're going to buy a non-sleeper KW, get the Extended Cab (alas, it's not available in lighter T-series trucks, but should be).

That strong low-end torque, as much as 1,150 pounds-feet of it, came from a 345-horsepower version of the Cummins ISL (a 365/1,250 rating is also available), which supplies plenty of power for whatever work a truck like this will do. The 6-speed Allison 3000RDS did much of the driving work and would've eased plowing snow or spreading gravel, had I been told to tackle such tasks. Those are among the reasons that most municipal fleet managers went to Allisons years ago.

If you're a budget-constrained manager — and who isn't these days — you might think a “pricey” truck like a Kenworth is out of your reach. However, you'd see value and long life in the corrosion-resistant aluminum cab and other premium manufacturing details, and could argue for them in discussions with elected officials who must dole out limited tax revenues. Besides, everyone's dealing now and you might be surprised at how competitive KW's pricing can be. Indeed, KW has reported some orders for the T470, and some will be painted “muni” red, yellow and orange. But they'll paint it any color you'd like.