Seems like a straightforward concept: if your trucks are less of a noise nuisance, people in residential areas will give you less guff about parking there. That's been the experience of bulk food-grade liquids hauler Oakley Transport Inc., and it's all thanks to spec'ing auxiliary power units, or APUs, across its fleet.
Earlier this year, the Lake Wales, FL-based company's fleet of Volvo VNL tractors numbered around 350, with some 550 bulk tank trailers; Oakley expects that'll reach some 500 tractors and nearly 800 trailers by early next year. "We've been operating APUs on our tractors for a long time — we were probably the first carrier in Florida to start implementing them," contends Craig Stevens, director of strategic initiatives.
"We don't even think about putting not putting an APU on a tractor now. Those are spec'd on 100% of what we order," he adds.
Though some of the real-world benefits were yet to be realized, the drive to install APUs on its tractors was really for driver comfort — i.e., the auxiliary power would provide electricity and air conditioning or heat for drivers off duty in the cab — and to shut the trucks' engines down. In a release from earlier this year, Oakley's Pete Nativo, director of maintenance, noted that the APUs pay for themselves in about a year or a bit longer with fuel savings from idling trucks less.
But the APUs also produce "about fifteen-fold" less smog and harmful emissions than idling a truck, Stevens tells Fleet Owner, and they're much less noisy than a diesel heavy truck idling. That's important, he says, because in serving its customers — many of them Fortune 500 companies "with very stringent requirements for transporting their products," things like milk or food-grade oils or fruit juices — Oakley drivers may need to deliver very close to residential neighborhoods.
"If we're doing our job right and are there early and taking our break prior to delivery, they'll hear what sounds like a lawnmower engine that's very muffled [with an APU] in comparison to a diesel truck idling," Stevens explains. "So there's a noise-control factor in there that we found a value in. It's greener and quieter."
That very point came up in a Federal Highway Administration webinar several weeks ago discussing the pervasive problem of truck parking. Drivers are often looking to get near where they need to deliver first thing in the morning and then park there to take their break required by federal Hours of Service rules, noted Scott Grenerth, director of regulatory affairs at the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association.
In the discussion, it came up that part of the problem is that residential neighborhoods don't want heavy trucks parking nearby because of the noise of trucks idling. Thus an APU might be one way to help mitigate that potential problem.
In Oakley's fleet you'll find Carrier Pro APUs, which use a 2-cyl. Kubota engine and feature a small, in-cab breakout panel with climate controls. From Carrier's site is this descriptive info: "Externally mounted on the side rails, Carrier's APU is protected by a weatherproof compartment and runs off the truck’s fuel supply. This innovative hybrid diesel-electric system saves fuel, runs quieter than the truck engine, reduces emissions and provides reliable, all-night comfort for the driver."
Carrier notes that its APUs:
• Provide sleeper air conditioning;
• Provide sleeper heating;
• Power household accessories;
• Charge truck batteries;
• Warm the truck's engine;
• Are compatible with shore power; and
• Monitor battery charge.
It may be one more thing to consider as truck drivers continue to struggle to find spots available — and where they're welcome — to park, taking breaks as federally required and when needed to ensure driver safety on the road.