Engine Idling Wastes Fuel, Increases Wear

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief | September 28, 2010



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For morning exercise and a quiet start to a busy day, a walk around the junior-high track works wonders for the soul. Today, though, we passed one of the Park District's pickup trucks idling on that same track while workers prepared the long jump pit for tomorrow's meet.

It ran for the 15 minutes we were there, and probably until the pit was finished.

According to the EPA, we idle away some 220 gallons of diesel every five seconds, mostly in over-the-road haulers and locomotives. Of course, that number also includes off-highway construction equipment, too.

In the past few years, numerous states and counties have enacted anti-idling laws aimed at mandating the practice, or shall we call it a habit, of turning off the engine when it is not needed. Cook County's law, which includes Chicago, reads thusly: "It shall be unlawful for any person to cause or permit the operation of the main engine of any motor vehicle when parked or standing." This is followed by a bevy of exceptions, including "whenever operation of the main power train is essential to a basic function" such as in cement trucks and aerial-work platforms.

When reading the list of exceptions, most would identify them as common sense. But common sense would also suggest that workers not leave pickups idling while they dig in the sand.

On April 4, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate carbon monoxide emissions from vehicles.

After reading dozens of news reports and opinion pieces on this decision, we're convinced that the nation remains sharply divided on the role of government in this issue. But the Court has lessened that restraint, and the drum beat for emissions regulations has already increased.

We can engage in debate surrounding ethanol, mandated diesel retrofits, and Al Gore, but we are all called to be stewards of the planet. If you consider yourself, and your fleet, in that mindset, it is common sense to stop unnecessary idling of your engines. Train your own truck drivers to turn off engines, and push for a training program for other operators and drivers in your organization.

It will reduce fuel costs, engine wear, and noise. And it just might keep government out of your business.

We welcome your comments.