When the state started pushing auxiliary power units last year as a means for truckers to save on fuel costs, Larry Sidelinger’s Yankee Pride Transportation Co. of Damariscotta bought four units for his diesel trucks, he said Wednesday.
The units — small engines that provide heat, air conditioning, engine warming or electricity components on a heavy-duty vehicle, reducing the need to leave the vehicle running — save him as much as 175 gallons of diesel fuel a week, but came with a significant drawback, Sidelinger said.
The units weigh almost 400 pounds each. That extra weight left the trucks vulnerable to laws governing highway weight limits for vehicles, which come with heavy fines for overweight trucks, Sidelinger said.
“We were always balancing whether the cost was worth it,” he said Wednesday.
That’s why Sidelinger was pleased that Gov. John Baldacci on Wednesday signed LD 37, which is legislation that extends a weight tolerance for vehicle auxiliary power units in the laws governing highway weight limits for vehicles.
The legislation allows for the subtraction of 400 pounds from gross weight measurements taken of trucks carrying the units, effectively eliminating the weight of the APUs.
“This new law helps in our efforts to incentivize the use of auxiliary power units,” Baldacci said in a statement Wednesday. “This furthers our state along in our goal to combat greenhouse gas emissions and it mirrors federal rules.”
A member of the Coalition to Lower Prices, a grass-roots organization dedicated to lessening the impact of high diesel fuel prices, particularly on the state’s independent logging contractors, Sidelinger called the law’s passage “a small step for the trucking industry and a giant step for those that have gone out to buy these units.
“Prior to the passage of this bill, we were penalized for having the auxiliary power units because of their additional weight,” Sidelinger said. “When you are sitting there for an hour idling without them, we were losing a gallon an hour. And a truck has to shut down 10 hours a night by state law. With the APUs, you use about a pint of diesel an hour.”
Besides reducing fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, APUs reduce the wear on truck engines by cutting idling time, Sidelinger said.
“We have found them to be everything they are advertised to be,” he said, “very cost-efficient.”