Palaces for the kings of the road? Trucking firms hope to fill driver shortage by pimping out cabins for rigs that cost up to $240,000
The firms are paying truck manufacturers to make luxury living quarters that attach to the vehicles – with kitchen areas, satellite TVs, refrigerators, bathrooms and a bed.
The changes are designed to attract more drivers to an industry that will need an estimated one million more employees in the next 10 years.
It is thought many potential drivers are put off by the thought of having to eat and sleep in their seats at rest stops.
Standard cabs typically cost around $45,000, though models with showers and toilets are around $90,000.
Others, such as a deluxe sleeper from Bolt, can raise the cost up to $240,000, Bolt president Brian Callan told NBC News.
Meanwhile ARI Legacy Sleepers offers pre-engineered options up to 14 feet that include a side door and non-folding bed.
Eight-foot options are also available, and most have a bed that folds up to allow room for a table.
The upgrades are thought not to just make the driving experience more enjoyable, but also allow workers to stay on the road longer and move freight more quickly.
Increased freight means the truck-driver shortage is expected be 400,000 by the end of 2017, the freight intelligence group FTR Associates told Bloomberg.
Other factors for the shortage include the retirement of the ‘baby-boomer’ drivers and potential workers opting for ‘more attractive’ careers such as the military.
Though innovations such as self-driving trucks are on the distant horizon, companies are now competing over qualified drivers by offering them luxury on the road.
Ohio-based Try Hours is converting its 20 trucks to be more stylish and comfortable, with hopes that it will make recruiting easier.
‘It’s all about a better experience to keep the drivers,’ said Kenneth Lemley, who manages the fleet at Maumee.
He says he is currently adding entertainment systems, because it’s more costly for Try Hours to have to idle a truck for a month for lack of a driver.
The extras can boost the cost of a new truck by about $50,000 to $185,000, Lemley told Bloomberg. ‘It’s a very good investment to keep a driver happy,’ he said.
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