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Companies gear up for shore power availability at truck stops

A Volvo truck parks at the Shorepower Technologies location in North Carolina. (Courtesy: VOLVO TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA)

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff

3/11/2010

PORTLAND, Ore. — Thanks to a $22.2 million federal grant, Shorepower Technologies, a New York-based corporation and partner Cascade Sierra Solutions of Coburg, Ore., are jump starting an effort to drastically increase the number of truck stop electrification systems in the U.S.

More commonly known as shore power stations, the hook-ups provide electrical and cable services.

Shorepower Technologies is not new to the shore power business.

It has been operating seven locations in the Northwest for that were deployed over the past two years, sites that were funded by a number of sources including grants, but were not part of the larger grant awarded last year.

Recently, Shorepower opened an East Coast location at Big Boys Truck Stop in Kenly, N.C.

Thus the grant will allow Shorepower Technologies to increase its footprint in key trucking corridors, including Interstate 5 on the West Coast, Interstate 95 on the East Coast, Interstates 10 and 20 along the southern routes and Interstate 80 across mid America.

“Those will be kind of our beach head installations that will allow us to get a critical mass of infrastructure out on the road so that we can effectively go to the fleets and say ‘look, we have infrastructure here, now it’s your job to use it,’” Alan Bates, Shorepower Technologies director of marketing and strategic development told The Trucker in an interview from the company’s West Coast office here.

Bates said the closure of IdleAire would have no immediate bearing on the company’s future plans.

The grant is covering the first 50 sites and that will represent approximately 1,500 parking spaces.

Shorepower plans to have those 50 up and running within two years, although the grant allows a three-year window for build-out.

The cost to use a space is 75 cents an hour for just electricity, $1 an hour for electricity and cable.

Most of the truckers pay the $1, Bates said.

But then that’s a lot less than it costs to idle.

It’s generally figured that a tractor uses 10 gallons of fuel idling during a normal sleeper berth period and at almost $3 a gallon for diesel now, a $1 an hour for power and cable seems a bargain.

Bates said Shorepower knew it would take a while for utilization to ramp up, and in fact, knew that a larger footprint would be key to success.

“We estimated initially that utilization would be fairly modest. It’s like building a cell phone network,” Bates said. “If the network is good in only one region of the country, it’s not compelling enough for a fleet or even a regional driver to use on a wide basis because it so limited. Our No. 1 complaint from drivers has been that there’s not enough equipment on the street.”

Utilization has actually met expectations, but those expectations were very low because Shorepower recognized from the very beginning that in order drive utilization up it had to have equipment available.

The company needed multiple locations “in order to change the mindset of the driver and the fleet because the status quo is idling and has been for decades. Now we are coming in with a new way to operate,” Bates said.

In general, OEMs today offer shore power devices as options, and Bates said his company estimated that only 20-30 percent of the rigs on the road today were so equipped.

“When it comes to environmental care, we at Volvo Trucks acknowledge that we’re part of the problem,” said Frank Bio, product manager for trucks.  “But we’re also committed to being part of the solution.  We pioneered the availability of shore power technology in heavy-duty trucks because we know how important it is to reduce truck idling."

Shore power technology is gaining ground in various configurations, but availability remains an issue.

“For shore power to work, we need to have electricity available where trucks park as truck stop electrification,” said Jim McNamara, manager of media relations at Volvo Trucks, who noted that only 139 truck stops have some type of electrification systems according to DOE, including sites operated by Shorepower Technolgies, IdleAire and CabAire. “TSE [truck stop electrification] is set to grow as more states and localities impose bans on idling and as truck operators realize the savings, especially with high diesel costs.  TSE growth requires capital investment by truck stops.  Government funding can help speed the benefits to society.”

A spokesman for Volvo Trucks North America said some 40 percent of trucks it builds are spec’d with shore power.

Daimler Trucks North America product offerings within Freightliner and Western Star can be spec'd with the appropriate shore power connection.

 “Because not all truck stops have shore power plug-in accommodations, their usage has been limited,” Richard Shearing, director of Daimler product planning, said. “If shore power receptacles become more prevalent, their popularity will increase as it's more affordable for the truck drivers.”

Jerry Warmkessel, Mack Trucks highway products marketing manager, said his company offers the shore power option for all sleeper sizes on both the Mack Pinnacle Axle Forward and Pinnacle Axle Back models.

“This option is growing significantly due to the availability of electric/battery powered HVAC systems designed to reduce and/or eliminate idling the parent engine,” he said.

Shore power connection is available on the Kenworth T660, T800 and W900 models when equipped with a 72-inch AeroCab sleeper and Kenworth Clean Power, a spokesman said.

Connections are also available on certain Peterbilt and International models, according to Web sites.

A driver doesn’t necessarily have to have a shore power connection to hook up, Bates said.

“Every long haul truck on the road today can use our system immediately with an extension cord run through a window or a crack in the door or a port on the side of the truck to run electrical appliances,” he said. “So there’s no limitation, it’s just a level of convenience the driver wants.”

Bates said his company was planning for installations beyond the 50 funded by the grant.

“Every state has pools of dollars that they have set aside for idle reduction or air quality or transportation,” he said. “We’re probably right now participants in six or seven proposals that are outside of the Department of Energy. We estimate that there are going to be significant dollars that are available going forward for more infrastructure. It’s simply a question of spe

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