What is an APU and why would a heavy truck driver want one?

Basically a truckers rig is their home away from home. And who doesn’t want creature comforts in their home? Not many people. So if you’re a truck driver who enjoys things like air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, wifi at any time, a fridge, stove and most other power related things in your truck cab then you should get yourself an APU.


What is an A P U?

The term A P U stands for auxiliary power unit. An APU is basically a power generator for your heavy rig that can operate certain vehicle systems without having the vehicle’s engine running.

Things like your air conditioning, heater, most any appliances you have can all be used without having to keep your rig running/ idling. Why would a trucker want one beyond the benefits of having things that allow you to live like a basic human?

There are three great reasons, all of which are sort of connected.

  1. They save you money. As mentioned A P Us allow you to operate your the things that make life on the road more bearable without idling, this saves you a fortune in fuel costs.
  2. Many provinces and states have pretty serious fines for idling even a short amount of time. Its easier than you think to find yourself on the receiving end of a fine with even three zeros on it! So APU’s can help keep you clear of the long arm of the law (when it comes to avoidable fines anyways).
  3. Vehicle wear and tear. Every minute your rig is running, even idling wear and tear is occurring. An APU can absolutely help reduce overall vehicle maintenance costs.

What are the different types of A P U?

When it comes to different types of APU, you have two choices, combustion or electric.

  1. Combustion auxiliary power units (powered by diesel fuel) will typically be located outside your rig usually just behind the cab. This makes it easy for refuelling and general access.

While a combustion or diesel APU will still incur fuel costs, those costs will be dramatically reduced when compared to what your rig would cost to idle.

How much less does.

While it varies depending on your rig’s fuel efficiency and the fuel efficiency of the APU itself, a safe estimate is that you’ll reduce your fuel costs by anywhere from 60-70% less.

So look at it this way…

  • If you average 7 hours of idling,
  • five to seven days a week, to keep all your electronic bits and pieces running,
  • at give or take 60 odd percent less fuel costs,
  • multiplied by what a litre or gallon of diesel fuel currently costs… you can see how an APU will very quickly pay for itself.

One thing to remember with combustion APU’s is that beyond fuel costs, you need to perform basic maintenance on them such as change oil, filters etc., so you have to consider those extra costs as well.

  1. Electric auxiliary power units are the second option. Electric

    APU’s offer give or take about twelve hours of power and require minimal maintenance. They can also recharge via your truck engine.

Which is the better option between combustion and electric APU’s?

Both have their pro’s and con’s. Electric APU’s will have much lower overall operating costs (since they are using no fuel whatsoever), and much less maintenance, but at the same time combustion APU’s can be re-fuelled (charged?) much faster and generally provide more constant and robust power supply.

Gerrys Truck Centre in London Ontario has been the “truckers choice” for Volvo Trucks for over three decades. We offer sales of new and used (pre-owned rigs) as well as parts and service, and pride ourselves on top quality service.

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