A special treat came my way last week when I met up with Tom and Debbie Berkel to tour their brand new Double Eagle sleeper -- more like a house than a sleeper, actually. A veteran husband and wife driving team that've worked 26 years for Mercer Transportation, they had longed to make their 13-year old Kenworth a true "home away from home" for some time -- and now they've made their dream come true.
And what a sleeper! It containers a shower, fold-down double bed, double sink, refrigerator and freezer, microwave and convection oven, flat screen TV, and just tons of cabinets. Their satellite TV can be adjusted from inside the truck, so Tom doesn't have to go out into bad weather anymore, get up on the roof, and manually manipulate the satellite dish himself. The decor just makes it feel like home, too -- with the walls and ceilings a nice soft off-white and the cabinets a rich wood grain. The flooring is pergo, so it looks like wood, though Tom put a real wood floor in the driving compartment.
Best of all are the "little touches" that make it feel like home: characters from the movie "Finding Nemo" inhabit the shower, while the cabinets have lady bug, Mickey Mouse, and beautiful rose-shaped knobs -- the rose knobs a tribute to Debbie's mom, who passed away three years ago.
OK, so it's gorgeous -- and lots of truckers have sleepers as big and as nice if not nicer. And sure you can debate how a sleeper of this size impacts fuel economy, payload capacity, turning radius, etc. But after talking with Tom and Debbie (absolutely two of the nicest people you'll ever meet anywhere) you begin to realize just how life-changing a sleeper like this can be to a truck driving team.
"Take the shower -- you go into a truck stop shower and you wait in line, and they can be none-too-clean," Debbie told me. "Having my own shower allows me to clean up when I want, as I need to, without being rushed." She also noted that their fold-down bed runs down the cab wall, not across the back of the cab, greatly reducing road vibration, so they sleep much better as a result.
Cooking their own meals has been a huge plus, Debbie added, allowing them to eat healthier and save money at the same time. She showed off a freezer packed with roasts and ground beef, as well as bread dough ready to be defrosted for the oven. Fresh baked bread out on the road! You can't beat that -- and Tom said that by eating better and at more regular meal times helped him lose 20 pounds.
Double Eagle's flexible construction plan also allowed them to lay out the design of their sleeper the way they wanted -- without a lot of upcharges. Light fixtures you'd find in a typical home didn't cost extra to install, for example, enhancing the home-like feel the Berkels were after.
Having this sleeper also allowed them to save money when they took quick vacations at various points across the country as they didn't need hotel rooms. Tom also installed an extra 40 gallon water tank just for washing his truck, saving him the $60 it typically costs them to run their Kenworth through a commerical facility. And these are only a few of the myriad ways the Berkels make that sleeper pay for itself.
While not every driving team or driver can afford the Berkels' set-up, the sleeper they've created with Double Eagle's help really shows off a lot of possibilities -- especially the ways life on the road can be made easier and more enjoyable for drivers as a whole.