Idle Aire is the newest latest and greatest (also much debated evil) popping up in more and more truck stops across the country. The idea is simple, give the drivers the services they need so that they will not idle their truck engines during their rest stops. It seems like a good idea, at least in theory, however the reality is somewhat questionable.
There are many useful and necessary services offered by Idle Aire. They give the driver heating and air conditioning in their truck – without having to idle their engine. High-speed Internet and email are also part of the services offered. Customers also get satellite television and on demand movies, phone service with free local calls, and electricity – both in the cab and outside. All of these services are needed by today’s truck drivers and are in demand. So why all the ruckus about Idle Aire, you might ask?
One of the quickest ways to start an argument between two or more truck drivers today is to mention Idle Aire – usually you will get a quicker and stronger reaction than even politics or religion will! One of the biggest gripes against Idle Aire, and the reason for many of the strong and negative reactions against the service, is that the equipment required to provide the needed services takes up on average 2 parking spaces for each truck parked. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First off, most all Idle Aire spaces must be pulled into and then backed out of to leave. That means that extra space beside and behind the parking space must be left to allow the driver to back out of the space upon leaving. Any truck driver will tell you that it is much safer to back into a parking space and then pull out, than it is to pull into a parking space and then have to back out of it!
The other big reason is the Idle Aire equipment itself; it resembles a truck fuel island with poles between the spaces to hold up the catwalk overhead that carries the Idle Aire hook ups to the parking spaces. This also takes up a large amount of room in the parking area. The end result is that where you find Idle Aire – you will also find ½ the parking spaces the area is able to support.
Parking is a very big issue in the trucking industry; with hundreds of thousands of trucks on the road today, and all drivers being required by law to take a mandatory 10 hour rest break each day, there are by no means enough parking spaces to go around. That is why you see so many trucks parked on exit ramps and in pull-offs along the side of our nation’s highways. With more and more truck stops putting Idle Aire services in, the available number of parking spaces is shrinking – in a time when we desperately need more available truck parking….NOT LESS!! If drivers cannot find a place to park, then they cannot take their required rest breaks and end up driving tired – which is not safe!
Another down-side to Idle Aire is the cost. On average the services cost $1.99 per hour of use, plus a one time purchase of the necessary inside connector needed to hook-up to the service. This can get quite expensive. A ten hour rest break spent hooked up to Idle Aire would cost approximately $19.99 plus any on demand movies or other services that were purchased. It only costs (on average as each unit is different) around $10 to $15 to run an APU or generator for the same 10 hours. Although an APU or generator cannot offer some of the features and services offered by Idle Aire, it still is less expensive in the long run to use a generator or APU rather than the offered services.
Most drivers have already got some form of Internet service. Many have service via a wireless card through their cell phone providers. Others have Wi-Fi Internet accounts with the bigger truck stops nation wide. Both of these options would be far less expensive in the long run than would Idle Aire. At $19.99 per day for a month that would be around $600 per month, and most Wi-Fi service is available for only $24 or so a month. This makes purchasing the Idle Aire services hard to explain financially as they were designed to save the driver money – but in the long run they cost the driver quite a bit!
The same could be said about the satellite television services offered. In most cases it only costs around $5 a month for an additional satellite receiver to put in the truck. So again the satellite TV can be gotten much less expensively elsewhere. As far as the phone services and free local calls, most all drivers today have cell phone providers and already have phone service! So why would they want to pay MORE money for something they already have? It just does not make good financial sense!
Considering the cost of the services offered, and most drivers low opinion of Idle Aire, it is no wonder that they are having financial troubles. Most Idle Aire parking spaces sit empty and unused. Many trucks that are parked in their spaces are not even hooked up to the service – they simply parked there because they had to stop, and there was nowhere else to park! While I have to agree that Idle Aire is a good idea – at least in theory – there has to be a better way to accomplish the same thing. Until they figure out a less expensive, and better laid out set up, I really do not look for driver opinion and usage of the offered services to change.