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Idle Hour PUBLIC ACCESS

Truckers are the Next Target of the Clean Air Force

[+] Author Notes

Associate Editor

Mechanical Engineering 127(01), 32-34 (Jan 01, 2005) (3 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2005-JAN-2

This article discusses that according to the Argonne National Laboratory Center for Transportation Research, long-haul truck idling in the United States burns more than 800 million gallons of fuel a year. The big reasons for idling include heating and cooling of sleeper cabs and generating electricity for onboard appliances like refrigerators and microwaves. In severe, glove-cracking cold, truckers idle to avoid cold starts and to keep their fuel from turning to slush. Onboard idle-reduction systems range from simple start–stop arrangements to full-out auxiliary diesel generators. They require greater financial commitments than stationary systems on the part of the truckers or the employers who buy them. Yet, unlike many pollution prevention programs, where installing equipment often spells lower efficiencies, idling reduction stands a good chance of lowering both fuel usage and emissions. A business case can be built for many idling reduction schemes.

Pull into a rest area late at night and you'll hear them-dozens of diesels sawing away at the moonlit hours as their drivers sleep. Collectively, long haul truck idling in the United States burns more than 800 million gallons of fuel a year, according to the Argonne National Laboratory Center for Transportation Research. Idling buses, locomotives, and ships add to the total, but trucks are, by far, the greatest culprits.

The big reasons for idling include heating and cooling of sleeper cabs and generating electricity for onboard appliances like refrigerators and microwaves. In severe, glove-cracking cold, truckers idle to avoid cold starts and to keep their fuel from turning to slush.

Technology exists that could meet these same needs with greater efficiency. From diesel-fired cab heaters to phase change storage systems, a number of methods are available to truckers to help them slash fuel use and emissions or comply with the laws of some states that restrictidling. Still, economics alone drive most truckers to idling. A case for improving profits without compromising operational readiness has yet to be made that will satisfY the majority of independently minded truckers.

However, the government is seeding interest by funding several idle-reduction programs. According to Terry Levinson, a senior project manager at the Argonne lab, three federal agencies-the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Energy-are working together for the first time to write a national idling reduction plan. Illinoisbased Argonne, part of the DOE, is assisting the three agencies with this effort, she said.

A national reduction plan would help itinerant truckers comply with regulations as they travel among states, said Linda Gaines, a systems analyst with Argonne's Center for Transportation Research. Idling regulations at the 10- callevel do little to dispel emissions or conserve fuel on a large scale; drivers simply park one town over, where idling isn't ticketed.

Regulation is already playing a role in the development of cleaner diesels. An EPA ruling in 2001 called for manufacturers to begin phasing in cleaner trucks and buses starting in 2007. In advance of this will be a switch next year to low-sulfur diesel fuel that will enable the adoption of catalytic exhaust systems.

Everyone concerned is watching another government entity, the California Air Resources Board, Gaines said. The board is developing idling regulations that may limit heavy-duty diesel truck idling and possibly force the adoption of idle-limiting controls. The regulation could specity idling emission limits on new trucks, as well.

In an interesting twist, diesel auxiliary power units, or APUs, if pressed into generating power for trucker comforts by the California regulation, could end up producing more particulates than their big diesel brothers, since the small units are essentially unregulated. A CARE regulation may exempt new trucks that meet the stricter standards from the idling restrictions.

Still, no one knows how many particulates the 2007 diesels will generate while at idle. Most emissions data has been collected over whole duty cycles, where only a small portion of the time is spent idling.

Yet, unlike many pollution prevention programs, where installing equipment often spells lower efficiencies, idling reduction stands a good chance oflowering both fuel usage and emissions, Gaines said. A business case can be built for many idling reduction schemes.

Idling reduction equipment falls into two categories: on-board systems and stationary, "shore-side" systems. Two companies working on the stationary side are Shurepower and IdleAire.

Shurepower builds 120- and 220-volt pedestals that provide truckers with truck-stop electrical connections. Truckers can plug in anything from a simple extension cord to power an auxiliary heater to a 220 V Shurepower connection that'll energize air conditioners, entertainment centers, block heaters, and so forth. Eighteen such units are operating at a rest area in Wilton, N.Y., under the sponsorship of several state and federal agencies.

IdleAire Technologies Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn., approaches the same ends by a different means. The company's service module pipes warmed or chilled air into a cab, while furnishing an Internet connection and a couple of outlets at the same time. The company has entered an agreement with Travel Centers of America of Westlake, Ohio, to install IdleAire systems at its many truck stops.

With either system, a trucker pays an hourly rate for the services.

Onboard idle-reduction systems range from simple start-stop arrangements to full-out auxiliary diesel generators. They require greater financial commitments than stationary systems on the part of the truckers or the employers who buy them. But, they work anywhere.

Air heaters from makers such as Espar Heating Systems of Mississauga, Ontario, burn diesel fuel and draw about 1 amp from the battery while operating. The heaters, already popular in Europe, typically monitor battery voltage and will shut off before draining the battery below the charge needed to crank an engine.

Bergstrom of Rockford, Ill., builds additional battery capacity into its thermal environment system to handle cooling along with diesel-fueled heating. The company's 3,000 Btu/hr. system can be outfitted with two or four deep-cycle batteries to cool for as many-as 12 hours. Recharge time takes about four hours, the company says.

The Instatherm Co. of Cary, N.C., builds a low-cost evaporative cooler that relies on the phase change of water to produce a cooling flow of air to a sleeper cab. The system holds about 300 pounds of water in a volume that measures about 20 inches on a side. The system can be drained in winter to avoid freezing.

Pony Pack Inc. of Albuquerque, N.M., builds an auxiliary generator based around a two-cylinder Kubota diesel.

Aftermarket idling technologies should play a part in usage and emissions controls for many years, experts say. Long after manufacturers have started building cleaner trucks and taken advantage of the low-sulfur diesel fuel, older trucks will be on the roads. It could take 20 or 30 years for the fleet to turn over, according to some estimates.

Depending on where they are, truckers have any number of choices for keeping their sleepers (center) heated or cooled. A lucky few might stop at rest areas equipped with IdleAire stations (opposite) or Shurepower modules (right). Those on their own may simply idle (left).

Joe Suchecki, director of public affairs for the Chicago-based Engine Manufacturers Association, suggests that some restraint is needed in bringing idling under regulation. Already, a patchwork of state and local restrictions exists.

Illinois, for instance, bans idling of a stationary truck, while in Salt Lake City, truckers can idle parked rigs for 15 minutes. Inconsistent idling regulations from place to place burden operators and manufacturers, Suchecki said.

A voluntary program-driven by driver economics and education- could avoid regulations that might be costly to enforce, he said. The association's next best choice, national regulation, could at least reduce the complexity lurking beneath ponds oflocal rules.

William Schaefer, a staff engineer at the Truck Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.e., said that APUs offer great promise for reducing idling. There's still work to be done before such power units can integrate smoothly into new rigs, though.

Even as newer, cleaner trucks come on the market, older rigs will continue hauling for years. Aftermarket idle reduction solutions may help older members of the U.S. truck fleet comply with new restrictions.

Grahic Jump LocationEven as newer, cleaner trucks come on the market, older rigs will continue hauling for years. Aftermarket idle reduction solutions may help older members of the U.S. truck fleet comply with new restrictions.

One task is to electrifY accessories, particularly air conditioning, to avoid the weight and space penalties of redundant climate control systems. A belt-driven compressor cannot run off APU generators. That means a truck must haul two air conditioners, operating one while traveling and the other when parked overnight.

Manufacturers, even if they don't wind up supplying APUs themselves, will need to wire trucks to accept electrical appliances connected to an APU or a truck-stop pedestal, Schaefer said.

Caterpillar is plotting its way past these weight and space limitations with its MorElectric system, which relieves the main engine from driving an air conditioning compressor and instead divides that responsibility between an engine-driven generator and an APU. The company also repackages the air conditioning system into a single unit built with brazed connections for highmile service. The same AIC unit cools both the cab and the sleeper. According to Caterpillar, the APU shares electric, fuel, and cooling systems with the main engine.

Speaking at a conference on idling reduction held last May, several drivers and fleet managers brought to light their concerns about idling reduction.

With trucks pulling in and out all night, rest areas aren't necessarily the most restful places on Earth. An idling truck can help to drape a muting blanket of sound over a sleeping driver and mask off noises of the outside world. For some truckers, that spells the difference between a good night's sleep and a bad one.

Other drivers are kept awake worrying about the financing of idling-reduction technologies, or the federal excise tax that applies to them, or the weight penalties for carrying them. Truckers pay penalties for being overweight.

There's concern over added maintenance and how the maintenance interval for auxiliary equipment matches up with that of the prime engine. Truckers worry about how interaction with auxiliary systems might affect the operation of their propulsion plants.

Concern always lurks that a main engine, once shut down for the evening, will balk at getting back up in the morning.

In the end, this thinking may be the biggest impediment to reduced idling. Truckers live. by those big diesels. For the lousy eight or ten bucks it might cost in fuel to let , em run all night, many drivers will think idling is a small price to pay for knowing that they'll be going when the mormng comes.

Copyright © 2005 by ASME
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