As if the drain imposed on batteries by today's trucks with their heavy electrical loads isn't enough of an issue, anti-idling laws in many states are compounding the problem. Batteries must work harder and longer to keep in-cab accessories running and drivers comfortable with the engine switched off. Even without anti-idling legislation, the high cost of fuel is making truck idling prohibitive.

To address the issues, Interstate Battery Systems of America (IBSA) introduced its 31-ECL (Extreme Cycle Life) Group 31 combination starting/cycling battery in March of 2000. The battery has been popular with fleets trying to meet the high-cycle demands of multiple in-cab devices like TVs and satellite systems.

This year, IBSA has come out with a new model, the 31P-ECL, which features a heavy-duty post design. Demand for this configuration is especially high in applications using refrigerated trucks and agricultural equipment. The 31P-ECL battery delivers an average of 468 medium-duty cycles.

While acknowledging that fleets are under severe pressure to cut costs to compensate for high fuel prices, IBSA cautions against choosing a cheaper battery up-front because it may not deliver the performance or durability needed over the long run.

Likewise, Optima Batteries recommends doing the math to see how much cost savings can be gained over time by spec'ing a more durable, maintenance-free battery like its deep-cycle Group 31 YellowTop model. YellowTop lead-acid truck batteries, which feature the manufacturer's Spiralcell technology, are 15 times more vibration resistant and offer up to two times the life of a normal battery, according to Optima.

The company reports that last year demand for Optima batteries soared in all market segments, including commercial trucking, so production is now working to keep up with new orders. Optima dual-purpose batteries allow both premium power for engine-starting and deep-cycling capabilities needed in high-accessory trucks or high-cycling applications (e.g., trucks with multiple in-house electronics or GPS navigation systems, as well as no-idle situations).

East Penn Mfg. Co. offers Deka Cycle Service/Dual Purpose batteries, specially designed for multi-stop delivery vehicles and reefers. The company says these batteries provide sufficient cold-cranking power for easy starting and ample reserve power to handle the cycling demands typical of these applications.

Remy Inc. points out that in cold weather today's batteries are extremely difficult to charge. It also notes that idling trucks overnight to run multiple cab comfort and convenience accessories puts a lot of parasitic load on the batteries. Where “shore” power is not available, the company recommends turning off nonessential items like blower motors and interior lights to minimize current drain.

To help fleets with medium- and heavy-duty trucks determine why a battery is losing charge, Remy (in partnership with Auto Meter) has created a portable tester, the IntelliCheck2 system. Using the hand-held diagnostic device, technicians can test the batteries, alternator and related circuitry for problems such as poor connections and corroded or frayed cables. Data can be saved and printouts made for comparison with other tests and to help technicians pinpoint degradation and replace components before a truck breaks down on the road.

Exide Technologies, which makes and recycles lead-acid batteries, says its products are built to provide massive cranking ability and heavy reserve power. Available to truck fleets are Champion PC and Exide Commercial brand Group 31 maintenance-free 12-volt batteries, as well as heavy-duty commercial 6- and 12-volt batteries.

ACDelco offers fleets four different battery design types to meet specific application needs. These include maintenance-free batteries with high cranking power for long-life and high output (ideal for long-haul service); extra-reserve capacity batteries for applications like P&D, short-haul, car carriers, buses and emergency vehicles; 750 cold-cranking amps to provide more reliable starting power in large diesel engines and in colder climates; and 900 cold-cranking amps to handle extremely high initial cranking loads in the most severe conditions.