The $94.5 Million Jackpot

The new energy bill will fuel growth of the already-booming idle-reduction industry.

He also mentions that Mack is working on moving cab air heaters, inverters and shore power packages onto the standard option list. "All that idle technology is going to happen for us in the next few months," he says. "We make a very nice inverter we put in the battery box. It doesn't take up storage under the bunk.

"Inverter use is just skyrocketing," he goes on, citing the fact that sister company Volvo Trucks is up to a 70 percent penetration on inverters on their VN780 sleeper.

"When we've polled customers, 90 percent want to buy inverters from the OEM, because the wiring's integrated," he explains. "There are no problems with those nasty retrofits that can happen with inverters. But we think that inverter use is going to go up now, too, with the idle regulations, because you've got the truck stop electrification, and that's going to spawn more use of shore power, which is going to spawn more use of inverters, because you're going to have more 110 volt appliances inside the sleeper."

Indeed, Phillips & Temro's Meleck has been working on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Standards Committee to establish just what will be required of shore power packages for heavy trucks.

"We have a new 120 volt AC standard that should be coming out this November," he says. "We're setting the standard for what's going to be the interface on the truck-to-truck stop electrification, should it come about. I'm also on another committee, which is part of the Electric Power Research Institute; that's going to set our standards for what's at the truck stop or at the depots, or other distribution facilities."

The new standard, SAE J2698, will call for shore power stands with two 20 amp circuits, which, Meleck admits, will cause trouble for APU manufacturers that build 30 and 40 amp power units. Nonetheless, he says, "We all stood together and said this is what we need."

According to the official SAE statement provided by Meleck, "With the two 20 amp circuits available to provide a total of 40 amps/120VAC (4.8 kW), each OEM is confident that they will be able to cover all idle reduction and convenience system power requirements. For example, one 20 amp circuit may be used for the block heater in winter and an air conditioning unit in the summer. The second 20 amps could be used for hotel loads such as microwave or television. The standard will be flexible to encourage truck design innovation but strict enough to ensure all safety aspects are met."

While cash incentives from the government will surely motivate many new fleets to equip their vehicles with idle-reduction technology, many others have been testing the waters for years.

"We started looking at anti-idling equipment back in '95," says John Drake, fleet manager for Sussex, WI-based Duplainville Transport™, where he oversees maintenance of 60 over-the-road tractors, 14 day cabs, and 280 trailers. When he started installing cab heaters on his over-the-road tractors, he found that "It was only good during the winter, and most of our idle time was air conditioning. So we went through a cycle of trucks with the heaters on, and just abandoned that idea so we could get to the next level."

The next level was to equip the over-the-road tractors with APUs. But that step was a disappointment, according to Jeff Kruepke, director of Quad/Transportation Services™, of which Duplainville Transport is one unit. "Early on we bought some APUs," says Kruepke, "and I thought, ‘I never want to get one of these again!' They were broken down more than they were running. So I know I had a really sour taste in my mouth."

According to Kruepke, those early APUs never stood a chance in a heavy truck. "Some of the stories we heard were that the older units weren't engineered as solidly as they are now," he says. "Some of the initial units were using automotive air conditioning compressors."

"Many of the APUs that came out originally were engine-based," confirms Phillips & Temro's Meleck. "As far as delivering power, or having a system that was smart enough to know when to shut off or when to go into different modes, that was beyond their capabilities and understanding. And their volumes were so low, they couldn't afford the right electronics."

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