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Many expediters were shocked when Bentz Transport Products, a popular supplier of aftermarket truck sleepers, fell victim to the Great Recession and closed its doors in August, 2009. Saddened customers wondered what, if anything, would happen with the unique Bentz integrated sleeper products.

Many expediters were shocked when Bentz Transport Products, a popular supplier of aftermarket truck sleepers, fell victim to the Great Recession and closed its doors in August, 2009. Saddened customers wondered what, if anything, would happen with the unique Bentz integrated sleeper products. The answer came in early 2011 when a new company, Bolt Custom Trucks and Manufacturing, started putting Bentz-style sleepers on the road.

As former Bentz customers learned of Bolt and expressed great joy that their referred sleepers were again on the market, some called Bolt the new Bentz. While the Bolt people are keen to point out that Bolt is a startup company in its own right, and that the company was founded before Bentz went under, customers can be forgiven for overlooking that technicality.

Bolt is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the same building that was occupied by Bentz for many years. All Bolt employees are former Bentz employees. The sleeper Bolt builds has been modified but the core design and quality are similar to the old Bentz integrated sleepers. Even the Bolt company owner is a Bentz; that is Don Bentz, a cousin to Keith Bentz who headed the now liquidated Bentz Transport Products, Inc.

When Bentz went out of business, Jeff Jones stepped in to keep the Bentz integrated sleeper product line alive. Jones is a sales representative at Stoops Freightliner in Fort Wayne. At that dealership and one before, he sold more Bentz sleepers than anyone else when Bentz was in business.

As Bentz liquidated its assets, Jones put his personal funds at risk to purchase the intellectual property, drawings, designs, solid models, engineering data, bills of material, cost data and pricing data that Bentz used to build and sell its sleepers. A lull in aftermarket sleeper production by all manufacturers followed as the recession progressed. Jones warehoused his capital investment and bided his time until market conditions improved.

Bolt began in 2009 by building “toters,” which are crew cabs with tow bodies that are used by people in the horse industry. Bolt also did service work for customers who still had Bentz sleepers on their trucks. Some of that was warranty work for Stoops. While Bentz had been liquidated, Stoops honored the Bentz sleeper warranty for Stoops customers and sent that work to Bolt. Other Bolt work included building sleeping quarters in Sprinter vans that were put in service as FedEx Custom Critical BR-units.

While that work went on, Jones and Bolt worked together to revive the Bentz-style integrated sleeper. The first Bolt-built sleeper of that type went on the road in January, 2011. The second was displayed at the Mid America Trucking Show in March and driven away by its new owners. Three more are being built for a dealer in another state. Seven will be built to stock at Stoops. Those sleepers will go on new Freightliner Cascadia tractors that Jones has on order.

The trucks completed by Jones are named SST for Stoops Specialty Trucks. Designators follow indicating the sleeper length in inches (SST100, SST130, SST150) and whether the sleeper includes a notch built into it to make room for a reefer that is mounted on the top front of a straight truck body (SST100R, SST130R, SST150R).

While Bolt sleepers have much in common with the old Bentz sleepers, design improvements continue. Aerodynamics have been improved by mounting the Qualcomm and TV antennas not on the roof but just under the roof inside the sleeper. The reefer notch described above is a Bolt innovation. Side panels cover the notch and smooth air flow. The Freightliner Cascadia cab and chassis on which Jones mounts sleepers is one of the most (Freightliner says the most) aerodynamic units on the road.

Jones says the greatest interest in these trucks comes from previous customers and FedEx Custom Critical contractors. Bolt’s Don Bentz adds that he sees interest also coming from new customers who have heard about Bolt by word of mouth. About the longer term outlook for new Bolt sleepers, he says, “I see things getting stronger. There are a lot of trucks that are just getting wore out and customers have to replace them. Things won’t be as strong as they were four or five years ago but I think there will be a steady flow.”

Contact Jeff Jones, SST Sales Manager at 800-456-8782 jeff.jones@stoops.com, www.sst100.com
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