Sun Powered

Here’s a scenario that’s all too common for Prime.  A reefer trailer sits at a shipper while it waits for a Prime driver to arrive and haul it to its next destination.  While it waits, its battery is slowly draining.  When the driver shows up, the battery is dead.  Prime can’t wait the 5 or 6 hours it takes for a battery to recharge, so the company simply buys a new battery.  A new battery costs well over $300, but Prime is willing to take the hit if it means getting a delivery to a customer on time, and no driver wants to sit around for several hours waiting on a battery to charge.

This happens all too frequently for Prime, so the company is now testing out a possible solution—solar panels.

“We’ve played around with this idea for a long time,” says Chris Holtmeyer, Prime’s manager of fleet maintenance.  “There’s not much research on the ROI of this, so we’re testing it out ourselves.”

Here’s the theory: If Prime can install solar panels on its reefer units and new intermodal trailers, those panels can absorb energy from the sun and keep the trucks’ batteries charged.  “These panels don’t create enough power to run the reefer unit,” Holtmeyer says, “but they create enough energy to slowly charge the battery.”

This can be especially helpful at night when drivers are running their battery to charge phones, laptops, microwaves… You name it.  The solar panels will keep the battery charged and prevent the truck’s APU from kicking on, which happens when the battery gets too low.

When the APU starts up, the truck is suddenly burning diesel.  If Holtmeyer and the Prime team can use solar panels to avoid the APU from turning on, that will save drivers gas and money.

So far, Prime has installed 150 solar panels on its fleet, and it plans on installing the panels on all new intermodal tractors.  Since the panels are still in the research phase, the Springfield shop has a signup sheet where drivers can volunteer to have panels mounted to their truck as part of Prime’s research.  “This allows us to test out the panels at no cost to the driver,” Holtmeyer says.  “It’s a way we cab save them money down the road.  But it’s also about making sure our equipment is always reliable.  We want our trucks to be ready to go at all times, and we want to limit the number of batteries that fail on the road.  Dead batteries cost Prime several million dollars each year.  These small panels could fix that.”


Read more in the Prime magazine, Prime Ways!

Interested in driving for Prime? Apply online at or give our recruiters a call at 866-290-1568.

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