Sitting in the Western Star Roadstar, we can get an idea of the truck cabin as a media lounge, in the custom-built show truck from the US truck maker. Sit down on the lounge and pull out the desktop to play with your laptop, or flick the switch to activate the entertainment system. This system includes a few different elements to give the driver that extra feeling of luxury.
The array of speakers fitted around the cabin evidence the 5.1 Surround Sound system, which is part of the whole entertainment set-up. Above the driver’s head, in the driver’s seat, is a control system to adjust volume and the source for the audio coming out of the speakers.
To its left is a large LCD screen, also viewable from the driver’s seat. This can display a wide range of information, but when driving, the radio channel and volume can be seen and adjusted using the touchscreen. This screen will also display the image from the GoPro camera on the front bull bar or the image from the camera secured to the nearside front wheel arch, covering the truck’s blind spot.
Above the passenger’s head, and viewable from the cabin’s lounge, is the control system for the entire entertainment system. This is the star of the show, but you don’t have to sit in the passenger seat to drive it. Instead there is a Bluetooth keyboard and a remote control for sound.
Fixed to the angled roof, where the driver’s compartment transitions across to the higher cabin roof, is a 32-inch curved TV screen. It sits in an ideal position to be watched whilst the driver relaxes on the lounge. With keyboard on the lap and Wi-Fi capability, the driver can surf the net at their leisure (only if they can afford the mobile data charges, of course).
It’s not just Google and YouTube which can be accessed here. Below the curved screen is a small camera, making Skype video calls possible out of the truck’s cabin. The driver sitting on the lounge can insert a USB in the handy slot provided to their left and access its media, be it audio or video. The main control centre will take SD cards, if required.
There is also a hard disk onto which further media can be added. This means drivers can access their photos, music, or anything else which takes their fancy. For those still using 20th-century technology, there is also a slot for your favourite DVDs.
This truck turns out to be great fun to stay the night in and has a comfortable bed. The noise levels in a busy parking area at night, from the point of view of the sleeping driver, are low. This is the truck cabin most of us truck drivers dream of, and also the one most of us don’t get to use regularly.
By going through this exercise, Western Star has shown us what is possible in a modern truck. I dare not ask just how much something like this will cost, but we can be sure it will not be particularly cheap. However, the improved quality of life for the driver, it can be argued, would be worth it.
This is a highly sophisticated bunch of equipment and technologies to fit into a truck and, as such, will put heavy demands on the electrical power system. A lot of the equipment runs from a 240-volt supply through an inverter. This means a judicious driver would have to make sure the power supply was turned off at any time when the equipment wasn’t in use.
When it comes to the pure indulgence of living in a truck like this, it has a lot going for it. The way it is made and laid out means it will be relatively easy to keep clean. This is probably due to the experience of the installer in fitting out vans for the camper community.
However, the lovely wood-effect flooring, may be excellent in the main cabin, but it is impractical under the driver’s feet. There may be a need to segregate the floor between the driver’s seat and the rest of the cabin, to stop all of the nasties underfoot at a loading location making their way onto a beautifully polished wood-grain floor.
The experience, as a whole, was enjoyable. The truck is a joy to live in and it is nice to have access to some real creature comforts and modern technology while parked up in a truck for the night. It also reminded this driver of all the less-than-satisfactory sleeper set-ups we have had to endure over the years.
Is it really a practical option for an operator to fit in its trucks? Probably not. Is it something impressive that will get the truck a lot of attention in truck stops and anywhere truckies gather? Absolutely.