Benefits of cabin air filters no longer hidden

With the laser-like focus of the heavy duty trucking industry on safety and the media’s spotlight pointed directly at the hot-button topic of potentially distracted drivers on the road, something as simple as a cabin air filter might appear to be of little concern.

But it should be a major concern. A driver who is dealing with the symptoms of allergies can just as easily succumb to distractions caused by sneezing, blurry vision and headaches brought on by unclean air entering the cabin compartment as the distractions brought on by a cell phone or music device.

The cabin air filter is a first line of defense for drivers as they cope with the outside elements that may enter the cab of their heavy duty vehicles. From the dust and debris kicked up on the roadways, to the pollen, mold and seasonal elements that can trigger allergic symptoms, to the exhaust and soot in the air surrounding any construction or mining operation, the driver’s visual and olfactory senses are under constant assault.

Compounded Conditions

The adverse conditions in a cabin can be magnified when a vehicle does not have proper air circulation or appropriate filtration. As many as one-in-six Americans currently suffer from asthma or some type of allergy caused by airborne contaminants, such as pollen, bacteria, dirt, dust and soot. Any one of these contaminants may cause an allergic or adverse reaction for the driver.

The increased awareness of allergy-sensitive people living in the U.S., which according to the Filter Manufacturers Council ( is estimated at more than 40 million, may be the single-biggest reason for the cabin air filter getting so much recent attention. When you look at the opportunity for a front line of defense for occupants of the cabin, a functioning cabin air filter can remove up to 98 percent of (5-100 micron) particles before they ever reach the occupants in the cabin.

Because of air entering the cabin during the use of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, the environment inside the cabin of a heavy duty vehicle can become covered in a fine layer of dust as the contaminants settle on all the cabin’s surfaces. This allows the contaminants to remain in the cabin even longer.

Barrier of Protection

A premium cabin air filter will provide the operating cabin space of a vehicle with a filtering barrier, much like the barrier provided by heating and air-conditioning filters in a home. Today’s cabin air filters are more technologically advanced than the first filters from a decade or two ago.

Located in the HVAC system of a vehicle, most cabin air filters are found at the outside air intake, where outside air goes through the filter before it enters into the cabin.

Long-haul drivers are often in their cabins for extensive periods of time with short periods of time spent outside, surrounded by additional equipment generating exhaust and kicking up dust. This makes them especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of dirty cabin air.

Considering many drivers sleep in their cabin, the need to offer a barrier of protection is as much about cabin comfort and controlling unwanted odors as it is about the driver’s overall health.

Contaminants and Odors

In heavy duty truck applications, cabin air filters should be replaced according to the guidelines in the owner’s manual, though it may be most efficient to change the filters on a seasonal basis because of the pollutants that are prevalent in different seasons.

Premium cabin air filters, designed to remove particles, including dust and pollen, can effectively filter many of these contaminants while also removing odors from the cabin air. Today, the more innovative products on the market have combined components, such as activated carbon and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, to effectively remove a wide variance of offensive odors from the heavy duty cabin.

Whether it is preventing harmful contaminants from entering the cabin or cleaning the air of unwanted odors, cabin air filters can be the front line of defense in making the over-the-road trip a safer, more productive mission.

John Gaither is the director of heavy duty engineering for Fram Filtration ( One of the world’s largest suppliers of filters and filtration products, the company supplies products through industry-leading brands such as Fram, Luber-finer and PetroClear. Through its brands, Fram Filtration serves the automotive, heavy duty trucking and several industrial markets.