OUTSIDE THE BOX: Ralph Fitzsimmons' round truck cab is safer, he says, because oncoming vehicles will glance off it if involved in a collision. He also says it's more aerodynamic than conventional designs.
WHITEHORSE, Yukon –Some of the greatest, and wackiest, trucking-related inventions have been borne out of the tediousness of driving long distances, mile after mile, day after day.
Sometimes, the idea takes form gradually over weeks, months or even years. Other times, a professional driver has an ‘a-ha!’ moment which sparks an idea that sends them down the long road toward product development, validation and finally, if all goes well, production.
Ralph Fitzsimmons, an 80-year-old retired trucker in the Yukon, had his a-ha moment 15 years ago when he witnessed an accident while driving through the mountains. In poor driving conditions, a motorist careened into a guardrail and was spun back onto the road. While the car hit the guardrail nearly head-on, the curved shape of the barrier saved the driver from injury and allowed the car to bounce off with minimal damage.
“Nobody was hurt because of the contour of that railing,” he said of the accident that got the wheels in his head turning. “I thought, ‘If that worked that way, why wouldn’t it work on vehicles?'”
Applying that same principle to truck design, Fitzsimmons began thinking about the advantages of a round truck cab. He has painstakingly sketched, in great detail, what he has since dubbed the Fitzsimmons Round Truck Cab Design. He has patented the concept and has even gone so far as to build a full-sized prototype, using the thinnest plywood he could find.
Now, however, Fitzsimmons says he has hit a roadblock. He lacks the resources to get the truck into production and the OEMs he has approached seemed uninterested. Fitzsimmons even ended up dismantling his prototype, because he said it took up too much space in his garage.
The inventor remains undeterred, however, and hopes the concept will be developed further if the right people find out about it. Fitzsimmons explained some of the round truck’s features to Truck News: a low ride prevents vehicles from sliding under the cab; doors open inwards and slide along the inside of the wall; and hydraulic cylinders tip the cab forward to provide access to the engine.
It looks like a typical European cabover, except that it’s completely round. The sleeper is positioned in the center of the cab and stretches eight feet, the full width of the cab.
From above, the roof of the cab looks Frisbee-shaped, presenting endless opportunities for creative paint schemes; baseball stitching and smiley faces, to name but a couple.
The Fitzsimmons Round Truck Cab Design may never reach production, but the inventor isn’t yet prepared to give up on his dream. He plans to keep promoting it in hopes someone with the resources to mass-produce the truck sees it and has an ‘a-ha’ moment of their own. For more info on the Fitzsimmons Round Truck Cab Design, check out www.fitztruckcabdesign.com.