Life on the road can be tough for truckers. Traditionally, long haul truckers spent their days on the road and their nights crammed in a tiny sleeper cab with just enough room to sleep.
Today, long haulers enjoy bigger sleeper cabs even in conventional trucks. With trends like van and RV living fueling the desire for complete freedom on the open road, many owner operators are investing serious cash into updating their truck sleeper cab.
What Does a Custom Luxury Semi Truck Sleeper Look Like?
Custom extended sleepers look more like tiny homes on wheels than conventional sleeper cabs. They come equipped with all of the creature comforts you could want, from full kitchens to showers and sitting areas.
One step inside and you might forget that you’re not in an RV.
Custom sleepers aim to give truckers a comfortable place to rest and unwind after long hours on the road. Refrigerators, microwaves, countertops and cooktops give drivers more control over their nutrition. Cabinets provide storage space. Windows open the view. And just like the classic RV, many of these sleeper cabs have a dining area that converts into a bed. Most models also have showers and bathrooms that make it easier to travel on the road.
Just how luxurious can these sleepers get? That depends on your imagination and your budget.
Companies like ARI Legacy Sleepers are pushing the limits of what it means to live on the road as a long haul trucker. Their custom sleepers have contemporary designs and unexpected features like chandeliers and hardwood floors.
Floorplans can be customized to your liking, and extra options are available to really make your cab your own.
What is the Largest Semi Truck Sleeper?
Big sleeper cabs are making a comeback in a big way. Many independent operators feel it’s worth the expense for having a self-contained home on wheels.
Some of the biggest sleepers include:
268” ARI custom sleeper
220” on a 2017 Peterbilt 567 w/a motorcycle garage
192” on a Peterbilt 389
180” on a 2016 Kenworth W900 ICT
156” on a 2020 Peterbilt 579
Just about any feature or need can be accommodated by custom sleeper manufacturers. ARI once built a custom sleeper that included a kid’s room and space for homeschooling.
How Much Do Custom Sleepers Cost?
Custom sleepers aren’t cheap. The cost really depends on how big you want to go and what features you want. But most independent operators can expect to spend anywhere from $200,000-$300,000 or more.
Here are some real-world example costs:
2016 Western Star 5700 w/132” ARI sleeper: $268,000
2013 Volvo w/144” ARI sleeper: $235,000
2019 Kenworth T880 w/168” ARI sleeper: $236,000 (used)
Factory conversions are also a popular option and will cost less than having a custom-built, new sleeper. Conversions can take a few months to complete and can still cost $150,000 or more.
Why Invest in a Custom Truck Sleeper?
There’s no question that an extended or custom truck sleeper requires a significant investment, but many independent operators find that it’s worth the cost. Why? Because their truck becomes their home.
Ditch the mortgage or rent payment and utility costs that come with a permanent home and you may actually save money.
Save on Living Costs
Even if you don’t choose to make your truck your home, you may still save money on the costs of living on the road.
ARI breaks down the difference between truck payments with factory bunks and ARI Legacy Sleeper trucks. While we can’t say the calculations are 100% accurate (the brochure is trying to sell ARI sleepers), it gives you a good idea of the potential cost benefits of investing in a bigger truck sleeper.
Here’s a look at their breakdowns:
Truck with Factory Bunk
Food costs from dining out (@ $25/day for 27 days per month): $675
Cost of idling the truck: $325
Hotel stays 5 nights per month: $250
Total cost: $3,675
Truck with ARI Sleeper
Food groceries from cooking in the cab: $270
Generator costs: $82
Additional revenue from less down time: -$750
Total cost: $3,617
The additional revenue estimate is subjective, but many truckers may find that the convenience and comfort of having everything you need right there in your truck is worth the extra cost.
Happier, Healthier, Less Stress
Many owner operators find that with a custom sleeper, they’re happier, healthier and less stressed while on the road.
Having the ability to cook in a kitchen eliminates the need to eat convenience or fast food. Truckers face the challenge of staying healthy and active while on the road. With a custom sleeper, they can prepare healthy meals. Ultimately, this can help reduce medical care costs and keep truckers working for longer.
Having a place to rest and relax after several hours of driving allows for better work/life balance. Truckers can stretch out their legs, watch movies, read or just enjoy a quiet evening without feeling cramped.
Spouses, pets and kids can easily join you on the road. It’s no different from traveling in an RV.
There’s no need to worry about waiting in line for showers or having to find a restroom when you’re out on the road. Everything you need is in your sleeper cab.
For owner operators who want to take full advantage of life on the road, a custom sleeper is well worth the investment.
Longer Runs? No Big Deal
One of the biggest benefits of investing in a custom sleeper is that longer runs are less exhausting. Spending weeks out on the road isn’t as big of a deal when you have an ideal set-up for comfortable travel.
Traditional Aftermarket Truck Sleepers Problems
While sleepers are certainly an attractive option for independent operators, there are some drawbacks or problems that must be considered. The biggest is the additional length and weight.
Length and Weight Concerns
A bigger sleeper cab will extend the length of your truck and can add significant weight. This can present issues for some owner operators. Carriers and customers want drivers that can haul big pay loads, but a heavy rig with a big custom sleeper may not be able to meet this demand.
The additional weight also hurts the truck’s fuel economy. A conventional sleeper cab weighs about 1,500 pounds. A custom sleeper, on the other hand, can bring that weight up to 5,000 pounds.
Some owner operators have to avoid certain cities, like New York City, or regions. Canada, for example, has restrictions on tractor-trailer lengths.
There are ways to address this problem, such as choosing lighter materials for interior features. Aluminum cabinets, for example, are a much lighter option compared to solid wood cabinets. Skipping the additional water tank can also reduce weight.
Despite these potential problems, owner operators are still opting for larger sleepers to make life on the road more comfortable. Even standard sleepers are becoming more spacious, which is testament to the demand for truckers to have greater self-sufficiency on the road.