Thursday, November 20, 2008


Many channels on the television could disappear without notice, but there would be some letters to editors and cable company executives if the History Channel was pulled from the air! Besides making us formidable Trivia Pursuit players and Cliff Clavin-like dinner guests, the History Channel keeps us up-to-date on technologies that help maintain a healthier environment in which we live. As part of the National Audubon Society's climate change initiative, the staff of Audubon South Carolina will continue to share what we have learned regarding these new technologies.

Previously in this blog, we noted the technology that allows one to flip one switch and cut power to multiple electrical outlets that feed appliances unnecessarily in your absence. Last week, we learned about IdleAire, which was formed to reduce diesel truck engine idling during federally-mandated driver downtime.

Unlike RV campgrounds, most rest areas and truck stops do not offer a convenient method for truckers to obtain electricity to run their heater/AC or devices like laptop computers. Therefore, drivers obtain power by allowing their truck engines to idle. Idling the engine consumes approximately one gallon of diesel fuel per hour (1 gal/hr) and results in poor rest for the driver (vibrations/noise in the cab), consumes fuel while moving no product, reduces engine life, requires additional engine maintenance, and pollutes the air. An alternative is an onboard electric generator that uses 75% less diesel fuel. Although the current drop in fuel prices makes the cost per hour nearly equal for the IdleAire system and a generator, a generator adds weight to the truck, may produce the same noise/vibration issues, and does not provide Internet or entertainment (phone, tv, movies) access. Pollution comparisons depend on the source of electric power at the facility using the IdleAire system. The upfront cost of a generator is considerably more than the $10 required for the IdleAire window adapter.

"ATA's American Trucking Trends 2007-2008 reports that the trucking industry hauled 69 percent of the total volume of freight transported in the United States in 2006. This equates to an all-time high carrying load of 10.7 billion tons, and $645.6 billion in revenue, representing 83.8 percent of the nation's freight bill." (Reuters Business Wire)

American Trucking Trends reported that there were 2.9 million Class 8 trucks operated by more than 750,000 interstate motor carriers. Class 8 trucks drove 130.5 billion miles for business purposes in 2005. The nation's truck fleet (all classes) consumed 52.8 billion gallons of fuel, both diesel and gasoline and spent about $111 billion on diesel fuel in 2007 (Reuters Business Wire). Using a conservative number of 1 million Class 8 trucks (the semi-truck seen on the interstate highways) idling for six hours a day (half of the required rest time) would burn 6 million gallons of diesel per day! Remember, these trucks are idling without moving their load.

Although a system like IdleAire might not be the solution to our energy, pollution or climate change issues, it makes sense to implement anything that significantly improves an industry as large and as critical as the trucking industry.

Images from IdleAire

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