I was sure they were RVers. White haired, grandma and grandpa types, driving a Sprinter van – the platform of choice these days for Class B RVs.
They were waiting at the Sprinter dealer for service, right next to me. I was there for an oil change before heading out west.
“Are you guys RV'er?, I asked, after overhearing them talking about “hitting the road” as soon as their unit was serviced.
“Well,” said the man, “yes…and no.”
“Sort of,” said his wife.
“Actually, we're owner operators. What they call expediters. We use our van to deliver things from point to point,” said Bob Kleinman.
“But we also can RV in our van,” said wife, Terri. “We stay in campgrounds, have our own beds, cooking gear, electricity.”
The Kleinmans, who live in Branson, MO and had just finished a run to suburban Detroit, have been on-the-road in their Sprinter for a couple of years now. Bob is a retired contractor and built out the Sprinter with storage space for packages, a couple of bunks and room at the back to handle loads as big as a pallett.
There are over a dozen companies that use Sprinters for expedited service, fast point-to-point deliveries, and many are couples like the Kleinmans. It's actually quite a booming business as this “Expediters Wanted” website notes. The trend started with the introduction of the Freightliner Sprinter van in 2001 as a viable alternative to the GM, Ford and Dodge vans that were the traditional choices of cargo van owners in the emergency freight business. Many of the new expediters, like the Klenman's, have outfited their b=van with bunks, a portable generator and theer RV functions.
They invited me outside for a look at their van. They stored all their RVing gear at roof level of the cargo area so that space could be used for freight when needed. The only luxury they don't have is a toilet and bathroom. “We stay in campgrounds that have them,” says Terri. “And, of course, truck stops. But we can camp and RV with the best of them.”
Expediters have been around for a long time, typically in Ford, Chevy or Dodge Vans. But when the Sprinter van was introduced in 2001, it became an immediate hit. With its 158″ wheelbase and 73″ tall roof options, the Sprinter features more living and cargo room than any of the standard choices of the Big Three of Detroit. The Sprinter's fuel mileage has also been a selling point, with the estimated mileage of the 2.7L, 5-cylinder diesel somewhere in the 22-25 mpg range.
Expediters don't use Sprinters with dualies. If they did have dual rear wheels, they'd have to stop at the roadside weigh stations like the big rigs, and that would slow down their efficiency, the Kleinmans explained. Most expediters, unless they haul hazardous materials, do not need a Commercial Drivers License. They haul from place to place, sometimes just an envelope, sometimes parts.
The Kleinmans work mostly during the week. There is little business on weekends and holidays. On those days, and the rare times they w=are without business, they are more like regular RVers.
“We have the best of both words,” says Bobbi.
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