Before buying, fleets must do their homework
By Jack Roberts
Over the past decade or so, a lot of things have changed in trucking. One of the most problematic for long-haul fleets is the proliferation of anti-idling laws that have sprung up in every state and in Canada. The initial push for these laws came from communities wanting to control both noise and air pollution. But a third component – rising diesel prices – has made fleets view what used to be an annoyance as a viable method for controlling fuel and maintenance costs.
But no matter what fuel prices do, exhausted drivers still need comfortable cab environments where they can relax and rest after long days behind the wheel. For that, sleepers need power – and with the primary diesel out of the picture, other options have come into play for fleets.
Reducing truck idling reduces dependence on foreign oil, increases trucking profits, improves air quality by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, provides safer and quieter driver living spaces and extends the life of trucks’ main engines.
While truck stop electrification systems have seen mixed results, fleets view auxiliary power units as the solution of choice. To date, two different types of APUs have taken hold in the market: diesel-powered and battery-powered units.
While both have advantages and disadvantages in terms of operation, they also do a good job of providing drivers with a comfortable overnight environment.
Diesel or battery?
When it comes to comparing diesel and electric APUs, the choice depends on the fleet’s specific needs.
“APU performance depends on the driver, the season and the climate – as well as whether there is major solar load to contend with,” says Robert Hopton, chief executive officer of electric APU manufacturer Idle Free Systems.
The choice between a diesel- or electric-powered unit depends on many factors.
Dean Lande, APU business manager for Carrier Transicold, agrees. For fleets that travel through the hotter southern states, look for an APU that will provide at least eight hours of continuous cooling.
“Battery-powered systems tend to underperform diesel APUs in extreme heat,” Lande says.
In most situations, an APU can heat and cool the bunk while supporting the driver’s hotel needs. But if that driver is sitting in Phoenix in the middle of the summer, “there really isn’t an APU that could compete with idling the truck,” Hopton says.
The preferred type of anti-idling device is as varied as the owners themselves, with some opting for shorepower and others wanting the independence of fully contained on-truck power and HVAC supply. When considering an APU purchase, fleets must consider reliability, initial cost, fuel usage and driver climate satisfaction.
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