Increased enforcement of idling laws part of efforts to reduce pollution

Estimates say vehicle idling wastes six billion gallons of fuel annually.

Furthermore, exhaust fumes have been linked to asthma, cancer, cardiac disease, and other serious health risks, particularly in vulnerable populations.

Roughly 100,000 more people die from air-pollution-related causes than from injuries in car accidents, according to recent studies by the World Bank and the Health Effects Institute.

Environmental Protection Agency standards limit six major air pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particle pollution and sulfur dioxide. Car engines emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particle pollution and sulfur dioxide. 

Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., limit idling by some or all vehicles as a strategy to improve air quality in their plans to meet EPA standards. Many cities or counties within states have additional idling ordinances. Nine states restrict idling to three to five minutes, and another 14 states limit idling for vehicles over 10,001 pounds, including full-size charter buses.

If half of idling is presumed to be diesel and half from gasoline, this fuel burn would result in the emissions of nearly 62 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Incentives for reporting idling violations

New York City is providing a financial incentive to people who report commercial vehicles left idling without a driver. Fines kick in if a commercial truck or bus is caught idling for more than three minutes – and one minute in a school zone.

One New York City man is making a living from reporting these vehicles, according to an NBC4 New York report. Donald Blair told the station he collected $55,000 and has another $70,000 on the way. The 2019 law that created the Citizens Air Complaint Program allows vehicle owners to be fined $250 or more. The person who reports incidents is paid $87.50, or one-quarter of each fine.

Blair is part of a group of watchdogs called IDLE Warriors that has about 60 members in New York, according to the NBC report.

“Regardless of your position on global warming and environmental issues, vehicle idling is largely a waste of very expensive fuel and money,” said Ken Presley, United Motorcoach Association’s vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs and industry relations/COO. “Like it or not, nearly every jurisdiction has idling laws, and many are serious about enforcing them.”

The American Trucking Research Institute publishes a compendium of state and local political subdivisions’ requirements along with a condensed version for drivers to keep handy.

Presley recommends reviewing and discussing these laws with your drivers. Before a trip, make sure your drivers know the idling ordinances for destinations they may be stopping. After all, punitive fines likely represent the largest waste.   



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