Truck electricity services expand

Jill Dunn | June 18, 2010
IdleAire plans to relaunch services in July.

Several companies are providing truck electrification services in a market boosted by recent government grants, new or stricter idling laws and trucker demand.

Each company offers some electrification service, such as heating and cooling, but what and how they offer services varies and can include Internet, cable and block heater power.

Tennessee-based IdleAire expects to launch up to 30 locations offering electrification and other services at truck stops during the next 60 days, said CEO Mike Fielden.

IdleAire’s parent company is New York’s Convoy Solutions. Earlier this year, a small group of investors bought IdleAire, which has had at least 131 locations in 34 states.

The first new locations will begin opening in early July, starting with Salt Lake City’s Sapp Bros., and some Pilot Travel Centers. Other sites are expected to open in North Dakota, Minnesota, Tennessee, Missouri, California and Georgia. Additionally, truck stop owners have committed to or expressed interest in five additional locations in Texas, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

IdleAire hasn’t received federal and state grants, which have been important in creating past sites. It plans to have a contact person at each site during high usage times to provide customer service and troubleshoot problems.

IdleAire hasn’t reached an agreement with TA, although it has equipment remaining at 98 TA corporate sites. TA said in May it expected to remove equipment from its company-owned locations. However, IdleAire has reached agreement with some franchise TA/Petro owners to restart services.

IdleAire’s growth plan is focused mainly on truck stops and perhaps industrial properties. Commercial entities can’t provide services at public Interstate rest stops, but IdleAire hopes to work with privately owned or operated rest stops instead, Fielden said.
 
The user cost is less than $2 an hour. Customers can use their old IdleAire window adaptor, which also can be purchased at locations for $15.

IdleAire closed Jan. 29 after its owners of the previous 18 months didn’t find a buyer. They had acquired the company after it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008, which was converted to Chapter 7 a year later.
 
When IdleAire begins operating again, it will honor unused balances remaining on customer IdleAire cards, Fielden said.

In another electrification project, the U.S. Department of Energy in August awarded $22.2 million to Oregon’s Cascade Sierra Solutions, a non-profit organization advancing truck stop electrification infrastructures. CSS partnered with New York’s ShorePower Technologies to install Shorepower Truck Electrified Parking Space, or STEPS, systems at 50 truck stops nationwide.

The grant will finance services for about 25 to 30 trucks per location at truck stops and rest areas that are privately owned or operated over the next two years, said Alan Bates, Shorepower’s marketing and strategic development director.

Most of the DOE-funded locations will be along Interstates 5, 80, 10, 20 and 95 and more concentrated in California because of its strict idling laws. Some of these spots will offer plug-ins for reefers, as well.