Plugged In

Max Kvidera | August 07, 2011

IdleAir has accumulated equipment from the TA sites, says Mike Fielden, chief operating officer of IdleAir, and plans “to redeploy at truck stop chains and independent sites.” Equipment is available at about 1,000 positions at Pilot/Flying J, Sapp Bros., Love’s and a few franchise TA and Petro facilities in nine states.

Fielden says the company, which has adopted a lower-cost business model, is looking to add sites in truck-heavy East Coast corridors and Southern California. “We want to build back to 100 sites over the next two to three years,” he says.

IdleAir has to deal with jaded truck stops, as well as trucker complaints about past service. For example, some users say they would get smoky air from a previous user. To combat that, every location has a “hotel-grade cleaning machine to clean HVAC units after each usage,” Fielden says. Plus IdleAir attendants are on hand during peak times to clean the units and assist customers, he says, with the busiest locations employing more than one.

TSE “should be attractive for truck stops because the entire cost of infrastructure, for the most part, is paid for by DOE contracts,” Orton says of the Shorepower Truck Electrification Project his organization is working on with Shorepower Technologies to provide electrical plug-in pedestals at 50 sites. “It’s revenue-generating opportunity for them.”

TravelCenters of America, which removed all IdleAire units from its facilities, is monitoring electrification demand and alternatives before making investments, says Tom Liutkus, marketing vice president. He says the company is also evaluating driver use of auxiliary power units. In a TA poll, 38 percent of drivers said they had an APU and another 18 percent said they planned to buy one within 12 months.

“Depending on the success of APUs in penetrating the market more quickly, TSE alternatives might become less important on truck stop parking lots,” he says.

For truckers, the appeal is finding an affordable option that reduces idling, engine wear and fuel costs and is easy to use. Electrification costs range from $1 to $1.99 an hour, sometimes with a setup fee.

Truckers also are confronting a growing array of state and local jurisdictions that ban idling or limit it to a few minutes. “Tough part for law enforcement is how do you go to a truck driver, say, in Massachusetts when it’s zero degrees out and tell him he has to turn off his engine,” Neal says.

The TSE market is wide open for growth, and not just at truck stops. Service providers are also approaching ports, distribution centers, warehouses and toll road rest areas. The question is if and how quickly installations will materialize, and the extent of continued government funding.

Sales Manager Roger Southall of TSE provider AireDock is optimistic about the answers: “By 2013 we’ll be all over the place.”

Where to hook up

The U.S. Department of Energy keeps an online list of truck stop electrification sites, including details about offerings at each one. Visit, search for “truck stop electrification,” select “site locator,” and then “view all stations.”

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