Why I run green

| April 02, 2008

Eliminating idling saves fuel and reduces wear and tear on his Detroit Diesel Series 60, says Brian Coleman. Idling “breaks down the oil so it’s not protecting your engine,” he says.

‘It’s quite a savings’
Brian Coleman finds investing in the environment boosts his bottom line.

Owner-operator Brian Coleman of Tacoma, Wash., describes his environmentally friendly operation as a “50-50″ proposition: He does it 50 percent out of concern for the environment and 50 percent because it makes good business sense.

Coleman frequently runs through California, where strict anti-idling laws left him no choice but to find an alternative, he says. “If you want to run in California, and you idle more than 5 minutes, it’s a $600 to $700 fine,” he says. He found the solution to his problem in an I-5 sign promoting Cascade Sierra Solutions, a nonprofit group devoted to upgrading owner-operator trucks along the I-5 corridor with environmentally responsible technology.

In late 2007, Coleman outfitted his 2000 Freightliner FLD with an Idle Solutions auxiliary power unit, an oil purification system and wide single tires for a grand total of about $19,000, financed through Cascade Sierra. Having the APU, Coleman added a TV, a microwave and a good-size refrigerator. The appliances added weight, as did the 680-pound APU (California does not allow a weight variance for APUs). But putting on super singles cut about 500 pounds in tire weight, “plus I get better fuel mileage, and the truck rides better,” he says.

Last year, before he had the APU, Coleman used IdleAire for 707 hours. Because idling burns about 1 gallon of fuel per hour, he figures he saved 707 gallons of fuel. At $3.33 per gallon (his average last year), that’s around $2,400. He figures his APU burns only an eighth of a gallon per hour, without IdleAire fees that average $2.18 per hour. “It’s quite a savings,” he says.

The oil purification system is another sound investment, Coleman says. Before, he typically had his oil changed every six weeks, spending $300 each time. Now, “they say we can go 200,000 miles between oil changes,” he says. “That’s almost a year and a half.” Coleman figures he saves about $3,500 per year in oil changes and produces about 150 fewer gallons of waste oil. “The engine runs cooler, and the oil pressure is down 5 pounds or so,” he says.

With the possibility that diesel prices will continue to rise, Coleman is embracing every fuel-saving measure he can find. He has ordered a tire pressure monitoring system for his truck because you lose one-tenth mile per gallon for every pound your tires are under, he says. He also watches his speed, preferring to run 60 or 65, even in 70 mph zones. Saving fuel is all about “knowing your truck, the load, the conditions and where you’re going,” he says.

Coleman also is exploring biodiesel. Right now, “the value is more environmental than cost,” he says. “But from what I’ve read they are bringing it along, and it’s cheaper and cheaper.” Which only proves his point: In the long run, being environmentally conscious “is going to save me money,” he says.

‘To keep the air clean’
Karen Barnett wants her family – and the world – to breathe easier.

Unscrew a ballpoint pen, and try to breathe through the tube that holds the ink cartridge. That’s what it’s like to suffer an asthma attack, says Karen Barnett of Barnett’s Trucking, Lyford, Texas. A lifelong asthmatic, Barnett says the condition is exacerbated by air pollution, especially emissions at truck stops and loading docks. “You’ve got guys just sitting at a dead idle, putting raw pollutants out,” Barnett says. “That’s devastating on a set of lungs.”

Barnett’s husband, Lecil, and son, Lewis, also suffer from asthma, fueling in Barnett a passion to do her part to clean the air. “You’ll see no physical exhaust fumes from our trucks,” she says with pride. Last year, when Barnett’s two trucks needed their exhaust systems replaced, she had an aftertreatment filter installed to reduce emissions. “They’re expensive,” she says, “but the only thing coming out of our exhaust stacks is hot air.”

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