Truck Drivers Build Luxury Homes on Wheels

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With some truck drivers on the road for weeks, occasionally even months, at a time, it makes sense that the machines they drive are a home away from home. Each manufacturer has its own styles and options that allow drivers to build the truck best suited to them.

The result, depending on what a driver’s willing to pay, is an apartment on wheels with every comfort.

“It’s very nice. It might be nicer than some apartments. And maybe a bit bigger” says Joelle Pompili, marketing coordinator for Cerni Motors, with a laugh.

The top-of-the-line truck sold by Cerni is the International LoneStar. Buyers are typically owner-operators, Pompili notes, because of the cost – usually between $150,000 and $160,000 per truck.

On the inside, options include an Android-based touchscreen system that displays GPS, engine status and important information such as fuel mileage and estimated arrival time; battery-powered heating and air conditioning; and adjustable leather seats.

“Some even have hardwood floors. We had one that was trimmed with rosewood and titanium,” says Cerni salesman Richard Simerlink. “There’s room for a refrigerator, a couch, a microwave and a lot of other stuff. These guys can sit and lounge in their own truck.”

Safety features, such as collision avoidance, lane keeping and a tracking system are also available.

“The owner can use [GPS] to know where each truck is. It can relay the information back to him no matter where he is,” Simerlink says.

That helps the owner, he explains, because he can know exactly where a truck is and plan accordingly.

One of the most important things for owner-operators, says Mike Humes, a sales representative at Fyda Freightliner of Youngstown, is fuel efficiency.

“Fuel mileage is critical. A mile per gallon in fuel savings can mean $8,000 or $9,000 in savings a year after-tax money,” he says. “When you go to automatic, it’s all computerized and now self-educating, so it can adjust to the driver.”

At Fyda, the top model is the Freightliner Coronado. Fyda doesn’t keep the Coronado in stock because most are custom-ordered.

It has many of the same options as the LoneStar – among them, lane keeping and adaptive cruise control – but is separated by its styling.

“Years ago, the big style was the truck with the long, square hood. That’s gone by the wayside and this is the closest you’ll get to that now,” Humes says.

Among the technology options is remote diagnostics. When a problem arises, the computer system sends a message to the driver as well as the nearest garage that could fix the problem. This allows a mechanic to be ready for the trucks, keeping them on the road.

But, Humes notes, all the technology options come with a price tag.

“The sky’s the limit any more. The technology is incredible. But, of course, each thing builds on the price,” he says. “You have to be careful not to price yourself out.”

The most expensive Coronados at Fyda run about $180,000, he says.

Inside, Coronado features can include a desk, a fridge and battery-operated heaters.

“In the winter, drivers don’t have to run their engines at night to stay warm when they sleep,” Humes says. “That can save a ton of money.” There’s also space for a driver to install TVs and microwaves if they want.

Also rising in popularity are automatic transmissions. Many drivers used to shy away from automatics because they couldn’t back up their rigs smoothly.

“Now, though, I’d put them up against any car. It’s become not only convenient but also a safety feature,” he says. Drivers can focus on the road, Humes explains, because they needn’t worry about the shifter and clutch.

Volvo recently introduced the iShift transmission to its trucks, which factors in road grade and payload to determine the gear needed to get the best fuel economy, explains Jim Finnerty, sales manager at R&R Inc.

The top model at R&R is the Volvo VNL780, which uses a new transmission.

“There’s nothing like it on the road today. It saves a lot of wear and tear on the driver and helps out with the excellent fuel economy,” he says. “And it [shifts] quicker than a driver shifting manually can.”

Volvo has also made safety a top priority, Finnerty says, including the industry’s only standard airbags. Volvo has designed the engine to be pushed under the cab should an accident occur.

“Unfortunately, accidents will happen but Volvo makes sure drivers can walk away,” Finnerty says.

For driver comfort, the VNL780 has several mirrors, including one above the passenger door, to reduce blind spots; offset sun visors that eliminate gaps where light could shine through; and wide seats.

All of that is in addition to the other radio, appliance and bedding features found in other top-of-the-line models.

“The drivers never want to get out,” Finnerty declares.

Pictured: The Volvo VNL780 is the brand’s top-of-the-line model, says R&R Inc. sales manager Jim Finnerty, and offers most of the amenities of home.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.