High cost of idling

Manager: Mark Campbell Title: vp-finance Fleet: H.F. Campbell & Son, Millerstown, PA Operation: Regional refrigerated carrier PROBLEM Mark Campbell sees idling as a necessary evil in the refrigerated trucking business, especially for a fleet like his that operates in the Northeast, where drivers need to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A family business, H.F. Campbell delivers fresh

Manager: Mark Campbell

Title: vp-finance

Fleet: H.F. Campbell & Son, Millerstown, PA

Operation: Regional refrigerated carrier

PROBLEM

Mark Campbell sees idling as a “necessary evil” in the refrigerated trucking business, especially for a fleet like his that operates in the Northeast, where drivers need to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A family business, H.F. Campbell delivers fresh produce and other foodstuffs.

In the last few years, idling started to run up quite a tab for H.F. Campbell. For starters, their idling rate hovers at about 49%. This was exacerbated by a drop in overall fuel economy of almost a mile per gallon — from 5.71 in 1999 to 4.84 in 2005 — as a result of stricter emissions rules. As Campbell points out, the fuel economy numbers are low to begin with because the fleet operates in such heavily congested areas.

The jump in diesel prices is also a factor, since fuel consumption is about 1.2 gal/hr. during idling.

In addition, fines for excessive idling — which in many communities means anything over three to five minutes — have become more prevalent. “In New York State, fines for excessive idling [run] between $200 and $300,” says Campbell. “They're even higher in New York City, where we do a lot of business.”

SOLUTION

H. F. Campbell decided to install Thermo King's TriPac auxiliary power units (APUs). A 2-cyl. diesel engine and 12-volt alternator provide electrical power to run appliances in the sleeper, while an integrated fuel-fired Espar heater warms the cab and engine block.

Although the $7,000 per-unit acquisition and installation cost seemed steep at first, a dramatic drop in idling — from 49% to 26% — quickly convinced Campbell it was worth it.

Even more significant, says Campbell, was the shift in idling patterns. The fleet tracks three types: short term (15 min. or less), mid-term (between 15 and 90 min.) and long term (90 min. or more).

Prior to using TriPac, 53.7% of fleet's idling time was considered long term; 23.8% mid-term; and 22.5% short term. After the APUs were installed, long-term idling dropped to 15.7%; mid-term increased to 28.6%, and short term climbed to 55.6%.

Campbell figures that the TriPac units will pay for themselves in 14 months — and that's a conservative estimate. Since H. F. Campbell is on a four-year trade cycle, those savings should be “pure gravy” for the fleet for three out of the four years.

“There are also the fringe benefits,” he adds. “Half of our drivers live in upstate New York and their trucks [often] sit overnight in below-zero temperatures. With the battery-charging feature on the TriPac, we'll be able to reduce road calls for dead battery jumps, [which can] cost $200 per incident.”

On the maintenance side, decreasing engine wear and tear means saving money in general maintenance, as well as extending oil drains and minimizing road calls for dead batteries. On the enforcement side, use of APUs lessens the fleet's chances of idling tickets and fines. Not to mention the fact that drivers' sleep environment improves — far less noise and vibration and more consistent cab temperatures. It all adds up, says Campbell.




Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.

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