- Kenworth’s unique cab design met Yellow Freight Lines’ specs for power, maintenance, visibility and driver comfort.
- Yellow’s fleet of 350 CBE tractors became known as its “telephone booth” cabs.
- Uniformity of the orange CBE fleet was instantly recognizable and became a marketing icon.
- DuPont was commissioned to determine a paint color that was the most visible from the greatest distance: “Swamp Holly Orange.”
This 1959 Kenworth CBE commercial tractor was a marketing icon for Yellow Transit Freight Lines and symbolizes an impressive period in corporate history.
In 1955, Yellow Transit Freight Lines of Kansas City, Missouri, extensively researched the best equipment for their operation. The CBE, cab-beside-engine design, matched the specifications, including diesel power, ease of maintenance, engine compartment accessibility, lighter weight, improved visibility and driver comfort.
Two-hundred CBE Kenworth tractors were custom-engineered and built, and equipped with Cummins turbodiesel engines. Plus, 400 Freuhauf aluminum-bodied trailers replaced their entire fleet and increased shipping capacity by 30%. This total equipment purchase was one of the largest in the trucking industry at the time.
Yellow also implemented a new relay plan in which a single tractor-trailer combination made a designated freight run, and drivers were switched along the route, rather than tractors. In addition, a centralized maintenance shop was established and rigs were routed through the shop. The consolidation of staff, tools and equipment, and the less-demanding needs of a uniform fleet improved maintenance efficiency and lowered costs.
All of these improvements gained Yellow recognition for “forward-thinking” management.
Eventually, the CBE fleet reached 350 and Yellow became known for its “telephone booth” cabs. This uniformity made Yellow instantly recognizable, which was a significant marketing advantage. A comprehensive maintenance plan kept the Kenworth CBE fleet on the road until 1961.
Donated to the Museum by: YRC Worldwide, Inc., Overland Park, Kansas
Built by: Kenworth Motor Truck Corporation
Engine: Cummins 175 HP (at 2500 rpm) Turbodiesel
Why is the “Yellow” Truck Painted “Orange”?
Yellow traces its origins to 1924 when Oklahoma City entrepreneur A.J. Harrell founded a bus and taxi company named Yellow Cab Transit Company. Because of his strong safety concerns, Harrell commissioned DuPont to determine the color that would be most visible from the greatest distance for the company’s fleet. It was “Swamp Holly Orange,” named for a berry of the same color that grows in Florida.