As more and more states, cities and towns across the country pass anti-idling regulations, truck drivers are limited in their ability to heat or cool their cab, as well as get power for onboard systems such as TVs, refrigerators, computers, etc.

Consequently, interest is growing in technologies geared to get drivers the power they need without having to idle the engine — from shore power hookups at truckstops to auxiliary generators.

There's another option that has been garnering some attention recently, in spite of the fact that it's not new. We're referring to the inverter, a device that converts DC power from a truck's batteries into the AC current needed to run accessories.

“They've been around for years, mostly as aftermarket items of varying quality and capacity,” says Brian Lawrence, OEM sales manager for Xantrex Technology, which supplies original and aftermarket inverters for trucks and other applications. “But today they're becoming part of a truck's infrastructure. Volvo, Freightliner, International and Mack all offer robust inverters as a factory option, and other OEMs are expected to follow suit.”

What fleets need to remember, however, is that the consumer-grade inverters sold for recreational vehicles and passenger cars are just not suitable for commercial trucks — either in terms of the power they provide or the durability and reliability they can offer.

“Truck sleepers are being described today as the functional equivalent of a bedroom, kitchen, office and den,” says Lawrence. “A consumer-grade inverter can't handle the loads and surge of a truck environment, nor will it have safeguards to protect the truck's electrical system. You need to look for something more robust; [something that's] designed for the rigors and electrical loads of a heavy-truck environment.”

Fleets have several truck-grade inverters to choose from. Tripp Lite recently unveiled three DC-to-AC inverters (models UT750UL, UT1250UL and UT2012UL) designed for the utility/work truck market. They are built to offer power off a truck for a variety of tools, including pumps, compressors, lights, power supplies, and electronic equipment, says Steve Baer, vp-inverter sales

“Today, fleet managers must get the most out of every vehicle. That means keeping trucks in the field longer, operating an ever-growing array of power tools,” he says. “Standard vehicle alternators and batteries often can't keep up with the increased power demand. Our inverters, with the addition of a built-in battery charger, help to overcome this power deficit.”

Dometic's SI600acs and SI1500 inverters convert 12-volt DC power sources into pure sine wave frequency 230-volt AC current with built-in power-saving technology. Dometic says the inverter monitors itself, and actually goes to sleep when it's not using power, which helps extend battery life.

The Cab Power System from Phillips & Temro Industries delivers 120-volt AC power by connecting directly to a land-based power source, truck batteries or an inverter system. Systems come complete with external/internal receptacles, a ground fault circuit interrupter and a main breaker. Modular connections make installation easier, according to the company.

Xantrex offers fleets three options. The Fleet Power 1000 inverter/charger provides 1,000 to 2,500 watts with an output of 120 volts AC for fleet, utility and emergency vehicles. The Freedom Combi 10, 20 and 25 operate using a 24-volt input and supply AC power for a variety of applications. The Weatherproof Inverter/Charger 1012 for heavy-duty trucks is designed to provide power for standard household appliances, electronics and tools from a vehicle's battery system.

We can expect to see and hear even more about inverters as the demand for power increases because of their ability to save fuel and keep drivers out of the hot seat in no-idle zones.

“The majority of truck OEMs now offer AC power infrastructure and shore power connections,” says Xantrex's Lawrence. “I'm convinced that the emergence of an AC infrastructure in trucking is an inevitable evolution of the industry; the benefits are too hard to ignore. When built around a high-quality inverter/charger, these systems will not only improve drivers' quality of life on the road, they will save truck operators significant dollars by reducing or even eliminating the need to idle.”


Dometic USA 310

Phillips & Temro Industries 311

Tripp Lite 312

Xantrex Technology 313