Sapp Bros. Travel Plaza in Omaha offers plug-in power

Trucking and clean air aren't usually associated but plug-in power brought them together recently at Sapp Bros. Travel Plaza in Omaha.

Truckers and the public saw how truckstop electrification contributes to a healthier environment at a two-day open house June 12-13 at the Sapp Bros. location on I-80 at Exit 440. Representatives from Shorepower Technologies, which installed 24 plug-in power pedestals at the site, Cascade Sierra Solutions, the non-profit administering the US Department of Energy grant and industry vendors attended.

At Sapp Bros. and a growing number of truckstops around the country, truckers can plug in to power connections similar to those available at RV parks and marinas. 

By using 120V or 208V electricity, truckers can heat or cool their cabs and run appliances such as TV, microwave and refrigerator at a fraction of the cost of idling their vehicles during mandatory rest stops. Sapp Bros. is one of two truckstops in Nebraska to offer plug-in power to  customers.

"This is a way for trucking to be a good corporate citizen and to contribute to cleaner air," said Larry Johnson, president of the Nebraska Trucking Association. "And this is an affordable and reliable method for drivers to be comfortable on the road."

When idling, truckers can burn up to a gallon of diesel fuel an hour. At recent prices of $4 a gallon, idling overnight can cost around $40 and is harder on the engine than when the truck is running on the road. By comparison, plugging in at a Shorepower power station costs $1 an hour.

"This central location in Omaha is a key stop for trucking companies to take advantage of electrification that we are introducing to a growing number of truckstops nationally," said Alan Bates, Shorepower vice president of marketing. "By using shore power at truckstops to reduce idling, among other steps, trucking fleets can save 60 percent or more on energy costs."

By reducing idling, truckers are helping improve air quality by decreasing emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. By eliminating 1,600 hours of idling annually, a trucker prevents 9.7 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  

"This advanced electric charging technology marks an investment in our future," said Ginger Willson, director of the Nebraska Energy Office. "It holds the promise of transforming the trucking industry while reducing emissions and lowering the use of diesel fuels."

"I'm excited to see Sapp Bros. lead the way in the search for energy alternatives," said Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle. "Electrical plug ins will purify Omaha's air and improve our quality of life."

The Omaha truckstop is Sapp Bros.' first location to offer electrification. "We view plug-in power as a benefit to our customers and a way for them to save money and be more efficient," said Dan Adams, vice president of operations. "Trucking companies need to cut expenses, and we want to help them do that. When our customers win, we win."

The Sapp Bros. site is one of 50 truckstops planned nationwide to get power pedestals in 2012 through the Shorepower Truckstop Electrification Project, a U.S. Department of Energy program partnering Shorepower Technologies with Cascade Sierra Solutions (CSS). CSS administers the program, which also includes rebates for trucking operators to purchase idle-reduction equipment. 

For energy conscious trucking fleets, the Sapp Bros. site also offers six 480V power pedestals for refrigerated trailer units. "This is the first time an operator can take advantage of plugging in a refrigerated trailer away from their home terminal," Bates said.

"Truck owners who need a 240V electric standby connection can arrange to have access to a power converter at any STEP site that provides 480V service," said David Orton, CSS marketing manager. "More than half of the 50 STEP truck stop locations will have the 480V service.

"As we add more of these locations, we can begin to build a national network of truckstops that offer truckers a way to save on fuel and reduce idling and emissions, which can improve local health conditions," Orton added.