Onboard Idle Reduction Equipment for Heavy-Duty Trucks

Onboard equipment options can easily be installed on heavy-duty trucks and can help reduce idle time at truck stops, roadsides, ports, terminals, and delivery sites. The cost-effectiveness of each technology depends on the climate in which they are used and the duration of idling.

Auxiliary Power Units

Auxiliary power units (APUs) are portable, vehicle-mounted systems that provide power for climate control and electrical devices in trucks, locomotives, and marine vehicles without idling. These systems are generally composed of a small internal combustion engine (usually diesel) equipped with a generator and heat-recovery system to provide electricity and heat.

Cab or Bunk Heaters

These diesel-fired heaters supply warm air to the cab or bunk. An engine block heater can also be included. Diesel heaters use only small amounts of fuel and have very low emissions because they supply heat directly from a small combustion flame to a heat exchanger. Standard diesel fuel is used. Cab or bunk heaters can be coupled with air conditioners if the trucker's service area includes both cold winters and hot summers.

Coolant Heaters

Coolant heaters use the truck's regular heat-transfer system. The heater is mounted in the engine compartment, draws gasoline or diesel from the fuel tank to heat the vehicle's coolant, and pumps the heated coolant through the engine, radiator, and heater box. Coolant heaters keep the engine warm, reducing the impact of cold starts.

Energy Recovery System

Energy recovery systems use the vehicle's heat-transfer system, much like a coolant heater, but without a separate piece of equipment. A very small electric pump is connected to the water line, which keeps the truck's cooling system and heater operating after the engine is turned off, using engine heat that would otherwise dissipate. Energy recovery systems typically do not provide enough warmth to be a sole source of overnight heat.

Storage Air Conditioners

Thermal storage and battery-electric air conditioners (storage cooling) derive energy to recharge the storage device from the truck's engine during operation or from plugging in to external power sources at truck stops. The engine uses a small quantity of extra diesel for recharging the air conditioner. The emissions from burning this fuel (which are controlled by the engine's emissions control system) occur on the highway rather than at the truck stop or depot.

Automatic Engine Stop-Start Controls

Automatic engine stop-start controls can sense sleeper temperature and automatically turn the engine on when the sleeper is too warm or cold. They can also keep locomotive engines warm. Fuel savings using this technology are minimal in extreme temperatures. These controls also add to engine wear and may disturb the driver's sleep.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) SmartWay program offers a list of Verified Idle Reduction Technologies. EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy provide information about funding that may be available for installation of qualifying equipment. See also the monthly National Idling Reduction Network News for the latest news about funding opportunities.