Ninety-four and a half million dollars—that's how much money has been earmarked for the proliferation of idle-reduction technology for heavy-duty trucks in the U.S. government's newly-enacted energy bill. Much of that money will directly help fleets, to help subsidize the installation of auxiliary power units (APUs), shore power systems and truckstop electrification (TSE) sites. The financial boost comes none too soon, as idle-reduction regulations continue to spread across the country and rising fuel costs gouge deeper into fleets' balance sheets. But what does it mean to you?
"I think the energy bill as a whole will be fairly positive for the advancement of idle-reduction technologies in general," says Brian Lawrence, heavy-duty truck and marine OEM sales manager for power inverter manufacturer Xantrex Technologies. Lawrence points out that in addition to financial subsidies, the bill also allows for a 400 pound weight exemption for the installation of idle-reduction technologies.
"For our particular product that's great; the 400 pound exemption basically covers our equipment, plus some additional batteries that can be used to cover that 10 hour rest period," Lawrence says. "While everyone can benefit from the weight exemption, for some other technologies, the 400 pounds doesn't quite cover it. There'll still be some additional weight that will cut down on the revenue-generating capacity of the truck."
"It's going to create demand from the fleets going back to the truck OEMs, and the truck OEMs are coming up with their own systems," says Mike Meleck, product manager, power systems, Phillips & Temro.
"I know that Bob Clark, head of the Truck Manufacturers' Association, has stated that all the truck manufacturers would have idle reduction systems in place by 2008, and by that he meant systems that could stand alone, such as an APU or some other battery-based system, but could also be hooked up to truck stop electrification, if available. What this bill is doing is creating larger demand, which is going to bring that date forward. So you're going to start seeing these systems, of which Phillips & Temro is a part, in 2006, available on the trucks directly from the OEMs. Once they're available from the OEMs, that in itself brings forward some other financial benefits to the fleets."
"I think 2006 is a little aggressive" for across-the-board idle-reduction availability from all truck OEMs, says Jennifer Harris, on-highway product segment manager for Freightliner Trucks. Nonetheless, Freightliner does offer a hint of where other OEMs might be headed with its own factory-installed custom system. Offered in partnership with Tundra/Dometic and Temco Products, the "Idle Solutions" package consists of a Dometic 14,000 BTU HVAC system and a Temco 7.2 kilowatt power generator which operate completely independent from the main engine and other truck systems. "We've also offered shore power and Xantrex converters for about five years," says Harris.
But, according to Freightliner's product marketing director, Jonathan Randall, the company's idle-reduction offerings are a function of market demand, not federal "Our customers are coming to us and saying, ‘We need help reducing idle time,'" he says. "So that's motivating us more than anything in offering a solution."
"Our plans are set and we can't change our plans," says Wayne Wissinger, product strategy manager for Mack Trucks. "We'll offer what we're going to offer, regardless of the energy bill."
Since 1991, Mack has offered basic idle reduction technology in its V-MAC system, and Wissinger says that about half of the company's customers make use of the timer-controlled idle shut-down feature. Sometime in 2006 the V-MAC system will be upgraded to offer an automated stop and start system, licensed from Temp-A-Start, which Wissinger says should save a half-gallon of fuel per hour while idling.
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