Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Saving energy at the carrier

It’s a constant refrain for professional drivers: Idle less. There are all sorts of good reasons to avoid idling – I count avoiding heat stroke and hypothermia as exceptions to this policy. With most of the U.S. baking now – or steaming, as in Texas – I’m guessing there won’t be too many idling bonuses handed out this quarter.

But why should the men and women behind the wheel be the only ones to conserve energy? How about the folks back at the fleet? I spend all day in an office building, and the company that owns it issued a long list of “do’s,” “don’ts” and “we-suggests” about turning off lights, closing blinds, not using space heaters (or arc welders, presumably), etc. etc. The veiled threat is that if we don’t cooperate, they will ratchet the temps up for the rest of the summer, and force us to wear fingerless wool gloves and parkas this winter.

But trucking companies have some unique opportunities to reduce energy consumption, according to my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe. For instance:

Most office work at a fleet is done on computers and phones; and these days, most drivers, whether owner-operator, independent or company, depend on computers and phones to do work – FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. Why, then, do all the folks back at the office have to come in to work at all? There are something like 9 million people in the “industry,” and the majority are not driving trucks. They push – I was going to say paper, but now it’s “data” or “information” – instead of a gearshift. So why not from home?

It’s a proven fact that the dispatch departments of trucking fleets always have the most powerful AC units with the lowest-set thermostats. To begin with, they’re handling all those hot loads (for that matter, did a dispatcher ever have a load that wasn’t smoking?). Most of them are hot under the collar most of the time, and they also tend to blow a lot of hot air. Clearly, enclosing and insulating their cubicles would allow the company to pinpoint cooling where needed, and keep random heat from spreading through the room. An IdleAire unit in each dispatch department could easily help accomplish this.

It’s also a proven fact that our body temperatures drop when we are asleep. Rufus thinks that if most of the folks at the fleet he contracts with would simply sleep five or six hours a day and let him get on with his work, they’d save a bunch of bucks on AC – and get their loads delivered with less fuss.