Sacramento Municipal Utility District helps truckers plug in instead of idling their engines

Big rig plug-in program helps reduce harmful truck emissions and air pollution

- City of Sacramento
Sacramento Municipal Utility District  (SMUD) program manager David Hatfield inspects newly installed "shore power" electric hookups at the Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza

At any truck stop you’ll likely find dozens of noisy diesel big rig tractor-trailers, parked and idling for hours. Truckers typically leave the engine running while they sleep and rest to power the appliances that provide comfort inside the cab such as heating, air conditioning or a TV. Truckers are required by law to have a 10-hour rest period for each 12 hours of on-road time.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is working with truckers and truck stop operators to achieve a clean-air alternative to truck idling. By providing utility power where big rig drivers spend their rest period, truckers can plug in their rigs to electrical outlets and avoid idling their engines.

More than 30 electrical "shore power" hookups have been installed at the Sacramento 49er Truck Travel Plaza truck stop on Interstate 80 just west of the Interstate 5 interchange. When truckers turn off the diesel engines and plug into SMUD’s grid to power appliances, harmful emissions are reduced and truckers save money. SMUD has partnered with federal and state agencies to promote this new national effort to accommodate truckers with auxiliary power so they can reduce the idling of polluting engines.

About 10 years ago, SMUD began a pilot program to introduce truckers to plugging in their big rigs by installing sixteen electrical "shore power" hookups at the 49er. The current 18-month demonstration project is intended to gather technical data and determine feasibility. If it works, the project will go commercial.

"Last decade, getting truckers to plug in instead of idling was challenging," said Tristen Griffith, president, Sacramento 49er Truck Travel Plaza. "A lot has changed since then. We expect to see considerably more truckers plugging in now, and we’re very proud to be a leader in this change for the better," said Griffith. "One of SMUD’s core values is environmental protection," said David Hatfield, SMUD project manager. "SMUD sees projects like these fitting perfectly with our mission to keep the air our community breathes a lot cleaner."

Truckers save money using the new technology. Considering the price of diesel fuel—now at more than $4 per gallon in California—staying cool and running appliances for ten hours costs more than $40 compared to about $1 in electricity costs.

Engine idling has been standard practice in the trucking industry ever since drivers began lodging in their trucks during long-haul trips. Many trucks have sleeper compartments that resemble small apartments with most of the comforts of home. Idling the truck engine consumes about a gallon of fuel per hour, producing significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide and particulate matter. It also makes a lot of noise that interrupts the restfulness of the rest period.

In the U.S., trucks consume more than two billion gallons of fuel annually while idling, resulting in wasted energy and emissions of air pollutants that can be harmful to the environment and public health. For every truck that eliminates idling there is a savings of 580 pounds of NOx per year, based on an 8-hour per day reduction in run time. That’s equivalent to the emissions from 116 passenger cars. When combined with other gases on hot, sunny days, NOx produces ground-level ozone, which can be harmful to the environment and to our health.

Get more information about SMUD and its energy-saving and pollution-reducing programs and efforts.

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