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State Considers Plan For Truck Idle Reduction at Rest Areas

Ohio is considering a plan to help truck drivers save money at rest areas. The state wants to put in equipment that would allow drivers to turn off their engines even when they're pulling refrigerated or heated trailers.

About a dozen eighteen wheelers idle at a rest stop on Highway 71 in north Franklin County. Most of the drivers rest in their cabs, one's on a cell phone, another gets out and tests some cables on his rig. These drivers are among thousands that have to leave their trucks running in order to stay cool or warm - or to keep their cargo at the right temperature.

But continuously idling vehicles is not only costly to the drivers, it also has environmental costs. That's why the Ohio Department of Development wants to install new technology at rest areas. Development Department Energy Outreach Manager, Sherry Hubbard, said the equipment can pump heat and air conditioning into truck cabs - and it offers outlets for phones and TVs.

"If you will, think about an overhead rack that is supplied with a small heating and cooling unit. And they have a drop down connector that brings not only the supply air in, but also beings the electricity and the cabling for movie viewing and Internet access," Hubbard said.

Hubbard said the device fits into an opening in the window and would be available at all truck stops, public or private. She said the window units will give truck drivers and trucking companies some monetary relief as diesel prices continue to increase. Trucker John Browning from Colorado disagrees.

"The technology that they're talking about would pump in heat and air conditioning and provides plugs for telephones through a window mounted thing like you would at the drive-in. Have you seen those before? Yeah, they're $2.80-something an hour. Uh, there's truck stops that have them. It's subsidized by the government. Personally, I don't agree with it. Have you ever used one? No. Why wouldn't you ever use one? Well, it's expensive. It's just as expensive to let my truck run," Browning said.

Hubbard said she does not know at this time how much it will cost for a driver to use the equipment in Ohio if it's installed.

"I'm not really sure about the exact cost that he may have incurred. Certainly they are priced to be less costly than the fuel they are replacing," Hubbard said.

Californian Doug West owns his own trucking business, and takes advantage of saving a little money any time he can.

"We use them out in California quite often. All the truck stops in California have them. So, we use them all the time really," West said.

West saids using the equipment saves him a good bit of money. He said he pays about $10 a night, or an eight hour period.

"We use about four gallons an hour at idle. So that's, with the way the fuel is now, that's twelve dollars an hour," West said.

But saving on fuel costs is only part of the plan. Projects and policy coordinator for Clean Fuels Ohio, Nikos Kaplanov, said the new technology has a variety of positive effects. While he said the equipment would reduce the amount of emissions in the air, it also benefits drivers' health.

"By having vehicles and trucks not idling as much the drivers get better sleep, it's less noise. And they can be more safe on the road, so. There's a number of benefits to doing this that aren't just environmental and economic, but public safety as well," Kaplanov said.

State officials said a decision will be made in the next couple of weeks on the truck stop technology. The state development department is using $400,000 from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to help pay for installation.