Sustainable America Blog

A Smart Solution for Truck Idling

Trucks at night at a truckstop

Photo: Todd Lappinvia Flickr

Like most good innovations, Idle Smart’s automated idling management solution for trucks began with someone thinking, there’s got to be a better way.

In this case, that person was an experienced truck mechanic in Kansas who realized a lot of the problems he was fixing were caused by the amount of idling trucks were doing while on the job. Functions like keeping cabin temperatures comfortable for drivers overnight or engines from freezing in cold weather are necessary to keeping trucks on the road, but idling engines cause wear and tear — and costs money in fuel and maintenance.

The mechanic invented a new way to automate those systems. He started selling it in 2006 but realized running two businesses was taking him in too many directions. He transferred the patent to Jeff Lynch and Harry Campbell in 2012, and they’ve been busy taking Idle Smart to the next level.

Today, Idle Smart is like a Nest for Class 8 trucks. “The system connects into the vehicle’s ignition and the truck’s computer, and it continually monitor things like cabin temperature, battery voltage, engine warmth and outside temperature,” says Lynch, who is CEO of the Kansas City, Kansas, company. “Rather than running the truck continuously to address things like cabin comfort, we start and stop the truck only when absolutely necessary.”

Idle Smart fuel savings dashboard

The driver can control the system through a tablet, and the trucking company can also monitor an entire fleet remotely. If a battery is running low or coolant is getting too cold, the engine will start to charge the battery or keep things from freezing. When the cabin heats up on a summer night, the A/C will kick on just like a home thermostat.

Idle Smart can reduce vehicle idle time by 60 percent, according to the company, which means each truck using the system not only saves money, but it can reduce yearly CO2 emissions by 12 tons and PM2.5 emissions by nearly 300 grams. With a truck fleet’s number-one expense being fuel, being able to precisely manage fuel use makes helping the environment an smart financial decision.

The upfront costs of installing Idle Smart can be up to 80 percent less than other idle-reduction solutions like auxiliary power units, which means it pays off much quicker in fuel savings. It also requires no maintenance, and the remote access means adjustments can be made without taking a truck off the road.

Idle Smart is also working to streamline installation by forging partnerships with post-production truck modification companies who can incorporate the system into a truck’s build-out.

We’ve recently invested Idle Smart as part of the company’s first effort at raising growth capital. We like the company’s focus on finding a “better way” for fleets to reduce idling and fuel use.

“Nobody wants to drive down fuel usage more than a fleet; not the government, not the EPA. It’s their single biggest expense,” said Lynch. “At the end of the day, the financial and environmental fit are really good. Nobody has to trade one for the other.”

How the Trucking Industry Can Save Billions of Gallons of Fuel Per Year
Turning Truckers Into Treehuggers
Building a Better Gas Tank

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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