September 2008, TruckingInfo.com - Test Drives
Responding to demand for an overnight cab for occasional use, Sterling has added the 60-inch NightShift model to its range of Class 3 through 8 work trucks.
At 60 inches and with full stand-up height from the driver's seat back, it boasts the most cabinet storage of any sleeper in the industry. There's even an under-bunk fridge/freezer in the standard configuration.
The sleeper also has plenty of daylight, with opening side glass and a fixed window in the rear wall, all with snap-on coverings for privacy or shade when required.
The NightShift cab is available on both 113- and 122-inch BBC Sterlings and is targeted at regional LTL and vocational users that require drivers to spend several days with the truck. There is only one, mid-roof configuration, derived from the rooftop for the recently introduced Freightliner Cascadia. For van trailer applications, the roof has an aerodynamic fairing to smooth air flow up and side skirts for the full aero package.
The sleeper has only a few options for the thoroughly equipped interior. One is for a pull-out table/writing surface with the cabinet options. The demonstration unit at the launch featured a microwave in the usual TV cabinet opening and a neat under-the-counter flat screen TV combo mounted underneath. Cabinets are very generous with different mesh or door options. Under the bunk is a pull-out refrigerator drawer (from the Mercedes-Benz Actros cabover) which can double as a freezer. This unit can be deleted for additional storage under the bunk. The profile of the roof over the driver and passenger seats is well used for added, deep storage around the header area.
Trim is a combination of gray and tan to complement the seat trim of the cab. Overall, the sleeper is light and airy, thanks to the side and rear windows, and is color-coordinated with the driving space.
Driver comfort was a priority in the development of the NightShift, and it comes with an 8-inch quilted spring mattress standard. There's full standing height for a 6-foot-4-inch driver, and there's a good walk through between the seats from the wide cab. A flat floor between cab and sleeper makes access easy. For additional access, a right-hand door is provided in the sleeper. On the other side, a baggage compartment door provides roadside access to the under-bunk space, which also can be reached inside by flipping up the bunk.
This was an prototype at the launch. Production is scheduled for December, with pricing "competitive" with trucks like the International ProStar and the Mack Pinnacle.
ON THE ROAD
At a recent Sterling ride and drive, we had the opportunity to drive a NightShift sleeper tractor pulling a loaded trailer over a 20-mile loop in the Napa Valley wine region of California. The route was short, with back doubles in Yountville and Napa, proving that the visibility out of the Sterling cab was all that could be desired. And with a 13-speed and plenty of traffic lights, there was plenty of opportunity to see how this unit would behave in crowded urban situations.
I found it easy to drive and position, even for some very tight right-hand turns with the usual street "furniture" positioned right at the apex of the turn. The demo unit was powered by the new Detroit Diesel DD15, which made short work of the 60,000-pound or so GVW.
As with all these cabs derived from the Ford HN80 of a decade ago, the Sterling was tight and rattle free. In fact, to properly close the doors, it is always advisable to crack a window and release the air pressure in the cab. I have driven test units with the equivalent of a million miles that are just as tight and rattle-free as this new NightShift, which bodes well for the longevity of the new sleeper cab.
With windows closed and air conditioning on we enjoyed a nice quiet ride. Sterlings now have a quiet package for the interior, which has dropped noise levels by 5 dB - a significant decrease - and conversation is very easy in the new quiet environment.
Where there is an aluminum cab option on the daycab Sterlings, the NightShift sleeper is all steel. However, there is very little penalty, as the cabs are quite light, with the tractor weighing in at between 15,500 pounds for the lightest to 20,000 pounds according to the specifications.