How Idle Time is Eating Your Profits

Engine idling isn’t just bad for the environment — it’s also detrimental to your bottom line.

It is not uncommon for truck drivers to leave their engine idling when processing a delivery, interacting with customers or even to escape the weather. But, truck engine idle time can cost fleet owners and operators $5,000 to $12,000 each year, according to Engines Off!, a government campaign based in Colorado, whose sole mission is to reduce engine idle time in trucking. When done in excess, engine idling can:

  • Increase maintenance costs
  • Waste fuel
  • Shorten vehicle life

According to the American Transportation Research Institute, in many jurisdictions, commercial vehicle engine idling has been outlawed. The following states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, impose fines of up to $25,000 for breaking anti-idling laws. There are also more than 80 local-level cities and counties with regulations on engine idling. Though these regulations may vary, the average amount of time allowed for engine idling is three to five minutes. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also warns against excessive engine idle time. The concern of air quality is a major part of the reason for increased regulations for engine idling. Reducing engine idle time starts with working with your drivers to educate them on engine idling regulations as well as the costs associated with this behavior. 

The Environmental Impact of Engine Idling

The diesel engines used in commercial motor vehicles are what powers the trucking industry. These engines produce large amounts of exhaust that is harmful to the environment. Reducing engine emissions should be a priority of every fleet manager and owner operating vehicles with diesel engines. To reduce engine emissions for diesel vehicles, you can use alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles to power your fleet. You can also use telematics technology to monitor engine performance and use. 

The environmental impact of engine idling reveals why legislation and regulations have been enacted to fight against it. Here are a few environmental issues that the exhaust from diesel engines causes:

  • Idling vehicles emit large amounts of pollution, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, which create ozone smog.
  • Large amounts of toxic carbon dioxide.
  • Dangerous particulate matter.

Another fact about engine idling is the reality that it has a significant impact on the health of drivers. While a CMV driver is sitting in the cab with the engine idling, they are being exposed to dangerous exhaust emissions. Since there is no airflow to vent the emissions, when a driver is sitting in the vehicle with the engine idle, they are being exposed to more pollutants than when the vehicle is moving. Training your drivers to shut off engines when they are not driving and informing them of the risks and health issues involving engine idle time is a great way to start managing engine idling within your fleet. However, the best way to guard against excessive engine idling is by using telematics software that monitors data like vehicle performance, driver behaviors and risk management.

The Bottom-Line Impact of Engine Idling

The cost of engine idling can significantly impact your bottom-line. The average commercial motor vehicle burns about 1 gallon of diesel fuel for every hour it idles. If this truck sits idle for 6 hours daily, for 300 days a year, the cost of idle time for that vehicle would amount to 1,800 gallons of fuel annually. If the fuel is priced at $1.25/ gallon, the idle time would cost you $2,250 per truck. In addition to the increased cost of fuel associated with engine idling are the increased maintenance costs. The American Trucking Association (ATA) reports that the added wear and tear caused by engine idling can increase maintenance costs by $2,000 per year, per vehicle and significantly reduce the lifespan of the CMV’s engine. This amounts to additional costs of $4,250 per vehicle annually.

To battle the burden of engine idling on their bottom-line, many fleet operators and managers are using these tools to assist in reducing engine idle time:

  • Idle-Engine Shutdown Technology
  • Cab Heaters
  • Auxiliary Air Conditioning Units
  • Auxiliary Power Units
  • Shore Power

How to Reduce Engine Idle Time

Aside from working with your drivers on reducing engine idle time, there are other options available to fleet owners and managers that can help reduce the costs associated with engine idling. Using quality telematics hardware and software that provides notifications, alerts and data on your commercial motor vehicles can help significantly reduce or eliminate this issue for your fleet. Here’s a list of the tools available to you to reduce engine idle time and save you thousands of dollars:

  • Vehicle Performance Alerts – receive custom alerts and notifications that are activated whenever a vehicle has been idle longer than a set amount of time. These alerts can be set to monitor driver idle time, vehicle performance, speed, hard braking, hard turns, etc. 
  • Comprehensive Data Reports – receive detailed data reports on driver behaviors, including idle time, speeding and vehicle data that can be used to inform training and to document route issues. You are also able to look at specific drivers and routes to optimize the performance of your fleet. 
  • Vehicle Maintenance Alerts – performing preventive maintenance on your commercial vehicles is supported by alerts and reports that monitor fuel economy and efficiency, speeding history and engine status. Using this feature can help increase route efficiency and keep your fleet from falling behind schedule. 
  • Risk Management Monitoring – whether your drivers need to request emergency roadside assistance, report vehicle or cargo theft or provide documentation for false claims, risk management with telematics becomes much easier to handle. You can also use this feature to remotely monitor your drivers and vehicles.
  • Behavior Incentives – creating incentives for your drivers that practice responsible behaviors behind the wheel is a great way to create a cautious driver culture within your fleet. Incentives like creating a contest that rewards top-performing drivers or those with the least amount of engine idle time creates a cohesive and responsible culture. 

Engine idling has some severe impacts on the profitability of your business as well as the health of society as a whole. Public health is one of the major reasons that national and local legislation exists to regulate emissions by diesel engines. Though we all are exposed to air pollutants, people with health issues like lung disease, asthma and other respiratory problems are impacted more severely. As a fleet owner or operator, it can also help to bring a positive rapport to your brand by educating your drivers and working with them to minimize engine idle time as much as possible. 

Are you ready to tackle engine idling in your own fleet? Take a look at how much you could save by trying out our online ROI Calculator, or get in touch with one of our expert Fleet Advisors to discuss how telematics and fleet management solutions can help your business.