September 1, 2014

The Value of an APU

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It doesn’t take long when talking to veteran truck driver Allan Myers of Bryan, Ohio to figure out that he knows a little something about trucks. Allan has been driving trucks for nearly 30 years, the last seven of which have been in partnership with his son running self-owned Crossroads Transport.

“Being an owner-operator certainly has its challenges, but we find it rewarding,” said Allan. “The key to operating efficiently is evaluating past decisions so that better ones can be made in the future. One way I do this is to track cost and revenue per mile weekly.

“No doubt, this is a tough business. There is little room for error, but I believe there is still a place for owner operators if we function like a business.” 

For Allan, an auxiliary power unit (APU) is a must. But its benefits go far beyond providing creature comforts on the road, meeting noise and anti-idling regulations, or even offering fuel savings.

“I believe the APU benefits of decreased wear and tear on the engine and reduced engine run hours are not talked about nearly enough, especially at trade-in,” said Allan. “When considering a used truck, engine hours could be more significant than odometer miles alone. Unfortunately, every time I’ve asked dealers about engine hours, they say the buyer never asks. There is value here to be claimed.”

Keeping Tabs

Not surprisingly, Allan uses oil samples, engine hours and miles, along with records for maintenance expenses, APU hours, and more to track engine condition. All servicing is done in-house for both tractors and APUs. 

Rewind 7 years. The fall of 2007 was not the optimal time to start an owner-operator business. The market was in the tank and trucking businesses – big and small – were not surviving. Allan knew how to operate efficiently and his business succeeded with a ’08 Kenworth tractor and a competitive APU. 

By 2011, Allan was ready for a change. “We experienced very high maintenance costs with the competitive APU and went through 3 A/C generators in 4 ½ years. In addition, the cooling capacity was lacking on very hot days.  When we bought the new 2012 Kenworth, we were looking for increased cooling and improved dependability in an APU. The Thermo King TriPac™ delivered both.

“For us, maintenance issues reflect more than the shop bill. Even warranty work costs a great deal when one figures downtime costs from lost revenue. In our business, the time and money it takes simply to show up for a service cannot be recouped,” said Allan.

  

Value of the APU

While fuel savings is relatively easy to figure, Allan is more excited about the other benefits that result when running the TriPac. They include:

  • Extended life on engine belts, alternator, coolant, oil
  • Less frequent regeneration of the engine DPF
  • Less downtime due to longer maintenance intervals

“The DPF benefits are real,” says Allan. “Regenerations happen less often if the engine is idling less. The carbon soot simply does not collect as quickly. This means we can go much longer between DPF cleaning, which costs $1250 a shot, not including downtime to get into a shop. This was a real problem for truckers who ran truck engines to keep warm during last year’s harsh winter rather than invest in an APU. They ended up with more frequent DPF maintenance, and service shops were more than 2 weeks out trying to accommodate. That’s a lot of lost revenue. On the new emission trucks, one cannot afford to idle over-night, winter or summer, period.”

 

Earlier this year, Crossroads Transport purchased a second tractor, a 2014 Freightliner, and added a TriPac EVOLUTION. “The EVOLUTION is about 50 pounds lighter and runs even quieter and faster than the first generation TriPac.  Already, I appreciate the changes in the ease of servicing and changes in the enclosure.”

Both of Allan’s Thermo King TriPac APUs have the optional Arctic package, which maintains a certain coolant temperature in cold weather. He has added a ‘manual’ over-ride allowing continuous operation during extreme cold conditions.

“In our Midwest climate, I’d rather have the APU running consistently to keep the engine warm throughout a cold night versus the intermittent APU operation. Waking up to a warm engine means we do not have to start the tractor until we are ready to pull out. The manual switch gives us a choice on a 5 degree night versus a 40 degree night. 

 

Reliable Partnership

According to Allan, neither Thermo King nor its TriPac APU line has disappointed.

“The TriPac products are #1 in my book, and I am pleased with the service from our dealer, Thermo King Indiana – Fort Wayne, and Thermo King Corporation. I’m just a small operator but the Thermo King product manager and engineers were more than willing to assist me with my modification requests on the Artic Package. Those accommodations were much appreciated.”

 

Customer: Allan Myers

Dealer: Thermo King Indiana – Fort Wayne | https://www.tkmidwest.com