Get organized

Modern sleeper cabs such as Western Star’s Stratosphere bring owners a measure of ready-made order, thanks to meticulous design by truck engineers.

Those whose sleeper cab functions as bedroom, office and work station often are low on space and high on the need to get organized. Though truck designers have worked wonders in utilizing every floor-to-ceiling nook, it’s still up to the owner to keep everything from receipts to dirty underwear in proper order. It’s a challenge that can be mastered with innovation and, for some, the right commercial product.

wonders in utilizing every floor-to-ceiling nook, it’s still up to the owner to keep everything from receipts to dirty clothes in proper order. This can be mastered with self-discipline, innovation and, for some, the right commercial product.

Staying organized can yield less stress and more time and money, says Barry Izsak, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Consider: Every minute you burn looking for truck maintenance records amid a pile of shipping orders and magazines could be spent running miles.

The basic principle of organization is having a “home” for every item you own and consistently storing it in that place once you finish using it, Izsak says.

“When you don’t select a place for everything to live, then clutter happens,” he says. “That’s chaos, and then you get into the situation where you can’t find the things you need.”

Izsak also suggests packing your sleeper as lightly as possible. “Keep it to the essentials – less is more,” he says. For example, buying paper towels in bulk is smart, but storing every roll in the truck at once wastes space.

Jeff Forester of Pennington Gap, Va., a self-declared “neat freak,” practices what Izsak preaches. He keeps all of his belongings in exact locations in his 2005 Volvo 670 with a 67-in. sleeper. Hauling produce and frozen foods for Morristown Drivers Service of Morristown, Tenn., he says if he’s not precisely organized, he’s losing efficiency.

Paperwork, log books and the like are kept in compartments over the driver’s seat. For items such as maps, batteries and magazines, Forester purchased a pocket organizer that hangs on the passenger seat. He uses a crate purchased from Wal-Mart to store cleaners and a bottle of Germ-X. “It goes along with being a neat freak,” he adds.

Glenn Wolf of Brainerd, Minn., is not allowed to alter cab surfaces of the 2006 Freightliner Columbia he drives for Transport America, based in Eagan, Minn. But that didn’t stop him from making a custom desk from collected parts.

“The computer is held to the desk by small bungees and the desk is attached to the passenger seat by large bungees,” he says.

Wolf sorts items based on how they are used. In the driver’s side pocket, he keeps truck manuals and permits, state license information and insurance papers. In the passenger side door, he keeps beverages, his tool bag and his computer bag.

In a plastic hanging-file box on the floor next to the gearshift Wolf stores two clipboards for logs and trip paperwork, an atlas, truck stop guides, hanging folders for blank forms and radio station guides.

Other products are more sophisticated and truck-oriented than a standard hanging-file container. Bright Idea Group’s CarGoDesk Mobile Vehicle Organizer, for example, allows drivers to better manage a computer, other electronic devices and documents. The desk’s modular design allows it to be customized.

RAM Mount makes onboard laptop stands. Spokesman Paul Deskins says several of his customers include owner-operator teams who use an adjustable swivel laptop stand between the driver and the passenger. RAM Mount laptop stands are sold in self-install kits, or can be installed at the company’s headquarters near Seattle.

When he was an owner-operator in 2004, Roy Stinson created a stand to connect his laptop to anti-shock seats and to provide a better view of GPS maps. He added an electric fan to the assembly to keep the computer cool.

“I saw guys with laptops on TV trays and duct-taped to the dash,” he says. “So I said, ‘I got something here.'”

Stinson quit trucking in 2005 and now runs CyberTrucker, which has eight employees and a production plant in Oklahoma. His original Trucker’s Workstation once came in two sizes, which proved confusing; now, one model expands to fit any-sized laptop.

The best organizational tool is arguably the cab itself, especially newer ones, thanks to years of design evolution. Truck makers now routinely include hidden drawers, fold-down tables and netting sleeves to maximize space. Designers will assemble all the items a typical driver carries over the road and then work to accommodate them.

From doing that, Peterbilt has learned, for example, that a door side pocket may be beautifully designed, but if it’s too small to hold a log book and other frequently used items, “then you’ve missed the point,” says Steve Wittau, a Peterbilt engineer.

At last month’s Mid-America Trucking Show, Peterbilt introduced a line of sleeper interiors that include relocated storage areas at the head of the bunk rather than the foot. Designers also retooled how televisions are installed now that flat-screen TVs are becoming more common.

International Truck and Engine Corp., like other truck makers, uses human modeling software to study how drivers view and retrieve items. The software enables designers to factor in differing body shapes, along with other situations such as a driver being injured or tired.

Whatever interior features or organizational products you have, Izsak says the point is not being clean or tidy. Rather, “it’s about having a system that works for you and sticking to it. The best system in the world isn’t going to work unless you stick to it.”
–Steven Mackay and Coy O’Neal


TIPS FOR CAB ORGANIZATION

  • List items likely to be needed on the road.
  • Designate a location for every item brought into the cab.
  • Store infrequently used items in boxes, drawers or cabinets.
  • Secure everything else to ensure safe driving.
  • Return items to designated places immediately after use
  • Put trash in proper containers and empty daily.
  • Clean spills and stains as quickly as possible.
  • Clean the entire cab weekly.
  • Devise and stick to a system for filing receipts and other paperwork.
The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
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