More than 15 states and dozens of local jurisdictions have anti-idling laws. According to the trucking industry, the patchwork of state and local anti-idling laws – and the impracticality of the provisions of these laws – makes knowledge, understanding and, ultimately, compliance somewhat problematic for most people.
The focus of these laws prohibits diesel vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds, such as heavy-duty trucks and buses, from idling for more than five to 10 minutes per hour when they are parked. The laws are intended to reduce diesel emissions that contribute to poor air quality while limiting unnecessary idling that wastes fuel.
The Direct Cost of an Idling Engine
On average, one hour of idling uses up to 1 gallon of diesel fuel. A truck that idles for six hours per day, five days per week will waste about $6,240 of diesel fuel per year with diesel costing $4 per gallon. Across a fleet of 150 utility vehicles, the $6,240 quickly adds up to nearly $1 million per year. Excess idling also increases engine maintenance costs and shortens engine life.
Diesel Exhaust and Air Quality
Diesel trucks and buses account for approximately 50 percent of the particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) air pollution from on-road vehicles in Illinois. PM and NOx may contribute to a variety of health effects, including nausea, headaches, increased risk of asthma attacks, lung cancer and premature death. Children and people with lung and heart conditions are generally the most sensitive to diesel exhaust. Millions of tons of air pollution are emitted every year in the U.S. by trucks and buses that idle while parked.
Idling to Ensure Engine Restart
Drivers sometimes idle diesel vehicles because there is concern that the engine will not readily restart after being turned off. However, most diesel vehicles on the road today have technologies that allow for consistent restarts, even in cold weather. In fact, engine manufacturers recommend that engines be turned off to reduce fuel use and engine wear.
Overview of the Various Laws
Following is a sample of idle time limits. Be sure to check your local and state regulations for those that are applicable to your work location.
• Most laws require that vehicles idle no longer than five to 10 minutes in any 60-minute period while the vehicles are stationary. Other idling requirements are determined by time of day or year.
• Cities such as Philadelphia, New York and St. Louis require that vehicles idle no longer than two to three minutes in any 60-minute period while the vehicles are stationary.
Fortunately, most local ordinances and state laws do have exemptions, including the following.
• Exclusion for power takeoff. Vehicles may be idled to operate auxiliary equipment that accomplishes the intended use of the vehicle (e.g., operation of the boom), or that supplies hydraulic or electric power for equipment needed to restore, repair, modify or install electrical service (e.g., generators, drills, saws and other power tools).
• Personnel safety from adverse weather. When the outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, vehicles may be idled to operate defrosters, heaters or air conditioners solely to prevent a safety or health emergency. Note that this exemption does not typically apply to idling vehicles solely for cabin comfort or to operate nonessential equipment.
Although this Tailgate does not cover specific local or state regulations, the premise is the same – idling vehicles are an area of concern for all of us. Manage your idle time and you will positively impact the environment and the company bottom line, as well as prevent a possible interaction with local law enforcement.
About the Author: John Boyle is Vice President of Safety and Quality for INTREN, an electric, gas and telecommunication construction company based in Union, Ill. Boyle has more than 27 years of experience, and has worked in nuclear and wind power generation and electric and gas distribution.