Call it the summer of truck stop electrification. Maybe it’s not as romantic or nostalgic a notion as the “summer of love” or the “summer of ’42,” but for the trucking industry, the summer of TSE is a whole lot more important.
This is the summer that truckers on major freight corridors around the country will see a significant increase in the number of truckstop parking spaces at which they can plug in their vehicles and operate cab comforts and conveniencesespecially air conditioning, a critical need for summer drivingwithout idling the main engine.
Shorepower Technologies, which deploys and operates plug-in power pedestals, already has more than a dozen locations at truckstops.
But with the federally-funded Shorepower Truck Electrification Project (STEP), administered jointly by the company and the non-profit organization Cascade Sierra Solutions, 50 locations will be added by the end of this year, many of those coming on-line this spring and summer.
Proponents of plug-in power as an idle reduction technology have long touted its benefits for reducing fuel consumption and expense and improving the environment.
But Jeff Kim, president and CEO of Shorepower Technologies, said the best marketing program for plug-in power is installing pedestals at truckstops, where truckers can see it and start enjoying the benefits firsthand.
“Truckstop electrification has been a long time coming, but this is the summer in which we can really show what this technology is capable of,” Kim said. “Once drivers see it for themselves, use it and tell others about it, the interest will accelerate.”
That will come as good news to truck owners and operators who have long been intrigued by the idea of plug-in power, and are investing in equipment specifically designed to work with it, but who haven’t had many opportunities to use it.
“We are very interested in the use of shore power at truckstops and other locations,” said Brent Witte, president of Witte Bros., based in Troy, Mo. “For refrigerated loads, such as ours, it makes economic and environmental sense to utilize truck stop electrification.”
“For us, it’ll be much better whenever shore power expands a little bit more and has more locations,” added Carol Barrett, fuel manager for heavy equipment haulers Keen Transport in Carlisle, Pa.
Truckstop owners participating in the STEP program are looking forward to adding plug-in power too, because it’s another service they can offer to get drivers who pull in to their facilities for the night.
Chuck Hinckley, president of Gearjammer Truck Plaza in Union Gap (near Yakima), Wash., said truckers currently have four options for dealing with very hot or cold temperatures: Idle their trucks all night, run an auxiliary power unit, get a motel room “or suffer.”
Plug-in power is “an alternative that takes care of them and helps our environment,” Hinckley added. “When you can put together a program that does both, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Hinckley said he expects to see use of plug-in power grow because of the savings in fuel and maintenance costs, incentive programs to install plug-in-power-compatible equipment and the increase in the number of truck stops such as Gearjammer where electrical connections are available at parking spaces.
Plug-in power isn’t a new conceptmuch the same idea has been used for years at boat marinas (hence the derivation of the term “shore power”), airports and RV parks. Truckers can connect with plug-in power with as little as a heavy-duty extension cord connected to an outlet strip, from which they can run TVs, microwaves, laptops or space heaters.
In more sophisticated set-ups, plug-in power connections and equipment specifically designed to run off external power can be installed. At the top of the line, trucks come from the factory with the truck’s internal systems set up to seamlessly operate with plug-in power.
That’s the direction many fleets are going. Witte said the company is studying battery-powered APUs (which use truckstop connections to grid power to recharge batteries); the increased availability of truck stop electrification “would definitely enhance our decision to choose them.”
Keen Transport last year ordered 70 trucks with plug-in-power-ready, diesel-powered APUs, and the company intends to buy more.
For Keen, it’s more than just having the equipment and hoping drivers will use it. “I take part in the new driver training for each of those new trucks (outfitted with APUs), and one of the things I hand to them first off is the list of (plug-in) locations,” said Barrett, who is paying close attention to the rollout of truckstops equipped with electrical connections and how those fit in with Keen’s routes. “I’ll continue with the drivers of those trucks that have (plug-in capability) to keep them up to date when it comes to be at those stops.”
The answer to the question “when?” brings us back to the importance of the summer of 2012 for plug-in power. Shorepower Technologies, in conjunction with Cascade Sierra Solutions, is specifically targeting heavily traveled routesincluding Interstates 5, 10, 20, 75, 80, 81, 84, 90 and 95for development of truck stops outfitted with plug-in power, so that truckers can count on the service when they stop to rest. The full, updated list of plug-in power sites can be found by clicking here.
One particular area of emphasis is the West Coast, where plug-in power sites are already in place or will be switched on soon along I-5 and Highway 99 in California, Oregon and Washington. Shorepower’s Jeff Kim said the goal is to have plug-in power sites 40 to 200 miles apart on those West Coast routes.
Bringing plug-in power to more West Coast truckstops highlights one of the reasons the technology is gaining favor with drivers and vehicle owners. California already has an anti-idling rule (extended to trucks with sleeper cabs in 2008); Oregon’s went into effect in January of this year.
They’re not alone. Dozens of states, counties and municipalities already have laws limiting or banning truck idling, and more rules are coming.
But plug-in power offers a wealth of benefits beyond legal compliance, for fleet owners and operators and for drivers.
The immediate payoff is in reduced fuel cost. Shorepower prices its service at $1 an hour (cable TV is often included), compared with $4 or more for a gallon of diesel fuel required to idle the truck for an hour. The higher the price of diesel goes, the higher the return on investment and the shorter the payback period for plug-in compatible trucks and equipment. Even for trucks equipped with diesel-powered idle reduction equipment, there can be benefits. Noted Keen Transport’s Barrett, using plug-in power “saves diesel, even though usage is minimal for an APU, and it also reduces wear and tear on the APU’s engine, belts, etc., allowing for longer time between service intervals” and longer product life.
|STEP incentives available for vehicle owners|
|Fleet owners interested in using plug-in power for their vehicles are getting some financial incentives to do so.
The Shorepower Truck Electrification Project (STEP) includes purchase rebates for equipment compatible with plug-in power. Cascade Sierra Solutions, which administers the rebate program, says funding remains for the purchase of battery-operated, plug-in-power-capable HVAC systems. The organization’s website (cascadesierrasolutions.org) has a listing of the manufacturers and equipment eligible for the rebates.
For battery-powered HVAC systems, the program provides rebates of up to 20% of the installed equipment cost, to a maximum of $1,600 each.
Cascade Sierra Solutions also advises vehicle owners and operators check with dealers for possible incentives and promotions, beyond what’s available through STEP, for other categories of plug-in-ready equipment.
Shorepower Technologies and Cascade Sierra Solutions also are offering an easy way for both fleets and independents to immediately start plugging in and saving1,300 free connector kits.
The free kits include an electrical receptacle for mounting on the exterior of the truck cab, a cab interior 120-volt AC outlet and wiring harness, as well as an on-off switch and a ground fault circuit interrupter. Once the connector kit is installed, drivers can use a heavy-duty extension cord to connect a power pedestal at a truck-stop parking space to the exterior receptacle. Inside the cab, 120-volt AC outlets provide convenient places to plug in portable heaters, microwaves, laptop computers and other devices.
Fleets are allowed to install the kits if technicians are ASE certified. There’s a cap of 25 connector kits per fleet. Independent operators must have the kits installed at an authorized service center and pay only the labor charge.
Battery-operated idle-reduction systems also benefit from plug-in power, since external connections can recharge and top off the batteries while simultaneously running whatever comfort and convenience appliances the driver wants. “Using shore power will extend battery life,” said Royal Jones, president of Mesilla Valley Transportation in Las Cruces, N.M., which has battery APUs on most of its 1,200 trucks.
That’s not the end of the financial benefits. Idling is hard on an engine. Running off grid power instead of idling reduces maintenance and repair costs and helps the vehicle hold its resale value.
For drivers, plug-in power offers a quieter night’s sleep in a cleaner environment, through the reduction of emissions. Idle-reduction equipment that works with plug-in power could prove to be an effective recruitment and retention measure for fleet drivers. Jones said that as plug-in power becomes more available, and drivers understand how easy it is to use, “There’ll come a time when my drivers are fighting over the trucks” that are equipped to connect to it.
Fleet operators are looking beyond this summer to see where plug-in power will be available, and how they can use that to grow their businesses. Shorepower Technologies’ long-term plan is to have 500 to 1,000 sites equipped with electrified power pedestals.
Many of the installations also will have higher-voltage connections for truck transport refrigerated units, which will make plug-in power even more attractive to fleets.
One that’s already making use of the technology is Reser’s Fine Foods, a Beaverton, Ore., maker of salads, side dishes, dips, Mexican foods and specialty products.
Reser’s already makes extensive use of plug-in power in conjunction with cold-plate-equipped trucks for its direct-store delivery routes. With more truckstops available on major routes, said Reser’s corporate fleet manager Dennis Fullan, the company could expand its operating territory while sticking to its no-idling policy.
“I would like to see more electrification as it would expand our universe,” Fullan says.
The universe of plug-in power will expand this year, an event which Kim is counting on to bring the day closer when connecting to grid power is routine for long-haul drivers. “Drivers and fleet owners have told us they like this technology and are ready to use it, when it’s available,” Kim says. “Now it will be.”
IdleAir has reorganized and is adding plug-in locations
According to Ethan Garber, IdleAir CEO, “IdleAir is the largest TSE provider with 26 locations open in 12 states, representing nearly 2,000 installed spaces. IdleAir continues to grow toward 100 high-impact locations by early 2014. Currently serving 400 fleet customers and over 20,000 drivers, IdleAir is in demand today as part of an integrated idling solution.
“More than 98% of OTR vehicles can use a free IdleAir window adapter and user-friendly suite of services (HVAC, shorepower, DirecTV and internet) for less than the lifetime hourly cost of an APU. To date, IdleAir and its predecessors have helped save the trucking community over 50 million gallons of diesel and accounted for approximately 99% of all TSE usage in 2011.”
The company said it currently operates 27 locations in 12 states, adding it is grateful for the partnership of its travel center hosts, including Pilot Flying J, Love’s and Sapp Brothers, as well as several TA Franchisees and independent travel centers. This gives the company nearly 2,000 installed parking spaces and plans for the addition of more than 10 travel centers on major trucking corridors throughout 2012. Planned expansion in 2012 includes more IdleAir capacity in Houston, Dallas, Denver, California, Ohio, Louisiana, Virginia and Pennsylvania. “Our business plan calls for establishing 100 high-impact locations by early 2014 in order to fill in corridors that drivers need and to establish the ubiquity of a national network that fleets want,” the company added.
Garber noted that corporate streamlining has allowed the company to keep prices low and stable with a retail rate of $1.99/hour for the first 10 hours of every stay and an extended “Home Away from Home” rate of $1.25/hour for any continuous stay beyond 10 hours. This means that drivers can stay multiple days for $30/night and they can complete 34 hour resets for less than $50all while saving fuel, engine wear and tear and keeping their batteries chargedwhether they are straight batteries or a battery-operated APU.
IdleAir is under new ownership and management, Convoy Solutions LLC, which is now offering the same IdleAir service while taking a fresh look at new technologies and services, and listening to customer needs, the company added. It has begun re-opening sites and now has over 20 sites operational in 9 states. In addition, IdleAir is honoring all balances from the old IdleAir, even if you tossed your card. Call 877-738-7024 for your balance.