This week I'm thinking about trucks a lot. So far, the best truck I've found to meet my sustainability needs is the Vision Corp Tyrano. It has a hydrogen fuel cell electric engine, but it's a Class 8 truck, bigger than I need. It weighs 17,000 lbs., which means I only have 9000 lbs left for everything else, if I want to stay under the 26,000 limit beyond which I'd need a commercial trucking license. But the issue I'm thinking the most about is how the truck will be attached to the living unit.
There are a number of ways to do this. I've eliminated the option most tiny home builders use, of building on a flatbed trailer hauled by a pickup truck. This works, though with significant challenges, for those who only want to relocate now and then, but I want to travel. A lot. So I need to have my housing unit either be an integrated part of the truck, more or less permanently attached to the cab, or attached in a way that keeps it more or less rigid, so it moves as a single piece, rather than bending at the point of attachment.
Another challenge is that I want the floor of the house to be closer to the ground than most trucking set ups are. They are designed for easy loading and unloading from typical cargo docks. I, on the other hand, want to increase my ceiling height to have more head room, while keeping the roof as low as I can. The legal height limit of 13.5 feet allows trucks to pass under overpasses, but overhead wires and tree branches on smaller roads are often much lower. For the best mobility, I need to hug the ground. But so far, lower floor options like "low boy" trailers all have the same safety issues as flatbed trailers--the risk of jackknifing, where the driver loses control of the movement of the trailer portion of the vehicle. At the suggestion of my cousin Glenn, I'm going to start talking to trucking engineers.
Thanks to my friends at the Institute for Human Centered Design, who made the introduction, my little house will be a design project for Sean Solley's Universal Design class at the New England School of Art & Design this spring. Students will brainstorm solutions to some of the design challenges of the Vehicle, and I'll end up with a variety of ideas, drawings and maybe even a 3D model!
This week I met with four staff people at the Institute for Human Centered Design, an international educational non-profit "committed to advancing the role of design in expanding opportunity and enhancing experience for people of all ages and abilities through excellence in design." It was an exciting two hour brainstorm about all that is involved in creating the kind of housing I envision. The people I met with were extremely helpful and supportive, and have passed my idea along to a design class that might take it on as their spring project. I'm writing the Vehicle up as a design project now, so I can circulate it to other design classes. I have many, many leads to follow now.
Aurora Levins Morales is a chronically ill and disabled writer, historian, visual artist, and activist