What is idling, and why does it matter to state and local fleet managers?

what is idling

Idling is one of the biggest challenges affecting public fleets. It releases up to twenty pounds of greenhouse gas per gallon and causes unnecessary wear and tear on individual fleet vehicles.

Limiting idling within a public fleet can help state and local fleet managers extend the lifespan of their vehicles. It also assists with sustainability measures and ensures the success of greening initiatives.

Before getting started with your next anti-idling policy, though, you must first understand its challenges, benefits, and solutions.

What is idling for state and local fleets?

Idling is the practice of running a vehicle’s engine while the vehicle is not in motion. This usually occurs during:

  • Unloading periods
  • Traffic lights, stops, or accidents
  • Picking up or dropping off passengers

Idling is not always avoidable. However, unnecessary fuel burning still places undue pressure on fleet vehicles.

Long-term idling leads to various problems.

Higher fuel consumption

It’s no secret that idling wastes more than 6 billion gallons of fuel each year. That’s a half gallon of fuel lost for every thirty minutes idling. The more fuel you burn, the more money you lose—and the more greenhouse gases you release into the atmosphere.

Increased maintenance costs

Studies show that idling can increase maintenance costs by as much as $2,000 per vehicle per year. In a fleet of at least 100 vehicles, that’s $200,000 in excess costs. You could spend these funds more effectively on greening initiatives and sustainability tasks.

Air pollution concerns

Traditional fuels create volatile organic compounds, many of which induce health problems for humans and pets. Certain gases even cause asthma and disease, which lowers the health of your local population and creates serious endemic concerns.

Heavy-duty trucks idling during rest periods may create:

  • 11 million tons of carbon dioxide
  • 55,000 tons of nitrogen oxides
  • 400 tons of particulate matter

The dangers of excessive idling can affect pets, people, and the environment. Fortunately, public fleet managers have several options to combat idling, starting with robust anti-idling policies.

The challenges and solutions of anti-idling policies

Establishing anti-idling policies for your public fleet requires strategy, foresight, and finesse. Let’s look at three challenges of establishing anti-idling policies and their solutions for your state or local fleet.

Challenge 1: Driver behavior

Many drivers are unaware of the true effects of idling. The average driver idles their vehicle for five to ten minutes per day, often while waiting to unload their vehicle or warm up the cabin for their drive. They usually don’t realize the impact of their idling and simply want to stay comfortable or protect their cargo.

Solution: Educating drivers about the dangers of idling can ensure better outcomes for your agency and audience. According to research, better information, training, and feedback for drivers can reduce idling fuel consumption by 6.6%. That’s nearly seven gallons of fuel for every 100 gallons burned, roughly half the capacity of the average fuel tank.

Challenge 2: Waiting to unload cargo

Vehicles waiting to unload cargo are major contributors to idling waste. Heavy-duty vehicles like trucks, tractor-trailers, and garbage vehicles are among the largest contributors to emissions. They may also produce the greatest amount of ozone emissions by 2025.

Solution: Auxiliary power units (APUs) are energy-producing units for tasks other than propulsion (like driving). They are especially effective for cold-storage trucks or large vehicles needing to keep their cargo cool. The proper use of APUs can reduce idle time by 36.4% and even drop engine use by 15%.

Challenge 3: Slow-moving traffic

Big cities with large fleets often struggle with congested traffic. Studies show that chronic traffic congestion can raise emissions and reduce air quality. It’s likely that congestion also increases idle times, especially during accidents with substantial or complete traffic stops.

Solution: Greener solutions with vehicles and telematics can help reduce the impact of traffic congestion. For example, hybrid vehicles stop producing fuel while stopped. Fleet telematics also help you plot more fuel-efficient routes, reducing fuel costs by 25%.

Effective procurement for anti-idling initiatives

Anti-idling policies may not be a failsafe against all idling, but they do serve as a barrier to wasted fuel and excessive greenhouse gas production. Building a sustainable design starts with building sustainable partnerships, particularly with cooperative contracts competitively sourced by the team at Sourcewell.

With Sourcewell, state and local fleet managers have access to suppliers offering modern anti-idling technology. It can help you find those with:

  • GPS fleet tracking software
  • Driver coaching and education
  • APUs

You may browse Sourcewell’s cooperative contracts at any time, with or without registering an online account.

By leveraging data and telematics, a fleet manager can identify areas for sustainability improvement by reducing a fleet's energy consumption and carbon emissions. Sourcewell contracts ensure that government entities can take the first step in supporting these initiatives. See how Sourcewell can help with your cooperative purchasing.