When 27-year-old driver Dan Fuller went to work with his then new wife, Caryn, as a team for MRA Experiential Tours and Equipment, based near his home in Michigan, he didn’t realize the difficulty he’d have finding hotels on the road to accommodate his rig. MRA specializes in mobile marketing, custom-engineering dedicated tractor-trailer combinations in which the trailer converts into a custom display.
For a dedicated driver of such a rig, hotel accommodations are often a necessity. The tractor must stay connected to the trailer during tour stops, since mounted on the frame rails of the power unit is a generator that provides alternating current for the display trailer. Parked for days or even weeks at a time on location, sleeping in the bunk is often not possible.
Since Fuller started the gig nearly five years ago, he says, “we’ve been living in hotels for years without a residence. We’ve been spending more than 300 nights yearly in hotels with our tractor-trailer, and finding them has been a pain in the butt. There’s been nothing out there to find hotels that can accommodate me.”
From hotshot haulers on longer-than-average runs to owner-operators pulling oversize loads who often have to sit on weekends waiting for permits, Fuller noted, many truckers could benefit from an online search tool for hotels with parking space for big rigs. Knowing such a source didn’t exist, he “started building the system, contacting hotel chains, and working to build a database,” he says. He partnered with Focus MX (www.focusmx.com) in Pennsylvania for website design assistance.
The site, www.Hotels4Truckers.com, was launched on Jan. 27, Fuller’s birthday — “a little birthday gift to myself,” he says. Today there are more than 2,000 hotels in the system. Properties can accommodate at least one 75-foot-long tractor-trailer. Fuller cross-references data provided by the hotel with Google Maps images to confirm sufficient space exists before adding any entry into the system.
Oversize team owner-operators Randy Moyano and Ann Burt, based near Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., have been using the site to effectively eliminate “useless phone calls,” says Burt, searching for accommodations. “It’s a service that’s been needed for a long time,” she says.
The couple’s four-axle 1998 Peterbilt 379 and three-axle RGN lowboy with a flip axle that extends overall length to 90 feet, when loaded, can be a headache to park. The 379 has a sleeper, Burt says. “We don’t always get a hotel. But if it’s going to be over a weekend, we’ll opt for a hotel if the price is right.”
For $10 a year, paid members gain access to deep discounts Fuller has negotiated with Wyndham Hotel Group (12 brands including Super 8, Travelodge and Days Inn), Motel 6, Red Roof Inn and America’s Best Value Inn.
Membership is limited to Class A and B CDL holders, though anyone can use the nonpaid version of the site to search for hotels. Other membership perks include access to chains’ commercial driver rates directly, without the need to call for confirmation.
“We’ve set it up so that hotels can publish special messages to drivers there, too,” says Fuller.
Most of the hotels in the database today offer economy lodging, but Fuller is working at adding mid-price accommodations in the $125-a-night range. Members and nonmember users alike can help build the site by sending intelligence via the “Recommend a Location” menu near the bottom of the home page.
Burt says the site offers extensive coverage. “So far, I haven’t put in a city that they didn’t have at least a few listings for,” she says.
Fuller is continually updating and modifying the site, using his laptop computer from his “mobile office” in the back of his truck or inside a hotel room.
Meet the Fullers
Dan and Caryn Fuller, in addition to being proprietors of Hotels4Truckers, work in the mobile marketing niche, driving for Michigan-based MRA Experiential Tours and Equipment.
“Driving is only 25 percent of our job,” says Dan. “Recaps, photos, working with clients, whatever the day calls for” makes up the remainder. “Do you need to have a TV in the trailer, get the wheels buffed, get graphics updated or apply them yourself?”
In March the Fullers were touring coast-to-coast with AC drive manufacturer Vacon, but past jobs have included hauling a mobile workout trailer for Larry the Cable Guy and a mobile African-American history museum for Tavis Smiley, the launch for which was in New Orleans, where the Fullers met then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
Image is big in such an operation. “Our clothes are pressed, shoes shined and everything.” Fuller describes one event where he set up at Wal-Mart headquarters and worked with the CEO of Sam’s Club. “You meet everybody from top to bottom” of whatever organization you’re working for, he adds.