In a continuous effort to reduce atmospheric pollution and environmental damage from vehicular emissions, North American regulators such as the EPA have been long involved in investigating ways to reduce vehicle idling.
Most fleet operators increasingly acknowledge the need for limiting idling, not only to reduce atmospheric pollution but also to reduce fuel costs, minimize engine wear and tear and driver discomfort.
Dissimilar idling regulations adopted by various states and provinces in North America are creating confusion among fleets and owner-operators, as well as among market participants that are developing solutions to address this issue. Over 25 states, provinces, cities, and urban areas across North America have already implemented idling regulations that are uneven and vary greatly in terms of idling limits and fines.
With diesel prices hovering at around $4/gallon, justifying the return on investment and payback potential of these systems is becoming increasingly easier. Thus it can be inferred that not only from a regulatory viewpoint but also from an economic perspective, idling reduction technologies offer the heavy-duty trucking industry a new solution to counter the challenges brought about by rising concerns on environmental pollution, driver shortage and rising fuel costs.
A formal national idling reduction regulation can be implemented swiftly if fuel costs continue to escalate and environment protection becomes a political issue in North America. However, the long-standing trend towards transportation deregulation away from federal control implies that a standardized federal-level regulation cannot be expected in the short-term.
In addition, the need for development of federal-level regulation mandating idling-reduction is gaining momentum with the FMCSA deciding not to alter the 11-hour drive-time and 34-hour provisions within the hours of service regulation. Federal, state and provincial governments are promoting anti-idling messages and campaigns and funding research in emission reduction technology development.
Many truck stops are changing to idle-free zones, offering several idle reduction alternatives. Moreover, fleet and owner-operator interest in idling reduction technologies is on the rise. Influenced by state and provincial idling regulations as well as rising concerns on increasing fuel prices and environmental pollution, idling reduction technologies are attracting incrementally higher levels of awareness, demand and revenues.
The key desired attributes of an effective idling reduction technology are shown in the accompanying chart. It can be seen that low cost, form-factor, noise and energy consumption are the four most vital attributes for an idling-reduction device.
Diesel-powered auxiliary power systems are being viewed as the most effective technology for idling reduction in the short-term. Alternative power sources for idling reduction devices such as batteries, thermal generators and fuel cells are also being considered as feasible solutions for idling reduction.
Also important to consider are developments in hybrid powertrain technologies for medium-heavy trucks. In addition to delivering improved fuel efficiency, power assistance and lower emissions, hybrid powertrain equipped trucks can support multiple applications and features that are otherwise dependent on idling. This will eliminate the need for an anti-idling device. The cost of the idling-reduction functionality can be built in to the up front cost of the truck.
At present, there is a clear and present demand for idling reduction technologies and solutions, fueled by fleets' and owner-operators' understanding and acknowledgement of the value associated with idling reduction solutions.
This fledging market is offering revenue growth potential to not only developers of idling reduction technologies and systems, but also to truck makers, truck stops, Tier 1 suppliers, and truck operators. It is also pointing towards the swiftly growing demand for maintenance and servicing of these new systems, and once again underlining the technician shortage issue in the light of increasing truck-technology complexity.