Long-haul truckers spend weeks at a time on the road and their semi-trucks become their homes away from home. During hauls, drivers often pass through many different regions with various climates, so maintaining a good temperature in the cab is essential for staying comfortable. However, keeping a semi-truck running so the AC or heat stays on during breaks can waste a lot of fuel, and may even result in a fine in states with no-idling laws.
An auxiliary power unit (APU) provides a solution to this problem. This is a device that produces power to keep a semi-truck’s heating and cooling system running even when the engine is off. It can also generate power for electronic devices that are plugged into the inverter.
There are two different types of APUs.
The first are called combustion APUs and they run on fuel. This allows them to keep working for a longer period of time and to generate more power at once, but they are very maintenance-heavy and require more costs to run.
The second type, electric APUs, run on battery power and the battery recharges either while the truck engine is running or by plugging the battery into an outlet. The run time varies depending on the unit, but it is typically less than a combustion APU. However, these units require significantly less maintenance.
Some ways APUs benefit truckers include:
As an over-the-road (OTR) trucker, you’ll often be sleeping in your truck, and it can be very difficult to get comfortable if the temperature is too hot or too cold. However, leaving your truck idling overnight wastes a lot of fuel (on top of potentially being illegal, which we’ll discuss in more detail later in this article). Using an APU instead saves fuel while still allowing you to be comfortable in your sleeper cab.
If your truck has an inverter, an APU allows you to keep small electronics running even when your truck’s engine is off. This is important if you want to have a mini-fridge or electric cooler in your cab and you can also use it for a small television, a video game system, or to charge your phone/tablet. Depending on the type of APU, you may need to be mindful of the total capacity and the time you keep these running.
Many states have laws that forbid idling or restrict the circumstances when it is allowed. Some such restrictions include having a time limit or specifying a temperature range when idling is permitted and restricting it otherwise. If you aren’t in compliance with these laws while you’re stopped in one of these states, you can get a fine. Having an APU means you don’t have to compromise on your comfort while still obeying state no-idling laws.
At DSW, our management is made up of former truckers and we know what life on the open road is like. In addition to offering competitive compensation, we also offer benefits that make day-to-day life easier for our drivers, including equipping our fleet vehicles with APUs.