Idling Vehicles Are Costing You

?Idling Vehicles Are Costing You

You probably see it every day: A vehicle idles while a delivery person unloads cargo, a driver runs into a business “”just for a second,”” or an unthinking person sits listening to the radio. Visit the parking lot of any elementary school and you will likely see dozens of SUVs idling while parents await their kids.

All those idling engines are costing money and adding millions of tons of carbon load to our atmosphere.

Consider the following basic facts:1. An idling vehicle gets ZERO MILES PER GALLON! (obvious)2. Each and every gallon of gasoline consumed equals 20 pounds of CO2 emitted into the air. (Physicians For Social Responsibility)

A Case Study:The fire department of one medium sized US city recently examined their vehicle idling practices with some uniquely common sense outcomes.

Almost universally in the Emergency Medical Service and Fire Service in the United States, emergency personnel leave their vehicles running when on an emergency scene. In some situations, such as when the vehicles are staged in a roadway with emergency lights on, this makes perfect sense. All those flashing red lights require a significant amount of electricity. Leaving the vehicle run is necessary to prevent the batteries from draining. On a fire scene, engine powered lights and fire pumps are needed by the emergency personnel as well.

The problem is that these common sense situations in which a running engine are necessary have been extended to include each and every situation in which an emergency vehicle goes on a call. In most locations around our country, even if an ambulance or fire truck is legally parked, the engine is left on for the duration of the call simply because “”that’s the way it’s always done.””

It took a forward-thinking firefighter at one fire department to realize that this blanket policy is absurd. The city he worked for was struggling under rapidly rising fuel costs. City fire and medical personnel regularly worked in clouds of diesel smoke as they operated on emergency scenes–diesel smoke that contains harmful carbon particulates and carcinogenic benzene, among other harmful substances. In addition, he noted that the manufacturers of the large diesel engines his department used stated on their website that the practice of running diesel vehicles at low idle was detrimental to the longevity of engine components.

The department administration quickly recognized the benefits of shutting off idling engines when appropriate. Firefighters are not known to be the most open-minded people in the world, so the new policy was met with a lot of grumbling, but the department is seeing good buy-in after a few weeks. It is too early to determine overall savings but early trends appear promising.

Brown Knows.Have you ever noticed that when your local UPS driver delivers a package, the first thing he or she does is shut off his engine? A progressive and efficiency-oriented company like UPS must recognize the benefit of such a basic policy. Brown might be onto something here.

Here are a few of the more common misconceptions to fight in getting your employees to cut down on vehicle idling:

“”Diesel engines are meant to idle.””Diesels are least efficient at the low operating temperatures associated with low idling RPM. If a large diesel is going to be idled, most engine manufacturers recommend that a high-idle be employed, which burns a lot more fuel.

“”Starting a vehicle burns more fuel and releases more pollutants than just letting the engine run.””Engines do release more pollutants when they are started than when they are running, but the point of equality is much shorter than most people would think. For most gasoline engines, they burn as much fuel idling in 10-30 seconds than they do at startup. The numbers for diesel engines are slightly more, in the 30 seconds to one minute range. A fair rule of thumb policy is that if a driver will be stopped for greater than one minute, the engine should be shut off.

“”Using the starter more often will burn it up.””While it’s true that using a mechanical device more will result in greater wear, the likely fuel savings associated with shutting an idling vehicle off will more than offset the cost of a shorter maintenance interval on starter parts.

“”Letting a vehicle warm up before driving it makes it run better and last longer.””A vehicle warms up best when being driven slowly. Simply letting an engine idle is not the most effective way to get it to operating temperature. A vehicle is made up of many moving parts. To properly warm a vehicle’s transmission, suspension, steering and wheel bearings, you need to slowly drive. Typically, driving on residential and city surface streets will adequately warm up a vehicle before higher speed highway driving.

“”A vehicle should be left running because it might not start again if it is shut off and that could be costly due to delays.””This is a pretty thin argument, but it was the one most firefighters used when faced with the anti-idling ideas in our first case study. While a vehicle may not start, it also may stop running at any time. Vehicles are, of course, mechanical devices. Mechanical devices fail. Using the line of reasoning offered in this argument for the practice of idling vehicles, we should leave all vehicles running at all times just in case the vehicle might be needed. Of course, idling all the time would mean that the mechanical parts would wear out faster, making the vehicle less likely to run when needed…You get the picture.

So, stop the idling!

It wastes fuel, wears out equipment, increases global warming, and exposes you and your employees to harmful pollutants.

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