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Maximum Comfort

Spec'ing Your Next Truck Cab For Maximum Driver Comfort

By Sean M. Lyden
Posted Dec 26th 2016 9:25AM

If you're an owner-operator, you understand the importance of driver comfort to minimize fatigue, prevent injury, and stay focused while driving for long hours at a time. And if you're a smart fleet owner, you care about driver comfort because you want to keep the best drivers on your team. So, what options should you order on your next expediter straight truck to ensure the ride is as comfortable and stress-free as possible?

Expedite Now magazine spoke with Nathan Meyer (equipment sales representative) and Jeff Jones (sales manager) at Stoops Specialty Trucks, a Freightliner dealership in New Haven, Indiana that specializes in expediter trucks, and John Lalonde (expediter sales representative) at Fyda Freightliner in Columbus, Ohio to get their advice. Here are seven areas they say to keep in mind when spec'ing a truck cab for maximum comfort.

1. Fully-Loaded Seats
"Drivers understand that you're spending 10 to 12 hours a day in your seat, so that's a good place to spend money," says Lalonde at Fyda Freightliner. "Most of the expediter trucks that we sell today don't have standard seats in them. People just don't want them much anymore."

Jones at Stoops Specialty Trucks agrees. "We tend to stock the nicest seat option available from the factory. The seats are cooled, with a fan that blows air through the back of the seat to cool your back in hot weather. They're heated. They have multiple adjustments and air lumbar supports in them. And they have arm rests."

2. Swivel Seats
Both Jones and Lalonde also say there has been growing demand for swivel driver and passenger seats. But what exactly are swivel seats and how do they impact driver comfort?

"The swivel option is a pretty cool thing because it allows you to take advantage of a comfortable seat, when you're not driving," Lalonde explains. "At night, you can pull the front curtains closed (across the windshield) and swivel your seat around, which essentially enables you to pick up an extra three feet of space inside the sleeper. Without the swivel option, you would just close your curtain behind the seats. But now, you can open up the cab area quite a bit, while having a comfortable seat to sit in. When it's a cold night, you can sit there with the heated seat on, read a book, eat your dinner, or watch TV."

3. Adaptive Cruise Control
You're familiar with standard cruise control, where you set the speed you want the truck to travel on the highway, and the system maintains that speed until you need to press the brake or accelerator, depending on the traffic conditions ahead. But adaptive cruise control takes that concept further, allowing the truck to stay in cruise control longer. The system uses bumper-mounted radar that ensures the truck remains at a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead, automatically braking and accelerating the truck, as needed, until it can safely return to the pre-set cruising speed.

Adaptive cruise control impacts driver comfort because it can help reduce the amount of mental stress and physical fatigue a driver may experience while operating the truck on congested highways. But some drivers may need a little time to get accustomed to the technology. "Some people like it and some people don't," says Lalonde. "The issue is the guy in front of you; if he doesn't have his cruise control on, and he's constantly stopping and going, then your truck is stopping and going."

4. Tire Pressure Monitoring System
"We started putting tire pressure monitoring sensors on more of our trucks this year," says Meyer at Stoops Specialty Trucks. "This way, drivers don't have to get out of the truck to check tires when it's raining or snowing. They can monitor tire pressure in real-time inside the cab while the truck is rolling down the road. If they start to have an issue, they know about it before it becomes a major problem. The TPMS gives drivers one less thing to worry about."

5. Automated tire chains
"Instead of having to get out of the truck to lug around heavy chains and manually wrap them around your tires, you can install an automated tire chain system by Onspot," says Lalonde. "All you do is push a button in the cab that deploys the automatic chains, which makes it so much easier--and safer--for drivers."

6. Auxiliary Power
In terms of driver comfort, it's essential to maintain optimal temperature inside the cab. But relying on the factory heating and air conditioning is neither practical--from an excessive engine idle standpoint--nor sufficient, especially in extreme climate conditions. So, make sure your expediter truck spec includes an auxiliary power unit (APU) to power your heating and air conditioning systems and other amenities that require electrical power in your sleeper, without having to idle the truck's main engine. "If you're sitting out there in Arizona and it's 105 degrees outside, and you don't have an APU to run your heating and air conditioning, you're going to have a hard time staying cool back there [in the sleeper]," says Lalonde. "Running the factory air conditioning is not going to keep you comfortable enough."

7. Sleeper Noise
When it comes to custom sleepers, there are the obvious amenities that impact comfort, such as a hot water heater, refrigerator and freezer, microwave oven, convection oven, cooktop, comfortable mattress, and TV. But there are some "comfort considerations" you might not think about, like window quality and aerodynamics that determine the volume of wind noise that you hear inside the cab that can be annoying to the driver--and to the partner who is trying to sleep while the truck is moving.

"The sleepers on our trucks include thermal pane windows that minimize the wind draft and noise, making it considerably quieter inside the truck as it goes down the road," says Jones. "We also have the Qualcomm and the satellite TV dish inside the sleeper now. This way, they're not sticking up on top the sleeper creating all that wind noise and turbulence."

The Bottom Line
Expediters spend long hours behind the wheel for several weeks at a time. So, whether you're an owner-operator or fleet owner, one thing is for sure: investing in driver comfort will pay dividends in healthier, more productive drivers who find greater satisfaction--and earn more money--in the expedite business.

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