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"Idling" means the operation of an engine in the operating mode where the engine is not engaged in gear, where the engine operates at a speed at the revolutions per minute specified by the engine manufacturer, or when the accelerator is fully released and there is no load on the engine. Most of us just think of it as “leaving your engine running” while you run into a store or while you wait for a train to pass.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) estimates that long duration idling consumes over one billion gallons of diesel fuel annually, at a cost of over $5 billion. Further, idling emits approximately 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, 5,000 tons of particulate matter, and significant quantities of other harmful air toxics. Idling also increases engine operation and maintenance costs and shortens engine life. Idling emissions have been found to leak into the truck cab creating health and safety concerns for the truck driver. When trucks idle near residential neighborhoods, the pollution and noise level raise serious quality of life concerns.
There are many alternatives to engine idling and they range from no-cost options to options costing several thousand dollars. Much depends on the extent of the idling problem and the ability to convince the truck operator to adopt the alternative.
Behavioral change is the simplest route. Education and driver incentives play an important role in behavioral change. Informing the driver or operator about the fuel consumption, emissions, and the potential health risks plays an important part in changing behavior. Another powerful tool in changing driver behavior is offering financial incentives to reduce idling. Many large trucking companies already offer these incentives and they have reported success in reducing idling times below national averages.
A number of technologies are currently available to help companies and drivers reduce truck engine idling:
IDEM Voluntary Idling Program (VIP) encourages businesses and industries to reduce the amount of fuel burned during unnecessary idling. The VIP Challenge commits fleet owners to reducing idling while asking manufacturers to reduce idling on their campus. After taking the VIP pledge your company will receive information that will help your drivers stop the idling habit. The brochure, Big Trucks Don't Have to Burn Big Bucks, on how trucking companies can sign up for the VIP Challenge is also available.