IdleAire back open for business

| 8/26/2010

New IdleAire Inc. CEO Mike Fielden admits it’s going to be a tough sell to woo former customers back to using its in-cab services after the previous owners unexpectedly shut down in January. Many drivers had money on their IdleAire cards at the time of the company’s closure and were never reimbursed by the previous owners for the money they were owed.

However, Fielden told Land Line that the new owners plan to honor the prepaid balances customers had on their cards.

“It’s unfortunate that the company they (drivers) invested in no longer exists, but it’s a good step on our part to honor those balances that they had,” he said.

Drivers can either swipe their old member card or they can call IdleAire’s customer service number to verify what their balances are and “take advantage of the funds that we are honoring,” Fielden said.

According to Fielden, so far nine sites, which are mainly located in the southern states, have been reopened. The plan is to reopen 25 sites by this fall.

“Business is coming back,” he said. “We expected it to start off slowly. In some ways it’s just getting the word out again. Other issues are establishing the usage because some people do feel like ‘why would I do this again?’”

Fielden said Convoy Solutions, the new organization that bought IdleAire, has taken a hard look at what its customers liked and didn’t like about its predecessor. He said many of the complaints have been about smoke in the units, so an ozone cleaning machine has been installed at every site. Eventually, no smoking signs may be posted in some of the parking spots so those units can remain smoke-free.

He said the pricing has been simplified to have just one price of $1.99 per hour for their services, down from a more complicated tiered pricing system the previous company had in place. Fielden said what stands out about the new company is that its pricing system is not trying to “follow the price of fuel.”

“We’re looking at our costs to find the best price for our customers,” he said. “If fuel goes up to $4 or $5 a gallon, then our price is a good value for our services, but our business model is not to follow fuel.”

While Fielden admits IdleAire is a bridge technology, he said future plans include offering electrification-only sites. But for now their current plan is to get their existing equipment “up and running properly.”

“We will have a pretty decent footprint in some areas, but it won’t be nearly as big as it was before and that’s OK,” he said.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer