Drivers Seek Alternative Power Sources Amid New Idling Regulations

The steady drone of idling trucks parked at hundreds of California truck stops is significantly lower this month as trucks are now restricted to just five minutes of engine idling time per hour.

The California Air Resources Board’s anti-idling rule carries fines beginning at $100. It is part of a wave of increasingly stringent, state-by-state regulations introduced across the nation to help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, toxins and pollutants, and to save fuel. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that with a half million long-haul trucks now operating nationwide, wasteful engine idling may consume as much as 840 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.

California isn’t alone. With certain exemptions, three minute engine idling limits currently are in force in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and New York City. Imposing a five-minute limit right now are Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the state of New York. In Texas, with certain exemptions, idling limits for trucks are five minutes per hour during the warmer months of April through October when truckers’ air conditioner use is heaviest. Other states have different versions of the rules but include more lenient time limits.

For drivers resting in sleeper cabs, the rule poses special problems. Without use of their engines, they must rely on traditional deep cycle lead acid batteries, or small auxiliary diesel power plants to provide overnight power for heaters, air conditioners, TVs, refrigerators, microwaves and other devices used when their cabs become hotel rooms.

According to Ed Williams, Chief Executive Officer of battery technology company Firefly Energy, these long-haul trucks and their drivers trying to stay powered during rest periods “will experience continued daily reductions in battery run time and premature battery failure, since traditional lead acid batteries cannot tolerate the repeated deep discharging required to achieve long battery run times. Diesel-powered auxiliary power units still consume fuel, generate pollutants, and present long-term maintenance issues. Given the right battery that can handle the daily run-time requirements, batteries clearly are the way to address this issue.”

To provide an answer to the anti-idling regulations, Firefly Energy announced late last year that the first pre-production versions of its BCI Group 31 truck battery--called “Oasis”--will be available for testing by trucking companies during the first quarter of 2008.

Williams says the company’s Oasis truck battery for sleeper cabs will primarily be utilized when the truck’s diesel engine is turned off, and will provide up to 50 percent longer run times than competitors when powering accessories which collectively make up a truck’s “hotel loads.”

Initial availability of the battery will be in the summer of 2008, with full production of the Oasis battery scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2008.

“With regulators and the rest of us wanting more efficient use of fuel, fewer pollutants in the air and added savings for our pocketbooks, anti-diesel engine idling regulations are becoming more pervasive,” he continues. “Better battery performance will contribute to added trucker safety, comfort and productivity as well. We feel the Oasis battery will help provide truckers with a quiet, comfortable haven to use during their mandatory rest periods while saving precious fuel and keeping the environment cleaner.”

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