What is an APU on a Truck?

Have you heard of a truck APU or auxiliary power unit such as the popular Tripac unit from Thermo King? If not, you have come to the right place. This is money saving information that every trucker needs. If you have, we will be diving into some details here that you can hopefully take away a deeper understanding from. APU units have become a major asset to the commercial trucking industry and if you understand how and when to use them they can be a game changer for the bottom dollar of truck drivers everywhere.

Your truck is the heartbeat of your company, don’t press pause on your profit by choosing the wrong fit for your company’s rig. Purchasing an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) is an easy decision when it comes to quality. However, once you factor in the cost as an owner-operator, it can leave you asking yourself “Is it worth the investment?” We did the research for you. Check out the top reasons an APU will be the best equipment decision you make all year.

In this page we will be addressing this money saving piece of trucking technology  and just what an APU unit is, how they work, and what the benefits are of having one on your truck. Stick with us and we will get you in good shape to getting on the road with an APU unit of your own.

What is an APU in Trucking?

An APU unit or an Auxiliary Power Unit is a game changer for the trucking industry. It is a small, efficient motor that is capable of producing the power needed to keep the air/heat running, interior appliance power, etc without the need to run the truck’s engine. If you are asking how does an APU work, it is mounted on the side of the truck just behind the sleeper cab for convenience to access for fueling.

APU Benefits

Let’s talk about the benefit of APU in trucks. There are many APU benefits but the biggest one is the savings in overall fuel cost as well as removing the excess wear and tear from idling your trucks engine. Not to mention that with stricter guidelines being placed on the trucking industry all the time, they have really cracked down on idle times. Without an APU and not being able to idle your truck to keep your other components in operation during your down time this would mean no heat in the winter, no AC in the summer, and no accessory power for a fridge, electronics, etc. That can make it a rough life on the road real quick without driver comfort.

Save Thousands in Fuel Costs

You may be wondering just how adding an additional motor would possibly bring about significant fuel savings, they both take fuel afterall. Well, that may not be entirely true. You can actually find both diesel based as well as battery power based APU’s. Either way an APU is capable of providing the power you need from a much smaller motor which requires significantly less fuel to operate. What more can you ask for with the constantly rising fuel costs?

Picture this, you are hauling a load cross-country and after a 7-hour shift, you pull into a truck-stop to rest. After you find a spot and set your parking brake, you take a much-needed nap. Even though you are not on the road, every minute that passes, your fuel cost is rising higher and higher. If you are driving a full-size diesel truck instead of one with an APU, you can plan on using 72 percent more fuel to cool your cab and sleeper and if it’s in the winter months, your operation costs will rise even higher, using 88 percent more fuel than a truck with an APU. Don’t drain your cash flow! By choosing a rig with an APU, it conserves power using just over a pint of fuel per hour at your next rest break. Bulk Transporter reports that at a fuel cost of $1.54 per gallon, a truck owner can save $3,285 per year on fuel costs driving a truck with an APU.

Avoid Idling Fines

Engine idling is when you are parked and leave the engine running. For years this was an extremely common and accepted practice to allow the air to keep running on a hot summer day or to use electronics without wearing down your battery. However, with the growing concern about air pollution the EPA have cracked down on the trucking industry for engine idling. Even idling for more than one minute can stick you with a hefty fine that is a hard hit to the pocket but can also make for some rather unbearable and sleepless nights if you do not have another means for powering your climate control while still adhering to the idle reduction laws.

In light of authorities cracking down on idling regulations, being hit with a $1,000 fine for five minutes of idling, is a cost that no owner-operator can afford. Besides the risk of a fine, long-haul truck idling is taking away from your company’s profit by wasting fuel. Switching to a tractor with an APU, you eliminate the need to idle which will keep you above the law and below your fuel budget. Check out the cost of idling below and see how much you can save:

Reduce Maintenance Costs

Some will question the ability to reduce costs by essentially adding another motor into the equation but you have to look at the larger scale of things. The truck’s main engine is big, bulky and fuel hungry. It was built with the primary task of providing the power to pull heavy loads for long distances. The APU is much smaller and was built with a different objective in mind; to provide constant power to much less demanding items, such as your heating and air conditioning or power for a laptop and more. In the same manner that a motorcycle is much friendlier on fuel consumption than cars, the same is true here. You can avoid the penalty of idling when you are not supposed to while consuming much less fuel and putting way less hours on your engine. Less hours on your engine mixed in with the fact that idling is tough on an engine in the first place equals out to mean lower truck maintenance costs for you.

It’s a no-brainer that having a preventative maintenance schedule is essential to keeping your fleet running efficiently and legally over the road. But what if there was a way to extend your service intervals so you can spend more time on the road and less time (and money) in the shop? Because the APU is integrated with the truck’s operating system it can run almost every device under the hood. This multi-functionality feature decreases the overuse of other components like the HVAC system and can extend the life of your engine. You can call the APU the MVP of the truck. It can reduce the wear and tear on other parts and in return it can reduce the time you spend on maintenance and repairs overall.

Should You Invest in a Diesel or Electric APU?

What is the difference between a diesel APU and an all-electric APU. Well, the major difference is obviously the use of fuel. Another major factor to consider though is a diesel engine is always going to handle a tougher power consumption than a battery based system. Not to mention with the electric version you are limited to the amount of charge your unit can hold while the diesel version can easily be refueled and have you right back at top performance where the electric APU will require adequate time to recharge from the alternator before you can use it again.

On the up side both serve their purpose well by taking the additional stress off of your truck engine and reducing your consumption of diesel fuel.

Owning a trucking company presents you with a number of important decisions to make, from choosing the right trucking insurance to negotiating freight. This is one decision that can be easy for owner-operators. By investing in quality equipment like an APU, you are investing in your business’ future. Need help with financing? There are a number of ways, such as equipment financing to expand or upgrade your fleet. Choose APU to fuel your company’s success this year!

Are you interested in finding additional ways to save your company money? Give our team of trucking experts a call and they will be glad to help! 913.393.6100