Time’s up

Linda Longton, Editor

Last year, the average January temperature in California was 43 degrees, with evening temperatures dipping into the 30s. Not dangerously cold, but chilly – at least by Southern standards. Nevertheless, if you’re headed to California for New Year’s, don’t plan on idling your truck to stay toasty. On Jan. 1, the California Air Resources Board’s exception that allowed truckers to idle during sleeper rest expires.

CARB does let you use an anti-idling device – battery or diesel-powered auxiliary power units, fuel-fired heaters and shore power – but only if your engine was built before 2007. If your truck has a 2007 or newer engine, things get more complicated.

You are free to idle if it’s a certified “Clean Idle” engine, except there aren’t any – yet. Cummins says its engines will be certified by Jan. 1, and other engine makers are working on certification. Short the Clean Idle technology, you can use a battery-powered system, thermal energy storage system or shore power. Or you can use one of three models of CARB-certified fuel-fired heaters or an approved APU/diesel particulate filter combo – except none have yet passed muster.

This confusing and no doubt frustrating situation may have many of you thinking you’ll just avoid California altogether. That might work for a while. But given California’s nationwide influence when it comes to all things environmental, it’s likely other states will follow the Golden State’s lead, especially since it doesn’t make economic sense for industry suppliers to offer one solution for California and another for the rest of the country.

The days of unfettered idling are arguably numbered. Last month, Pennsylvania proposed a new regulation that would limit idling to no more than five minutes per hour by 2010. Nineteen other states also have idling restrictions.

As idling increasingly comes under fire, you already should be thinking about how you will deal with it. But with diesel consistently at the $3 mark – and since trucks burn about a gallon of fuel per idling hour – going idle-free is a business decision you’ll probably want to make soon anyway.

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Fortunately, help is available. The Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership (www.epa.gov/smartway) offers owner-operators loans of $5,000 to $20,000 to buy idling control devices and other fuel-saving technologies. There’s even a calculator that lets you plug in your operating costs to determine the savings you’ll achieve with various upgrades.

No doubt, eliminating idling is good business. But Ken England, a SmartWay owner-operator who spoke at the Great American Trucking Show in August, says there are other, more selfless, motivations, too: “Most truck drivers,” he says, “are for cleaning up the air and the environment.”

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