Schneider has, in fact, been testing cab & sleeper cooling systems for the past several years, so they know what works and what doesn't, what holds promise and what has failed to live up to its potential. Not surprisingly, the engineering team has developed standards that the final selection must meet.
First, the solution must be mobile. Although Beauchamp acknowledges that some drivers make use of shore power and truck stop electrification (TSE) services, they are in the minority.
"One of the things we found out through our evaluation of engine-off idling technologies is that better than 70 percent of our drivers park at or near our customer locations," says Damman. "They don't park at truck stops, they don't park at waysides.
"There's a very good reason for that," he continues. "The last place a driver wants to be if they're delivering into Chicago is a truck stop out on Gary, Indiana, having to wake up at five or six in the morning, having to dump themselves into rush hour traffic, and try to get into Chicago."
Instead, Damman explains, the drivers will try to reach their destination the evening before, and take their break as close to their delivery point as possible. "In many cases, they'll back right up to the dock on the customer's lot, just so they can avoid that rush hour traffic in the morning," he says. "Also, if you're in there early, you're not burning your hours getting in to that location in the morning. You wake up and you're starting fresh after your break. So things like truck stop electrification and air delivery systems don't work very well when they only address 30 percent of your problem."
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Schneider's second requirement is that the technology must offer some cost/benefit payback. "We've looked at a number of mobile solutions that are closest to hitting that criterion," Damman says, "and I don't believe we're going to find a cooling solution that's going to have a complete payback; there's going to be a cost to it. But we've found that the battery and storage solutions have the best view to a payback, and are the most likely solutions for our fleet. So, we've been concentrating on solutions that involve either battery or storage."
Finally, the added weight of a cooling solution is also a factor, but on that point Damman is resigned to accepting a penalty: "There's going to be a weight penalty no matter what cooling technology you use, whether you use an APU or a battery solution or a storage solution," he explains. "It looks like they'll all have about a 400 to 500 pound weight penalty."
That wouldn't be such an issue if the proposed 400 pound weight exemption proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had any chance of becoming a reality, but Damman isn't holding his breath on that one.
"The EPA did recommend that the states adopt that, but, unless all 48 lower states adopt it, you might as well not have it," he says. "So there, that's the issue with that 400 pound exemption right now: it's not a national exemption. Even if half of the states, or three-quarters, or ninety percent of them adopt this weight exemption, you still can't use it effectively. When you're running 48 states, you have to have a national weight exemption, not a state-by-state weight exemption."
Over the past few years, Schneider has had a dozen or so test units in the field at any given time, but by the time you read this, the company plans to have approximately 200 trucks on the road, testing engine-off cooling systems throughout the spring and summer. It's a mammoth test for the company, so big that when Fleet Maintenance visited company headquarters, a corporate video was in production, to educate the drivers and dispatch employees on the scope and status of the cooling project. "This is the biggest engineering program Schneider has undertaken for the entire fleet since we adopted Qualcomm wireless in the 80's," Damman says.
The new energy bill will fuel growth of the already-booming idle-reduction industry.
Virginia Truck Center, with six locations throughout Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, has signed an agreement to sell, install and service Idle Free electric APUs.