Home on Wheels: Big Rigs Outfitted with the Comforts of Home
With many drivers spending as much, if not more, time in their cabs than their homes it’s not surprising that some companies and drivers are adding the comforts of home to their cabs. Many large trucking companies are also opting to customize their cabs with more amenities as a driver recruitment and retention tool.
“The sleeper amenities are how fleet owners fight to get drivers,” said Linda Caffee, a truck driver who logs about 145,000 miles each year with her husband. “This is basically our home.”
The Sky’s the Limit
When it comes to customizing big rigs, there are no shortage of options. This video tour of a 2007 Kenworth T600 with a 16-foot sleeper shows how a cab can be as comfy as your family home. In fact, two families did make this truck their home, homeschooling their children on the road.
Most companies aren’t going to invest in 2-bedroom mini-apartments for all their drivers, but more and more are providing drivers with living space, kitchen areas, and even bathrooms. Caffee, who drives for Landstar System Inc., no longer cooks meals on the road in a crock pot on the floor of her cab. Landstar invested in custom-built Freightliners that boast a sink, microwave, a refrigerator and freezer, and a bed that folds into a dining table.
Another popular recent addition to many big rigs is in-cab satellite television. Smaller TVs and better satellite technology have made it easier to provide drivers with the same entertainment options they’d have at home. EpicVue inMotion is one service that emulates the at-home experience with a variety of channels and the ability to DVR shows to watch later.
“We started installing EpicVue two months ago to help improve driver retention and comfort, to make the truck more like a home away from home,” said Philip Edwards, president of Titan Transfer. “We elected to go with EpicVue inMotion because our team drivers prefer the ability to watch a show while one person is driving, while team and single drivers like being able to record whatever show they want and watch it later.”
Worth the Cost
Custom sleeper cabs can start around $45,000, and amenities like bathrooms, sinks, kitchens, and entertainment systems only add more to the total cost. Given the cost, are the improvements needed to recruit and retain drivers? More and more the answer seems to be “yes.”
Industry experts point out that, especially among younger drivers, technology is a key feature of their lives. And given the amount of time drivers spend in their cabs, it’s no wonder that some extra comfort can go a long way in improving driver satisfaction.
Still not sure if the cost is worth it? Don’t forget to factor in the cost of driver turnover. Driver turnover can cost a company anywhere from $2,200 to almost $21,000 per driver. (The industry average is just over $8,000.) More companies are finding that the financial hit isn’t worth it.
Trucking company Try Hours has invested in customized sleeper cabs that range anywhere from $55,000 to $185,000 over the base price to hopefully keep drivers happy and on the job.
“It’s a very good investment to keep a driver happy,” said Kenneth Lemley, Try Hours’s fleet manager.