I was just thinking the other day how much things have changed over the years.  Driver comfort through ergonomic and sleeper accommodations has made driving a truck for a living much more comfortable than the trucks I started my career in.  In the past the only way to stay comfortable in regards to temperature while trying to get your much needed sleep and rest was by leaving the windows open, idling the engine if equipped with air conditioning, bundling up in blankets, or having a simple 12-volt fan.

I took great pride in not idling my truck because I did not want to wear out an engine to simply keep myself comfortable.  I always found it interesting how often I would hear other trucks idling while I slept with my engine in silence.  For me, if my engine was on it was to move me down the highway generating income.  During my whole career since 1983, I only idled my truck while I slept once and that was by accident because I fell asleep with the flu.  In fact, I found it difficult to rest with the engine running because in the back of my mind all I could think of was that I was wasting fuel and wearing out a large expensive diesel engine.  

In my quest to not idle, I found ways to increase my comfort level. I bought a 12-volt fan and placed it by the sleeper vent to keep the air circulating.  Having a fan helped reduce the amount of stuffy air in early spring, summer, and early fall.  My next purchase was a 12-volt heating pad by Electrowarmth that was pinned to my sleeper mattress which radiated heat upward.  I still remember spending approximately $75 to purchase the Electrowarmth heating pad and was thrilled to see the product was made in Ohio.   Between the fan and the heating pad, I was able to sleep comfortably in temperatures as high as 90 degrees and as low as -5 degrees.

I always felt that if we wanted to think of ourselves as the last American cowboys, as many do, we should be able to find a way to comfortably sleep without a large diesel engine running.  After all, what would a real cowboy do out on the range without the shelter provided by a semi-truck to protect them from the elements?  

In order to continue on my quest to not idle my truck’s engine, it was necessary to stack the deck in my favor as much as possible.  My strategy in the summer was to align my schedule to sleep at night without the sun beaming down on the cab of my truck.  In the wintertime, my schedule still had me sleeping at night, however, if I had a chance to sleep during the day with the sun heating the interior of my truck it was much easier to stay comfortable. 

 The memory of the morning when I woke up and the temperature was -5 degrees still sticks out vividly in my mind.  I can still remember being comfortable with the heat rising up from my Electrowarmth heating pad along with a heavy comforter and stepping out from under the covers to be greeted by the extreme cold temperature.  After turning the key and starting the engine, I quickly retreated back to the warmth of my heating pad and comforter until the cab temperature rose to a level warm enough to get up and get dressed.  In addition to these products, I had a low voltage disconnect to my fan and heating pad so that I did not drain the batteries to a level that would not allow my truck engine to start.  

During those old days, I only had three batteries in my truck because I hauled a lot of heavy freight.  Sacrificing the weight of one battery was just one of many things that were sacrificed in order to reduce my truck’s tare weight.  With only three batteries, along with their use to operate a 12-volt cooler, fan, and heating pad, it became necessary to replace these on an annual basis if I wanted the truck to start reliably in the winter season.  

Enough of the past now, let’s move on to today.  I currently find myself spoiled by having the comfort of a well-insulated cab along with the Freightliner Dual Parked HVAC System.  Today’s technology has brought the luxuries of climate control into an affordable and efficient package.  The Freightliner Dual Parked HVAC System provides you approximately 10 hours of cooling or 34 hours of heating capability.  By combining tricks I employed to stay comfortable before having the Dual HVAC System, I’ve been able to fully exploit the capabilities of today’s technology.

Tricks that help to get the most out of this battery-powered HVAC system include parking with the windshield facing away from the sun, not running the fan above level 3, and keeping the thermostat set towards the middle of the temperature range which is approximately 72 degrees.  Also, while trying to sleep during the day under the hot sun, it’s important to draw the insulated sleeper curtains closed so you’re not trying to cool the entire cab of the truck.  More recently, I devised another trick to staying cool in extreme heat.  When it is oppressively hot outside, I not only close the insulated sleeper curtains, but I take my blanket and drape it down from the upper bunk which encloses the lower sleeper area.  By isolating the lower bunk where I’m sleeping, it reduces the area that is needed to be cooled which not only increases my comfort level but also enhances the operating capacity of the Dual Parked HVAC System.  

The next step in my goals to not idle my truck engine was to add solar panels from E-Now in order to extend the range and capabilities of my Dual Parked HVAC System.  With this addition, it’s now possible to rest comfortably for an unlimited amount of time while on the road.  I have liked the E-Now Solar Panels so much that for my next truck there will be a factory-installed solar panel from this company mounted on the roof of the cab. 

In addition to everything I have discussed above, I would like to also give a big shout-out to NorthStar Batteries.  The NorthStar Batteries that are in my current Cascadia will be four years old this March.  At this point, I have 473,000 miles and still have the original 8 NorthStar AGM Batteries which are used not only to start the truck but also to power the Dual Parked HVAC System.  In the past, I could not imagine a battery lasting for nearly a half-million miles and four years of time without failure. 

We sure have come a long way with battery technology, solar power, insulation packages, sleeper accommodations, and many other comforts that make driving a truck for a living much more enjoyable while we are away from home.

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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/Tâ„¢, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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