Idle reduction has to be among the most daunting challenges in trucking. It's habitual, it's sometimes necessary and it's terribly expensive. Fleets and owner-operators seeking workable and cost-effective solutions to idling have been stymied by a combination of barriers, including a lack of unbiased data about the true performance gains offered by these technologies.
The North American Council for Freight Efficiency has just published its third Confidence Report, 'Idle Reduction Solutions,' intended to help end users and manufacturers determine whether to adopt a specific technology or set of solutions. This one focuses on idle reduction solutions. It includes a best practices study and draws on interviews with large fleets and owner-operators that use the various solutions. It also boasts a calculation too to help operators of Class 8 over-the-road sleeper trucks determine which technology, or multiple technologies will offer the best payback in specific applications.
"This is a comprehensive, unbiased account on the solutions available to lower the cost of providing a comfortable sleeper environment for truckers," notes Mike Roeth, executive director of NACFE. "The study team conducted hundreds of interviews with end users, manufacturers, truck builders and others. 19 technologies are detailed, 5 common fleet strategies shared and nearly 40 suppliers specification sheets are included in an appendix."
The report looks at nine separate technology groups, broken down further into 19 separate solutions, and documents each solution's strengths and weaknesses. It also offers end-user perspectives and experiences, and tries to clarify some of the language used to describe the various solutions.
The Confidence Report also contains a tool for comparing different solutions, which Roeth says can be a substantial challenge given the many available options and considerations.
"The idea is to help fleet owners and operators choose the right technology for their specific operation," he says. "Some of the areas to consider in choosing the right technology fit for a fleet include the amount of time spent idling, the climate where the truck operates, the variability of routes traveled, whether the driver is always driving a particular truck or rotating and the amount of upfront capital the buyer has."
The report also includes a detailed list of manufacturers' specification sheets on many of the solutions along with links to useful tools such as payback calculators, regulatory items and newsletters that include grant opportunities for buyers.
The technologies considered in this report include:
1. Fuel-Operated Heaters, including; Fuel-Operated Air Heaters and Fuel-Operated Coolant Heaters
2. Auxiliary Power Units, including; Diesel APUs, Battery APUs and Thermal Storage Systems
3. Automatic Engine Start/Stop Systems
4. Vehicle Electrification, including; Inverters & Battery Chargers and Solar Energy Capture
5. Truck Stop Electrification
6. Off-board AC Power (also known as shore power)
7. Driver/Vehicle Behavior Controls, including Electronic Engine Idle Parameters, Driver Training and Driver Incentives
8. Additional Vehicle Systems, including Additional Cab Insulation, Light-Color Paint, Additional CPAP Battery and Ultracapacitor Starting Systems.
9. Sleeping Quarters, including Hotels and Dormitories.
The real benefit of this report is the heavy reliance on end-user experience. Manufacturer claims can rarely be relied up to proved a 100-percent accurate picture of the costs associated with a specific product. There's also the reality that while a product may suit one fleet and application perfectly, it may not suit another's. NACFE's Idle Reduction Confidence Report provides an unbiased look at the effectiveness of these technologies and a real-world look at how industry has taken advantage of their benefits and overcome their drawbacks.
"Eliminating idling entirely is an unrealistic demand for the industry today and one which fails to recognize the human needs of sleeper-cab drivers to maintain comfortable working conditions," the report suggests. "A key finding of the Confidence Report overall is that the opinions, preferences, and knowledge of drivers are crucial to both the decision to install an idle-reduction technology and to the successful implementation of the chosen technology."
NACFE's Other Confidence Reports
The North American Council for Freight Efficiency has published two other Confidence Reports, along with several Executive Reports on other fuel saving strategies and technologies.
This series includes Tire Pressure Systems (August 2013), 6x2 Axle Configurations (January 2014), and this latest report on Idle Reduction Solutions. Two more Confidence Reports are in the works, one on Automated Transmissions; the other on Driver Coaching Aids. See the links below for reports that are now available on the NACFE website.