Big Comfort in a Cargo Van

By: Jeff Jensen, Editor
Posted: Feb 24th 2006 7:35AM

expediter-sprinter-van.jpgExpediting cargo van owners have, by necessity, been innovators and inventors when it comes to outfitting their trucks. 

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.

Commercial sleepers
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

Alumi-Bunk Corporation
Don Portice - expediting specialist at Alumi-Bunk in Woodhaven, MI says that his dealership can provide a tricked out Sprinter for a customer request, but the company is best known for its Ford cargo van packages that include the Alumi-Bunk sleeper.
He says that the Alumi-Bunk's Ford vans' biggest selling features are the 500,000 mile engine warranty along with the wide availability of Ford service locations across the country.
"This is a 9500 GVW van with a payload capacity of just over 3,000 pounds.  This Ford Powerstroke was introduced in 2005 - a 6 liter, 235HP, V8 diesel that gets 22 miles per gallon."

Portice reminds us that to maximize cargo area in the Ford van, the sleepers are limited to 1 1/2 feet in depth, but at the same time points out that these vehicles are significantly more expensive than similiarly outfitted Sprinter vans and "our vans are built to make money." 

alumi-bunk-van.jpgAlumi-bunk Ford E-350 Conversion

Sleeper Conversion Features:

*24" wide bed
*5" high density foam mattress
*Fluorescent light
*Digital alarm clock
*Privacy curtain
*Storage compartment
*Fully insulated door panel
*4" Fully insulated bulkhead reinforced with aluminum sub-frame fully sealed from cargo area
Cargo Area Features:

*9' Cargo bed
*2 Rows of logistic E-tracking on side walls
*Plywood floor
*2 Rows of logistic E tracking recessed in floor
*13" Corrugated scuff plate on bulkhead wall

Bentz Transport Products Conversion

In 2002, Bentz Transport Products introduced the Expediter Interior Conversions for cargo vans.  Designed and installed by Bentz, a  manufacturer of aftermarket sleeper cabs, the interior conversions are targeted to expedited freight applications.

Bentz offers three different conversion packages:

Model B10 Expediter Interior Conversion

 *30" x 76" fold-down bunk assembly, left side,
with foam mattress

Bentz B30 Conversion in Sprinter
*30" fold-up bunk assembly with overhead storage compartments
30" x 76" fold-down bunk assembly, left side, with foam mattress
Bunk support legs when in open position
Bunk hinge, gas piston and retainer straps when in closed position
Aluminum overhead storage compartment, left side
Aluminum overhead storage compartment, right side
TV compartment, right side, with external side-mount TV
antenna and 12-volt power outlet
Soft trim panels with foam and vinyl on exterior surfaces of
aluminum storage compartments
Bentz B60 Conversion in Sprinter

60" sleeper berth with cross-frame bunk configuration
Relocated factory cargo partition with 9-feet  cargo compartment
60" sleeper berth with 30" x 66" bunk assembly, hinged bunk pan,
underbunk storage and foam mattress
Carpet with 1/2 inch insulation pad
2 inch fiberglass insulation: side & rear walls, cargo door and ceiling
Soft trim panels with foam and vinyl on side wall, back wall, and cargo door; cloth on headliner
Reading light and fluorescent light
Aluminum storage/refrigerator cabinet, left front
Aluminum wardrobe/storage cabinet, right front
Aluminum overhead storage compartments, left side & rear wall
Aluminum TV compartment w/roof-mount antenna &12-volt outlet
Soft trim panels with foam and vinyl on exterior surfaces of aluminumstorage compartments
Black vinyl sliding curtain behind seats

Bentz Transport Products, Inc.
4532 Allen Martin Drive
Fort Wayne, IN 46806
800 664-2865
Ph: 260 441-0404
Fax: 260 441-0202

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
*Carpeted floor
*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

Optional equipment
*Leather seating
*Flip up arm rest on driver/co-pilot seats
*AM/FM/CD Radio
*Bulkhead-enclosed argo area with 9 feet of space.

expediter-sprinter-sleeper-van.jpgPhoenix Conversions

Phoenix Conversion Sprinter offers a 158" wheelbase, 73" tall roof model that has become the "Sprinter-of-choice" for the expediting market.

Tom Capps of Phoenix Conversions of Knoxville, TN says that his company is doing sleeper installations for both truck dealers and individual customers alike. 

He says, "Many people have found Phoenix through Internet searches or they know someone with one of our vans.  We've been working with the Sprinters since around 2001."

He goes on to say that Phoenix is seeing more interest from husband/wife teams with Sprinter vans and the wife is quite often leading the way in the pursuit of more comfort items for the sleeper conversion.

Capps says that there is increased interest in alternative color schemes such as maroon and gray combinations along with medium-depth shag carpet to give more of a homelike feel to the van.

Other new trends for these van sleepers include

*Separator curtains between cabin and sleeper
*15" LCD flip down TV's, will soon be upgrading to 17"
*DVD players along with 100 watt audio systems  
*12 volt ventilation systems
*Increased the number of 110 volt outlets

Capps says, "We've been looking into increasing the width of the bunk, but it's still in the developmental stages." 

He adds that Phoenix also does hi-top conversions of the Ford vans but that the Sprinter "has developed into a fantastic platform to work with."

A few of the Phoenix Sleeper Conversion features:

-A bunk measuring 27.5" W x 66" L x 5" D  with lift-up lid for access to storage area.
-Floor-to-ceiling storage closet behind the front passenger seat with latching double door.

-Full width storage cabinet over sleeper bunk with latching double doors.
-Overhead cabinet with built-in microwave
-Built-in 12 volt refrigerator inset into a floor mounted cabinet with a laminated counter top

-1750 watt power inverter with remote on/off control switch
-Dual battery system with deep cycle battery and solenoid isolator system

-Exterior 110 volt shore power hook up with automatic transfer switch (inverter to shore power)
-12 volt interior lighting package with 3 fixtures
-"Reflectix" insulation package in the walls and ceiling
-Vinyl-covered walls with custom diamond button pattern and vinyl-covered ceiling

-Carpeted floor in sleeper area

-Tinted glass - 5 percent on rear, 20 percent on side sliding door, 35 percent on driver and passenger doors

Cargo Area Features:

-Rear divider wall 108.5" from the rear doors - a full 9 feet of cargo space

-E-track securement system in rear cargo area (side walls and recessed in floor)

Contact Alumi-Bunk

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