Kenworth Truck Co. officials say they have just the truck for the growing intermodal market and, in fact, they've had it all along.

The Kenworth T400 tractor has been in the Kirkland, Wash.-based company's lineup since 1987 when most of the heavy truck industry invested heavily in developing the "Baby 8" concept.Back then, the Baby 8s were billed as lighter and more maneuverable versions of the biggest over-the-road Class 8 haulers, defined as those with gross vehicle weight ratings over 33,000 pounds.

The idea for the new equipment sprang from the current logistics trends that included hub-and-spoke distribution and just-in-time delivery. The thinking was that the shorter hauls did not demand the bigger, costlier Class 8s with sleeper cabs and huge engines.

The problem for truck makers was that most fleets didn't buy the argument and, for the most part, they didn't buy the trucks.

The reason was overcapacity. Because the supply of big Class 8s always exceeded demand, fleets were able to bargain for price discounts so that the full-size 8 wound up costing about the same as a Baby 8.

Truck makers also found out that major fleets with their investments in terminals had decided to handle just-in-time deliveries as part of their normal operations and wanted to keep the flexibility of big Class 8s for over- the-road runs. The result was that most manufacturers backed away from the Baby 8 label as sales lagged.

But Kenworth officials think all that may change as more carriers sign intermodal marketing deals with railroads and begin to give the T400 a second look.

"Intermodal is just a new take on the hub-and-spoke concept," said Betsy Bangasser, Kenworth's marketing manager.

The newly named T400 Intermodal shares most features with Kenworth's full T600 series, but it's more suited to trucking operations that leave the long

haul to the iron road, officials say.

With a set-back front axle and a 112-inch bumper-to-back-of-cab length, the T400 can wheel around tight port areas more easily than the standard 120-inch configuration.

Use of lighter components gives the tractor a total weight of 12,890 pounds for fuel economy and maximum containerized payload. A 310-horsepower engine is standard and while options are available, the T400 does not accommodate the largest power plants available in the T600 class.

Kenworth has allowed for flexibility with a 42-inch sleeper option for one- night layovers. For longer runs, the company still recommends the T600 series.