Owner-operators, small fleets win big with Wisconsin grant program

| 10/10/2006

While many states would rather reduce truck idling by enacting laws or handing out fines, one state is actually putting cash into the hands of truckers to purchase anti-idling technologies.

On July 1, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce began accepting applications from both owner-operators and fleets for its Diesel Truck Idling Reduction Grant Program. Now, just a few months after the application process began, the checks have already been cut, and some truckers are about to receive money to buy an idling-reduction device, such as an auxiliary power unit.

According to figures obtained by Land Line Magazine but not yet made public, $1 million was handed out for the program overall. And, true to its word, the Commerce Department allocated 25 percent of the $1 million to be given to truck owners with fleets of 50 or fewer trucks. Exactly $250,000 will be divided among 40 individuals and small-fleet owners.

OOIDA members and Land Line readers scored big in the program. Of the $250,000 distributed to owner-operators and small-fleet owners, a total of more than $141,000 – $88,424 for OOIDA members and $53,657 for non-member Land Line readers – was handed out.

DuWayne Marshall, an OOIDA member from Watertown, WI, received his letter Aug. 17 saying that he would receive $5,806 toward the purchase of an APU. He will receive 80 percent of the money up-front, and the other 20 percent after he completes a six- and twelve-month required report.

Marshall said the APU will safeguard him as more and more cities begin outlawing idling trucks.

“I see the handwriting on the wall,” he said. “I do believe that sooner or later, so many of these jurisdictions are going to require something, I want to be ready for when they tell me I’m not allowed to idle my truck anymore.”

Plus, Marshall said, a government-funded APU will have a positive impact on his bottom line and the environment.

“Is it a smart idea? Probably. Do I really need a 565-hp air conditioner? Probably not,” Marshall said. “I’m not an ‘environmentalist wacko,’ but if in a small part we can do what we can, I’m all for that.”

Although large fleets did receive a total of $750,000, which accounted for three-fourths of the available grant money, the big companies were significantly hamstrung.

Schneider National, for example, which is headquartered in Green Bay, WI, was granted only 58 of the 195 idling-reduction units it requested for a total grant award of $98,847 – far less than the $500,000-plus it requested.

Joe Rajkovacz, regulatory affairs specialist for OOIDA, said he’s pleased with the program’s outcome, but would like to see a larger piece of the pie given to individuals and small-fleet owners next time around.

“Obviously, the Association, along with our membership in Wisconsin, will work to see that the financial assistance goes to where it will get the most bang for its buck and do the most good,” Rajkovacz said.

Applications for the 2006 grant program are no longer being accepted. However, the Commerce Department will begin accepting applications for next year’s program on July 1, 2007.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff editor