An Eye on Idle Time

Dec. 4, 2014

After all the available published information covering the ways telematics can benefit fleets, you’d think we’d be on the verge of universal adoption. That is not the case, and it may be because many fleet managers and senior executives don’t see the immediate value.

But for those looking for an almost certain, immediate return on investment, telematics offers some impressive ways to achieve that.

For instance, managers used to keep paper records and file them, making the records sometimes incomplete and hard to find in any case. Electronic databases make records quickly accessible from the office or through a mobile device, and easily searched and sorted. The telematics data on idle time alone can help managers cut thousands of dollars from fuel burn during the life of a machine, preserve vital warranty hours, and inform managers about depreciation.

Operators can have the information that will motivate them to change their behavior instead of allowing equipment to run unnecessarily when not in use. No matter the reason to leave the machine idling, that idle time means wasted money and unnecessary engine wear.

From a business perspective, excessive idling can be enormously expensive, even for a small or medium-size operation.

Although fuel consumption varies, let’s assume a typical mid-size dozer consumes about one gallon of diesel per hour at idle. At that rate, a single hour of unnecessary idle time per day in the course of a 250 business-day year can cost $900 to $1,000 per year. Multiply that times a fleet with 10, 50 or 100 pieces of equipment, and you start to see that equipment idling is no small issue.

But that’s not all. Excessive idling can shorten equipment life. An idling engine typically does not generate enough heat to achieve proper combustion. Deposits can build up on the pistons and cylinder walls, contaminating the oil and creating friction that wears out engine components faster.

A good idle-reduction program can and should be multifaceted, and it may include a written company policy, thorough operator training, frequent supervisory reminders, and built-in idle-management systems on machines. Measuring performance over time should always be a key component of any anti-idle program, and that’s where telematics comes in.

Telematics provides a simple way to monitor idle time on each piece of equipment throughout the day. Specific machines and applications can then be analyzed to determine best practices in each case.

For example, a company may define the required warm-up and cool-down periods for each piece of equipment. Some older engines may require a three- to five-minute engine cool-down. Newer equipment may require less. Telematics helps fleet managers determine if the proper procedures are being followed in each case.

Patterns may also emerge with operators who may need to be reminded to turn off equipment and/or be made aware of the high cost of excessive idling.

Telematics can be used to document a baseline for idling time and fuel consumption. Over time, improvements and savings can be tracked and results reported to senior management. Again, savings can be significant.

Manufacturers are keenly aware of the demands of machine owners, and they are constantly looking for ways to get the right data, at the right time, to the right people.

An increasingly bigger part of their approach is to send data to the user; not the user to the data. To do that, some are deploying smartphone apps, reports, alerts, etc.  But for customers who want all the data, that can be made available as well.

An ISO telematics data standard is coming in conjunction with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), and the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) and their members. If successful, this ISO telematics data standard should help customers with mixed fleets who want to consolidate telematics data into their own business systems and software.

For more information on the AEM/AEMP Telematics Standard, go to or

--Komatsu America is an AEM member company and part of the AEM Telematics Task Force; Goran Zeravica is Distributor Development Manager.