Greening up the trucking industry

Marketplace Staff May 4, 2007
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Greening up the trucking industry

Marketplace Staff May 4, 2007
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SCOTT JAGOW: We’ve heard plenty about SUVs belching pollution into the air, but what about big-rigs? They gotta be worse. One environmentalist stopped complaining about truckers, and decided to do something about it. Chris Lehman has more.


CHRIS LEHMAN: Sharon Banks is trying to clean up the earth, one 18-wheeler at a time.

When she needs inspiration, all she has to do is walk outside her office. It’s across the street from a huge truck stop along Interstate 5 near Eugene, Oregon.

SHARON BANKS: A lot of these trucks, and you can hear them out there now, are running their engines full-bore, and it’s not even all that cold out, and it’s an enormous waste of fuel to be idling for 8 to 10 hours a day.

Banks runs a non-profit called Cascade Sierra Solutions. It sells devices that can help drivers cut down on the amount of pollution their trucks produce.

But the gadgets can also save them money. For instance, a small external power unit can run their A/C on a fraction of the fuel it takes to idle the engine. Or, a little computer mounted on the dashboard can keep track of tire pressure, which improves mileage and helps prevent blowouts.

BANKS: If you start to lose air, it’ll send off an alarm. If you save even one tire over the life of this product, you will more than pay for the product.

But paying for the products in the first place can scare off the average trucker. Banks says a complete environmental overhaul can run up to $25,000. That’s a huge pile of money for drivers already pinched by rising fuel costs.

Across the street at the truck stop, Antonio Guzman has just finished filling his tank with diesel. He’s taking a load of beer down to Texas. Guzman says he’s not sure he wants to install anything too radical on his rig.

ANTONIO GUZMAN: Call me old-fashioned, I’d rather have this one than the new one. I mean, no offense, I mean it might save fuel mileage but I’m used to this. Why change?

For the truckers that do want to fork over the cash, Cascade Sierra Solutions offers low-cost financing. That’s made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. EPA. Banks says about one trucker a day makes the plunge.

She hopes to open seven more locations along the West Coast.

In Eugene, I’m Chris Lehman for Marketplace.

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