Loving the T680

Gemini Transport and Kenworth deliver efficiency for Love’s Travel Stops

Anyone who travels America’s highways has surely encountered a rig owned by Gemini Motor Transport, which provides fuel service for more than 530 Love’s Travel Stops located from coast to coast. The memorably branded tractor-trailer combos, bright yellow from grille to taillights, are hard to miss.

But it’s only in recent years that a Kenworth has been at the front end of these rolling billboards for Love’s, the hugely popular fuel-and-food staple. Ask why Kenworth is now a major part of the Gemini tractor fleet, and Vice President of Transportation Brent Bergevin has a simple answer.

“We decided it was time to get smarter.”

Truth be told, there is very little that Bergevin, Gemini and Love’s has done over the past two decades that hasn’t been smart. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, Love’s has grown into one of the largest privately owned businesses in the United States, and the strategy to separate Gemini into a company that services the Love’s stores with the various fuels it sells has been a masterstroke.

Timing is everything

Bergevin does far more than oversee 800 trucks and 1,200 drivers for Gemini. He is tasked with finding the lowest-priced fuel source from a terminal nearest each of the Love’s stores, then dispatching equipment to load and deliver it to a store as efficiently as possible. Wholesale fuel pricing, availability and location change by the minute, and in the ultra-price-competitive retail fuel market in which Love’s Travel Stops are leaders, timing is everything for Bergevin.

So is the reliability of his equipment, which is part of the reason Gemini first began entertaining the idea of partnering with Kenworth about five years ago after a long history with another truck maker. The Kenworth T680 day cabs he oversees are spec’ed with the fully integrated PACCAR Powertrain, including the MX-13 Engine, the PACCAR Automated Transmission and the PACCAR 40K Tandem Axle. They typically run 24-7 with an average (but highly variable) length of haul of 80 miles. Some units will tally 300,000 miles or more in a year.

“We slip-seat them,” says Bergevin. “Our stores never shut down, so our trucks never shut down. We’re running around to all the different terminals to save every penny, so we can pass that savings on to our customers.”

“Saving every penny” is a strategy that applies in detail to every T680 that carries a Love’s logo. Ensuring maximum operational efficiency means carrying maximum payload, literally to the gallon. To that end, Bergevin and his team work closely with dealership personnel at MHC-Kenworth in Oklahoma City and with Kenworth engineering to dial in a spec that delivers maximum weight savings.

“We’re really weight sensitive because we’re hauling fuel,” he says. “Everything we can do to drop weight off the truck and trailer, we do. We probably have the lightest equipment in America between the cab and trailers. We even know exactly how much the paint on the cab weighs.”

Aero optimization

Bergevin likes the fuel-saving aerodynamic advantages offered by the T680 design. Many tank haulers don’t bother optimizing aerodynamics given the inherent drag caused by a tank, but Bergevin feels otherwise.

“We even have an aero package on the trailers,” he says. “We’re one of the first tanker haulers to have an aero package. It’s been a huge deal for us. It helps the driver going down the road. They tell us that they feel safer and can feel the trailer pulling easier, so we can maximize the load on the trailer to get max gallons into our stores.”

Keeping 1,200 drivers happy is another assignment on Bergevin’s list, and as he notes, “1,400 drivers means 1,200 different opinions.” But he reports that the T680 is a key component in the formula that keeps driver retention among the highest in the industry for Gemini.

“I don’t think there are too many drivers out there who see a Kenworth coming and say, ‘Oh heck, I don’t want that.’ It’s more like, ‘Oh wow! I’ll get a brand new truck — and it’s a Kenworth!’ They’re pretty happy.”

Another key component in Gemini’s driver retention formula is an unwavering commitment to safety, which resulted in the company recently earning the National Tank Truck Carrier’s Grand Champion Award for Safety for the fifth time.

“That means a ton to us,” says Bergevin. “It means a ton to our drivers and their families, because we all want them to be home at night. Our Kenworths are filled with the latest, greatest safety equipment. We’ve always been a leader in safety. We were among the first to adopt PACCAR’s Automated Transmission, disc brakes, adaptive cruise control, anti-lock brakes, RollTek seats — anything we can get to make that driver safer, we’re going to be all over it.

“How do you put a price on a driver’s life? You can’t.”

Dealer partner

The entire package — reliability, weight savings, fuel economy, driver appeal, a reliable service and support network, safety — is a product of Gemini’s collaboration with the MHC-Kenworth team led by rep Warren Bryning.

“We’ve got to make sure we are getting what we pay for, and what our costs are over the life of that truck,” says Bergevin. “Everything is important. The upfront cost is important, but service and repairs are important, fuel economy is important, your debt consumption — you’ve got to figure all that in. So our team has done a great job of inputting all this data to figure out what the true cost is for the life of vehicle, and what kind of residual value we can get at the end.

“We are demanding,” he adds. “But that’s why we buy from MHC and work with them. We’re not going to buy from people who aren’t going to be our partners, and that’s what we are. We’re partners. If we’re not doing this together, it’s not going to work. We need people who understand what we do, and that’s exactly what our partners at MHC and Kenworth do.”

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