Are Truck Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) Worth It?

Adding an auxiliary power unit, or APU, to a truck can make a significant difference when it comes to quality of life. It could be that you, or your driver, is stuck at a port or a dock and is waiting in the heat for multiple hours at a time until it his turn to load or unload. In this situation the driver either has to idle his engine for multiple hours in order for the cab to stay cool, he can shut the engine off and endure the heat, or if he has an APU installed he can turn the engine off and fire the APU up to enjoy a nice cool cab. In many states the first option of idling for multiple hours on end is illegal so what you are left with is to either sweat it out or to use an APU and enjoy the air conditioning.

The main problem with APUs though folks is that they are expensive. Prices on these units can range from five-thousand dollars all the way up to twelve-thousand dollars. There are all different types of brands and manufacturers out there but either way you are going to be making a significant investment. The question now in this article though is it worth it to invest the money into an APU?

Is it Worth it?

There are a few points to look at before purchasing an APU. The first is driver comfort. You cannot truly put a value on this. If you are a driver yourself then how much do you value staying comfortable in your cab in the summer or winter? How much do you value your creature comforts like television, microwaves, refrigerator, and everything else? Hard to put a number on it. If you are a fleet owner then it may be a bit easier to weigh this. Many drivers out there today may not even come to your company if your trucks do not have an APU installed. I have even seen some folks take a small pay cut just to drive a truck with an APU. Comfort means that much to them and it should mean that much to you if you are a fleet owner or manager.

There is also a more tangible measurement here when it comes to the APU paying for itself and that is maintenance. If your truck is being idled for hours at a time each and every day then that is going to cause significant wear and tear on your engine. This will result in more maintenance each year. Along with the engine maintenance the constant idling also will impact your diesel particulate filter. The idling will actually create more soot and other containment accumulations within the filter. The end result is you will need the DPF cleaned more often then you normally would. For those of you that have had to pay the DPF cleaning bill you know how expensive that can be.

Another point to look at here is if you or your driver are staying at hotels. This may not even be an every day thing but the cost of a hotel room can add up, even on some of those cheaper rooms. By adding an APU to your truck the driver does not have a reason to stay at a hotel. Instead they have all of their creature comforts from home right there with them on the truck including air conditioning, heating, and television.

As you can see from above there are a lot of variables that go into determining if adding an APU to your truck is worth it. Everyone’s situation and route is different then the other guys. In an effort to help with this and provide you an estimated payback period for installing an APU a few manufacturers have created a savings calculator. The calculator allows you to customize each variable to fit your needs and at the end it gives you an estimated time for the APU to pay for itself.

One example of these calculators is from Thermo King. It can be found by clicking here. I used this calculator myself when writing this article filling out some basic information and I got an annual savings amount of about ten-thousand dollars. This would end up with me having the APU paid off in about thirteen to fourteen months. Not a bad deal if you ask me…

Another one to look at is Rigmaster. While I am not personally a fan of this APU they do offer a calculator as well which can be found by clicking here. This calculator is not as advanced as Thermo King but it still gives you an idea of what you could save per month when purchasing the APU. In the Rigmaster example they have you paying for the APU after only about eight months of use. (Again though, I highly recommend Thermo King over Rigmaster.)


Big picture though folks I would say yes, having an APU is definitely worth it. It makes you comfortable, it helps with driver retention, and it helps with maintenance. Yes, it is a big purchase at first but the idea is to have it pay for itself after only a year or has passed. If you cannot front the money upfront many of these APU manufacturers offer financing as well as some of the dealers that can install these units for you.

I hope this article was helpful and thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

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