The KCK company’s device reduces time spent idling.
Idle Smart, an up-and-coming company in Kansas City, Kan., is helping the trucking industry battle a common but expensive problem: idling.
Many drivers sleep in their cabs when they’re making a long haul. To stay warm during cold weather, they’ll idle their trucks overnight. And that can eat up massive amounts of fuel—to the tune of a gallon an hour, multiplied by 2,000 to 2,500 hours per year.
Idle Smart has built a device that measures the temperature inside the truck and will automatically turn on the engine when necessary. The solution can cut a truck’s idle time to 600 hours annually. Through fuel savings alone, many customers see a payback on the cost of their Idle Smart devices within 12 to 18 months.
“It’s a huge market,” said Jeff Lynch, Idle Smart’s president. “There are close to 3 million Class 8, really big sleeper cab trucks on the road today.”
A former executive with Sprint and Embarq, Lynch and a group of investors bought the basic technology behind Idle Smart in 2011 from an inventor in Valley Falls. Their team then went to work rebuilding the device from the ground up, so that it would be a solid fit for the market.
Idle Smart became available commercially in 2013, with a focus on the Midwest at first. Idle Smart devices are now used in fleets across the United States and Canada. Those early customers have provided priceless feedback.
“One of the things that we’re always trying to do is listen to the marketplace,” Lynch said. “Listen to your customers, because that’s where you get your best ideas.”
For example, several fleet managers asked if Idle Smart’s device could be modified to help them monitor their trucks’ batteries. So, about a year and a half ago, Idle Smart introduced a new feature: If a battery’s charge dips below a set point, Idle Smart will automatically turn on the engine, recharging the battery.
The device can track the exterior temperature, too, and start the engine to protect against cold weather.
Customers also influenced the newest version of Idle Smart’s platform, which is set to debut this month.
The upgrade will allow fleet managers to remotely manage settings on their trucks, without having to take the vehicles off the road. Idle Smart will also beam data on each truck’s performance back to the home office.
What’s next? While Lynch and his team are careful to focus on Idle Smart’s core capabilities, they’re also looking at additional services they can offer to customers. Combined with some other strategic moves, it could make 2016 Idle Smart’s biggest year so far.
“I think it’ll allow us to take the next step size-wise and scale-wise,” said Lynch.