It pay$ to reduce idling
OOIDA, along with 70 members, recently participated in a DOE study to determine the operating parameters of long-haul truckers

It just makes sense that idling big diesel engines, using them for anything other than moving freight down the road, is inefficient.

Extra fuel is burned, and unnecessary emissions are created. Engines wear excessively. Drivers know this, but even in mild weather, when power is needed for neither heating nor cooling, we find far too many parked rigs idling.

The Diesel Idling Reduction Partnership (www.stopidling.org) is a grassroots organization of truckers, equipment manufacturers, equipment resellers and government representatives. It is dedicated to eliminating unnecessary idling.

The key word is “unnecessary.” There are bound to be times when idling is necessary. But equipment available to truck operators today can reduce or even eliminate the need to idle. Diesel-powered generators create electricity to drive accessories like electric cab and block heaters or air conditioners. Auxiliary power units provide the heating and air conditioning and drive an alternator to keep batteries topped-up while powering your accessories.

Less costly fuel-fired heaters keep your engine warm and ready to start while you’re kept warm in the sleeper. Inverter chargers can draw from battery to power 110 volt AC accessories, or they can use “shore power” to recharge batteries, too.

All these alternatives to idling work. All keep you from using a $25,000 to $35,000 engine to do what a $1,000 to $7,000 idle reduction device will do more efficiently. Idling reduction devices consume from 0.05 to 0.15 gallons of diesel per hour. That’s at least one full gallon less per hour than a diesel engine uses at idle. A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) analysis shows that if long-haul trucks, idling six extra hours per day, 43 weeks per year, used idling reduction devices, each would save 1,230 gallons of fuel per year. With fuel seeming to stabilize around $1.40 per gallon, that’s $1,750 in annual fuel savings. Add in an estimated $275 in reduced maintenance, and you’re looking at an annual return of at least $2,000.

With the new HOS regulations calling for 10 hours’ rest daily, the total could easily reach $3,400 per year. If, according to DOE projections, all long-haul trucks practiced idling reduction, our nation would save up to 1 percent of its annual fuel usage.

With such impressive savings, why doesn’t every driver reduce his or her idling? That’s one of the questions DOE is preparing to answer. This past April 15, DOE conducted a Heavy Duty Truck Idle Reduction Technologies Workshop in Philadelphia to help design an Idle Reduction Technologies Demonstration Plan.

OOIDA, along with 70 members, recently participated in a DOE study to determine the operating parameters of long-haul truckers. Similar surveys were done with 58 ATA-member fleets.

OOIDA members idle about 2,000 hours per year on average. Only 16 percent use some form of idle reduction equipment for heating and cooling and to power accessories. On average, leased operators require a two-year payback on their purchases, while independent owner-operators will be happy with a three-year payback.

Barriers to purchase are high initial cost, extra weight, the performance and reliability of the devices and on-road maintenance requirements.

Participating truck manufacturers say that to engineer idle reduction devices into their trucks, they need greater interest from fleets, better performing and/or lower cost devices and strong government interest. Government interest would be demonstrated through subsidies and incentives, research programs and a demonstration of technologies for the end user.

The DOE is now putting together the input received from fleet operators, equipment makers, truck builders and other involved industry members, taking into account the OOIDA input, to develop a solicitation for demonstration projects to address the barriers to the use of alternatives to idling.

They will want hard numbers from real-world operations that will quantify costs and measure savings, educate drivers about the advantages of idling reduction and help provide a business case for decision making for truck manufacturers.

Proposals are due by June 11, with the announcement of what proposals will be selected due by Sept. 30. Proposals were originally expected to run 18 months but will probably last two full years to include two summers and two winters.

Perhaps some beneficial legislation will result from the demonstrations. While DOE cannot lobby Congress for changes in tax law, workshop participants felt that, in addition to the weight allowance now being considered, Congress might review program results and eliminate the 12 percent excise tax now on idle reduction devices. Congress could even consider some form of tax credits.

The House and Senate versions of the latest energy bill contain provisions for weight exemptions up to 400 pounds for vehicles equipped with idling reduction systems.

But even without these incentives, the current figures are quite clear: It pays to reduce idling.

by Paul Abelson, technical editor
Paul Abelson can be reached at truckwriter@anet.com.