What is idling?

Idling is when an engine is running but the vehicle is not actually moving. Semi-trucks, especially those that drive long distances, are the most likely to idle for long periods of time because they are required to stop driving for a certain number of hours to relax and sleep. Trucks play an important role in our economy by transporting goods and services, both short and long distances. Drivers need to stay warm or cool in their truck during their down time or while they are stopped to make deliveries. Letting the engine run is one way that a driver can stay comfortable in the cab while on break.

What are some of the problems associated with idling?

Idling pollutes the air and hurts the environment

Each year, long-duration idling of truck and locomotive engines consumes over 1 billion gallons of diesel fuel and emits 11 million tons of carbon dioxide, 200,000 tons of oxides of nitrogen, and 5,000 tons of particulate matter into the air. Engine idling also creates elevated noise levels

Idling poses health risks, especially for drivers

While sitting in the vehicle, drivers are exposed to the vehicles pollution more than when the vehicle is moving, because there is no airflow to vent the pollution. People who live in communities with high levels of truck travel are more likely to encounter idling trucks, which also puts them at risk of health problems from exposure to diesel pollution.

Idling wastes fuel and money

A typical truck burns approximately 1 gallon of diesel fuel for each hour it idles. If a truck idles 6-8 hours a day, it would consume at least 1,800 gallons of fuel a year, just from idling. With current fuel prices at nearly $4/gallon, this equals $7,00+ per truck in annual fuel costs.

Idling causes excessive engine wear

According to the American Trucking Association, this wear can increase maintenance costs by over $2,000 a year and shorten the life of the engine.

How can trucks reduce unnecessary idling?

There are various technologies, strategies, and policies that exist to reduce the need for excessive engine idling.

  1. Idle-reduction technologies: Trucking companies can install technology on their fleet, such as Auxiliary Power Units or electric engine heaters, which can significantly reduce engine idling and save businesses a lot of money on fuel costs. Learn more about these technologies, click here.
  2. Policy Changes: Businesses can implement anti-idling policies that require employees to shut down engines after a certain length of time. To enforce this, there are ways to track idle time on engines to see if employees are following the rules. It can also be tracked through monitoring fuel usage.
  3. Behavioral Changes: Often idling is just simply a habit developed out of convenience. Businesses can encourage employees to change behaviors regarding excessive engine idling.

The City of Detroit Anti-Idling Ordinance

The City of Detroit passed an anti-idling ordinance in late 2010. This ordinance states that engine idling is limited to 5 consecutive minutes during any 60-minute period for commercial vehicles over 8,500 gross lbs. (class 2b and above), but there are some exceptions.

Violating the ordinance can result in fines of $150 to the vehicle operator and/or $500 to the vehicle owner. Up to 3 civil infractions may be issued in the first hour, up to 4 in the next hour, and up to 9 total can be issued for subsequent 60-minute periods. The Detroit Police Department (Traffic Enforcement) is responsible for enforcing this ordinance.

How is SDEV helping to reduce idling?

SDEV is currently involved in several activities related to reducing truck engine idling.

Clean Diesel Grant Projects

SDEV has secured over $10-million in public and private funding to reduce diesel pollution in the Southwest Detroit area. SDEV has partnered with trucking companies and other industry to assist them with purchasing and installing idle reduction technology. If the idle-reduction units are used properly, the annual fuel savings per truck is approximately 2,800 gallons and the annual cost savings is approximately $10,000.

Anti-Idling Campaign 2016

Through various meetings with the Detroit Police Department’s Fourth Precinct, various truck companies in Southwest Detroit*, and community members, SDEV has  learned that three revisions to the current Idling Ordinance would make anti-idling more enforceable in Detroit.
1) Signage must be included so that both community members and truck drivers have physical reminders that there is an idling ordinance in Detroit.
2) Additions to which city departments can enforce the ordinance. Other departments might include the Detroit Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department, Municipal Parking, and more.
3) Holding companies where trucks load and unload accountable for the time their drivers idle while waiting to load and unload. (An example see the State of Maine’s Title 38: Waters and Navigation Chapter 4: Protection and Improvement of Air §585-L. Idling Requirements for Motor Vehicles [2007, c. 2, §26 (RAL).]

A better enforced Idling Ordinance in Detroit benefits not only the health of residents, but truck companies can also save on fuel and engine costs.


*Truck Companies met with: Red Cap Transportation, Andrews Brothers, UTSI, and Marathon Petroleum Company Trucking and Operations.


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