Expediter’s Dream

A few years ago team drivers Glen and Janice Rice were thinking of how to configure the sleeper in their next truck. “He asked if we should get an awning,” Janice recalls. “I said we should do a slide-out.

Then it kind of mushroomed from there.”

Picture a long, high, yellow mushroom. And a hybrid, too: Rice started with a 2002 Volvo VNL42 day cab, extended the chassis and added a custom sleeper and reefer. The result is the Rices’ ideal truck, spec’ed not just to meet their comfort but the needs of the expedited fleet they’re leased to, FedEx Custom Critical.

The dream didn’t come cheap. Rice, Overdrive‘s 1996 Trucker of the Year, invested $85,000 in the truck, including the reinforced frame; $50,000 in the reefer and other rear-end components; and $135,000 in the generator and sleeper, produced by Bentz Transport Products of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Angola Coach of Angola, Ind. Defraying about $55,000 of that $270,000 were discounts in return for the Rices displaying the truck at venues such as the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Spec’ing a “Cadillac” of straight reefer trucks, Glen says, is costly but worth it. After all, Janice says, “We spend 98 percent of our time in the truck.” The other 2 percent finds them at their homes in Rockford, Ill., or Edgewater, Fla.

How does one spend more on a sleeper than most people spend on a new premium owner-operator tractor? Step from the cab through the sliding security door with the hidden, electronically controlled lock, and you’ll see why.

The living area, with more than enough headroom for standing, includes kitchen, shower and toilet, and dining area with a view of a flat-screen Panasonic television equipped with DVD and VCR. A similar television unit sits recessed at the foot of the double bed. Next to the bed are controls for entertainment, lighting, climate and engine heating, as well as a telephone connected to an intercom mounted above the driver’s seat.

The décor is decidedly non-glitz, except for a modest use of mirrors. Centura, a moldable high-impact substance similar to Corian, is used for bathroom counters and shower walls. Drawers and self-lighting cabinets occupy every available space.

“One material we used to keep the weight down was Lite-Ply,” says Tim Troxell, design engineer for Angola Coach. “It’s a seven-ply, 3/4-inch plywood.” The Southern poplar composite works as well as heavy-duty plywood but weighs a third less – in this case, saving 1,000 pounds.

“This is our third custom sleeper we’ve done for Glen,” says Keith Bentz. On this one, he’s particularly proud of the one-piece fiberglass roof with its center channel relief that hides typical rooftop items such as a satellite television dome and a vent fan.

“It’s all in a valley – you can’t see it from the road,” Bentz says.

Other touches enhance the truck’s operation in the expedited industry. The lift gate includes heavy strips that pop up to prevent rollback of loading devices. On each side of the truck, two 55-watt halogen lights provide extra illumination for docking. Another safety system strobes headlights and taillights when the truck is backing or parked in a precarious situation.

The truck is also wired for the extra security needed for an expediter’s high-value, climate-controlled cargo, such as fine art, medical organs or computers.

“We have a readout inside the truck at all times,” Glen says. “We have an alarm in case the temperature drops or rises too high.” A system being installed will have a camera on the load that sends an image to a dash-mounted monitor, with an option to videotape.

The Rices put on a meaty power plant to run the accessories, the electrically powered reefer and the lift gate. Two 100-pound, 8A fiberglass mat batteries charge the inverter to run a 10,000-watt generator.

The Rices put the truck into service right after Mid-America. Glen says he’s pleased with its performance and expects many more years of use.

“We’ll wear out this chassis and replace it in about seven years and do it again,” says Glen, 47. “When we do retire, we’ll take the box off the back, and this will be our camper.”


The living area, with more than enough headroom for standing, includes kitchen, shower and toilet, and dining area with a view of a flat-screen Panasonic television equipped with DVD and VCR. A similar television unit sits recessed at the foot of the double bed. Next to the bed are controls for entertainment, lighting, climate and engine heating, as well as a telephone connected to an intercom mounted above the driver’s seat.

SPECS

GVW
28,000 pounds

Engine
425-hp Volvo

Transmission
Eaton Autoshift 10-speed

Rears
3.58

Tires
11R22.5

Wheel base
306 inches

Reefer
Thermo King V280

Sleeper
186 inches long
100 inches wide
107 inches high

Generator
PowerTech, 10,000 watts, 240 volts

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