Sometimes it's easy being green, especially when an environmentally friendly product saves money — and in more ways than one. Determined to cut idling that wastes expensive fuel and sets truckers up for expensive emissions- and noise-related fines, Spirit Truck Lines began by investigating auxiliary power units (APUs) and wound up opting for one of the “no idle” solutions now on the market.
The fleet, based in San Juan, TX, not far from the U.S.-Mexico border, was founded in 1990 by brothers David, Johnny, Leonel, Ramiro and Raul Garza. Each has worked as a truck driver and they grew up with diesel in their veins, so to speak, as their father was a fleet owner, too.
Spirit, which operates dry vans in the Lower 48 and also services Mexico and Canada, has already grown into a 200-truck, all-company driver fleet. Some of that success may be due to how open-minded its owners are about new ways of doing things. For example, David Garza, who oversees the fleet's service operations, says Spirit recently shortened its trade-in cycle from four to three years “to get the most efficient, cleanest-burning engines available,” as well as access to other new vehicle technologies sooner than later.
Spirit runs only Kenworths and its newest trucks are an order of 50 T660 tractors spec'd with 72-in. AeroCab sleepers to help improve fuel efficiency and Kenworth's factory-installed Clean Power no-idle system.
Garza says the new trucks are turning in 7 mpg. He credits that performance to the T660 AeroCab's aerodynamic profile and its 455-hp. Cummins engines, as well as effective driver training and “a lot of little things,” including Michelin X1 single rear tires in place of duals.
He says the Clean Power no-idle system was an obvious spec to help paint the fleet green. “It's been a great decision,” says Garza. “We looked at APUs but decided we didn't want to deal with another engine. Clean Power really makes sense with its battery system for cooling and AC power and fuel-fired heater. The system is quiet and efficient and there is zero maintenance compared to an APU. I've had many drivers comment how they get a great night's sleep because they don't have to deal with an APU kicking on in the middle of the night.”
That Spirit drivers have embraced Clean Power is pretty obvious, since idling has been cut as much as 90% on the first batch of the new T660s put into service. “Obviously, with diesel costing more than $3 a gallon, we're interested in saving money through idle reduction,” says Garza. “We had a fleet idle average in the low 40% range, and the first no-idle trucks we've checked range from 3% to 6% idle time. We're shooting for an average of 5% for trucks with Clean Power.”
What's more, Garza says the tough new no-idle regulations issued by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are not an issue. “Each day we have around 10 trucks running through California,” he relates. “With the new system, we can shut the truck down and still allow our drivers to stay comfortable in the sleeper.”
According to maintenance manager Raul Benavides, Clean Power has required very little driver training. “When the first unit came in, I spent the night in the truck with my son to give it a test run,” he notes. “When the truck was shut down, the outside temperature was 95 degrees. During the night, the outside temperature still was hot at 85 degrees, but we stayed nice and cool in the sleeper. We had plenty of power the next morning. The air conditioning did not drain the battery, and the system worked great.”