Don’t Exhaust Your Money

by Katy de Vries

TORONTO, Ont. – With the winter months upon us, a number of fuel saving technologies and initiatives are being rolled out to encourage truckers who idle to stop blowing their money on exhaust.

A truck left idling – eight hours a day, five days a week, 30 weeks of the year – at a fuel consumption rate of three litres per hour and a cost of 70 cents per litre, will burn away $2,520 per year, according to John Dennehy, vice-president of marketing and communications for Espar Heating Systems.

And that doesn’t even include the cost of wear and tear on the equipment, nor does it account for the cost to the environment, he added.

“The transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and by 2020, this same sector will emit 212 megatonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into our environment if we don’t do anything now,” said Dennehy, speaking at the Ontario Trucking Association’s annual convention. “The industry is heading towards anti-idling initiatives more and more.”

Engine manufacturers are building in warranties for certain idling limitations, idling legislation is growing and enforced fines are becoming significant throughout the U.S. In response, bunk heater installations are on the increase.

A bunk heater can cut GHG emissions by 12 to 15 tonnes annually and auxiliary power units (APUs) can reduce GHG emissions by 16 to 19 tonnes, Dennehy said.

The Freight Sustainability Demonstration Program is another initiative to discourage idling. The federal program funds projects that can be proven to reduce GHG emissions.

“Espar is working on one of these programs right now with fleets to reduce emissions through idle reduction,” said Dennehy.

Since bunk heater technology is still spreading throughout the industry, carriers and owner/operators have to take a close look at the costs and benefits associated with it, Dennehy advised.

Unfortunately, Canadian truckers tend to be slow to adopt new technologies. Evidence of this comes from a 1999 survey conducted by L-P Tardif and Associates of Ottawa, Ont. The research project included a two-week survey of weigh scales across Canada to examine the types of on-board technologies found on the trucks that pulled in to the scales. The survey found that 54 per cent were using cell phones to communicate and 13 per cent were using satellite technology, but 10 per cent were still using dated tacograph technology on-board the truck, according to president Louis-Paul Tardif. While tacograph technology can still be effective, it is indicative that a portion of the market is slow to adopt new technology.

“The problem I found out on the road was that people haven’t been conducting needs analyses when considering different types of technologies, including bunk heater and APU technology,” said Tardif.

Tardif devised a tool that is available on the FleetSmart Web site ( that allows users to perform a sort of needs analysis. The tool includes a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet in which specific operational values can be included.

“It enables you to decide if technology is the way to go for your company and if you decide it is for you, it helps you lay out your priorities for implementation and assess what difficulties you may face,” said Tardif. “This technology grid will establish how long it will take you to implement a new technology, how much it will cost and the savings that you will see after implementation. It’s a way to figure out where your pitfalls and limitations are.”

It also forces fleet personnel to look at areas such as staff resistance to change, management will, customer pressure, training and culture for drivers and commitment to financial resources and goals.

“If the priorities score higher than the difficulties then you know you’re heading in the right direction, but if it is vice versa, then perhaps you need to rethink the decision,” he said.

This method can help measure the benefits of using bunk heater technology, but other incentives to buy into it exist as well.

FleetSmart, part of Natural Resources Canada’s government initiatives to reduce GHG emissions, has many programs on the go designed to give further incentive to the trucking industry to reduce idling.

“There are a lot of different efforts out there working towards the same goal of reducing harmful emissions,” said Lynda Harvey, senior manager for the transportation program at FleetSmart, who also spoke at the OTA convention.

Toyota, Ford, Honda and GM have all released passenger vehicles that are better for the environment and hybrid diesel transit buses have been put to the streets for testing. There are experiments in the heavy-duty market but not as yet at the heavier weights that trucks are expected to haul.

In the meantime, FleetSmart is trying several innovative ways to encourage the trucking industry to take responsibility for its part of reducing GHG emissions.

In the near future, FleetSmart will be signing a partnership agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. to eventually have a seamless marriage between emissions initiatives in the North and the South.

“We want drivers and carriers to get recognition on both sides of the border for cutting their fuel bills and doing their part for emissions control,” said Harvey.

FleetSmart is also encouraging fleets to get their drivers involved and to look at their ECM and black box data, said Harvey.

“We performed a Fleet Challenge where we worked with some Canadian fleets and looked at their idling habits and found that 20 per cent of idling occurred within their own yards. This unnecessary idling can quite easily be eliminated. The drivers realize that they can make a difference when they are shown the ECM data,” Harvey said.

Fuel Management 101 is another program FleetSmart is presenting to the industry.

“This one-day seminar helps fleet managers devise a business plan dedicated to fuel management and it helps them figure out where to start,” said Harvey.

Fuel is generally one of the top two operating costs for a fleet and usually the number one cost for owner/operators, she said. This type of education can show personnel how to make the operation more efficient.

“People aren’t rolling their eyes anymore when we talk about the environment. Truckers say they can see a brown haze when they drive over the escarpment coming into Toronto from Hamilton, so it is touching their lives personally,” said Harvey.

The government of Canada is now rebating up to $350 for a cab heater and up to $1,400 on APUs to buyers who have purchased a system as of Aug. 12, 2003.

Harvey said this program will extend to March of 2005 and added FleetSmart is fighting hard to have the funding extend to March of 2006.

“We are asking fleets who have purchased units to print off the last 12 months of ECM data for us to use in our case for maintaining the rebate funding,” Harvey said.

With the use of in-cab heaters and APUs, some fleets saw a reduction in idling from 80 hours per week to 30 hours per week and this is substantial, she said.

“This also encourages the uptake in market for new technologies.”

FleetSmart’s Anti-Idling Quiet Zones have also gained momentum over the past year, Harvey said.

“We have 82 sites across Canada that enforce no idling rules for 10 weeks between Oct. 4 and Dec. 30 each year. Truck stops are telling us that drivers like to stop at these sites.”

If given the option, most drivers prefer to have quiet zones and like to do their part for the environment and for their company, she said. Also, employee retention studies show that companies investing in their drivers are more likely to retain them.

“So by providing your drivers with these technologies or involving them in fuel consumption reducing plans, you’re not only saving money that you can use for other things and improving your corporate image by becoming more environmentally friendly – you’re also making your drivers happy,” Harvey said.

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