How bad does owner-operator Matt Purtee want truckstop electrification? “Bad enough where I know a few truckstops that have light poles with plug-ins at the base,” he says with a chuckle. “I get to those sites early so I can tap into the power before someone else does. I’m always looking for power.”
According to Purtee, finding truckstops with more conventional power outlets, hrough designated power pedestals, has become easier over the last year, “but I’m looking forward to the day where I can go to any truckstop and not have to ask if they have power plug-ins. It should be the norm – the vast majority of owner-operators I know want power at truckstops. And they’d like it now.”
That’s music to the ears of Alan Bates, vice president of marketing for Shorepower Technologies, which earlier this year completed electrifying the I-5 corridor between Washington and California. Truckers will find 14 truckstops along the corridor so plugging in is very easy.
The rest of the country, though, is not as far along.
“Like Matt, we too would like to see the day where power at truckstops is truly the norm and not the exception," Bates says. "The number of truckstops offering power has increased by 314% since the beginning of 2012, and in five years, we expect 400 to 500 truckstops offering powering. What will make it happen even faster is if fleets and owner-operators let travel plaza operators know they want power pedestals put in. If they know you want it, it won’t fall on deaf ears.”
Purtee, who hauls equipment for NFL broadcasts, as well as for popular TV programs, will often stay a few days to a few weeks at a venue, and plugging in to power makes life easier.
“I was down for the Super Bowl – hauling equipment to New Orleans where there were broadcasts during the Super Bowl countdown,” Purtee says. “I was contracted to work those two weeks – running cables and setting up cameras. While there I was parked over at the Big Easy Travel Plaza, which had power pedestals. For two weeks I was plugged in, so I didn’t have to worry about heat or running down my batteries. It was great. I used my motorcycle to get me around town, then came back to the truck at night to sleep – sans for a few nights I stayed at a hotel.”
According to Purtee, during football season he’s often allowed to park at the stadium and either tap into power from the stadium, or use power from mobile generator trucks.
“That works great,” he says. “On some occasions, I’ll have to park elsewhere and I try to search out areas that have power. I would say my success rate in finding power is about 50%, but it’s getting better. I’ve even bobtailed into RV parks and plugged in. I get a few interesting looks, but I don’t mind. They have power and I need it.”
A self-taught mechanic who likes to tinker, Purtee even developed and installed his own AC-powered air conditioning system into his Freightliner Century Class.
“I could have bought a system that runs on batteries and shore power, but I had more fun making my own,” he says. “For heat, I just use a space heater. I used to run a full diesel-powered APU, but I got tired of all the maintenance on that unit. With AC-power, there really is nothing to go wrong. I do have 10 batteries (four starting and six deep-cycle), but for the length of time I’m out in one spot with the engine off, it can’t keep up with the draws of a heater or air conditioner for any length of time. Plus shore power extends my battery life. That’s why shore power is so important to me.”