Truck Idling: What Fleet Managers Need to Know

July 20, 2021 Vanessa Hernandez

 

Let’s face it, truck idling is sometimes just a part of doing business. While fleet managers can try to keep idling to a minimum, there are often too many things to consider, including road conditions, unforeseen accidents, construction delays, driver considerations, and other unknowns that can make forecasting difficult. Nonetheless, fuel consumption during idling can be expensive, hence it is often a cost center where commercial fleets focus when enacting mitigation strategies.

Just how much diesel fuel does a semi-truck use idling? According to the Department of Transportation, truck idling can use almost a gallon of fuel per hour. When you’re a fleet manager with a lot of trucks on the road, the cost of truck idling can add up fast.

Environmental Considerations Are Important, Too

In addition, when companies calculate the costs of truck idling for their fleet, they must also consider the cost to the environment. The Department of Energy estimates that rest-period idling results in millions of tons of carbon dioxide being emitted into the air each year. These types of emissions contribute to climate change, diminish local air quality, and affect the health of those living in the community.  

And let’s not forget one final consideration surrounding truck idling…the life of the engine. Semi-truck engines are very pricey, so truck idling can limit the life of expensive equipment or require undue maintenance.

Sometimes Truck Idling is Necessary

While it’s easy to categorize semi-truck idling as bad, there are often reasons that make idling necessary. We’ve already covered many of the unplanned for reasons earlier, but considerations like keeping items from freezing in non-temperature controlled trucks during the winter months, running appliances from electrical inverters instead of draining battery power, and the necessity for the truck to build up air pressure for the release of brakes are all reasons that can complicate mitigation. 

How Long Can a Semi-Truck Legally Idle?

As the further ramifications of truck idling come to light, many states across the country are enacting rules against extended periods of idling. That said, the laws differ by jurisdiction and have varying consequences, from several hundred dollar fines to those that run into the thousands of dollars. Some areas have gotten even more creative by empowering their citizenry to help mitigate the ramifications of the practice. For example, Washington D.C. started a pilot program whereby citizens can report vehicles with extended idling. In the same vein, New York City is allowing those who report truck idling to receive a portion of any fine that is charged.

How Can Your Fleet Reduce Idling in Semi-Truck Engines?

There’s never a wrong reason to enact truck idling mitigation measures to limit the amount of time your fleet spends in idle mode. However, with just a few pragmatic steps, fleet managers can create a plan of action that helps them curtail the fall out of what is sometimes a necessary practice.

5 Ways to Reduce Truck Idling in Your Fleet

  • Install APUs (Auxiliary Power Units): One true way to decrease truck idle time is to create a solution to unavoidable necessities such as refrigerators, climate control systems, and entertainment consoles. An APU will help keep all these systems working without the need to idle the engine.

  • Use Fuel Tank Heaters: Many drivers idle their trucks to prevent fuel from freezing or gelling. By using fuel tank heaters, diesel will stay in liquid form.

  • Create Accommodations for Drivers: Keeping your drivers comfortable can be a big determinant in rig idling. Make sure they have the amenities they need to stay cool, warm and happy can go a long way. When rigs are properly fitted, drivers often don’t feel the necessity to idle their engines.

  • Insulated Trucks: Fitting your fleet’s trucks with the proper insulation can go a long way in mitigating idling. When both ventilation and insulation are considered for both the cooler and warmer months, drivers often don’t feel the necessity to idle their engines.

  • Educate Drivers: Sometimes education goes a long way. When people are given the facts, they often change their behaviors without much prodding. Let your fleet drivers know about the many ramifications of too much idling, including the environmental considerations. Fleets can leverage data from telematics systems to find out how often drivers are idling.

Related Resources

Turn to Lytx for Fleet Safety Considerations

Today’s fleet managers know that fleet risk management is an integral part of their job. Truck idling is just one of the many issues they must take into account as part of an overall plan of action. To learn more about Lytx and our suite of fleet management solutions, simply complete the form on this page.

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