Get big-bunked

| December 12, 2008

The Legacy II is available in six sizes.

Think a big bunk’s only for a high-end team plugged into an expensive-freight niche? Think again. Whether you’re looking just beyond factory lengths of up to 80 inches or have a more elaborate dream in mind, each one of northern Indiana’s custom sleeper shops can do just about anything. Start saving on expenses, and you could be within range of big-bunking your rig in no time.

Investment in such a unit can be a money-saver itself. Having a functional shower, toilet, kitchen and auxiliary HVAC system with generator can nix truck-stop idling as well as those trips to the truck-stop showers or lunch counters. A return-on-investment example at ARI’s website even shows a net gain when resale value and tax savings are taken into account.
Following are examples of what you can get at various price points from four of the leading custom-sleeper makers.


$36,000
American Roads Model A96M by Indiana Custom Trucks

LENGTH: 96 inches

WEIGHT: 3,000 pounds

LAYOUT: Front shower/rear bunk

SHOWER/TOILET: 35-inch with cassette toilet

WATER SYSTEM: Hot water, overall 40-gallon capacity

BUNK/DINETTE: Gaucho bed with fold-down table, rear

KITCHENETTE: Passenger-side with sink

AC/HEAT: Yes

GENERATOR: Not included in price

SHORE POWER: Yes

STORAGE: Cabinets, toolbox

WINDOWS: One 24-by-16 inch, two 15-by-15 inch, double pane

APPLIANCES: TV antenna and shelf, 4.2 cubic-foot fridge (Tundra T42), microwave, Magnum 2000-Watt inverter

CONTACT: website, (800) 800-3244

This big bunk by Indiana Custom Trucks of La Grange, Ind., features a front shower/kitchenette and rear fold-out bed and breakfast area. Including a generator and roof air conditioner would add up to $10,000.

Owner-operator Jason Beggs of Gun Barrel, Texas, who’s leased to enclosed car hauler DeMoise Trucking, upgraded his Kenworth W900L’s standard 70-inch sleeper with this American Roads model in ICT’s Sundowner series in November. In his view, it’s less a luxury than a necessity.

“It made sense financially,” he says. “In this business – we pick up individual cars, we go places where there are no truck stops – we can’t afford to go out of route.”

The 96-inch bunk is the smallest size “where there’s room for a sit-down table and a shower,” says Mike Baxley, ICT general manager. The American Roads low-weight, low-cost model is perfect for “first-time buyers, fleets and smaller independent operators,” Baxley says. “We have even sold some that ended up in the drilling industry, where they are used as an operator’s cab for a drilling rig.”

Beggs says the size allows him to park anywhere, cut his engine’s idling to a bare minimum and not have to “hunt for a shower.” All that convenience saves him in operating costs.

ICT is known for higher-end sleepers. Last year, Overdrive featured a 230-inch ICT sleeper commissioned by Wisconsin team drivers Craig and Lisa Ringelstetter for their munitions hauling operation, and ICT engineering has been featured on CMT’s “Trick My Truck.”


$52,000

Pro Quarters Model RWD by Double Eagle custom truck sleepers

LENGTH: 120 inches

WEIGHT: 3,250 pounds

LAYOUT: Rear shower/rear entry

SHOWER/TOILET: 40-inch rear shower with cassette toilet

WATER SYSTEM: Hot water, overall 45-gallon capacity

BUNK/DINETTE: Fold-out bed and breakfast, driver’s side rear

KITCHENETTE: Passenger-side, 48-inch counter with sink

AC/HEAT: Roof AC/heat combo

GENERATOR: Double Eagle Gen-Pac, 5 to 8 kw

SHORE POWER: Yes

STORAGE: Front wardrobe, four 20-by-8-inch drawers under kitchenette counter and lower and upper cabinets, toolbox

WINDOWS: 24-by-12-inch window passenger and driver’s side, roof vent

APPLIANCES: 15-inch LCD mounted TV with omnidirectional antenna, 6.8-cubic-foot fridge/freezer (Nova-Kool RFU8000), microwave shelf, digital alarm clock, frame mount steps with deck plate for rear entry

CONTACT: website, (260) 768-4121

With a padded-vinyl interior, roof AC, and three-cylinder Gen-Pac generator, this 120-inch, manufactured by Double Eagle Industries, has every feature of a typical shorter model, only with a little more breathing room and a larger bed size for husband-wife teams, or just more storage and accessories.

“At 120 [inches], you’re making it comfortable for two without sacrificing any of your priorities,” says Double Eagle Vice President and Sales Manager Mark Woodworth.

A rear walk-in entry opens into a longer compartment with rear shower and fold-out bed and breakfast. The kitchenette features more counter space than a smaller model.

Looking to save a bit? “Some couples don’t care about the shower,” Woodworth says. “That’s $2,000 right there.”

John Frock, president of Frock Bros. Trucking in New Oxford, Pa., says the company’s invested in eight 120-inch units as a reward to veteran drivers. “The amenities are second to none when it comes to what drivers have out on the road,” he says. “Familiar surroundings – not having to use a new shower every night – make them good ways to let drivers feel at home. We’ve got two teams and five singles in them.”

Many prefer Double Eagle for the convenience of having a single manufacturer behind almost all of the components, Frock says. For example, Double Eagle has been building its Gen-Pac generators since the mid-1970s, Woodworth says.

Ed Frock, John’s uncle and Frock Bros. co-chairman, became an owner-operator himself when he bought one of the Double Eagle trucks, after it ran in the company fleet for years. He personally uses it to this day.


$71,000

Legacy II Custom Series Model RDFS by ARI

LENGTH: 156 inches

WEIGHT: 4,100 pounds

LAYOUT: Front shower/rear entry

SHOWER/TOILET: 40-inch front shower with cassette toilet, hardwood door

WATER SYSTEM: Hot water system with insulated tank

BUNK: Fold-out bed dinette, driver’s side middle

KITCHENETTE: Passenger side, with 20-by-17-inch sink and desk area

AC/HEAT: Coleman roof AC/heat with wall-mount thermostat

GENERATOR: Yes

SHORE POWER: Yes

STORAGE: Under-sink cabinet and six drawers and six overhead cabinets, toolbox

WINDOWS: 24-by-16-inch above sink and on driver’s side, 14-by-14 inch shower, roof vent

APPLIANCES: 20-inch LCD mounted TV with antenna (26-inch optional), 6.3-cubic-foot Norcold DE0061 fridge/freezer, microwave, surround-sound system, DC inverter

CONTACT: website, (260) 768-4704

ARI’s Legacy II series is available not only from ARI’s Shipshewana, Ind., headquarters but also from 18 truck dealers between Tennessee and California. The Legacy II is “our little niche in the marketplace,” says John Miller, ARI sales manager. The pre-engineered floor plans account for 85 percent of the company’s sales. “They’re high-end,” Miller says, “but since the floor plans are similar, it allows us to make them much more efficiently, so they’re much cheaper to buy.”

The company also has chassis available – “day cabs they can put their own dream sleeper on,” Miller says, “or we have them fully mounted, turn-key, ready to go.”

The 156-inch model is the newest of the floor plans, and in April the first unit went on team furniture movers Mike and Jennifer Cerra’s new Peterbilt 386. The Cerras upgraded to the 156-inch because, Mike says, lack of space became an issue in their 132-inch, on a long-nosed Pete 379. The desk area just toward the rear from the kitchenette allows Mike to maintain a permanent work station for his online courses instead of the temporary setup he had in the 132-inch.

The Cerras thought about going with a fully customized sleeper, but Mike says ARI’s pre-engineered floor plan models are great for the reduced cost. “A fully custom sleeper is an extra $8,000 at least,” he says.

The Legacy II is available in five smaller sizes, down to 97-inch.


$75,000
150-inch raised roof with shower model SST150IS1RR by Bentz Transport Products exclusively for Stoops Freightliner

LENGTH: 150 inches

WEIGHT: 5,800 pounds (including water and generator)

LAYOUT: Rear Dine-a-Bunk/middle shower

SHOWER/TOILET: 36-inch shower with cassette toilet

WATER SYSTEM: Hot water, overall 52.5-gallon capacity

BUNK: 54-inch fold-out Dine-a-Bunk

KITCHENETTE: Passenger-side, counter with deep sink, hot plate

AC/HEAT: Carrier AirV Rooftop AC, Webasto heater, roof vent fan

GENERATOR: Onan 7.5-kw

SHORE POWER: Yes

STORAGE: 24-by-24-by-48-inch toolbox, wardrobe with overhead cabinets, cabinets around entire perimeter and above front seats, under-sink cabinets.

WINDOWS: Two vented passenger side (27-by-30 inch and 18-by-18 inch), one driver’s side (27-by-30 inch)

APPLIANCES: 17-inch LCD television with DVD player, AM-FM radio/CD player, surround-sound system, 7-cubic-foot Norcold DE0061 fridge/freezer, 900-watt microwave, DC inverter

CONTACT: website, (260) 441-0404

Customers for Bentz Transport Products traditionally have been high-end husband-wife team operators with straight trucks, Keith Bentz says. They were “different from the normal tractor market in that expediters are not career truck drivers,” he says. “They were really looking for something that had high levels of styling and amenities that made it feel like a home or an RV.”

Four years ago, Bentz began to pursue a long-held idea: “combining the attributes of large custom sleepers with the idea of a factory-appearing, factory-styled, fully integrated cab” in the over-the-road tractor market, he says.

Since introducing the first of its tractor sleeper models at the 2005 Mid-America Trucking Show, the company has worked with truck engineers to provide a technically seamless level of integration for specific models. The SST series was developed for Freightliner’s Columbia and Coronado and launched by Jeff Jones of Stoops Freightliner in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Jones debuted this SST model (pictured) at a Landstar System event, delivering it to Bob and Barbara Yates, a Landstar Ranger team. Bentz also has programs for the Sterling Actera and, at Mid-America this year, unveiled a program for Kenworth’s W900 (150-inch) and T660 (100- and 130-inch).

The SST models come with two floor plans in three sizes: 100-, 130- and 150-inch. Bentz has made strides in custom options with the help of interior design staff Charla Bentz, Keith’s wife, and Cheryl Ruch, who help buyers determine colors, fabrics and surfaces.

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