Service plaza to save truckers idle time

New Stanton's service plaza soon will house a clean-air facility designed to help truckers comply with state regulations concerning idling.
Truck Space Electrification is planned for the plaza at Pennsylvania Turnpike milepost 77.6 westbound. Service towers will be equipped with modules that fit into truck cab windows to provide heat, air conditioning, Internet, television and electrical power while the truck's engine remains off. Initially, 28 parking spaces will be fitted with the equipment.

"They'll be able to drive in there, hook up to these units and run all the facilities in their trucks without keeping the trucks running," said Tom Fox, public information manager for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, western region.

The Diesel Powered Motor Vehicle Idling Act went into effect in January 2009, making it illegal for vehicles over 5 tons to idle engines while parked at rest stops. Idling is restricted to five minutes in any continuous 60-minute period.

Funding was provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection via a State Clean Diesel Grant through an allocation from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"The problem that comes from idling is the (emission of) particulate matter," said Tom Rathbun, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection. "The air quality is badly affected by all the truck traffic. You add in the cost of diesel fuel that is wasted ... it makes a lot of sense."

George Lassiter, a longtime driver from Virginia, said he doesn't use the electrification facilities.

"I've seen a lot of guys use them," Lassiter said while fueling his rig in New Stanton Thursday, adding in many cases he doesn't leave the truck idling. "It depends on the weather. If I don't have to use the heat or the AC, I don't leave it on."

"I think it's fantastic," added Cesar Chacon of Cherry Hill, N.J., who has used the equipment. "It turned out to be a nice thing, except when you go to start up the truck in the wintertime and it won't start. The diesel wasn't warmed up. When you go to start it, you're warm inside but, outside, the truck don't want to start."

Similar sites have been constructed in areas such as Carlisle, Cumberland County; Frystown, Berks County, Harborcreek, Erie County, and Greencastle, Franklin County. However, the New Stanton facility -- expected to be operational by May 30 -- will be the first on the turnpike.

Fox said New Stanton was chosen because the plaza was reopened in May 2009 after being refurbished.

"We just remodeled that service plaza and extended the parking lot," he said. "It had all the infrastructure in place to accommodate these facilities quickly."
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