Bottom Line
EPA’s first idling workshop

by Paul Abelson, technical editor

What shall we do about idling? That is the question the Environmental Protection Agency wants answered by members of the trucking industry. At the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas Sept. 7, EPA held its first idling workshop (others have not been scheduled as of deadline). This first workshop was structured to present the attendees with alternatives to idling, then to get feedback as to what might be attractive and worthwhile, and what problems must be overcome.

Under proposed energy conservation and research legislation (HR4), there will be as much as $1.5 billion for incentives and grants to encourage reductions of energy use. The Bush administration has made EPA the lead agency in this initiative. EPA’s Greg Green defined the problems, reporting that idling uses 1.2 billion gallons of diesel annually ($1.8 billion to truckers). It generates 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and 150,000 tons of nitrogen oxides.

Panelists presented strategies to reduce or eliminate idling. Tom Diefenbaker of Detroit Diesel spoke of computer-controlled shutdowns, with temperature and battery protection. Electronics have no weight penalty and do not need maintenance, said Diefenbaker.

Eric Jessiman of Espar and Franz Neumeyer of Webasto discussed fuel-fired heaters, standard equipment on all 2002 trucks in Europe. Currently, 80 percent of all European over-the-road rigs have fuel-fired heaters, while only 8 percent here do, said Neumeyer. They consume only 2 amps per hour, and run 20 to 26 hours on a gallon of diesel. Heaters are small, light and efficient, said Jessiman, and have a continuous flame, so there are negligible emissions.

Randy Lynn of Pony Pack and Martin Connoly of Rig Master discussed how auxiliary power units (APUs), or generator sets, can eliminate any need to idle by heating cab and engine, cooling the cab and keeping batteries charged. Connoly said one fleet reported idling, tracked by computer, dropped 88 percent with a corresponding 15 percent increase in fuel economy.

Connoly speculated that obstacles to greater adoption of APUs in the United States were “sticker shock” and “a lack of hard data.” Heaters, he said, cost $1,000 and up, and APUs can cost five to seven times that. The Technology and Maintenance Council and Argonne National Labs have tried to quantify it, but no one knows the true costs of idling. They could be anywhere from 35 cents to $1 per hour plus fuel cost, said panelists, which is important when trying to justify an item costing $4,000 to $6,000 or more.

Panelists asked EPA representatives to consider incentives for the purchase of anti-idling devices, including an allowance at the scales for the weight of heaters or APUs, tax credits and elimination of the excise tax on these units.

A second panel addressed truckstop and rest area electrification. Dave Everhart of IdleAire discussed tests of his company’s product, a combined source of heat, air conditioning, cable TV, telephone and Internet service. Locations are the Hunts Point Market and a rest area on the New York Thruway. George Strickland of TravelCenters of America (TA) said his chain controls 20,000 of the 200,000 truckstop parking spaces available. There are about 600,000 OTR trucks. It would cost TA more than $100 million to electrify all its spaces, and they would have to charge usage fees – as IdleAire does now.

One attendee asked how to calculate payback for electrification. Since no added equipment would be needed, payback would be the difference between costs of idling and overnight charges, expected to be about $10 to $12 per stop. That did not seem to offer much incentive to stop idling, said trucking journalist Tom Kelley. He proposed a set of financial incentives such as a 100 percent tax credit and exemption from purchase taxes for equipping a truck.

Gary Green, OOIDA’s director of conflict resolution, made the strongest statement of all, stating that the problem isn’t just at the truckstops and interstate rest areas. It’s at shipper and receiver yards, he said. Green also serves as a member of OOIDA’s board of directors. Green described the need to idle while waiting to load or unload, and on the entrance ramps and roadsides where trucks that can’t get in to those 200,000 spaces have to stop.

Jessiman mentioned a public health study in Buffalo, NY. Near approaches to the Peace Bridge, residents have rates of asthma and respiratory illness many times higher than the general population. According to Jessiman, trucks had taken one hour to travel the final mile to customs inspection and Buffalo General Hospital will be conducting a study on this. (Since Sept. 11, travel time has increased to as much as three hours.) The study will measure air quality and try to quantify causal relationships with the diseases.

Reporter’s note: 
It was obvious at the workshop that EPA needs to gain a greater understanding of how trucking operates. This was the first of a series of workshops designed to provide driver and operator feedback and suggestions. Let’s hope the agency listens and learns.