Idle Time: Sieze the day and share the benefits

Once in a great while, even in the trucking industry, there is a period where multiple factors converge at a single point, creating a circumstance rare and potent with energy and possibility. It is a time when battles are finally won, unexpected breakthroughs occur and fortunes are made or lost. It is a time when, long after the moment has passed, the winners will talk of opportunities realized and

Once in a great while, even in the trucking industry, there is a period where multiple factors converge at a single point, creating a circumstance rare and potent with energy and possibility. It is a time when battles are finally won, unexpected breakthroughs occur and fortunes are made or lost. It is a time when, long after the moment has passed, the winners will talk of opportunities realized and the losers will talk of fickle luck in an attempt to describe what happened and why.

When it comes to trucking operations, especially to managing costs, this may be just such a time. Today, there are unique opportunities to dramatically cut operating costs and gain new competitive advantages by reducing engine idling. There are new federal and state programs, new financial incentives and new solutions available to fleets that can make a major difference to the bottom line, right now.

“We have entered a truly unique period, where concerns about the environment, energy security, and highway safety line up perfectly with the transportation industry's own business goals,” observes Mitchell Greenberg, manager of the SmartWay Transportation Program for EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “The federal government, individual states and municipalities, vehicle and component manufacturers, power suppliers, travel plazas, truck and bus fleets and others are all very focused on reducing engine idling, for a wide variety of reasons. It is a rare merging of interest and initiative, and it is creating a win, win, win situation where everyone can benefit.”


For starters, EPA recently awarded a $200,000 grant to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and its project partners Xantrex Technology, Dometic Corp., Taylor Made, Phillips & Temro and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to demonstrate how the use of onboard AC power alternatives to long-duration idling can reduce fuel and maintenance costs and improve engine life. The project is actively seeking fleets to participate.

“We have the funding, we have the hardware and we would like to invite more fleets to participate,” says Bill Warf, project manager with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). “Under this program, fleets are able to purchase one of three onboard idle-reduction technology packages and EPRI will reimburse 50% of the cost, install the technology on the initial truck and train drivers on its use. Then fleets track the technology's effectiveness at lowering fuel costs and reducing maintenance costs and other engine-related costs for 12 months. At the end of the test period, they reinvest the amount of money saved on the purchase of additional idle-reduction technologies.”

To complement the program, SMUD is also addressing the shorepower side of the equation by installing AC power receptacles at the 49er Travel Plaza in the Sacramento, CA area, at the intersection of I-5 and I-80. “We have 16 spots powered and we can add to that if we see the demand,” says Warf, “and for now, drivers are invited to use the AC power free on a first-come basis. It will really take three things to make AC power a viable alternative to idling: the necessary onboard hardware, access to shorepower and fleets and drivers willing to change their idling habits,” he adds. “We are trying to address all three within this project.” Call Bill Warf for more information (916-732-6976).


Another EPA initiative that is capturing the attention of fleets and shippers is the SmartWay Transport program, launched in January. According to Greenberg, it is a new voluntary partnership between sectors in the freight industry and EPA designed to improve the environmental performance of moving freight. Carriers can join the program by committing to directly improve the environmental performance of their fleets by integrating innovative strategies into their fleet operations such as reducing idling, specing, lightweight components, etc. Shippers can join by committing to ship their goods with carriers signed up in the program.

“The concept is to help fleets save money and emissions by saving fuel,” says Greenberg, “and to help shippers identify fleets that can, in turn, help them meet their own emissions reduction goals. We have a charter partnership group of carriers and shippers, including UPS, FedEx, Schneider National, Coca-Cola, and a dozen others that helped us design and sell the program.” For more information, contact Buddy Polovick at EPA (734-214-4928) or go to


Another program that fleets, should know about is the New York State Truck Stop Electrification (TSE) Program. Working in partnership with the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the New York State Thruway Authority installed 45 IdleAire Technolgoies Advanced Truck Stop Electrification (ATSE) systems at rest stops in the Syracuse, NY area in 2002-2003.

The IdleAire systems are designed to deliver individually controlled heat and air conditioning, a color touch-screen computer, 110-volt electrical outlets, telephone connection, high-speed Internet and e-mail access, wireless Internet, satellite television, movies on demand and access to TREAD-1 interactive driver training programs from Instructional Technologies to trucks parked with the engine off. No special onboard equipment is needed to use the system other than a low-cost insert that slips into the side window.

“The truck stop electrification program has huge momentum here,” says Donald B. Hutton, director of operations for the New York State Thruway Authority. “Our next electrification project is at the New Baltimore bi-directional plaza in Greene County, where we plan to add about 40 more IdleAire slots.

“The number of users is growing every day, and we are getting very positive feedback from drivers who seem to like virtually everything about our new installations, from the quiet, to the heating/cooling system and the access to communications and entertainment,” Hutton adds. “Data we are gathering with the help of NYSERDA ( tells us that we are already also making an impact when it comes to reducing fuel usage and pollution. At the DeWitt location alone, NYSERDA estimates that we have burned 15,000 fewer gallons of diesel since the 21 IdleAire slots opened there last July. (


Besides having access to the IdleAire parking slots near Syracuse, fleets also have an opportunity to participate in a new TSE project, according to engineer Joseph D. Tario, a project manager with NYSERDA. The new project, proposed by the Antares Group and funded by the New York State DOT, the U.S. Energy Dept. and NYSERDA, includes both the retrofitting of a fleet with the onboard equipment required to use shorepower and the installation of electric pedestals at a rest stop along the Adirondack Northway.

“The retrofit package for this project includes a Cab Comfort HVAC unit from Dometic, a Xantrex inverter/charger, cab power kits and wiring harnesses from Phillips & Temro and the Smart Energy Management System from Intellitec,” says Thomas Perrot, sr. project manager for Antares, an engineering consulting firm ( “The Intellitec system was originally designed to be used in RVs to automatically control power, cycling off circuits in a pre-selected order to limit power consumption. Although the current model has more circuit breakers than a truck requires, we believe use of this technology helps make AC-powered accessories both viable and dependable when used with shorepower.”

“The big advantage of off-board TSE solutions like those in Syracuse is that no additional truck hardware or modifications are required to use the system,” Tario offers. “The RV or marine-style TSE model is much less expensive to install, however, and we believe that the majority of new trucks sold now and in the future will be manufactured with the onboard equipment required to take advantage of an AC shorepower infrastructure.”


According to Tario, NYSERDA has also solicited proposals to accelerate the general development and commercialization of truck stop electrification equipment, systems, design and services. Under Program Opportunity Notice 784, the company announced its intention to award a $1 million contract to a single commercial entity or joint venture that provides a plan leading to the design, installation and commercial operation of shorepower TSE infrastructure in New York and the surrounding New England states.

Like the Adirondack Northway demonstration, this project focuses on RV- or marine-style systems that provide grid electricity to stationary, long-haul trucks for the operation of onboard HVAC units, block heaters and other in-cab devices. Proposals were due on August 27, 2003.

“Over the next five to ten years, we expect to see a variety of alternatives to idling in use, from Advanced TSE like the current IdleAire systems, to RV- or marine-style TSE installations to other solutions like auxiliary power systems,” Tario notes. “It just makes so much sense. The only ones who don't stand to benefit are foreign oil suppliers.”


Reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil is just what the Dept. of Energy's newest Idle Reduction Technology Program is all about. “DOE recently sent out a solicitation for projects to install idle reduction (IR) equipment onboard trucks that will provide stand-alone cab/sleeper heating and cooling and electricity for standard plug-in devices like laptop computers,” explains Leslie Eudy, a project leader at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “The two best technology proposals were selected for funding this summer, and we hope to finalize and announce our agreements with those groups soon.

“The next step is for fleets to use the IR technology on their vehicles and collect and report their findings,” Eudy continues. “The things we learn from this project about idle reduction technologies, including their upfront and operating costs and issues related to their use, will be widely shared with fleets, owner-operators, OEMs and drivers.” ( or call 865-576-8041 and request NREL/TP-540-33629.)


Fleets interested in supplemental funding for implementing alternatives to idling should also learn about the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program managed by the FHWA. Its purpose is to fund projects and programs to reduce transportation-related emissions in air quality non-attainment and maintenance areas where pollution levels are above national limits. Typically, cities or states are granted CMAQ budgets to help fund projects in their area, and agencies or groups are often hired by the state or city to actually manage and administer the grant funds.

Earlier this year, the FHWA issued a memorandum clarifying the eligibility of idle reduction devices for funding: “Programs providing auxiliary power units in heavy-diesel trucks to reduce extended idling can be deemed eligible if there is some assurance that the vehicle's range of operation will be predominantly in the non-attainment or maintenance area.” (See:


The Carl Moyer Clean Engine Incentive Program in California is funded under Proposition 40 and administered by the California EPA's Air Resources Board. It offers fleets up to $1,500 per vehicle toward the installation of devices to reduce idling. If the device happens to be a high-technology system such as a fuel cell auxiliary power unit, the subsidy jumps to $2,500 per truck. The main requirement is that the device be used within the State of California for a minimum of 100 hours per year for five years (


Brand new on the list of EPA-sponsored initiatives, the National Transportation Idle-Free Corridors program was developed to “zero-out all the idling that is taking place at truck stops, rest areas, parking lots, and warehouse facilities,” says EPA's Mitchell Greenberg. “Vehicles waste at least one billion gallons of fuel idling, going nowhere, every year in the U.S. The related emission rates are just way too high in exchange for doing no work at all.

“We need to see immediate reductions in emissions, so the focus in this program is really on deployment,” he adds. “We will be working very aggressively to put together people from fleets, manufacturing, truck stops, suppliers and this agency to identify logical places to begin building out the Idle-Free Corridor.” Contact Paul Bubbosh at EPA for more information (202-564-9322).


The current national interest in reducing idling and the long list of programs and projects it is spawning is, in part, being driven by the requirements of the Federal Clean Air Act, which resulted in clean air goals for America's most polluted areas and penalties in the form of loss of federal funding for transportation projects for failure to meet those goals. For regions struggling to meet compliance deadlines, it is an increasingly serious matter.

The Houston-Galveston region, for example, has until 2007 to meet their air quality goals. According to the Houston-Galveston Area Council, failure to do so will result in the loss of approximately $1 billion in annual transportation funding.

“Clearly, there is a lot going on now to reduce engine idling,” observes George Strickland, vp-engineering and construction for TravelCenters of America. “It seems like everybody is suddenly interested in truck stop electrification and other alternatives to idling. The thing is, it has always been just so easy to idle.”

“The only thing standing in the way of progress now is the very old habit of idling,” agrees engineer David Orr, commercial manager for Caterpillar's MorElectric Technology (see page 42). “When it comes to reducing emissions, reducing idling is a fairly low-cost means to making big gains quickly. It is the low-hanging fruit, and I think people are starting to realize that and appreciate the potential,” he notes. “The next twenty-four months will be very interesting, very exciting.”

$marter alternatives to engine idling SO MANY CHOICES: Auxiliary Power Generators

AUX Generators, Mississauga, ONT, Canada, 877-843-5289

Cummins Commercial Power Systems, Minneapolis, MN,, 763-574-5000

Energy & Engine Technology Corp., Plano, TX, 972-732-6360

SCS/Frigette Truck Climate Systems, Fort Worth, TX,, 800-545-6341

Teleflex Canada, Richmond, BC, Canada, 604-270-6899

TruckGen, Jacksonville, FL, 904-378-1220

Auxiliary Power Units (integrated)

Auxiliary Power Dynamics, LLC, Sparks, NV, 800-825-4631

Double Eagle Industries, Shipshewana, IN, 800-227-4121

Pony Pack, Inc., Albuquerque, NM, 505-243-1381

Electrical Power on- and off-board

IdleAire Technologies Corp. Knoxville, TN, 865-342-3659

Phillips Industries, Sante Fe Springs, CA, 562-781-2121

Phillips & Temro, Eden Prairie, MN, 952-941-9700

Xantrex Technology, Burnaby, BC, Canada, 360-435-8826 (USA)

Engine Idle Management Technology

Caterpillar Engine Co., Mossville, IL, 309-578-1600

Cummins Engine Co., Columbus, IN, 800-343-7357

Detroit Diesel Corp., Detroit, MI, 313-592-5000

Fuel-Fired and other No-Idle Heat and/or HVAC Systems

Bergstrom, Inc., Rockford, IL, 815-874-7821

Cab Comfort, Elkhart, IN, 574-294-2511

Espar Heater Systems, Mississauga, ONT, 800-387-4800

Taylor Made Environmental, Inc. Richmond, VA, 804-746-1313

Webasto Product North America, Lapeer, MI, 800-HEATER-1

Other Systems

International Power Systems (Rig Master Power), Toronto, ONT, Canada, 416-201-0040

Safer Corp., Anaheim, CA, 877-777-2337

Information on state and municipal idling regulations and on Canadian programs to reduce idling is available on the FLEET OWNER website:

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