Truckstop Operators Conserve Energy with Big and Small Changes

By Tiffany Wlazlowski

Five years ago, Iowa 80 needed to expand. The number of trucks and the number of customers coming through the facility each day were growing. And Iowa 80 wanted to maintain its competitive edge. After careful consideration and countless hours spent meeting with architects and maintenance personnel, owner Delia Moon Meier settled upon an expansion project that would add 28,000 square feet to the Walcott, Iowa-based facility.

But what started as a business endeavor designed to better serve customer needs and expand company prospects, quickly turned into an opportunity to evaluate simple day-to-day cost-saving measures. Questions like, ‘Do staff members remember to turn off unnecessary lights? Do all the lights need to be on during a sunny day? and How can we better control our energy use?’ became pivotal concerns in shaping cost-effective design plans and shoring up the bottom line.

Over the course of the renovation, Iowa 80 installed photo eyes that control each of its exterior lights. Interior lights now are time and weather-controlled. Now, on a bright day, just one-third of Iowa 80’s interior lights come on. The team installed new windows and glass block, providing both light and insulation. Moon Meier also replaced the electronic message center with a light-emitting diode, utilizing a fraction of the electricity.

The net result is a radically reduced energy bill in what is arguably an expensive energy market. An added bonus: Moon Meier expects a less than five-year payback on the investments.

“People don’t realize how much energy a truckstop takes because we are open all the time,” Moon Meier said. “Not only has it given us a great atmosphere, it is very energy efficient. It allowed us to double the size of the main building with the same electric bill.”

Dave Shoemaker, president of Shoemaker’s Truck Station, Inc., is another NATSO member embracing green initiatives. When building his 32,000 square-foot facility located near Interstate 80 in Lincoln, Neb., in 2009, Shoemaker focused on lighting, heating and air conditioning units, water consumption, and even landscaping to reduce energy waste and lower costs.

Shoemaker installed LED lighting on gas and diesel canopies, which he said will pay for themselves in just three years. Motion sensors control lighting, while heat pumps and air-handling units heat and cool incoming air.

Variable speed kitchen hoods capture and vent cooking oil and steam at an adjustable rate determined by the amount of food being prepared. The more food cooking, the faster they run. In the bathrooms, Shoemaker installed minimum flush toilets alongside minimum flow showers and sinks. He maximized overall building insulation. Contractors poured concrete instead of asphalt while roofers installed a white roof, all in the name of improving light reflection. Even the landscaping was over-hauled to incorporate plants requiring little or no water. As a result, rain water collected in barrels sufficiently hydrates the grounds.

The most surprising energy saver: Recycling cardboard. Shoemaker said recycling three, two-and-a-half yard dumpsters of cardboard each week cut his waste bill by 25 percent. “It’s amazing,” Shoemaker said. “Recycling cardboard is money in the bank.”

This article is excerpted from the July/August 2010 issue of Stop Watch magazine.

Editor’s Note: At The NATSO Show 2013, Paragon Solutions President and CEO Michael Lawshe will lead a panel of experts offering similar ideas for energy improvements that not only reduce a truckstop’s carbon footprint, but also make good business sense. Learn more here. – AT

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