If conserving fuel is the single factor you have been concerned about when it comes to reducing idling, it may be time to take a second look at the issue. Idle reduction (IR) has moved from an operational consideration to a matter that affects almost all aspects of a fleet's business. It is still costly to waste fuel idling, more so than ever in fact, but that is only one part of the picture today. Now fleet owners and managers are reviewing a complex matrix of interrelated factors as they make decisions about the best idle reduction solutions for their businesses. From regulatory compliance to meeting customer expectations, reducing driver turnover to staying competitive in a greening marketplace, the issues and the solutions associated with idling have dramatically expanded and changed.

A MATURING MARKET

“The market is definitely maturing and that includes the vendors, the products, the support structure and the customers, as well,” notes Eduardo Navarro de Andrade, business manager special products, the truck/trailer products group of Carrier Transicold (www.truck trailer.carrier.com).

“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 adds, “and there is a growing ‘green’ element. I don't see that as a passing phase, either. Environmental concerns are here to stay. Certainly, they permeate all we do here at Carrier and at our corporate entity, UTC.”

“We have seen a big change in how customers approach the IR system selection process,” says Amy Egerter, spokesperson for Rig Master Power Corp., maker of the RigMaster idle reduction system. (www.rigmasterpower.com). “People used to ask ‘What is it?’ Now they ask, ‘Is it right for my business?’ 2007 was a tough year for a lot of companies and that 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.”

“Our business has stepped up dramatically,” observes Tom Kampf, product manager at Thermo King Corp. (www.thermoking.com). “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. Ingersoll Rand, our parent company, takes environmental issues very seriously.”

Clearly then, the idle reduction landscape is changing. Here are some of the key factors shaping the market today. Whether or not they will become real “game-changers” going forward remains to be seen. If you are planning to implement an idle reduction solution soon, however, you may want to factor them into your decision process now.

CARB

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is drawing plenty of fire for its tough new five-minute idling limitation for all diesel-fueled trucks over 10,000 pounds GVWR operating within California's borders (www.arb.ca.gov). Some IR solutions, such as the fuel-operated heaters from Espar and Webasto, battery-based systems, shore power and engine idle shutdown systems, for instance, are already CARB-approved.

Diesel-fueled APUs on new trucks, however, are now required to meet 2007 truck emission standards, which generally means adding their own diesel particulate filters or tying into the truck's exhaust aftertreatment system.

Is CARB's new standard a preview of things to come nationwide or an impossible-to-enforce green goal? The answer depends upon whom you ask.

“Lots of states have pledged to follow California's lead on this, if California can make it work,” says Amy Egerter. “They are just waiting to see how CARB does.”

“We haven't seen the game changing yet because of the new CARB regulations, at least it hasn't changed for Webasto,” says Joe Kirby, North American sales manager for Webasto Products North America (www.webasto.us.) and (www.makealeap.org). “Our air and coolant heaters are approved by CARB for use in California and our BlueCool bunk cooling solution doesn't produce any emissions, so there is no issue there. Actually, we have had more people inquiring about our BlueCool solution since the CARB regulation.”

“Carrier showed its diesel particulate filter (DPF) solution for our APU at The Technology & Maintenance Council meeting this February,” says Andrade, “and we are very comfortable with what we have. We've been engaged with CARB since last April when we applied for approval for our own proprietary device. One challenge with a smaller engine is getting enough energy to handle the required burn-off of soot in the particulate filter. We have a generator, so we have the energy we need to get the job done. CARB reviewed our design and gave us the okay to verify the device in the field. Then there is bench testing after the field testing and post-field test analysis after that. We will present the results to CARB soon. In the meantime, we are finishing up our own internal test program. I honestly don't know if other states will go this way or not. The signals just aren't clear yet,” he adds.

“California may have spurred consequences they didn't expect,” says Bret Reinhardt, president of Sun Power Technologies (www.sunpowertech.com), a supplier of a battery-based AC solution dubbed “Eco-Air,” which can be paired with a fuel-operated heater for CARB-approved heating and cooling. “There are rumors that some fleets may stage ‘turn terminals’ in Nevada or other bordering states, for example, where they can switch freight from sleeper trucks to day cabs to make the trip into California. We'll just have to see how things shake out.”

THE TRUCK MAKERS

Idle reduction systems were born and reared in the aftermarket. Today, even if they are OEM-installed they generally include aftermarket components and retain their aftermarket characteristics. That is, they are still not truly integrated systems, designed from the beginning to be part of a particular truck model. Eventually, however, IR systems are expected to become standard equipment on most trucks, just as air conditioning migrated to the must-have list of accessories in years past. Will that impact the idle reduction marketplace when it happens? Probably over time.

Most truck makers already offer one or more IR systems as published options. Some are installed on the assembly line as the truck is being built while others are added at dealerships or modification facilities before delivery to the customer. The Clean Power system from Kenworth Truck Company (www.kenworth.com) and the The ComfortClass system from Peterbilt Motors (www.peterbilt.com), for example, were introduced in 2007. They each combine an aftermarket fuel-operated heater and thermal storage cooling system from Webasto with additional OEM-supplied elements, such as enhanced cab insulation, to provide customers with a CARB-approved, OEM-installed idle reduction system.

This spring, Freightliner truck customers will also have the opportunity to preview a new idle reduction system for the Freightliner Cascadia, which is scheduled to be in full production in Q4 (www.freightliner.com). The Integrated Parked HVAC System (a pre-production name) combines a fuel-operated heater from Espar Heater Systems (www.espar.com) with an AC system from Bergstrom, Inc. (www.nitesystem.com) plus additional components and cab modifications from the truck maker to create a proprietary OEM-installed idle reduction solution.

“In a typical truck today, you have an HVAC system for the cab and for the sleeper,” says Scott Burckhard, product manager with the product strategies group at Daimler Trucks North America. “If you add an idle reduction solution, you end up with three HVAC systems. Our new IR system replaces the sleeper HVAC and uses the same ducting as the truck's system. The system can run off the truck's alternator while the truck is moving and off batteries when parked. An inverter-charger is also available as an option to enable drivers to use shore power where it is available.

“Our system is CARB-certified today,” he adds. “Our customers are so fuel-efficiency conscious, that we just had to offer an idle reduction solution. CARB may have sped up the delivery schedule, but this was coming in any case. It is very realistic to say that within five years every truck will have some sort of idle reduction system. We expect to see a 50 percent market penetration in 36 months for sleeper-equipped trucks (70-in. sleepers or longer) in long haul, over-the-road operations.

“States will all mandate IR systems, but even if they did not, fleets will need to offer them to attract and retain the best drivers,” he notes. “Even day cabs will eventually all have some kind of IR system to keep drivers comfortable.” According to Burckhard, Daimler Trucks North America will also continue to offer other full-function, aftermarket APUs (as do other Class 8 truck makers) because of their ability to offer greater cooling power in extreme conditions and to power hotel loads, such as televisions, coffee makers and refrigerators.

International Truck and Engine (www.navistar.com) also has a proprietary idle reduction system waiting in the wings for the new Class 8 LoneStar model, introduced last month at the Chicago Auto Show. According to the company, the new MaxxSaver APU will also be CARB-certified.

“I think that idle reduction systems will become standard over time,” observes communications marketing manager Shane Star of Flying J, Inc. (www.fjesolutions.com), which offers the Cab Comfort System APU, “but for many more years, there will be a need for idle reduction systems in the aftermarket. That is the path of almost every technology — from the new to innovative to standard.”

Fuel-operated heaters, diesel-powered APUs and simply shutting down the truck's own diesel engine continue to be very popular idle reduction choices, and for good reason. But as battery technologies advance and pressures build to move toward zero-emission, no-carbon transportation solutions, electrical power as an idling alternative (from batteries or shore power) is rapidly gaining ground, too.

MORE POWER CHANGES

“There will probably always be a need for diesel-powered APUs,” says Louis Siegel, senior vp of marketing and strategic business development for Dometic Environmental (www.dometictruck.com), but more and more the move seems to be toward battery-based IR systems, sometimes combined with fuel-operated units for heat. Today, we can get ten hours of operation from our battery-based system. One of the things we've learned is that battery-based IR systems have to be right-sized for the job and they have to be engineered, integrated systems. You can't just go out and cobble various components together yourself and expect to get good results.

“That is why we offer three different sized systems — one with a 7,000 BTU cooling capacity, one that delivers 10,000 BTUs and one that produces 14,000 BTUs, which is not a battery-powered system. We do a lot of the 10,000 BTU units for 60- and 70-in. sleepers. Smaller sleepers, like the flattop sleepers on car carriers for instance, can usually manage with just 7,000 BTUs powered by six batteries.”

“We came to the market two-and-a-half years ago with our battery-based system,” says Reinhardt. “You can't operate a battery-based system 24/7 and that was a big push-back issue then. Now people are asking themselves if they really need 24/7 HVAC and just how much BTU output it will take to get the job done. They're trying to right-size the solution, so they want to know about total BTU capacity and how you deliver it.”

Today there are off-board as well as onboard systems for delivering electricity to parked trucks to power HVAC systems and hotel loads. In addition to advanced shore power pioneer IdleAire (www.idleaire.com) and Shorepower Technologies (www.shorepower.com), other companies are entering the marketplace with new approaches to delivering HVAC and electrical power without the need for any special onboard equipment. Two such suppliers are CabAire LLC (www.cabaire.com) and EnviroDock (www.envirodock.com).

“These new systems are right-sized to serve certain facilities,” says Joe Tario, project manager, transportation and power systems research at NYSERDA, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (www.nyserda.org). “If you are building a new big-box retail store, or a new truck terminal or warehouse facility, for instance, it makes sense to add a few of these. We still see a future for shore power for the next decade or so. Eventually, we expect battery-based systems to be so widespread that there will be no real need for shore power.”

Tario is also enthusiastic about the development of hybrid electric truck refrigerator systems, such as the Vector 1800MT from Carrier Transicold, which uses an electric generator to power all components. “The new technology coming out of Europe is just wonderful,” he says. “Diesel has been about five dollars per gallon there for some time, so they have had a greater incentive to develop clean solutions.”

COMBINING TECHNOLOGIES

Many fleets are discovering that they can multiply the ROI on their technology investments by combining solutions, such as pairing a route planning and optimization system with a fuel purchase management system, an onboard monitoring system and an idle reduction system. Solutions like XATANET from XATA Corp. (www.xata.com) for example, are designed to enable fleets to gather information about fuel consumption, including where, when and by whom.

“Our system captures data about every drop of fuel burned, including during idling, and how it impacts miles per gallon,” says Tom Flies, senior vp, product management for XATA. “This enables fleets to set idle reduction goals and identify specific opportunities for improvement. Sometimes, for instance, excessive idling is not the driver's fault. It may be a warehouse worker idling the truck during loading. The system can also be used to create geo-fences to alert drivers when they are entering a state or municipality with idling time limits, or to prove that a driver was not idling if he or she is fined unfairly.

“It is also a good coaching tool,” he adds. “The data from the system can be used to help educate drivers concerning the impact of their choices on fuel costs, engine life, maintenance, and so on. We have some day cab customers who have been able to achieve their idling targets with XATANET alone.”

“The environment and going green have become so critical now,” says John Dennehy, vp-marketing for Espar Heater Systems. “Companies around the world are making environmental stewardship a part of their corporate policies, while more states, provinces and municipalities are implementing and enforcing idling regulations. People are also starting to realize how much money they've wasted idling. These factors are combining to push fleets to implement idle reduction solutions and set idling policies and goals.

GOING GREEN

“We've seen a lot of changes over the years, but going green is definitely here to stay,” he adds. “The good news is that it has become so feasible for people to acquire and use idle reduction technologies today. Agencies and organizations like the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership (www.epa.gov/otaq/smartway), the Dept. of Energy (www.eere.energy.gov), the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (www.nyserda.org), Cascade Sierra Solutions (www.cascadesierrasolutions.org) are working hard to help inform the industry about the benefits of idle reduction and offering programs and incentives to make it easier to do.”

Any fleet considering implementing an idle reduction solution should put checking for available grants, tax incentives, carbon credits and other cost-saving opportunities high on the must-do list. “There are some good programs out there,” says Amy Egerter of Rig Master Power. “Pennsylvania has a great small business program, for instance; Wisconsin has been very easy to work when it comes to getting support for IR systems, and the State of Texas is also working well within local markets.” A list of current federal and state programs is available on the U.S.. Dept. of Energy web site: www.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/idle/incentives.html. The site also includes information about idling regulations and fines.

“Going green is a long-term trend,” says Joe Kirby of Webasto. “That line is only headed upward.”

A directory of idle reduction solution providers is available at www.fleetowner.com.

A decision-support worksheet

This worksheet is designed to help you evaluate the potential impact of selecting an idle reduction solution. It provides a list of critical factors to consider as well as a mechanism for assessing the risks and benefits associated with various choices. This worksheet can be used to compare the status quo with implementing an idle reduction system or to compare two different idle reduction options.

THE IDLE REDUCTION SCORECARD

Tangibles (Factors that can be readily expressed in financial terms for purposes of calculating ROI, IRR, payback, etc.) IMPORTANCE % RISK/BENEFIT Rating OPTION 1 SCORE RISK/BENEFIT Rating OPTION 2 SCORE
Reduce fuel costs




Avoid fines for idling




Reduce maintenance costs/intervals




Increase resale value of equipment




Extend truck trade intervals




Take advantage of grants, tax credits to upgrade equipment




SUBTOTAL TANGIBLES:




Intangibles (Factors that impact profit indirectly)
Meet local, regional operating requirements




Provide acceptable in-cab heating for driver




Provide acceptable in-cab AC for drivers




Provide engine warming




Provide sufficient power to operate in-cab appliances/ hotel loads




Reduce/eliminate noise to meet local requirements/improve driver rest




Recruit and retain better drivers




Create/enhance culture of environmental stewardship within company




Create/enhance public image of company as environmentally responsible




Reduce exposure to risk of litigation (“environmental justice” issues)




Gain competitive advantage via EPA SmartWay or other “green” certifications




Create emissions credits to use in carbon trading program




Meet customers' no-idle expectations/requirements




Participate in evaluation of new technologies to avoid falling behind competitors




Make best use of capital, including upfront costs/install time, parts and service




SUBTOTAL INTANGIBLES:
TOTAL SCORES:
NOTE: This checklist incorporates techniques derived from Oracle Corp.'s “CB-90 Scoring Worksheet” and other decision-support tools.

Instructions:

Weigh the importance of each factor on the checklist by assigning it a percentage figure. The sum of all weight factors must equal 100%. If a factor has no relevance for your fleet, simply give it an importance rating of zero.

  1. Estimate on a scale of -5 to +5 the likelihood of each factor on the list actually occurring. If you consider a factor to be a benefit, give it a rating of 0 to +5, with +5 being very likely to be realized and 0 very unlikely. If you consider a factor to be a risk give it a 0 to -5 rating, with -5 being a risk very likely to occur and 0 being a risk very unlikely to occur. For example, if you are not affected by noise standards, you might consider noise to be a moderate risk and rate it -3. If you consider reducing noise to be a benefit you fully expect to realize, you might rate it +5.

  2. Multiply each estimate of likelihood by the importance weight for that factor and enter the result in the score column. For example, a weight rating of 4% x a likelihood of 2 = a score for that factor of 8. A weight rating of 4% × a likelihood of -2 = a score of -8.

  3. Add all the resulting scores for the status quo and for the idle reduction options under consideration. The option with the highest total score should be the best choice.