Inside the Pickles’ Pete

by James Menzies

TOMAH, Wisc. — Hauling light, but time-sensitive loads for a customer base that’s security-minded, husband-wife team Ron and Dawn Marie Pickles saw an opportunity to enhance their level of service while also boosting their own revenue, not to mention their comfort while on the road.

When it came time to replace their 2006 Pete 379 a couple years ago, they embarked upon a challenge to design the largest sleeper possible while complying with Canadian length and wheelbase restrictions, which would include amenities such as a washroom with shower.

That truck, a Pete 384 complete with a 108-inch bunk, has been on the road for two years now, and Truck News caught up with it at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs show in Tomah, Wisc.

“After all our years on the road, we figured what we wanted to do was have the largest sleeper, to accommodate a bathroom, shower and kitchen and a table where you can sit down and relax,” Ron Pickles said.

“We wanted a better quality of life on the road,” chimed in Dawn Marie. “We want to be able to enjoy it out here instead of being crammed into a small little sleeper and having to go inside (a truck stop) for everything.”

The Pickles designed the sleeper themselves, and commissioned American Reliance Industries to build it. Some of its features include a bathroom with shower, a sink with running water, a large fridge, a sizeable dinner table and other amenities.

“It makes life on the road a little more acceptable and tolerable to stay out for weeks at a time,” Ron said. And that’s just what the Pickles do. They run hard from May to November, and then park the truck and spend their winters in Mexico.

The massive bunk added about 1,000 lbs to the weight of the truck, but they spec’d lightweight components to lessen the impact, including wide-base single tires and an aluminum fifth wheel.

“We tried to build it as light as possible,” Ron said. “We tried to reduce weight at every turn, because we knew we had to overcome the larger sleeper.”

There’s also the extra weight of 40 gallons of water needed to supply the sink, shower and toilets.

Their fuel mileage is about 7.2 US miles per gallon, just a tick under what they got with their pre-emission 2006 Pete 379. While the fuel economy doesn’t quite meet Ron’s high standards, he said the unique spec’ has offered other benefits, including increased productivity.

They no longer have to stop every time one of them needs to use the facilities and they don’t waste time at truck stops waiting for showers to become available. Dawn Marie handles the nighttime driving while Ron drives during the day. They can easily rack up more than 1,000 miles in a day, stopping only to buy fuel or groceries and to swap spots behind the wheel.

“Overall, cost-wise, we can definitely manage our time much more efficiently,” Ron said. “We can literally run 24 hours a day. You feel better. You’re not waiting in line for showers and it’s easier to do.”

He said enjoying a hot shower in the truck each morning is a luxury not afforded to most professional drivers.

The inside of the Pickles’ truck more closely resembles a motor home than a truck cab. The sleeper sits on its own independent suspension, providing a smooth ride. And it’s quiet, too. The Pickles used a spray-on foam insulation that’s used in reefer trailers to maintain temperatures and reduce road noise. Through two years, the sleeper hasn’t presented any problems and Ron and Dawn Marie say they’d design it the same today, except for maybe applying some technologies that weren’t available at the time. Ron said given the light loads they pull, he’d be interested in trying a 6×2 axle configuration to gain back some more of the weight lost to the increased sleeper size.

He’d also up the engine horsepower, from 485 hp/1,650 lb.-ft. to 500 hp/1,850 lb.-ft. Even with the light loads, Ron feels the extra horsepower and torque allow the engine to tackle the hills with less effort, saving fuel. The current engine is a Paccar MX, which he’s been pleased with.

The Pickles’ unique sleeper has gotten a lot of attention on the road, especially in Canada where drivers often question its legality. But they say it meets the 244-inch wheelbase limit and all other requirements.

“People look at it and they go ‘How can you make that work?’,” said Dawn Marie.

“This was the hardest truck we’ve ever built, to try to meet the Canadian requirements,” added Ron. “And as well to accommodate our goal to have a larger sleeper to meet our needs. We overcame all of that with this design.”

The custom truck has motivated the couple to spend more time on the road, logging more miles while the sun shines so they can continue to spend their winters in Mexico when it doesn’t.

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