Boost bottom lines by adding comfort to the truck cab

A man works at a retractable desk in a Volvo truck.
A man works at a retractable desk in a Volvo truck cab.

Truck drivers spend days or even weeks away from home, often living in the cab of their truck.

Aftermarket products such as quality seating, sleeper mattresses and APUs can turn the cab into a comfortable home away from home.

Parts distributors should keep that in mind when considering driver accessories or creature comfort product lines. Understanding customers’ lives and offering solutions to ease their experiences is a good way to keep them coming back.

“Life on the road is tough,” says Steve Hansen, vice president of marketing and communications for High Bar Brands, which makes Minimizer products. “It’s not like our normal commute to work and back. These drivers literally live in their truck. Some drivers are known to fidget with their feet and their boots can wear through a floor in just a few months.”

Minimizer floor mats for the truck and sleeper area and a Minimizer mattress.Floor mats, such as these from Minimizer, can protect a truck from the ground up. The Minimizer mattress, also pictured, has a lifetime warranty.Hansen says floor mats like the ones Minimizer makes can keep the truck solid from the bottom up, preventing moisture and chemicals from leaking into the floor and creating corrosion issues. They’re also easily removed for cleaning, giving drivers a neat and tidy home away from home.

[RELATED: Minimizer introduces floor mats for Paccar medium-duty lines]

Seating is also key to driver comfort.

Nick Schafer, an account manager for Gra-Mag Truck Interiors, says a good seat not only keeps drivers happy, but keeps them safe.

“A good seat will enable a driver to feel less fatigue while driving,” he says. They’ll have fewer aches and pains and be happier on the road.

“Driver retention is one of the biggest issues fleet owners are facing,” Schafer says. “Added comfort and amenities that fleets can offer to drivers will help them attract and retain drivers.”

Schafer says a good seat is adjustable so each individual driver can customize the seat to their body and driving style. He says Gra-Mag seats, which feature an over-center suspension system, reduce seat vibration and displacement which, in turn, lowers driver fatigue and warranty and replacement costs.

Also important to maximizing driver comfort and performance is a good night’s sleep.

Hansen says Minimizer’s aftermarket mattress is made from natural latex and offers a firm side and a soft side for comfort no matter what kind of mattress the driver prefers.

“While most standard OEM mattresses are thin and lightweight, this mattress is very heavy and won’t bottom out,” Hansen says. “Drivers deserve a good night’s sleep and shouldn’t skimp on a mattress. Customer reviews are excellent. Drivers truly love this mattress.”

As an added bonus, Hansen says, Minimizer mattresses come with a lifetime guarantee, which makes it music to the truck owner’s ears.

He says adding to a truck’s creature comforts with things like an upgraded seat or mattress are, as Schafer says, key to keeping the best drivers on the payroll.

“Pay is a differentiator, but when it’s all pretty similar, we look to these comforts,” Hansen says. “We’ve all heard of drivers literally quitting because their radio doesn’t work and the fleet didn’t fix it. For a driver, this is where they live, so these seemingly small conveniences can make or break their willingness to stay with a specific fleet. Happy drivers are more likely to stay with their companies, reducing turnover and recruitment costs. Additionally, they are more likely to be productive and efficient, leading to increased revenue and profitability.”

And stocking driver-centric products shouldn’t stop with in-cab devices. Auxiliary power units (APU) should be considered as well because of how they aid drivers when they’re not on the highway.

The TriPac APU from Thermo King.The TriPac APU from Thermo King.

“They enable driver comfort by providing cooling and heating in the cab; power to run appliances and devices, such as a TV, gaming systems, refrigerator and microwave,” says Charlene Vance, APU product leader for Thermo King. “This makes it possible for drivers to have the comforts of home while they are on the road.”

Vance says there are several things to consider when selecting an APU to add to a truck, including performance, amount of use and vehicle type. Parts operations informed on those features are more likely to drive sales.

“Most business owners consider whether there’s a need for a fuel-operated or battery-operated APU as a first step,” Vance says. She adds other considerations include tractor idle reduction needs, aftertreatment requirements based on emissions regulations, hotel load and power needs, inverter needs, shore power compatibility, solar upgrading, sufficient alternator power for electric APUs, service network and serviceability, and the warranty offered.

“The must-have features in an APU are those that enable ease of use while optimizing fuel consumption,” Vance says. Thermo King APUs can reduce fuel consumption by up to 75%, she says, saving up to 2,500 gallons of fuel per year.  

RoyPow makes an all-electric APU it says offers quieter in-cab comfort and a longer run time without excessive engine wear or tractor idling.

“Since there is no diesel engine, RoyPow’s Truck All-Electric APU significantly lowers operating costs by reducing fuel consumption and minimizing maintenance,” says RoyPow Vice President Michael Li.

Li says RoyPow APUs offer smart cab controls, is emission-free and can be quickly installed. It’s no-idle operation also offers quiet comfort with a runtime of more than 14 hours.

“It is an environmentally clean, safe and reliable one-stop solution that delivers truck drivers ultimate comfort by converting their sleeper cab into a home-like truck cab,” Li says.

[RELATED: Tactics to improve your customer's parts purchasing experience]

Comforts such as upgraded seating and APUs aren’t just aftermarket options. Owners ordering new trucks can spec them right on the build, along with many other driver assistance and performance tools.

A man works at a retractable desk in a Volvo truck.A man works at a retractable desk in a Volvo truck cab.Chris Stadler, product marketing manager for long haul trucking at Volvo, says his company offers features such as front stabilizer bars, dynamic steering and the automated I-Shift transmission to help drivers stay on the road comfortably longer.

There are also options such as heated and cooled massaging seats, a refrigerated compartment under the passenger seat for beverages and snacks, adjustable cup holders, airline-inspired shades for optimal sleeping conditions, and a smart suspension.

“Volvo provided the first integrated, reclining bunk, allowing drivers to use the retractable desk from a comfortable seated position,” Stadler says. “Door locks, a panic alarm and temperature controls are within reach without the driver having to leave the bed.”

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