Paul Clarke from Shorepower Technology shows off one of 24 power pedestals at West Winds in Green River.
It's been a long time in coming, but power hook-ups are now being offered at the West Winds truckstop, in Green River. Everyone has been to truckstops in Utah and across the nation and you will hear a familiar sound of trucks left idling for long periods of time. The trucks run to keep the motor warm, keep the heater or air conditioner powered and to keep a refrigeration unit operating to keep a load frozen or cool depending on what the truck driver is hauling.
Trucks are an integral part of how consumers get their groceries, vehicles, hardware and just about every other item you will find at the store. Sixty-seven percent of freight is moved by trucks.
Recent years of high fuel prices have made it difficult for those in the trucking industry.
It's pretty inefficient to idle a big rig truck burning about a gallon of fuel per hour. It costs a lot of money to idle all night long approximately $40. The other disadvantage to idling trucks is the release of emissions into the air.
At West Winds, this is changing and it's starting to change across the country as the trucking industry is beginning to adopt truckstop electrification. This idea is the same as an RV park, or a boat marina, where they have power pedestals where the RVs and boats can plug in. The trucking industry is the last mobile group to take advantage. It makes so much sense. Plugging in can be as simple as running an extension cord to power a space heater to stay warm and run their other equipment. Some trucks are equipped with a plug receptacle. More and more of the newer trucks offer this option for adding power to the truck.
West Winds comes on board as the fourth truckstop in Utah to put power pedestals into place. West Winds is part of the Shorepower Truck Electrification Project. The others are: Eagle's Landing in Beaver, R-Place in Wendover, and LW's Travel Center in Perry.
Paul Clarke for Shorepower the company that has worked to install the pedestals in Utah and across the nation was in Green River to check out the West Winds pedestals to make sure everything is working properly. He said, "The equipment was purchased with a government grant. Plugging in, instead of idling will really help with clean air."
Allen Burns, general manager for Westwinds said 24 pedestals have been installed in the overnight parking area of West Winds. Truckers have been using them and even diesel pick-ups that were staying at the motel came over and plugged in. Registered users can try Shorepower for free until March 31, and after that the cost is $1 for an hour of electrical use. RVs are also welcome to plug-in but mainly the spots are for the trucks. Each pedestal connection has two outlets, one can be used for the cab and one for the block heater. It is as easy as running an extension cord into the truck, or conversion kits are being given out free so truckers can make use of this new electrical source.
Burns said most of the long haul truckers have a specific routine they follow, they'll pull in on a Friday or Saturday night and both lots will fill up. They will pull out their satellite dishes, have a meal in the restaurant, take a shower, and relax. "We get to know all of the truckers and they will tell us about their families. We have the regulars that come through all the time."
Clarke said, "RVs have been using electrical hook-ups for years. It's simple". The trucks really do have everything they need on board. Cable TV is coming too at the Green River site. The free adapter kits are part of the grant, too. The truckers are really excited and interested in this new power. One driver wanted to use it to operate his rice cooker and microwave. Some play video games, there are many uses.
"The real benefit we see is cutting back on idling, 29 states have no-idling laws. Utah is not one of them. These laws are pretty flexible and do make allowances for specific situations like if the temperature is below a certain level. Diesel is very expensive. If you have several trucks fuel costs add up quickly and these companies like to do what they can to lower fuel costs. Not idling saves fuel. By the end of January there will be 60 sites across the United States and 50 of these are in the grant program. The more locations there are the more aware the truckers become of this service," said Clarke.
Burns said, "Pick-ups have been plugging in and it's cheaper than an RV park. We have a truck shop, store, showers and a restaurant. We like our truckers to be comfortable and having power for them makes it better. Most trucking fleets are short on drivers. We do everything we can to make things better for drivers and this helps with driver retention. We like to help keep drivers happy."
Burns said the tourist traffic in Green River comes and goes, but the truckers are a constant. They keep coming year-round. Burns said the cable TV is coming in the spring and will be available on the pedestals.
Demetrio Duran is a trucker who travels all over the country hauling equipment for events. "We are very interested in this. It's awesome, it's good for everyone, the companies and the environment. It will save the companies money. Idling is expensive. I am from Huntington Beach, Calif. Right now we are on our way to Aspen, Colo. for the Winter X games. We will set up all the video screens. Our company trucks are equipped with the plugs. We have all new Volvos and they are equipped with the electrical plugs. We will use it. Most people don't like the sound of idling trucks and truckers don't either. Those reefers are especially noisy. It's really a good idea. Our company has looked into generators, but they're too expensive and it's not practical. This will work well for us. I've been driving for 14 years and this is the best restaurant around. We always stop at the West Winds. Of all the mom and pop restaurants, this one is still the best. Most recently we were at the National Championship BCS game in Florida and now we're headed to Aspen. It's just one extreme to another. Then we're going to Houston for a big rodeo. We just bounce around all over."
The next step at West Winds is to get some signage up around the truck stop to let the truckers know of the new service. Eliminating idling all night can save a single truck up to $8,000 a year.
West Winds also wants to educate the Green River people that they have the power available now and to get the word out to those staying in the hotels in case they need to plug in a vehicle.
West Winds is part of the America's Best independent truck stops. The electrical sites have been added on the most frequently traveled corridors of the interstate system. Electricity is one more amenity for those truckers stopping in Green River. Green River not only gets east/west traffic, but those trucks traveling north/south with produce and other items are always passing through. Burns said from time to time they take surveys of where their truckers are from and where they are headed and they are always surprised by the amount of truck traffic through Green River and their origins and destinations.
Clarke said the Department of Environmental Quality is always working on tighter restrictions for trucks and their emissions. New laws are coming, but truckers will be able to stay in compliance with sites like West Winds where they can use the power and avoid the idle. Shorepower Technologies also installed a power site at a state operated rest area in Colorado. All fees collected there will go back into the maintenance of the facility. That's the first state operated site. All of the other power sites are at truck stops.
In Green River, seven months out of the year the average low temperature is 38 degrees. Idling a truck in Green River is the norm for staying warm. If all of the 24 power pedestals are put to use for 10 hours each day. More than 50,400 gallons of fuel would be saved. That would eliminate 504 tons of emissions from the atmosphere and is the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road for a year.
The Department of Energy provided $22.2 million grant money for the development of the electrified truck parking pedestals. Another advantage to no idling is lower maintenance costs for the trucks. Idling is harder on an engine than driving at highway speeds.
With the electrification, West Winds gives truckers just one more reason to pull up and stay awhile in Green River, relax and put up the dish.