Big Comfort in a Cargo Van
Expediting cargo van owners have, by necessity, been innovators and inventors when it comes to outfitting their trucks.
By Jeff Jensen, Editor
They don't have the living and cargo space available to them like their expediting brothers and sisters in the straight trucks and tractors, so they've had to improvise. Some of those improvisations have led to some interesting customizations - some that work and some that don't.
The main concern for cargo van expediters has typically been, "How do I fit a bunk into this small amount of space and still carry two skids or other bulky cargo?"
One creation that addressed that question was a van owned by a Toronto-based couple back in the mid-1990's. Their extended van included a high-rise roof with a rope-and-pulley arrangement that raised and lowered a mattress normally stowed against the van's roof.
This method, inventive though it may be, still doesn't allow the bunk to be used when the van is loaded. Neither does the sleeping arrangement used by some van owners - a fold-down bunk attached to the van's side wall - the freight is still in the way.
Improving the comfort level of cargo vans in earlier days of expediting usually required that the owner be skillful with the tools and materials necessary to insulate the truck and install the basic necessities such as the bunk, inverter, etc.
Many of the home-constructed "conversions" were impressive, with foldup bunks, folding bulkheads, overhead storage and TV racks, etc.
There are still a number of those good-looking home-built cargo van sleeper setups out there, but over the last few years, the commercially constructed sleepers have been gaining popular acceptance.
With today's professional conversions, the "B" unit driver can now choose between a spartan conversion with the basics of a bunk and storage compartments to a conversion that is close to the comfort levels of the bigger trucks, albeit on a smaller scale.
Some features to consider in the expediter sleeper conversions:
*Length of cargo bed - The sleeper manufacturers have been able to retain a sizeable nine feet of cargo area behind the bulkhead. This allows the transport of two full-size pallets, long considered a gauge of sufficient cargo length in a van.
*Bulkheads - The conversions spotlighted here feature heavy-duty bulkheads that separate the cargo area from the sleeper. The bulkheads provide driver protection from a shifting load, they help insulate the sleeper area and enhance the truck's heating/air conditioning and provide a sturdy surface to mount storage cabinets.
*E-Track - The conversions utilize both wall and recessed floor-mounted e-track securement systems.
From the manufacturers
Midway Specialty Vehicles
Russ Gilpin of Midway says, "I've always found it hard to understand how the expediter can sleep with a full cargo area. Where does the bunk go?"
He says that Midway began building sleepers for Sprinters in 2001 and that the conversion package that they have offered over the last few years was developed with input from their van dealers.
Two dealers who stock the Midway products are Grieger Dodge of Valparaiso, Indiana and Caldwell Dodge of Columbus, Ohio.
Sleeper upgrades include using an inner spring mattress and a reversible exhaust fan in the roof.
Midway sleeper conversion
*Hinged bed, cloth covered foam mattress, *Underbed storage area
*Door on underbed storage area
*Insulated ceiling and sidewalls in living area
*Overhead wood storage bins covered in vinyl with netting
*2 reading lights with swivel bases
*2 lights over bed area
*Cabinet behind driver to accommodate appliances
*Desk with pull out extension behind driver
*Fluorescent light in living area
*Curtain that covers side windows and windshield
*Roof vent in living area
*Pre-wired for 110 volt, shore line receptacle
*Concealed rods for hanging clothes
*Speakers in living area
*12 volt power outlets
*Flip up arm rest on driver/co-pilot seats
*Bulkhead-enclosed argo area with 9 feet of space.