Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Batteries down under the Summer Sun

I went back on the road January 7th after my leave-of-absents. It's supposed to be the annual freight drought truckers experience from January to March every year. But, you wouldn't know it by the miles I've been getting from Crete Carrier. They have been keeping me rolling really well. At this rate everybody in the RDO45 Division will easily make 60k this year.


Before I went on leave I had an International Prostar with a "Battery Pack" air conditioner. It's a cab cooling system that runs on a separate set of 4 truck batteries. They recharge during driving. The idea is that the driver would run 10 hours for the day to recharge the batteries and then the system would keep the sleeper cool while the driver sleeps. Without idling the truck.

For me the system didn't work. When I was sleeping under the summer sun the batteries gave out after only about an hour. I had Crete's Acklie shop check out the system and replace all 4 batteries. Still the system wouldn't stay running for more than an hour under the summer sun. I idled the engine to get some cooling and recharge the batteries. Problem is Crete has an hour and a half shutdown timer on the truck idle. Then I had to wake up to click the battery system back on.

My solution was to whine, bitch, and complain to everybody at Crete who would listen. I asked repeatatly to get reassigned to a truck with Optimized Idle. And, I turned down every load that would force me to sleep under the summer sun. Citing the reason as 'not having any way to cool the sleeper during the day.' I'm sure that pissed off a lot of people - but that was kinda the idea.

Sleeping at night was also problematic. I started timing the end of my driving day to happen during sunset. But when I slept in Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis -- basically any place south of the 45th parallel -- the system shut off half way through the night. I often times woke up in a puddle of my own sweat. And then it was back to this hour and a half idle the truck bullshit. When the engine shutoff I had to turn the system back on or wake up in Teh Sweat Puddle again.

Of the joy of having to dry my sheets out...


When I came back from my leave-of-absents - to my delight - Janell assigned me a truck with a 2-stage Optimized Idle. And a diesel-burning bunk heater. Consequently this is exactly how I would spec-out my own truck if I bought one today.

Stage 1 only runs the engine to keep the batteries charged and the oil temperature above a company preset. I use stage 1 optimized idle when I'm on my laptop (like right now) and on nights when I expect the outside temperature to drop below 20 degrees. Stage 2 adds a temperature control panel to the sleeper that I set to run the engine and cool the sleeper on hot nights. Stage 2 will save quite a bit of money compared to running the engine all night long.


This is also the first truck I've driven with Adaptive Cruise Control. All of the trucks Crete Carrier are ordering have them. It's an add-on by Meritor that puts a radar antenna on the front bumper. A computer monitors the radar to scan for vehicles in the lane in front of me. If it detects a vehicle in front of me the computer will the adjust my set cruise control speed to follow the vehicle at 4 seconds following distance. It can also use both service and engine breaks to slow the vehicle if needed.

Drivers have talked to me about several problems and gripes about OnGuard. Pretty much all of them with one exception I've found to be baseless. The remaining problem is when the truck is going around a curve. If the system detects a vehicle or metal object - a faults positive - there is a potential that OnGuard will apply full service and engine breaks. This can put the truck in a Truck Jackknife or roll the truck.

Other than that one concern, OnGuard has been a dream to have on the road. It's made my driving through rush hour traffic effortless. And it take the stress out of getting behind one of those drivers that doesn't know how to keep a steady speed. You know the one? It's that jerk who goes up-and-down on the throttle all damn day. Driver, do you got a cruise control button in that broken-down rusted-out shit-box? Please use it.


2014 International Prostar+, 73" Skyrise Sleeper, Cummins ISX15, Eaton Fuller UltraShift PLUS 10, Meritor OnGuard, Optimized Idle, Bunk Heater...

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