After years of no-to-slow growth, the idle-reduction (IR) business is at last booming and even maturing. A number of factors, not the least of which is the record-breaking cost of diesel fuel, are driving the market.

“The market is definitely maturing and that includes the vendors, the products, the support structure and the customers, as well,” said Eduardo Navarro de Andrade, business manager special products for the truck/trailer products group of Carrier Transicold. “On the supplier side, we see that maturation playing out in two key dimensions: product dependability and product support, that is the availability of parts and maintenance services, warranty administration, application support and so on. This reflects itself in new standards of product quality and design. On the customer side today, people are demanding performance, uptime and reliability. They want to know the details, too, such as what adding an APU (auxiliary power unit) or other system will do to their truck engine, for instance, or to battery life or alternator life.

“There is also a greater understanding of the impact of an IR system on driver retention,” he added, “and there is a growing ‘green’ element. I don’t see that as a passing phase, either. Environmental concerns are here to stay.”

“We have seen a big change in how customers approach the IR system selection process,” said Amy Egerter, spokesperson for Rig Master Power Corp., maker of the RigMaster idle reduction system. “People used to ask ‘What is it?’ Now they ask, ‘Is it right for my business?’ That 2007 was a tough year for a lot of companies affected the need for many fleets to evaluate APUs and other idle-reduction options. The new idling regulations in California have also drawn a lot of fresh attention to idling regulations elsewhere across the U.S. and Canada. Plus EPA’s SmartWay program is also contributing to the maturation of the marketplace with its comparisons of the various idle-reduction systems and support of voluntary idle reduction.”

“Our business has stepped up dramatically,” observed Tom Kampf, product manager at Thermo King Corp. “Fleets still focus first on reducing fuel costs, complying with regulations and providing a comfortable working environment for their drivers, but the environmental stewardship issue is adding a whole new dimension. People are expecting more from the products they buy and more from the companies they chose to work with.”

If the market is more sophisticated, so are the tools available to customers to help them make better-informed decisions about the best IR solutions for their fleet operations. Comparative information is available, for instance, from a number of agencies and organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s calculator designed to help fleets and drivers determine the costs and benefits of installing various solutions.

The EPA SmartWay Partnership also offers a detailed overview of most available idle-reduction systems, including operating characteristics, cost, weight, installation time, warranties and other useful information. For buyers who want a hands-on, side-by-side look at the actual equipment, the Cascade Sierra Solutions “outreach center” at the TravelCenters of America travel plaza in Coburg, OR has 40 or more systems on display and offers personal help.

Suppliers themselves are also providing not only more and better systems, but also more and better consulting services. Links to many suppliers are available at the FleetOwner home page.