Portland, OR: James Thiele, an owner-operator for 20 years, wanted a heating and cooling system that would eliminate idling to help him adhere to anti-idling laws in many states and reduce wear and tear on his truck. Smooth Operators Inc., a heavy haul trucking firm specializing in transporting giant electric generation equipment, wanted to cut fuel costs for its low-MPG vehicles as diesel averages well above $4 a gallon.
Both operations found an answer in idle-saving devices that reduce fuel consumption while keeping their drivers comfortable in their cabs. Receiving government-funded rebates to defray part of the equipment cost made the decision to buy even better.
Both Thiele's JRT Logistics LLC and Smooth Operators qualified for anti-idling equipment rebates through the Shorepower Truck Electrification Project (STEP), a $22-million federal-funded program designed to promote truck stop electrification (TSE) and reduce fuel costs, air emissions and noise.
Rebate money for battery-operated HVAC equipment remains but operators should go online (www.cascadesierrasolutions.org) or ask their heating and air conditioning dealer about the program before money runs out, said Dave Orton, marketing manager for Cascade Sierra Solutions, which is administering STEP's rebate initiative.
"Governments everywhere have laws against idling in certain places," Thiele said. "Most don't enforce it but I didn't want to be the one they cite. The system means less wear on my motor, less oil changes, less idling. All around it's a win-win situation. It keeps my cab at a perfect temperature."
Thiele said the grant came with the proviso that he uses electrification when he's on the road. He plugs in at a warehouse he uses in Arizona and asks about TSE at truck stops. "I think it should be mandatory in all warehouses and rest areas," he said. "It will help reduce driver fatigue because you can get a good rest and avoid idling."
When he plugs in to the grid, Thiele points out he's not using his batteries to provide heating and cooling and other in-cab conveniences. By plugging in whenever he can, he's extending battery life and ensuring his batteries will be ready when he needs them.
Smooth Operators received $1,820 and $1,600 rebates through Cascade Sierra to install an Idle Free HVAC system on a new truck and a Dynasys APU on a used truck, respectively. In addition the heavy hauler has equipped most of its trucks bought since 2009 with electric or diesel-powered APUs to reduce idling. It also encourages the 19 owner-operators leased to it to apply for rebates.
Why the heavy commitment to anti-idling equipment? "Fuel savings," said Janie Kincaid, safety and compliance coordinator for the Darien, WI-based firm. She estimates the fuel cost from idling one of their trucks without an APU at $17,800 a year – based on a truck burning 1.2 gallons an hour idling 74.5 hours weekly compared with $728 a year for a truck with a diesel-powered APU and $528 for the Idle Free HVAC.
To encourage plugging into electric pedestals, Kincaid gives drivers a list of truck stops and other sites that offer the service.
Truck stop electrification availability is increasing. Shorepower Technologies is installing power pedestals similar to RV and marine-type plug-ins at 50 truck stops along major U.S. highway corridors as part of STEP. In addition, the company has more than 16 TSE installations in place and will have more than 60 operating by the end of 2012, said Alan Bates, vice president of marketing. The electrification infrastructure development company is also working with independent truck stops to develop electric plug-in services at additional locations along major freight-hauling highways.
"Our 5-year goal is to have 500 to 1,000 truck stop locations offering our electrification service," Bates said. "Electrification for trucking is rising to meet a growing demand. The high cost of fuel and anti-idling laws around the country make shore power a desired and affordable service for owner-operators, as well as fleets. We see a national TSE network someday for long-haul trucking."
Richard Hicks, an owner-operator from Macomb, Okla., leased to Moving Performance, pulls new trailers and equipment trailers for musical concert tours. In May 2011 Hicks received $1,068 in a rebate through Cascade Sierra for buying a diesel-powered Dynasys APU. The rebate appealed to Hicks because it required an electric connection to tap into TSE.
"In a lot of instances we're allowed to plug in to shore power at the concert venues," Hicks said. "You don't even have to run the APU. Everything runs off the one plug. I've probably used shore power at least 50 times. And when I get home, I can plug in to my garage and not have to turn off the truck's refrigerator. I travel all over the United States and Canada and ask about shore power wherever I stop."
Hicks also saves fuel because when he runs the APU, he estimates he uses only 10-15 percent as much fuel as before when he idled his truck.
"The STEP program has been very successful, which speaks to the great need in the transportation industry for owner-operators and small fleets to have access to fuel saving technologies for their businesses," Orton said. "Rebates are still available for battery-operated HVAC systems, but all other categories are either fully allocated or wait-listed. Check with your equipment dealer for other promotions in lieu of rebates for the other equipment categories."