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Kenworth T680 sleeper

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Balancing act: Sleepers keep drivers comfortable while the fleet stays efficient

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Managing Editor of Fleet Equipment Magazine

Driver retention is one of the biggest issues facing fleets today. There simply aren’t enough drivers to go around, and it’s impacting the bottom line. With that being the case, fleets have been going out of their way to provide drivers with all the creature comforts they require, in order to ensure that they stay in their driver’s seats. Knowing this, OEMs are manufacturing sleepers with options that can turn them into a comfortable hotel on wheels. A few of the latest introductions to the sleeper space include Kenworth Truck Co.’s 76-in. mid-roof sleeper and 40-in. sleeper (both of which are available for the Kenworth T680 and T880), as well as Peterbilt Motors Co.’s 58-in. sleeper for its Model 579 and 567 trucks. Today’s sleepers boast beefed-up amenities to cater to drivers. Kenworth’s mid-roof sleeper, for example, includes options to install a premium sound system and a flat-screen TV; Peterbilt’s sleepers offer space for televisions, microwaves and refrigerators in addition to storage and working areas.

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Comfort and efficiency don’t always go hand in hand. So how do these manufacturers balance the desire for increased comforts with the need for continued operational efficiency?

To start with, comfort isn’t the only focus of the OEMs when building sleepers. Both Peterbilt and Kenworth tout their sleepers’ weight savings; Kenworth specifically points out the 76-in. mid-roof sleeper’s additional payload capacity and reduced aerodynamic drag compared to their 52-in. sleeper.

“We’ve found there are three major attributes that impact efficiency when it comes to sleepers: aerodynamics, weight and size, and comfort,” says Kurt Swihart, Kenworth’s marketing director. “The more aerodynamic the sleeper, the more fleets save on fuel costs. For example, the design of the T680 Advantage 76-in. sleeper [pictured above] uses refined fairings and a ‘kick-out’ partial fairing to direct airflow around the trailer. This design, in part, allowed us to offer an optional under-sleeper fuel fill. With this feature, fuel tanks can be moved forward reducing trailer gap and wheelbase. Also, a sleeper with a shorter height, such as the Kenworth T680 76-in. mid-roof sleeper, can reduce aerodynamic drag with up to a 5% fuel economy savings for tanker and flatbed applications, depending on load conditions. The size of a sleeper can also play a big part in providing drivers a third important attribute: comfort.”

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OEMs understand that one of the biggest draws of sleepers is the increased comforts they provide to long-haul drivers. That’s why these sleepers come with plenty of options for amenities.

“I think most fleets understand the direct impact premium equipment has on recruiting and retaining the best drivers,” says Anthony Gansle, Peterbilt’s marketing manager of on-highway products. “For long-haul operators, the sleeper is, quite literally, their home away from home; so, Peterbilt sleepers can be equipped with many amenities. Drivers are usually very particular about the equipment they operate and the image they project. Premium cabs and sleepers have a significant role in keeping drivers proud of what they do and loyal to their employer.”

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“If a sleeper isn’t comfortable, or if it doesn’t offer enough storage or a quiet, restful environment, then the fleet risks losing the driver to another fleet that does,” says Kenworth’s Swihart. “We’ve heard from many fleets that the competition for the best drivers is higher than it has ever been. We’ve also heard that the Kenworth T680 equipped with sleepers provides the right specifications that can make a big difference in recruiting the best and the brightest. Drivers see the T680 as ‘a driver’s truck.’ Many fleets operating T680s find that by leveraging the T680 as a tool to attract and retain drivers, they are able to reduce their overall driver turnover percentage.”

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