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aybe you've seen it from the highway in your home town or while traveling: long yellow tubes suspended from elaborate framework. It almost looks like the mothership has arrived to abduct our nation's truckers.

It's actually a service provided by a company called IdleAire. In this day of rising fuel costs and ever increasing numbers of anti-idling laws being passed, IdleAire is one solution. If you don't know what I mean by idling, it's the practice of running the truck's engine while parked for reasons of comfort. In the summer the driver wants air conditioning. In the winter, the driver needs heat. Additionally, the running motor provides current for power inverters and DC plugs, which allow for the trucks creature comforts: TVs, microwaves, electric coolers, or in my case - keeping a laptop powered. An idling truck uses a gallon of diesel per hour. Additionally, the increased maintenance cost - the "wear and tear" factor - is in the neighborhood of $2 per hour. With diesel regularly over $4 these days, idling a truck can cost an owner operator $6-$7 per hour. At ten hours per day (the length of a legal break), that's approaching $500 per week in unnecessary costs if a driver idles his truck all the time.

What IdleAire has done is to try and bridge the gap between comfort and cost. For a fee of about $2.50 per hour, you can hook up to their service at one of their locations and enjoy a climate controlled environment, have access to AC current in the cab of your truck, and basic cable service via a coaxial plug. You can also pay to have additional services such as premium cable, pay-per-view programming, video games, ethernet access, and telephone services. What follows is a brief pictorial of how it works.

The first step is the window frame.

It's a square piece of plastic with a hole in the center. The driver pays $10 for it when they join and IdleAire will replace it for free should it ever become damaged. The frame is inserted into the passenger-side window, then the window is raised beneath it to lock it in place.

The yellow tube, which has a bulbous pod on the end, is lifted and inserted into the hole. The pod has two spring-loaded latches which secure it in the frame.

Finally there is a door on the pod, which opens to reveal a touch screen with a card reader, an air vent, and the various outlets. You can swipe any major credit card or use your membership card which can be prepaid with cash at an on-site kiosk.

Unfortunately, the future of IdleAire is uncertain, due in particular to the increasing prevalence of auxiliary power units (APUs); small diesel engines mounted to the frame of a truck which provide HVAC and electricity to the cab at about a quarter of the cost of idling. These contraptions are expensive ($7,000-$10,000) but allow for greater portability: a driver doesn't have to park his truck at a particular place to enjoy cost-effective comfort. While expensive, with the potential savings in fuel, an APU can pay for itself in less than a year. A lot of the large trucking companies have already begun outfitting them on their company trucks as standard equipment. To wit, my former employer Werner already has.

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That looks pretty neat!

there's always something for the "rich set" that ruins things like this for us average people. idle air is a really cool idea.

that's a pretty neat idea!

This is a very interesting article. What a great service IdleAire is.

Whoa, I never expected to see the touchscreen and all those electronics in the last picture. Very cool!

That is one of those "I wish I thought of that" things.

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Yes, which is one of the reasons why they've become really popular in metropolitan area truckstops. I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was government pork tossed about in the early days for incentives.

Unfortunately, the future of IdleAire is uncertain, due in particular to the increasing prevalence of auxiliary power units (APUs)...

Yeah, in fact, IdleAire filed for bankruptcy a couple of months ago.

It's not surprising. I know they had never made a profit, yet, but I didn't know they had actual filed for bankruptcy. The cost of upstart for a company like this has to be astronomical with all the construction, hardware, and technology that's behind it. Then to be competitive with the other options a trucker has, you have to keep your rates reasonable. A trucker's not going to pay $3.50 an hour for a service like this. They can't get a motel room cheaper than that. Sadly, I'm sure IdleAire's days are numbered. It's going to be interesting to see what becomes of all the equipment when they cease operations.

Thanks for that!!! I've wondered how they work!

They had installed that at afew places when I was driving.. they were giving away the window inserts and gave you afew free hours to try it out. It was pretty cool. But yea, I see the APU's are impacting them. So many places don't allow idling now, so APUs are almost required.. :(

I'd really like to get an APU myself. Right now there's just no way, but in the future I'd like to get one installed. Man, that'd be so wonderful.

plus the idiots backing into the spots.. ugh.. don't help

having seen this in action i can attest it is totally neat and i hope this shit doesn't go away any time soon.

Unfortunately, it's most certainly doomed. It's only a question of when. The company has never had a profitable year in nearly a decade of operations, in fact their net losses since their inception total almost a quarter billion dollars.


They do provide a couple of pay-per-view options in that category. But who pays for porn any more?

That really is slick!

I guess with APUs coming, even though they're only filing for chapter 11 right now, chapter 7 is still pretty likely in the future, huh?

Maybe they'll hang on just long enough for you to get the scratch together for the APU (Hey, wishful thinking never hurts, ya know ;-)> )

Idle Aire is pretty neat - I can tell you from experience, that I cut about 10-12 comm checks a night for mote/idle aire because of the apu (rigmasters) not working. My shop is backed up everyday because of these units not working properly - I am hoping that Idle Aire stays in business -

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