Much attention is given to the issue of cost control, when in reality; ‘waste control’ is more of a concern for truckers. When you are on the road, it’s very common to idle your engine. However, just because idling is common, doesn’t make it smart. Often, people do not realize that idling can be an excessive waste of fuel. Idling is primarily used as a means of powering climate control devises and sleeper compartment accessories, and to prevent start-up problems in cold weather.

Does reducing idle time reduce your cost per mile? Absolutely! Think about it… Reducing idle time decreases fuel, and therefore, will increase your profit. Idling requires about a gallon of fuel per hour, so if you idle eight hours a day, this will cost you approximately $215 dollars a week. On average, idling costs $10,215 in fuel alone each year. And these costs do not include the added engine maintenance that will result from excessive idling. It is a common misconception that idling the engine uses less fuel than turning it off and restarting. By idling for only 30 seconds, you will use more fuel than if you turn simply off the engine and restart it. So, you are actually spending more money by idling. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving. This is much less than the cost of idling for any significant amount of time.

The cost of idling your vehicle is not only money, but can be safety as well. Idling generates unnecessary auto pollution, wastes fuel, and can cause excessive engine wear. Prolonged exposure to pollution is linked to health problems, like respiratory infections, and cancer. The highest exposure occurs while sitting in an idling vehicle ( For this reason, many states, counties, and cities have idling reduction laws with fines as high as $25,000. If you avoid idling, you avoid wasting money and unnecessary health risks. Here are some easy ways to minimize your idling time:
  • Purchase an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit). An APU allows you to stop idling, but still gives you power for your electronics. It also allows you the ability to feed yourself in your truck, which increases the savings benefits. This is an expensive item and may not be an option due to the age of your truck, or the available funds. Click here for a list of reviews and pricing for APUs.  Keep in mind that an APU can pay for itself pretty quickly. Run a budget, the budget will tell you if an APU will be a good investment.
  • Purchase a Truck with a ParksSmart HVAC System. If you are in the market for a new truck, Freightliner Cascadia’s are now offering an integrated auxiliary HVAC system for the Sleeper that contains an electrically driven AC compressor and a diesel fired coolant heater. This system is replacing the traditional auxiliary HVAC system for the sleeper and functions whether the truck engine is on or off. If utilize power from the alternator, or from a second bank of batteries and keeps the sleeper compartment warm (or cool). The system provides 8 to10 hours of performance in engine off mode.
Besides purchasing an APU or if you are not in the market for a new truck, there are other alternatives to idling and while they may not be quite as comfortable, it will still save you time and money in the long run.
  • Extra bedding. An extra blanket for when it’s cold outside and window screens for when the weather is warm make it easier to turn off the engine.
  • Remote Starter. For about $80 dollars you can buy a remote starter with a temperatures sensor that will start the truck at a specified temperature. This is a great accessory to have in cities with regulations against truck idling.
There are occasions where it will be necessary for you to idle your vehicle. But the more you can cut down your idling time, the more you’ll be saving.  Ultimately, the most important thing is to do whatever is necessary to be warm and rested, and keep your truck in good condition. Whether you choose to make changes in how often you idle, make sure you and your business are not suffering for it.  

Comments (17)

Kaitlin Cathey

Kaitlin works at ATBS with the sales team. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, from Thomas Edison State College in NJ. She was born in Colorado, but has also lived in Maryland and Illinois. Her favorite things to do are running, reading, and creative writing.

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hello me name is frank im owner operator and im interested on yours hvac system for the ruck

January 18, 2018 19:32:48 PM

we have a 3500 watt gen set which runs a house A/C mounted into the back of our cab ( the A/C was insulated with spray foam to reduce vibration) we also have a small portable heater in the cab for those cold nights ( 5 deg outside and we were toasty warm. it also powers our coffee maker, toaster, and microwave. it runs 12 hrs on 5 gal of gas. its a little time consuming but worth it in fuel savings. cost for whole set up 800.00

April 19, 2014 19:17:37 PM

I want to know more about the temperature controled remote start

March 15, 2013 21:49:00 PM

wish i would have known about parksmart a month ago. just ordered new cascadia for delivery end of Jan. and to late for changes.

January 01, 2013 15:24:29 PM

I am in constant tax trouble every year, so the financial part of idling is not a big issue.The wear on my engine is very important. I purchase a generator and a floor model a/c unit for my truck. The a/c is just big enough to sit between the passenger seat and the dash on my T600.

December 31, 2012 1:54:15 AM

Interesting article on an important topic with many differing opinions. The wear and tear on an engine that idles 8-10 hours a day is probably the most underrated reason not to idle. It also costs approximately $40 on a 10 hour break to idle the experts say. Edward, I can relate to the APU and engine exhaust at the truckstops. I try to stay out of them when I can for mainly that reason.

December 22, 2012 16:21:33 PM

I bought my truck used and it already had an Espar bunk heater and a NITE system battery run AC. I absolutely love both of these units. Last month I was told by my company that I had the lowest idle of every truck in the fleet, including company trucks. I wasn't trying for that, but hey, I'll take that title.

December 20, 2012 2:57:51 AM

btw: I drive a 2010 Freightliner Cascadia, it has no apu, but does have a good bunk heater. And there are lots of improvements that I could suggest for the Cascadia if I thought that Freightliner would listen.

December 20, 2012 2:35:28 AM

The biggest problem that I see with apu's is that the exhaust is vented too low. The fumes come inside my truck when someone with an apu parks next to me. They ought to be exhausted higher up. Plumb the apu exhaust into the truck exhaust pipe. Get the exhaust up so high that it cannot come inside anyone's windows, especially not your neighbor's windows.

December 20, 2012 2:32:24 AM

An apu is a good idea, however... I often have the experience of other truckers parking next to me at truckstops and they starting up their apu and the exhaust comes inside my truck through my window and the vent in the berth. I have to close all my windows and vents, at least on their side, last night I had to close all openings, even on the other side, after a truck parked beside me. This usually happens when THEY park after me, because I search out a spot with nobody on either side. The exhaust fumes and the sound are problematic. Here is a solution: plumb the apu exhaust into the truck exhaust. This will result in the exhaust being vented up at the 13' 6" level, which is higher than my windows, and, since heat rises, it should go on up into the sky instead of into my windows. The doctors say that I have chronic allergy symptoms and I have to cough and spit up stuff several times each hour, and this exhaust makes it worse for me.

December 20, 2012 2:18:15 AM

Great article Kaitln. If anyone out there is unsure if the cost of an APU would be offset by the money saved from reduced idling, I would suggest contacting your consultant at ATBS to help analyze your specific situation, or starting by calculating approximately how many hours a week you idle and then multiply that number roughly $4.00/gallon. Then multiply that by 4.33 weeks a month to see roughly how much is spent idling in an average month. As Mr. Nevarez mentioned above, the average APU payment is around $350/month (an $11k unit financed over a few years with a minimal down payment). If you are saving at least this amount, it is something worth looking into. Sooner, rather than later.

December 19, 2012 16:06:17 PM

I recently purchased my used truck and it came with a Webasto bunk heater. It was not working and I spent @ $1,000 to have it repaired. It provides efficient warmth at night but I would prefer an APU or something better. Because of the age of my truck I would not upgrade. However for my next truck I will look for the best heating and cooling with aux power that I can find. What is important to me is the warranty and the number of places that can service the unit when it malfunctions. Currently the Webasto can only be serviced by Detroit Diesel and I find that inconvenient.

December 19, 2012 8:27:07 AM

I have the Park Smart HVAC system in my Cascadia Evolution . The three things I really like regarding Park Smart are 1- Quiet operation 2- No additional engine to maintain. 3-Lower cost of ownership than traditional APU's.
The only downfall of this system is it will run out of power during extended use during a layover lasting more than 12 hours unless you carefully manage your useage. This downfall is eliminated when you plug into to shore power. I am seeing more and more shore power stations installed at Travel Centers so length of operation will become less of a issue as we move into the future.

December 19, 2012 5:10:46 AM

I have run an APU for the past 2.5 years. I originally bought it for my over-the-road regional hauls and used it to drastically reduce my idle time. A lot of people thought I was crazy buying such an expensive piece of equipment, but in my eyes you can't put a price on comfort during rest time. My payment after financing for three years was worked out to be $350 a month with a very small down payment. I realized that the fuel savings alone, not even counting reduced maintnance costs, more than made that payment. Not to mention the unit I purchased has a 5000W generator, which would be enough to run a small apartment, not just a 61" condo sleeper. This allowed me to run regular appliances and not have to settle for the usually lower performing 12V models. A full house-sized 1200W microwave and built-in fridge/freezer were perks allowed to me by having this APU. Also, the one or two times I left a light on and came in on Monday to find drained batteries, it was as simple as letting the APU charge them up for 5 minutes rather than find someone for a jump!

December 17, 2012 19:36:29 PM

I've been running what Freightliner is implementing in my truck for two years now, a Webasto bunk heater, coolant heater, and currently I just live with breeze way screens and fans for the summer. There are only very few nights in the summer that I really feel the need for A/C and when the need arises I just get a hotel room, to me there is not a cost efficient cooling solution unless you stay south of I-40 all year long!

December 17, 2012 17:08:57 PM

We often see trucks idling all night and wonder if they are idling to keep warm or to keep cool! Our fuel is one of our highest costs and a cost when we stop the truck we shut the truck off it is as simple as that for us.

The ParkSmart system has our attention and the more we learn the more we like!

December 17, 2012 14:32:29 PM

The system freightliner is starting implement looks very efficient and alot less costly thsn an APU.

December 17, 2012 11:18:49 AM