An environmentally friendly truck stop system that lets long-haul truckers turn off their engines while they rest and let everyone else breathe easier is set to expand to more states.
Praised by truckers and the Environmental Protection Agency alike, the IdleAire Technologies Corp. system delivers heat, air conditioning, telephone, TV and the Internet through a window-mounted touch-screen panel at the end of a big yellow hose not unlike an old drive-in movie hookup.
Over the next 15 months, the Knoxville-based company will add 210 locations at truck stops and fleet centers in 35 states, creating a network of nearly 15,000 specially equipped, big-rig parking spaces from coast to coast.
It’s a 10-fold increase in IdleAire’s 24-site fleet, made possible by a $320 million capitalization from the sale of discount notes and warrants completed last week.
The privately held company also is banking on the anticipated use of $42 million in federal matching grants that communities receive to cut air pollution.
‘What is not to like?’
“We are all looking forward to this massive deployment,” said Pamela Hayes, vice president of the 900-member National Association of Truck Stop Operators. “Everything we have heard and seen has been positive — good for drivers, good for the environment. What is not to like?”
Key to the system is that truckers can get these amenities without idling their engines during their required 10 hours of rest for every 11 hours on the road. That conserves fuel, cuts fuel expenses and eliminates tons of pollution.
“This network will provide win-win-win benefits,” President and CEO Mike Crabtree said. “Truck drivers will gain access to an improved lifestyle and will be better rested and more alert behind the wheel.
“Truck owners challenged by slim margins will reduce fuel and repair costs associated with extended idling. And communities will get cleaner air to breathe and neighborhoods will be quieter with fewer idling trucks.”
Since opening it first center in 2000, IdleAire estimates it has provided 5.5 million hours of service to 470,000 driver visits. The company says it already is reducing diesel emissions by 58,000 metric tons a year and conserving nearly 6 million gallons of fuel annually.
“The additional sites could eliminate over a half million tons of diesel emissions each year and conserve about 11.6 million gallons of diesel fuel,” Crabtree said.
Significant cost savings
Larry Hammond, CEO of Teton Transportation Inc., a national carrier with a 200-truck fleet based in Knoxville, said the IdleAire system addresses “the two biggest issues facing the trucking industry — fuel costs and driver retention.”
Besides adding to a trucker’s “quality of life” on the road, the system will be a cost saver for the truck owner, he said. Hooking up to the IdleAire system — using a special $10 plastic hanger — costs member fleets $1.88-$1.60 an hour, compared to $3-$4 an hour for fuel and truck maintenance for an idling vehicle.
Inventor A.C. Wilson, a contractor from Tellico Plains, said he created the system after his trucker brother-in-law was late to a family gathering after being ticketed for idling his truck on an onramp in New Jersey.
“He was telling me about it and I just made the comment you have got to be kidding,” Wilson said. “I said, well, somebody needs to solve your problem.”
A year later, IdleAire was in business with a patented system. Company officials say their competition is limited and a public stock offering may be around the corner.
Hundreds of fleet partners
Nearly 1,400 truck fleets in the United States and Canada now have working agreements with IdleAire for service. Nationwide truck stop partners TravelCenters of America, Petro Stopping Centers and Pilot Travel Centers are providing sites.
IdleAire currently operates 24 centers along major highways in 11 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
It plans to add 210 more centers in those states and 24 others: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.