focus: carriers Trace Inverter/Chargers Help Reduce Engine Idling

With 3,000 pieces of equipment and an aggressive growth rate, Pacific WA-based Gordon Trucking is a blue chip transportation company. For Rick Miltimore, director of shop operations, the growth of Gordon Trucking can be attributed to a customer base that includes many Fortune 500 customers, well-maintained equipment, and a growing core of dedicated drivers.

"Gordon Trucking has maintained a driver turnover rate of 50 percent for the past five years," said Miltimore. "Although this number is considerably higher than we would like it, we have to feel good about our successes."

While Miltimore says turnover at the company is hedged due to good pay, hometime, and treatment by driver managers, the company is always open to ideas that will make drivers more comfortable. Recently, the company began field-testing Trace Engineering's inverter/chargers in a move to analyze how it can affect driver comfort while reducing idling. By converting DC power to household AC power, drivers can use home appliances such as computers, microwaves, and space heaters.

Keith Pritchard, a 10-year driving veteran for Gordon, was one of the first to test the Trace inverter/charger in his Freightliner Classic. "I'm running a toaster oven, a small heater, TV and VCR, and various other appliances on AC power," said Pritchard. "I'm saving $30 a week now and eventually plan to lower my overall food bill in half-that will be about $240 a month. In the morning, I used to fire up the engine and heat the cab before climbing out of bed. Now, I just turn on my portable heater and it does a good job of getting the truck warm."

According to Miltimore, it's too early to analyze cost savings of idle reduction, but he is encouraged. "The key to making inverters standard in the industry is getting the major truckstops to provide drivers with the ability to plug in, perhaps at a small cost," he said.

While a reduction in idling ultimately could pay for the inverters themselves, Miltimore believes their biggest benefit is providing drivers a more home-like environment. "Ten years ago, when there was a driver surplus, the industry expected drivers to stay out on the road longer in a cramped COE or a sleeper that you couldn't stand up in," said Miltimore. "Today, with the demand for top drivers, carriers have pushed OEMs to develop tractors with cabin-like living quarters. If the inverter and AC power gives a competitive edge by retaining drivers, and it's cost effective, then I think it has to be considered."

To learn more about Trace inverter/chargers, phone 360-435-8826 or access www.traceengineering.com.

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