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What’s a sleeper cab and how should truck drivers use them?

Trucks have either a day cab, rest cab or sleeper cab.

A day cab has one compartment which contains the driver and passenger seats with nothing behind them (or perhaps just a small space for personal belongings). Day cabs almost always have a rear window which makes trailer coupling much easier. Day cabs are cheaper to buy and are easier to manoeuvre. They are perfect when the driver is driving around the same area and can return home at night to sleep.

Day cab in a Fuso.

A rest cab, compact sleeper or day sleeper, has an area behind the seats which the driver can use to rest; it’s like a small bench seat, wide enough for a moderately proportioned person to lie down, but not big enough to use as accommodation. They are useful for helping manage fatigue as the driver doesn’t have to try to rest sitting up in the seat. They can also be used to store personal belonging, although those belongings would be unrestrained in the event of heavy braking or a crash.

Rest cab showing the narrow mattress. Curtains are provided for drivers so that they can get some rest, but it’s not designed for overnight sleeping. Dreamcatcher is optional.
This rest cab has curtains that draw across behind the seats

Sleeper cabs give convenience for long distance truck drivers who know that rather than having to find a motel or other accommodation at the end of their driving day, they can pull over and use their cab to sleep. These cabs can also be used during the day for resting in mandatory break periods, as defined by logbooks and work time rules.

Plush leather and an innersprung mattress provide comfort in this Kenworth sleeper cab.

A sleeper cab will often have a bunk bed, some kind of wardrobe and other storage, and some modern conveniences such as a fridge, microwave or TV. While they are in no way as comfortable as a motel room, they are very convenient and acceptable for a few nights; in other countries, some drivers live in their sleeper cabs for weeks at a time.

Sleeper cab in a Freightliner showing the bunk (stowed at the top) and storage lockers on the right. It’s always best not to think about the origins of stains on sleeper cab mattresses.

Sleeper cabs have the disadvantage of reducing the amount of load that can be carried, for two reasons:

  1. The cab is longer, therefore the trailer has to be shorter to stay within the maximum length
  2. A sleeper cab is heavier than a day cab, putting more weight over the axles, meaning that load distribution is a bigger consideration.

It’s important that you get a weight readout from a weighbridge when empty so that you know your tare weight. You can then calculate, based on the axles and tyre choice, how much you can legally carry. If you don’t know how to do this, check out this axle VDAM training course.

Because the sleeper cab is heavier, it comes with a fuel efficiency penalty, too.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

Posted in Advice, Heavy Vehicle