No need to idle rigs with truck utility ports

Matthew Carr, 34, decided to make Cash’s Truck Plaza in Port Allen the final stop for the night Thursday when he discovered that he could hook up his truck to air conditioning and electricity without having to idle his truck all night.

The reason he stopped in the first place had more to do with his passengers.

“They had to go to the bathroom,” he laughed, talking about two of his daughters, ages 10 and 7, who were taking their annual summer trip with dad.

They had some extra time on their way to Baltimore, so when Carr saw there was an IdleAir system at the truck stop, that finalized his decision.

The IdleAir system was made possible through a grant from the state Department of Environmental Quality to the Greater Baton Rouge Clean Cities Coalition. The coalition, with a goal of promoting alternative fuel, fuel conservation and air quality improvements, partnered with IdleAir and the truck stop to install the system. Starting in August, there are now 18 full-service parking spots which include air conditions, electricity and other amenities as well as 16 electricity only spots.

Truckers pay for the service because it can be cheaper than burning the diesel for required rest periods which can be up to 34 hours or because it saves wear and tear on the vehicles. These reasons are particularly attractive to truck drivers who own and operate their own trucks, said Jeff Maurer, chief listening officer with IdleAir.

Although the station opened in August, it’s taken some time for truck drivers find the service and decide to try it for themselves, he said.

“We’re all creatures of habit and truck drivers are no different,” Maurer said.

However, more and more truckers are coming into the station and using the service.

For Jon Halligan, 55, another owner-operator truck driver, the air conditioning is the true selling point. His truck doesn’t have air conditioning, almost a necessity as he drives through the South.

Even before that, he said, he’s used the system for years as he drives around the country because it makes a difference to his bottom line.

“You shut the truck off and you’re saving fuel and maintenance,” Halligan said.

Required rest time such as the current 10-hour rest time he was taking Thursday afternoon can take a toll.

“That’s 10 hours I don’t have to run my truck,” he said. “This is just as cheap as a hotel room. Probably cheaper.”

The IdleAir system maybe a boon to some truck drivers, but the real reason DEQ and the Greater Baton Rouge Clean Cities Coalition used the grant to encourage its installation in the area comes down to air quality. Trucks, cars and industry release pollution that can form into ozone (smog) during hot and sunny days. Although the Baton Rouge area, including West Baton Rouge Parish, currently meets the federal ozone standard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to soon issue a much tougher standard to meet.

To this point, most of the focus has been on industrial reductions, but the expected tougher standard requires looking at additional reductions and the electrified truck stop is one way to do that.

Last year when the program was announced, it was anticipated that there would be a 19-ton reduction in nitrogen oxide releases, 1,666 tons of carbon monoxide and half a ton of particulate matter — small pieces of soot that can cause health issues when inhaled.

However, that’s when the IdleAir system is getting fully used. Numbers to date from August show that trucks hooked up the system have saved 33.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released as well as 0.4 ton of nitrogen oxide and 0.01 tons of particulate matter. That’s the result of the trucks that have spent 3,212 hours hooked up to the system which has saved 3,212 gallons of diesel fuel, according to information from Ann Shaneyfelt, executive director of Louisiana Clean Fuels and Clean Cities coordinator.

While the air pollution savings is good news, what was really great was air conditioning while spending 10 hours resting in a south Louisiana truck stop.

“I don’t have air conditioning, so this is a godsend for me,” Halligan said before getting back into his truck for some rest. The trip to Houston and back to Florida was going to be a long one come morning.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.