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On Idling and Creature Comforts for Pro Drivers


Regional and long haul drivers often want to create a "home sweet home" in the trucks they drive since they not only work in them, they live in them for days, weeks or months at a time.

Owner operators have the freedom to outfit their trucks the way they want (since they own their own trucks). However, company drivers do not have that luxury. They are completely dependent upon the trucking companies for whom they drive to provide "access" to what we call "creature comforts" -- which in actuality may be viewed more like essentials in our world today.

There are certain things that we may take for granted when we live in a residence (our "home sweet home") or work in an office setting. We assume that there were be electricity, one or more means of communication, and indoor plumbing. Some drivers can provide part of what they need by buying an inverter (either 12-volt or battery-connected) or a portable toilet.

But what about having a stable means of climate control and electrification?



Exhaust stack from 18-wheel tractor trailer

Comparing Options Between Home, Work and Truck

The longer an engine idles, the more fuel is being used and the higher the cost of operations will be. Some people say that the fuel used in this way goes straight up the exhaust stacks, providing no value. (An exhaust stack is pictured at left.)

While there are many different energy sources, commercial motor vehicles have very limited means by which climate control and electrification can be produced: either from what is on the truck (usually diesel, batteries or solar panels) or from outside it, which we will describe below.

Many professional truck drivers both work and live in their trucks for days, weeks or months at a time. Since it is both their workplace and their "home sweet home," let's compare the options that are available between one's home, one's workplace and a commercial motor vehicle.

  • No one seems to mind it when a single person uses home heating oil to keep his or her home warm in the winter, even when the cost is high. (Unless you're really used to cold temperatures, can you imagine your home sweet home being bone-chilling cold when you sleep in the winter?)
  • Electricity that is used for homes and businesses must be generated somewhere. No one complains about electrical generators running. (Which business or home sweet home that is built today doesn't have electricity?)
  • Many a trucking company office has air conditioning for the summer, heat for the winter, lights burning, a coffee machine and a refrigerator.

The provision of creature comforts for individuals may far exceed the costs. Furthermore, the provision of creature comforts for internal employees may be considered the cost of doing business.

So why shouldn't professional truck drivers have the same climate control and electrification opportunities in their home sweet home trucks?

Would the owners of trucking companies feel as though it was "humane" to

  • spend a night in their homes if it was 90°F with no air conditioning, no fan blowing, and no lights burning?
  • spend a night in their homes if it was 25°F without heat during the winter?
  • be denied communication with his/her loved ones because there was no electricity?

Truck drivers who work and live in trucking companies' trucks are like tenants in miniature rolling apartments. The trucks are, even as humble as they may be, their "home sweet home" away from home while the drivers are out on the road. Drivers should be treated at least as well as any animal. Please see our information about the temperature inside a hot truck or car.





There are only four situations that we see that are open to professional truck drivers for climate control and electrification inside trucks. In the table below, we compare these four situations, asking,

  • "Is idling allowed for drivers at this company?" and
  • "Are idling alternatives on the driver's truck?":
Idling Idling Alternatives Summary
Yes Yes duplicative
Yes No expensive
No Yes efficient
No No inhumane

Idling is not the only means by which to obtain climate control and electrification, but if drivers are not provided with or near alternatives, it becomes the only means.



Electrification

Similarly, drivers may need to idle to recharge their truck's batteries for electrification if there are no alternatives. Among the appliances that may need to be used in the truck are CPAP machines during sleep, electronics (like a laptop computer or recharging a cell phone's battery), and electrically powered cookware (like a hot pot, microwave oven or electric skillet).

When it comes to electrification, we speak of the ability of drivers to use

  • a 12-volt power source;
  • connect an inverter directly to the truck's batteries; or
  • run an APU that provides electrical current.




Cold Temperatures

Idling for comfort is not limited to when it is hot. It also applies when it is cold. The first winter that we drove professionally was the winter that the Blizzard of 1993 occurred in the southeastern USA. We had to park for about 2 days. To Swift's credit, they were concerned that we had enough diesel in the truck to idle and stay warm.



Hypocrisy?

We compared above a couple of temperature-related situations (one hot in the summer and one cold in the winter) that professional drivers may face on the road that people who own or work in trucking companies most likely never face.

How is it possible that trucking company owners and employees can experience creature comforts in their homes and workplaces and yet deny these same comforts to the drivers who work for them? This seems to us to be a violation of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."






truck drivers money saving tip icon

Money saving tip: Setting up your home sweet home in your truck should be a pleasure, not a chore. We believe you should be able to enjoy most of the same pursuits in your truck as you would in your home.

While we understand the high cost of idling from a business perspective, if you are working for a trucking company that has not provided an idling alternative, understand that they do not truly value their human resources -- especially when they forbid idling.

No one, in our opinion, should have to suffer from being in a hot truck during the summer or a freezing cold truck in the winter. It is not good for your own health or the safety of the motoring public.








Return from Home Sweet Home: On Idling and Creature Comforts for Pro Drivers to our Truck Operations page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.







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