Battery-powered APU technology is relatively new to the trucking industry, so there are not many options when it comes to repairing or improving these systems. This means that not many long-haul drivers have had the chance to trial a lithium-powered battery in their APU and see if it’s worth the higher upfront cost. At Roadwarrior, we developed lithium batteries instead of lead-acid ones because they make truck APUs work much better. We’re talking about a maintenance-free battery with a 10× longer lifespan, that doubles the power in sleeper cabs and improves fuel efficiency!
But with a higher price point, we don’t expect drivers or fleet managers to take our word for it that lithium is better! We gave The Erb Group of Companies enough LightningVolt lithium batteries to trial in trucks they run from Northern Canada down to California, Texas and Florida. 10 months later we came back to chat with Senior Corporate Fleet Director Jim Pinder about the results! Jump down to watch the video or read on to learn about The Erb Group of Companies and the trial run!
What is The Erb Group of Companies?
The Erb Group of Companies is a refrigerated transportation company. They specialize in temperature-controlled foods and time-sensitive supplies in the U.S.A. and Canada. The Erb Group was founded in 1959 by Vernon Erb. It’s since grown to include over 1500 employees and owner-operators. The Erb Group of Companies is a one-stop solution for refrigerated logistic needs that covers truckload and less-than-truckload transportation in North America. We asked them to trial our batteries so we could demonstrate their benefits, in real working conditions, to owner-operators and fleet managers.
Their company is employee-centric, and they are always looking for ways to improve their drivers’ quality of life. They see a clear link between good conditions and driver retention. As an eco-conscious company, they’re also a SmartWay Transport Partner. This is an important collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the freight industry, as well as between the U.S.A. and Canada. It’s designed to boost energy efficiency while cutting down greenhouse gases and air pollution in the trucking industry. Running electric APUs is one of The Erb Group of Companies’ emissions reduction strategies! By using lithium batteries, they were able to cut down their idle times and their emissions even further!
What Benefits Have The Erb Group of Companies’ Drivers Gained from Using LightningVolt?
An APU lets drivers keep their sleeper cab at a comfortable temperature and power their electronics when the engine’s off. By using lithium instead of lead-acid batteries, the test drivers at The Erb Group of Companies can run their APUs for their full 8–10-hour break. This means they don’t have to choose between temperature control and entertainment! They can run their kitchen appliances, games consoles and laptops, as well as vital health equipment like sleep apnea machines! According to Senior Corporate Fleet Director Jim Pinder, this makes a big difference to drivers’ stress levels and quality of life on the road!
Do Lithium APU Batteries Give The Erb Group of Companies an Edge on the Competition?
Jim Pinder sees lithium-battery-powered APUs as a golden opportunity for The Erb Group of Companies to stay ahead of the competition! As a fleet director, Jim is aware of the driver retention crisis in the trucking industry. He’s always looking for ways to improve drivers’ work satisfaction. With an efficient electric APU, The Erb Group drivers enjoy reduced idle times, significant fuel savings and improved quality of life. With twice the runtime compared to lead-acid, lithium APU batteries also give drivers a more relaxing rest period. For Jim, doubling the power in truck sleeper cabs is a key tactic to improve recruitment and retention.
On top of this, lithium batteries don’t require any maintenance, so the electric APU isn’t a source of stress! While lead-acid APU batteries have problems with corrosion or messy spills, lithium batteries are mess- and maintenance-free! The group also runs across both Canada and the U.S.A., including through California, with its notoriously strict emissions legislation. With long-lasting lithium batteries, Erb drivers can avoid excessive idling, meeting legislative requirements while keeping their drivers comfortable!
You can watch the full interview with Jim Pinder here, or find the video transcript below:
My name is Jim Pinder. I’m the Senior Corporate Fleet Director at The Erb Group of Companies, located here in Baden Ontario. We were contacted by Roadwarrior to do some testing. We’ve had three trucks that run California for us on a regular basis with lithium batteries in the APU. We’ve been running them for just about a year and we’re seeing great results. Batteries are a critical part of the operation of all of our equipment. The battery is the power for a number of different systems that we require to be able to make the equipment do what we need to get done.
How Many Batteries Does the Typical Truck Run?
With the batteries that we use in our long-haul trucks, there are 8 batteries and 2 battery banks. Primarily the front batteries under the driver compartment are there for starting and the operation of the lights and components. And the batteries that we use in the back in our battery-powered auxiliary power unit—they’re used to make the driver comfortable in either extremely warm or cool temperatures.
Why Do Trucks Have Electric APUs?
The electric APU is an auxiliary power unit driven by batteries. Those batteries are charged off of the engine alternator and those batteries supply support when the engine is shut off, when there’s no power coming out of the alternator. It gives the driver some comfort and the opportunity to enjoy their time off work without having the engine running. We put an anti-idle system on the truck, so the truck will start to make sure the batteries stay charged but whenever possible the engine is off.
What are Some Difficulties with APUs?
With APUs, what we find is the batteries need maintenance. We get connection problems, we get corrosion build-up at connection wires, grounds and joining cables for the batteries. And the batteries go through a lot of banging and shaking as they go up and down the road, so it’s important that they’re well-made and well-constructed.
Which Sleeper Accessories Drain the Auxiliary Batteries?
Within the sleeper compartment of the truck, drivers are looking to have microwaves [and] refrigerators. And we have a number of drivers that require sleep apnea machines that are powered off of auxiliary batteries. So, it’s important for their quality of life when they’re on the road that we have long-lasting and strong support from the batteries.
How Does LightningVolt Improve Driver Productivity and Comfort?
Having a technology that gives us support for the drivers while they’re on the road is important to us. The drivers like to watch movies, they want to communicate with their family, keep cell phones and GPS trackers charged up… A lot of that stuff is important for our people. We’re looking at making it a comfortable environment, where the stress is removed from the driver. And the concern about whether they’re gonna have enough power for the next coffee they need to make, or when they’re warming up a meal so they can continue to be healthy and feel good when they’re on the road.
How Have LightningVolt batteries Helped Your Fleet?
What we’re looking for from the batteries, and what we’re seeing so far from the lithium is they’re lighter weight. So, we’re saving weight on the equipment, allowing us to haul more payload. The batteries stay clean! We don’t see any corrosion or build-up on top of the batteries like we’ve seen with a lead-acid type battery. We’re also seeing that the engine has to run less to keep them charged up. [We see] that they have a very equal distribution of power and come down very low in the power cycle. And then they charge back up well when we’re driving between our destinations where there’s a pick-up or a delivery. The test so far has really shown us that the lithium battery has been a positive addition to our fleet.
How Has Fuel Efficiency Been Affected Since Upgrading to Lithium APU Batteries?
So, what we’re seeing from a fuel efficiency [perspective] on the current units in the fleet is an improvement. They’re using less fuel. The truck is not running… [and so] the drivers are able to take their 8-10 hours off and not have the diesel engine start at all.
What are the Competitive Advantages of Your Fleet Since Upgrading to Lithium?
By utilizing lithium batteries, we see the opportunity here where we’re gonna be ahead of our competition when it comes to saving fuel. No matter what engine we have in the equipment, if the engine’s not running, we’re gonna be ahead of the game. Also, it gives us a competitive edge with driver recruitment and retention, where drivers will be more comfortable in a truck where the engine does not have to start. And it helps us meet legislative requirements across North America.
I’d like to thank Roadwarrior for their participation in the testing we’ve been able to do over the last 10 months, within our fleet. Their support has been very appreciated, not only by our maintenance people, but as well by the drivers who have been involved in the program. So far, it’s been a win-win, and we’d like to continue on with this. We have some new units coming in, which we’ve purchased lithium [batteries] for, and they’ll be installed here in the next 2 weeks.