"Semi" is the colloquial name for the tractor unit of an articulated 18-wheeler truck. Many semis are factory equipped with sleeper cabs, and while in recent years these have been as well equipped as their limited space allows, earlier models offered only basic provision. Retrofitting such a semi into a camper, using new or salvaged parts, can give a new lease of life to both the truck and the materials. Considerable planning is involved in such a project, and trading off added weight against the level of improvements should always be a consideration.
Things You'll Need
- Semi with sleeper cab
- Graph paper
- Roof vent
- Electrical provision
- Plumbing provision
- Floor covering
Use graph paper to model the layout of your semi conversion. Accurately measure the internal dimensions of the sleeper cab, then transfer them to the graph paper. Space limitations dictate that a platform bed across the back wall is usually the best option, with enclosed storage beneath. A full-size double mattress will take up about half the available floor area, beyond which the space can be used in whatever way will best suit your specific purposes.
Attend a truck show or a recreational vehicle (RV) rally, or spend some time in truck and RV dealerships, and get to know what alternatives are available to you. Speak with other drivers at depots and rest stops to learn what works best for them. Search the Internet for salvage yards which specialize in reclaiming the equipment from damaged RVs, and trade off your budget against what appliances and equipment are available.
Formalize what you want from your conversion, then decide how luxurious the finished sleeper cab should be. A galley may not be a requirement if the semi is used on routes where roadside food is readily available, but if many overnights are spent on remote Interstate slip-roads or in rest stops with no provision beyond snack dispensers, decide whether a full household kitchen with a microwave, refrigerator and hot water would be an asset.
Photocopy your floor plan when it is complete, then use separate copies to draw in your plumbing and electrical systems. It may be that a free-standing shower in a corner and running water to a sink is a priority, but if so you must factor in all the tanks and equipment already present beneath the semi. Using household equipment would require the addition of a holding tank to store waste water until it can be vented at an authorized dump station. A good alternative is a cassette toilet/shower combination manufactured with integral fresh- and waste-water tanks.
Fit at least one roof vent first, above the kitchen or bathroom area, to vent steam and the hot air which builds up in enclosed spaces if your route takes you into parts of the country where heat is a consideration. Next install your wiring--either a rudimentary 12-volt system with a dedicated deep cycle battery and some lighting and outlets or a 120-volt system with a generator and regular outlets to run household equipment and appliances. If plumbing for a sink, a shower or a toilet is required, install that next.
Glue sheet insulation material to the walls, which will both protect the semi sleeper cab from extremes of temperature and deaden the noise of other drivers running their diesels overnight when parked in close quarters. Line the walls using lightweight sheets of paneling, and install a heavy floor covering to be decorative and to help with the sound and heat insulation.
Fix cabinets and shelves into the remaining space, and consider hanging curtains from curtain rails to create privacy. Factor in the points at which services, such as cable television and Internet connections, will be ducted into the semi when staying overnight at well-provisioned rest stops, and locate your television and work space accordingly. Locate your refrigerator where access from the cab is convenient.
- Photo Credit Semi image by Andrew Breeden from Fotolia.com
Who Invented the Semi Truck?
Alexander Winton invented the semi-truck in 1898 and sold his first manufactured semi-truck in 1899. This concept came in the midst of...
How to Convert a Truck Bed Into a Camper
Converting the bed of your truck into a camper allows you more options when carrying loads. You can protect your cargo, plus...
How to Convert a Used Horse Trailer to a Camper
Camper trailers are expensive, but sometimes a used horse trailer is not. Horse trailers can be converted into camper trailers very economically...
How to Install Truck Sleepers
Adding a sleeper to the back of a pickup truck gives you the ability to camp and use the truck bed to...
How to Customize a Semi Truck Sleeper
Sleepers provide a home away from home for truck drivers. Semi-trucks are equipped with sleeper cabs to increase efficiency for long-distance haulers....
DIY Truck Camper Plans
Converting a pickup truck bed into a camper can be accomplished for a fraction of the cost of a new camper. The...
How to Convert a Cargo Trailer to a Camper
Enclosed cargo trailers are often large, unobstructed spaces which lend themselves to conversion into home-made towable campers. They have strong, rigid frames...
How to Add Living Quarters to a Cargo Trailer
With some work, cargo trailers can be converted to include a section for living quarters. Whether they are the 53-footers towed by...
How to Register a Commercial Vehicle as an RV
Your state's department of motor vehicles requires recreational vehicles to be registered as such. If you purchase a commercial vehicle and want...
How to Register a Camper Trailer in New York State
Camper trailers must be registered in the state of New York just like most other vehicles. The process for registering is similar...
Regulations for Semi Trailers in California
For decades, trucks hauling semi-trailers full of produce, goods and materials have traveled across America as the backbone of the national economy....
Types of Semi Trailers
If you are considering joining the trucking industry it is smart to become familiar with the different types of semi-trailers that can...