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Driver Lifestyles

The Dream Machine

By Jeff Jensen
Posted Mar 6th 2002 9:00AM

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Glen Rice is a perfectionist.

When he wants something done, he wants it done right, and to his specifications.

Well, it appears that he has gotten his way with his latest expediting truck. His new Volvo sports a sleeper that would be the envy of any expediter or big truck driver who longs to take the creature comforts of home along.

Glen and Janice Rice of Rockford, IL are expediters leased with FedEx Custom Critical's White Gloves division. Entering their third year of this business, the couple decided some time ago to put together their dream truck and sleeper combo.

After long months of planning, preparation and waiting, they've just taken delivery of their truck and they tell us it was well worth the wait!

road_issues846a.jpgAs the accompanying photos reveal, this truck is built with luxury and comfort in mind, but it is above all else, a working truck. Even though it could undoubtedly enjoy a successful life on the show truck circuit, plans for this truck include putting a million miles on this chassis, then transferring the sleeper and cargo box to a new chassis.

"This might seem excessive to many, but our home and our car are paid for and our children are grown and gone. I sold my motorcycle and street rod and this is our toy," says Glen.

"I can understand that this truck and sleeper might appear to be 'overkill' to others in expediting, but we plan on getting many years use out of this sleeper and we'll definitely do it in comfort!"

Glen and Janice - Up close

Although Glen is still a relatively young 47, he began driving truck in 1973 for his father who owned a small cartage company in Cleveland, OH. His driving career spans some twenty-nine years, with most of those years spent running over-the-road in tractor-trailers of various types.

Glen tells us, "I've driven a variety of equipment, dry van, drop deck, etc. I spent a number of years with Landstar/Inway, both as an owner/operator and also working in the office in the safety department."

During his time at Landstar/Inway, Glen was not only the recipient of the Overdrive Magazine Trucker of the Year award in 1996, but was also featured on a segment of the CBS evening news with Dan Rather in 1995 in a story which covered the raising of speed limits to 70 mph.

"Another highlight of my time at Landstar/Inway was that I was able to put together a book called 'The Business Planner.' It was an instructional book to assist the owner/operators in making logical business choices."

"Janice was working as the assistant to the president of Landstar/Inway at the same time I was there. We had both lost our spouses so we developed a relationship and we were married a couple of years later."

"I've tried some other vocations, but I've always returned to trucking. Janice and I really enjoy expediting - I like the idea that when I pickup and deliver a load, it makes a difference. The appreciation of the shippers/receivers in expediting is a welcome change from when I was running big trucks."

Janice Rice tells us that her family is impressed with her career/lifestyle choice: "My grandaughters are very proud of what I do. Back when they were 6 or 7 years old, it was quite exciting for them when Grandma would pull up in a Class 8 truck and climb down from the cab. I tell them that you can do anything if you put your mind to it."

"As my work history indicates, I drove a desk for a number of years! I like expediting because I've always liked to travel and we never know where we're going to wind up."

"We've met a lot of fantastic people through this business and made some great friends. I see more and more women in this industry, all of whom are coming from other careers."

"With FedEx White Gloves Division, we carry a lot of high-value and specialized freight. We've taken some interesting loads such as special hospital beds for burn victims and comatose patients, special medicines, etc."

"We were among the many expediters taking loads into New York City following the September attack; in our case, we transported special refrigeration units into ground zero."

"We even carried a statue from the citizens of Luxembourg of behalf of the American People which was to be presented to Hillary Clinton. The shipment was in two crates; unfortunately one of the crates originally delivered was the wrong one, which necessitated an emergency run to O'Hare for the right crate."

"I'm certainly looking forward to the new truck, very excited about it. Most of the design features of the interior are my choices. There have been times on the road when we have checked into a motel but wound up only using the room for the shower - we just feel more comfortable sleeping in the truck."

"I have family and friends all over the country, and since we spend ninety-eight per cent of our time on the road anyway, we figure we're going to be very comfortable in the new truck, whether working or sightseeing."

Janice tells us that the couple tries to stay occupied while waiting for the next load. "My rest and recreation is going to the malls; most of the malls are secure and I feel safe there. Glen and I do a lot of reading, and we listen to books on tape. We try to hit a lot of drag races."

Glen says that he has a great deal of respect for his fellow expediters and their business acumen: "It seems as though the expediting owner/operators are more organized and professional than the typical truck driver. Possibly it's because many expediters come from other areas and many possess a business background."

Glen and Janice have received FedEx Custom Critical's "4 star award" for the last two years.

Glen's background also includes building and racing rear-engine dragsters in addition to working as a tech inspector for both the National Hot Rod Association and the International Hot Rod Association.

He tells us that his history of building and fabricating his own racing cars has probably caused him to become just a little picky when it comes to mechanical work: "I'm a real tough customer; I'm very demanding about the details!" he says.

"We had some choices to make when planning this truck," says Glen. "A big factor in deciding what size unit we chose was the fact that 92 per cent of our loads last year were C-sized loads, averaging 3200 lbs. As a result, we made the choice to go with the huge sleeper and smaller cargo box.

"Add to that, I've always been motivated to strive for the biggest, the best, etc., so this truck and sleeper are somewhat of a natural choice for me."

"Volvo gave us great financing terms and with, admittedly, a sizeable chunk of money down, our total payment is only $500 a month over the payment on our old FL70."

The Platform

When asked about his choice of the Volvo for his platform, Glen says, "I've had Volvo's with a million miles on them with no major overhaul. It's that kind of proven durability that kept me with this make of truck."

Mike Landwehr of Vomac Truck Sales, Inc. of Ft Wayne, IN worked closely with Glen from the beginning stages of the project to final delivery. "We had a couple of in-person meetings," says Mike, "those were followed by lots of phone calls."

"Volvo's engineering and marketing departments were also heavily involved; it was a real team effort."

Power for this 2002 Volvo VNL42 comes from a 425hp Volvo 12 liter, hitched to an Eaton Fuller 10-speed autoshift. This chassis measures out to a 305" wheelbase and a GVW of 33,000 lbs.

Mike tells us, "This was the first Volvo purpose-built straight truck chassis of this size that Volvo had constructed. It was delivered with day cab and bare chassis. The cab was loaded with a full gauge package and other options including premium stereo system, tinted windows, tilt wheel, electric windows, jake brake; a full line of extras."

"The truck was ordered in July, 2001 and delivered in November."

The outfitter tour

Beginning the customizing process of their new Volvo, Glen and Janice took the truck to a local Ft Wayne shop to put an L-channel in the frame for reinforcement.

Next stop on the outfitter tour was a trip to Bentz Transport Products, also in Ft Wayne. This sleeper had begun to take shape over one and a half years ago during Glen and Janice's consultations with Bentz - one of the premier truck sleeper cab builders in the industry.

Keith Bentz, President of Bentz Transport Products, tells us, "Bentz will design and manufacture custom sleepers to any individual specification. We have worked with Glen since the Mid-America Truck Show in 1988, and this is the third custom sleeper we've done with Glen; it's easily the largest and most luxurious sleeper we've ever done."

"Over the last 14 years we have developed a close working relationship with Glen. He is very particular about his truck's image and the specifications of the sleeper."

Keith also tells us, "Project planning meetings started in February 2001 and our first design work started in July 2001 with the roof tooling being completed in early November 2001. Our work was completed in December, 2001."

The sleeper features a welded extruded aluminum framework, aluminum skin panels and uses coach joint assembly methods to significantly reduce rivets on the exterior of the unit.

Dimensions on this customized living module are 186 inches long by 100 inches wide by 107 inches high. Entrance to the sleeper from the cab is through an opening 64 inches high by 50 inches wide.

The new fiberglass roof was designed and tooled specifically for this project, however the tooling was designed to support any sleeper size from 96" to 192" in length.

This truck has a 1-piece fiberglass roof with a 24" cantilever, and a center relief in the roof to hide all of the roof mount components such as the air conditioning, satellite, vent fan and the Qualcomm unit.

Other Bentz-installed equipment includes the RVP roof air conditioner, a TracStar in-motion satellite with a single receiver and the Qualcomm GPS tracking system. Bentz also installed their integrated aluminum lower storage compartments and side skirts on the sleeper and cargo box.

While still in Bentz's capable hands, the sleeper was sprayed with Dupont Imron 6000 base/ clear paint in Volvo P3572 Yellow.

Glen and Janice then took the truck to Kidron, OH for the installation of the Kidron 14' 7" insulated cargo box.

From there Glen and Janice headed northwest to Grand Rapids, MI where their unique reefer unit was installed by Thermo King. In place of the typical fuel-powered refrigeration unit, this cooling unit is electrically powered by a Power Tech 10kw generator.

It was a short trip down I-96 to the next outfitter - Auto Truck Service in Lansing, MI. This company, (owned by David Granning, grandson of the inventor of the tag/drop axle), installed the landing legs and lift gate. They also installed the custom exhaust and the very extensive custom lighting work.

The lighting installation included strobe effect headlights, side turn signals and tail lights. All of the LED marker lights are by Sound Off; a new project for that company. All of the accessory illumination is accomplished with very high-visibility lights, including 9 tail lights with mirrored backing.

Excluding the tail lights and four very bright cargo load lights, the truck features a total of ninety accessory lights.

Says Glen, "We basically took a month and just shuttled the truck around to the various vendors and waited while they did their work on the truck."

The next stop on the tour was Angola Coach, Angola IN where the extensive work of finishing the bare sleeper shell was done. Working twelve hours a day, 6 days a week on this project were Don Wolf-production manager and Lynn Faulkner-lead builder of Angola Coach.

Lynn says, "This was the first truck sleeper our company has worked on, but it turned out very well. We were able to complete it in four weeks time."

"In addition to completing the sleeper here, our paint shop also performed the custom purple flame paint job. Glen and Janice were great to work with!"

Echoing Lynn's thoughts is Bonnie Amaden, Sales Coordinator for Angola Coach: "Glen and Janice knew what they wanted; they're great people. If they ever want to do another project, we'll be happy to accomodate them!"

One feature that Glen pointed out to us is that the entrance of the sleeper is protected by an electric sliding door which is also lockable from outside the truck via a remote.

The Sleeper

The features found in this top-of-the-line home on wheels is extensive, but here goes:

General Interior

Entrance of the sleeper is protected by an electric sliding door which is also lockable from outside the truck via a remote. Vipersecurity/alarm system Audiovox wireless head set for co-pilot Smoke Detector Siemen 110v. residential meter panel, Bass 12v. breaker panel with 4 analog voltage meters and an acrylic smoked door. Standard 110v. Electrical receptacles throughout Recessed halogen lighting strategically placed for striking accents Recessed ceiling accented with gold/bronze mirrors and vista lights Golden Illusion textured laminate cabinetry Ginger root Solid surfacing and Tawning white Laminate countertops Show case fabrics in Rudy Plum with Sand colored ultra-suede throughout Imperial Wood plank vinyl flooring

Living/Dining Area

20" Panasonic triple play TV located in the upper armoire across from dinette for easy viewing TV has DVD, VCR, Stereo Radio/alarm complete with wireless headsets Side by Side pull-out Pantry in galley overhead cabinet(2 drawer stacks) with a built in coffee maker Convection microwave oven almond color U-shaped Dinette Booth covered in Rudy Plum fabric and a slide-out table Overhead cabinets above dinette and above bed covered with textured golden Illusion laminate

Bathroom

Custom made shower with ginger root centura walls, a polished brass-glass shower door, a recessed shampoo holder and a polished brass double swing towel bar. Fantastic vent fan above shower Bath vanity with vista lights under the bullnose, a mercury style sink and a chrome/gold accented faucet Thatford china electric toilet

Bedroom

 20" Panasonic Triple play TV in bedroom with a smoked bronze acrylic door * Custom headboard in a starburst design, accented in bronzed mirror, beige and plum gathered fabrics Queen size bed with Select Comfort Air Mattress and dual controls

Plumbing Features

Shurflo water pump 6 gal. Electric hot water heater 40 gal. Fresh water tank and a 26 gal. Holding tank Manual dump valve on holding tank with a Bayonet ring for hose hookup

Exterior Features

 Power Tech 10 kw generator  Heart 2000 watt inverter with auto-transfer switching  Coleman roof air conditioner Track star in motion satellite with a single receiver Qualcomm GPS tracking system  Winegard directional TV antenna  Ingersoll rand chiller system

After completion of the work at Angola, the truck was then taken back to Bentz Transport Products for some final accessory installations, after which the new owners will head south for Louisville.

It takes little imagination to know what the first question is after viewing the photos of this truck. Glen tells us, "Let's just say that the entire truck is over $250,000, with the sleeper costing over $100,000 alone."

Glen and Janice Rice have dreamed, planned and made their dream truck a reality. With the most luxurious and high-end sleeper ever to grace an expediting chassis, the couple has possibly the most unique truck in the emergency freight business.

They had a vision of not only the vehicle with which to pursue their business plans, but also the vehicle in which to pursue their chosen lifestyle.

The truck will be making it's world debut at the 2002 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY - March 21 -23. It will be displayed at the Bentz Transport Products exhibit, Booth 4205 in the South Wing.

Just look for the big yellow Volvo with the huge sleeper and two very happy owners!

 

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