Diesel’s US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, checks out the latest cabin from Peterbilt when Pete finally Goes for the Integral Sleeper.
There was a war of words back in the ‘80s when Freightliner introduced its Integral Sleeper. Volvo, at the time VolvoGM, had introduced its integrated cab and sleeper conventional in 1983 as the Integral Sleeper and complained that Freightliner’s use of the term for its FLD sleeper cab infringed Volvo’s registered trademark. The case rumbled on until the close of the decade.
Which is all the more surprising when considering today’s North American highway trucks, which are almost universally integral sleeper units.
And now, the last holdout, Peterbilt, has debuted its model 589 UltraLoft which is its first foray into the integrated cab and sleeper configuration. Until now, all conventional Petes have had removable sleepers, most recently as the Unibilt bolted-up sleeper that rode with and used the cab suspension.
The walk-through on the Unibilt was, and still is, very generous in providing access between cab and sleeper. The Pete configuration of a separate sleeper gave the brand a leg-up in the used markets where the ability to remove the sleeper and insert a factory back-of-cab panel helped, especially in third or fourth owner markets, where the Petes often took on a day cab role as a flatbed or most likely a dump truck.
Of course, one has to wonder where all those used sleepers went. Garden sheds? Chicken coops? Maybe they’ll be in increasing demand with the inexplicable popularity of Tiny Houses…
Top Notch Interior
Certainly, the levels of accommodation in the latter-day sleeper rivals the best motorhomes and in this respect, the new UltraLoft Peterbilt gives nothing away to its competition. As well as the additional cab interior space gained by removing the vestigial walls of the walk-through, the cab seems, and is, more open, spacious and extremely well appointed.
What the integral cab gains is wall space that is very intelligently used in the UltraLoft to provide an amazing 70 cu ft (1.98 m3) of storage that includes a microwave shelf and available 110V power, two big, open bins high above the stacked fridge, garment hanging and food pantry and drawers. Really smart is the folding upper bunk.
Many Petes are ordered with the double-bunk configuration of a 42-inch lower and 36-inch upper bunk because they realise additional value at trade. On the UltraLoft they are actually moved higher and lower to make sitting on the lower bunk a better proposition, but the smart split upper bunk can be used as additional safe storage as the front half folds vertically. This makes for an even taller seating position on the lower bunk, but also adds more storage than that lost from the back wall when speccing the upper bunk.
For those that wish to utilise the upper bunk for sleeping, there’s a super-safe fold-out ladder in the leading edge of the bunk rail. It’s even slicker than the access system in Volvo’s new VNL, and that’s really saying something.
And not only are the bunks wide, they are long, Pete says the longest in the industry, making good use of the full sleeper width. And since the cabin space, which can be isolated from the driving compartment or have a curtain at the windshield, is now larger, there’s an updated HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system) for maximum driver comfort.
Driver-inspired touches abound, like the duplicate control panels for each bunk, a door lock switch on each, and excellent LED lighting. The touches were gained in driver focus groups held during the development process for the new UltraLoft.
And Peterbilt has even found room to accommodate a 32-inch flatscreen TV which, in a truck sleeper, looks huge. The downside is that it blocks one of the side windows, but there remain two opening windows in the roof cap and another window on the opposite side of the sleeper. This can be incorporated into a full sleeper door, a feature many drivers see as a safety plus in case of an accident.
With the integrated sleeper, there’s a new roof cap that soars above the driving compartment, allowing full standing height from the seats back. A bonus is that there is additional storage above both driver and passenger doors which, on the top trim, come with proper doors and super-slick latches that you might find on class A motorhomes or million-dollar yachts.
And there’s yet another bonus from the new roof cap and slick sides of the integral sleeper: it’s two per cent more aerodynamic than the Unibilt sleeper-cab, which equals a one per cent fuel economy benefit.
The cab itself is unchanged forward of the B pillars, so dash and driving position are as with previous models, I think a pedestal-mounted swiveling passenger seat might add a little to the overall cab comfort. That may be in future plans for the new model.
The configurations we viewed at the reveal are due to go into production in July this year, although around 100 will be built on pre-production tooling to get the new model out to dealers and in customers’ hands. While some VNs have found their way offshore, the truck is intended only for North American markets.
The senior managers at the February launch in Scottsdale, Arizona, were very enthusiastic about the new model. The Assistant General Manager for Sales and Marketing, Robert Woodall, says the new configuration gives Peterbilt access to fleets where the integral sleeper is a spec requirement for maximum driver comfort.
Which really argues that when it introduced the Integral Sleeper back in 1983, VolvoGM really had a very good idea that has been well-worth copying. By everybody!