In 2015, Covenant Transport installed 20 IdleAir idle-reduction bays at its main terminal and headquarters in Chattanooga. These units allow the driver of a class 8 tractor (truck) that has a “sleeper” compartment in the truck to turn off the 400-500 HP engine—that is primarily meant for moving 80,000 pounds down the road—so that he or she can sleep more soundly, and have heated or cooled air and other amenities in the cab while doing so. And today, it is not uncommon for trucking companies to have terminals where drivers, that may live elsewhere across the USA, can stay overnight in protected space. This is the case for the Covenant site in Chattanooga. And while some of the systems were being used, usage was not as high as Covenant (or IdleAir) had hoped.
When such equipment is installed at a new site, it does take some work and time to get drivers to use the equipment, and it doesn’t matter if it is at a public truck stop along America’s highways and byways, or at a terminal site. For many drivers it is a new and different process which might not result in immediate adoption and use. In many cases, the drivers do not pay the fuel costs so it doesn’t hit them directly in the wallet when they burn fuel in their tractor for 8-12 hours overnight. So Covenant had been working with drivers on the education part of the process.
The result has been a sharp upturn in IdleAir usage at Covenant’s Chattanooga terminal. According to David Mathis, terminal manager at Covenant, the IdleAir installation in Chattanooga is now at approximately 40 percent usage – or 1,300 hours weekly – and rising.
“Our fleet teams have been a significant part of this process by helping coach their drivers to move to IdleAir spaces first,” Mathis said. “Our goal is 60 to 70 percent use. This significantly decreases our idle costs and associated engine costs.” *
Mathis said it’s “good to see stories like this where all the pieces come together to help achieve what the multiple parties that are involved want to see: reduced costs associated with operating/idling class 8 tractors, healthier sleeping conditions for the hard-working drivers of these trucks and reduced emissions resulting in cleaner air in communities across the country.”
Each hour that an IdleAir unit is used in lieu of idling a class 8 truck saves roughly 1 gallon of diesel fuel and about 22 pounds of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere… not to mention wear and tear on the engine which adds up over the life of that engine. It also saves the introduction of criteria pollutant emissions into the local community, wherever the truck idles. Perhaps most importantly for the trucking company, it saves money.
Partly due to the success of Covenant’s IdleAir station, Covenant Transport’s sister company, Southern Refrigerated Transport of Texarkana, Ark., recently erected an IdleAir installation at its main terminal and headquarters.
Covenant Transport is a leading team-based, expedited truckload carrier based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, with more than 2,500 trucks and operations throughout North America and Mexico. IdleAir is the inventor of the IdleAir system and operates over 50 sites at public truck stops where its equipment is available. The East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition helped IdleAir and Covenant acquire EPA funds to cover some of the costs associated with the purchase and installation of the IdleAir equipment.
* Editor’s note: In many cases, truck stops and terminals typically have trucks using idle reduction bays only during a portion of each day, commonly during the evenings. Thus IdleAir uses a 10 hour/day use period as a 100% occupancy rate. Mr. Mathis is referring to each bay at their facility being in use for 24 hours per day with his goal of 60-70% usage.