There’s no mistaking the trend: over-the-road drivers want bigger sleepers, and trucking companies seem willing to oblige. Drivers, after all, have grown weary of squeezing through a hole and tossing the suitcase under the bunk along with the oil jugs. And fleets are tired of seeing good help hang up the keys because they find their working environment-slash-living quarters about as inviting as a shoebox.
That creates a challenge for truck designers. Like suburbs sprawling away from an island city, there’s only so much real estate development the truck frame can accommodate.
Take Kenworth and its cavernous 86-inch Studio AeroCab, an integral design for the W900L tractor that eliminates the bulkhead at the back of the cab. Inside, the sleeper converts to a living room setting when you fold up the 42-inch bunk into a sofa and flip down the alderwood table. Nice.
But, like the roomiest sleeper-cabs from Freightliner, Navistar, and Western Star, the 86-inch Studio AeroCab requires a wheelbase of at least 244 inches. And in Canada, 244 inches is a magic number.
When 53-foot trailers were introduced, most overall vehicle-combination length restrictions were revised to 23 metres, or 75 feet. The maximum tractor wheelbase permitted is 6.2 meters, or 244 inches. The only exception to this 244-inch restriction applies to trailers 48 feet or shorter. Spotty or non-existent enforcement of Canada’s length restrictions has led to some confusion over whether or not the restrictions even exist.
Warren Reynolds, senior enforcement advisor for Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, says the registered owner of any vehicle found to be in violation will face a fine of $375, along with the obligatory removal of points from his CVOR.
It’s a similar story in Manitoba, says Greg Catteeuw, director of regulatory and compliance services with the Manitoba Dept. of Transportation. Should you arrive in Manitoba with a longer truck than you’re allowed, Catteeuw says you’ll be issued a one-time, one-way permit to continue the trip. You only get one permit.
Part of the concern about longer wheelbases and lengthy sleepers is safety. Jim Wright of South Western Star in London, Ont., says that with the typical 36-inch kingpin setting on a 102-inch-wide trailer, you need 85 to 90 inches from the sleeper’s back wall to the kingpin’s center to allow for trailer swing when turning.
“For the customer who wants the big sleeper, we recommend the standard hood rather than the extended hood, or perhaps a set-back front axle,” Wright says. “Even then it’s tight, but our EX hood with the 76-inch sleeper is just too long to run a 53-foot trailer around Ontario or B.C.” Shortening a frame is an expensive solution, says Darrel Sarchfield, a sales rep at Universal Truck and Trailer in Moncton, N.B. “You’re looking at around $2500 to $3000 to shorten up the frame,” he explains, “provided we don’t have to modify the sleeper.”
If you want more room but are limited by length, go up instead of out. Every OEM now offers a tall sleeper, and the high-rise concept has done wonders for drivers who want stand-up closets in addition to fully equipped kitchenettes, pull-out couches, and even surround-sound home-theatre-like entertainment installations. Times, they sure are a changin’. Here’s a brief roundup of some of the latest sleeper offerings:
The 84-inch Raised Roof sleeper on the Classic XL tractor is a full foot longer than anything previously offered by Freightliner. It may feel more like an apartment than a truck. The Driver’s Lounge option features a lower bunk that measures a full 80 by 40 inches and flips up to convert the space for work or dining, with a table and two opposing bench-style seats. A folding 80-by-32-inch upper bunk is included.
Freightliner also recently announced two new Century Class cab/sleeper configurations, bringing the total number of options to 14. The 70-inch Mid-Roof XT sleeper option addresses the aerodynamic concerns of tank and flatdeck fleets. It’s lower, but still boasts a full 78 inches from floor to ceiling at the back of the cab. The floor is flat throughout, and the bed itself has a full 80-by-40-inch spring mattress. The optional upper bunk offers a 40-inch mattress.
A new option for Freightliner’s Columbia and S/T Century Class trucks are ports for shore power, phone, and cable TV. The connections easy, in-cab Internet access for drivers with laptop or other computers.
Navistar remodeled its International 9000 series highway trucks this past February but pretty much left the sleepers alone. And why not? They’re big and they’re comfortable. Gone though, is the back wall of the cab, which makes getting to the sleeper much easier.
With a floor-to-ceiling height of 102 inches, International’s Sky-Rise Pro Sleeper is the tallest of the lot. The Hi-Rise Pro Sleeper offers an inside height of 77 inches with lengths of 72 or 51 inches. A double-bunk option provides spacious accommodation for two. Even the Lo-Roof Pro Sleeper provides 65.4 inches of headroom.
Storage space abounds, of course, while a standard insulation package provides a quiet ride and better temperature stability. There’s a revamped HVAC system on International’s entire lineup, offering more precise and individual control for the cab or the sleeper.
Kenworth responded to requests for a more upscale T2000 interior (see our mini-review on page 70), so the 75-inch Aerodyne now offers up to 60 cubic feet of storage inside the sleeper and an enhanced noise-suppression package. The liftable lower bunk has grown from 39 to 42 inches, and the databook now includes optional crank-open lower windows. The 60-inch version contains many of the same enhancements, but a lightweight package also offers buyers a premium tractor weighing under 15,000 pounds.
Don’t forget about the W900 and its huge Studio AeroCab mentioned earlier. It comes standard with the VIT interior package.
The sleeper integrated with Mack’s new CX 613 Vision tractor boasts almost eight feet between floor and ceiling with 64 cubic feet of storage space in between. The lower bunk is available in two sizes, 39 or 48 inches by 80 inches, with the optional upper bunk on the high-rise models measuring 39 by 80 inches. Vision sleepers come in many configurations: 48-, 56-, 70-, or 80-inch flat-top configurations; 70- or 80-inch mid-rise styles; and 70- or 80-inch high-rise versions. CH tractors and their Millennium sleepers should remain strong sellers in Canada because the Vision is only available with 40,000-pound rear axles. The 74-inch Millennium stands eight feet tall with 340 cubic feet of very useable space.
More inside space ranks high on almost every driver’s wish list and Peterbilt has obliged. In fact, the cab and sleeper on Pete’s new 387 are 17% larger than the 377 or 379 models.
Three configurations are available for the 387: a long-BBC length with a high roof and a mid-length BBC in mid- and high-roof models. A perennial favorite, Pete’s Unibilt UltraSleeper is 73 inches long but fits on the same wheelbase as the High Roof Unibilt 63-inch sleeper, and it’s air-suspended. Its key feature is the full-size bed that folds up “Murphy-style” into the rear wall. When it’s up, a 26-by-40-inch table folds down for work or dinner, with seating for four.
Peterbilt also will offer a new Unibilt sleeper for Model 379 trucks. It has 42-inch-wide, liftable bunks, and dual full-length closets so teams can keep belongings separate. There’s 80 cubic feet of storage overall, including a 25-cubic-foot compartment that’s accessible from both sides of the truck through exterior compartment doors. Other new features include accommodation for a microwave oven, TV, and VCR; a premium sound system; factory-installed refrigerator/freezer; and a desk area for computing or doing paperwork. The sleeper has added insulation to reduce noise, and what Peterbilt calls SkyVent-a ceiling-mounted window which can be opened and closed electronically from the cab or sleeper.
Anyone who still considers Sterling a vocational truck hasn’t had a peek inside the huge 77-inch stand-up bunk on the company’s SilverStar tractor. The one-piece cab-sleeper design is one obvious difference between the SilverStar and the old Ford AeroMax and its two-piece cab-sleeper. No bulkhead adds space without adding length.
Last month, Sterling introduced new trim packages and refinements to spruce up the already generous interior. In the under-bunk area, a partition creates two separate storage areas so operators can have both a “clean and dry” area and a “wet” area that can be accessed from the left-hand baggage door. Sterling’s full sleeper line also includes the 55- and the 68-inch models, available in either flat-top or stand-up configurations.
The mattress is a generous six-inch-thick inner-spring design, while an optional upper bunk is available with a choice of spring or foam mattress. There’s ample closet space inside with clothing racks, along with an optional pre-wired entertainment center and space for a fridge and microwave oven.
The sleeper also includes R-6 insulation as standard to keep out noise as well as the cold.
Volvo Trucks North America’s VNM (for medium-hood) 420 is available with a 42-inch sleeper compartment with a single bunk and 62 inches of headroom, while the VNM 610 offers a 61-inch sleeper with 77 inches of headroom and an optional upper bunk.
The VN 660’s interior combines a 61-inch sleeper with a 98-inch stand-up height, making room for two large bunks-a 36-by-79-inch lower and 30-by-75-inch upper. The 660 is standard with a three-compartment overhead cabinet, a full-length wardrobe and locking drawers. Standard windshield and sleeper curtains plus window shades provide privacy. The flagship VN 770 is decidedly roomy, and equipped with just about any option you can imagine, including 110-volt power. At 96 inches wide, 77 inches deep, and 98 inches tall, it sports a 39-by-79-inch upper bunk (with ladder) and a 42-by-79-inch lower bunk.
Like Freightliner, Volvo offers its sleepers pre-wired for power, phone, and cable.
The latest offering from the folks in Kelowna is the Galaxy Premium sleeper-a spacious 76-inch, single- or double-bunk design with a floor-to-ceiling arrangement on the left side to house a refrigerator, a CD changer, roll-out wire baskets, and a writing surface. On the opposite side is a cabinet designed for a TV/VCR combo and an optional satellite receiver.
The TV and fridge slots are pre-wired at the factory, while an optional power inverter is available to run small appliances such as a microwave or a laptop computer. Western Star has also made available an optional “shore power” fixture so that owners can take advantage of 120-volt AC power when it’s available.
Other models available from Western Star include the 62- and 76-inch StarLite sleepers, a well-appointed 62-inch flat-top model as well as 34- and 48-inch versions for the weight- and length-conscious operator.
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