February 14, 2017


Fuel consumed from truck idling is wasting money and impacting your bottom line.

Over the last decade, there has been increased awareness of fuel waste, engine wear and tear, and overall costs associated with vehicle idling. Nationally, trucks burn four billion gallons of fuel each year from idling.

Today, diesel fuel hovers around $2.65 a gallon; over the last five years, the average cost has been $3.09 per gallon. So, four billion multiplied by $3.09/gallon is about $12 billion dollars spent each year on idling.

Yet, when you break it down to the per truck per delivery level, it’s all too easy to overlook idling because the costs seem so small. It’s easy for the driver to think it won’t hurt to leave the engine running during the loading process, service, or delivery (the truck has to stay warm, right?). Or the driver might listen to the radio with the A/C on while he eats his lunch.

All these little things add things add up. What starts as a few minutes a day turns into hours a year and billions in wasted fuel. Keep reading to see how truck idle fuel consumption is hurting your fleet’s bottom line and how with the right tools, you can take the smart way out.

Seeing the big picture of truck idle fuel consumption

Stop what you are doing. Get up and go down to your loading docks or yard. Are any trucks idling right now? If so, you are burning money.

Go out into the field, and meet up with one of your trucks. How long does it idle during a delivery or service? Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Now imagine the idling fuel consumption for that second, that minute, and that hour.

Replace diesel fuel with dollar bills and see each dollar burning slowly, but permanently, out of your P&L, pushing your margins the wrong way. Now multiply that by every vehicle in your fleet and you have how much money you’re wasting over a lifetime.

If your vehicles are idling, they are burning money

So why hasn’t your company embraced the facts of idling — and what will you do about it?

Shocking fleet idling facts and myths busted

We now know truck idling is cutting into your bottom line, but how else does it affect your fleet? Let’s dive a little deeper into the numbers:

  • When a vehicle is left idling, it can consume one gallon of fuel each hour.
  • The American Trucking Associations states that one hour of idling per day for one year results in the equivalent of 64,000 miles in engine wear.
  • A large majority of truck idling occurs when no delivery or service activity is occurring (truck stops, driver breaks, traffic, sitting at the dock, etc.).
  • Drivers and yard workers idle engines for many reasons, most unchallenged by their leaders.
  • Restarting your engine doesn’t burn fuel than leaving it idling. In fact, idling for just 10 seconds wastes more fuel than restarting the engine.

Easy, better solutions to false idling beliefs

So, if idling is so bad, why do we do it?

One common reason people use to justify idling is to maintain comfortable temperatures in the cab. But nowadays, most modern vehicles can have auxiliary power units, or better yet, the driver’s break policy could easily be changed to require that breaks are not to be taken in the cab.

Others idle because they think it keeps the engine warm and reduces wear and tear from starting and stopping the engine over and over. This, however, is an outdated concept thanks to modern, high efficiency starters and higher quality engine designs. Modern engines don’t need the same warm-up period as older engines. Excessive idling increases maintenance costs far higher than any other possible maintenance costs associated with turning the engine on and off.

As a result of what basically amounts to bad habits and outdated beliefs, trucks idle 40 to 60 percent of their working lives. Inattention to idling increases costs and shortens engine life — inefficiencies that are ultimately passed on to consumers.

Indirect consequences of idling and hidden rewards to reducing idling

While you can easily see the direct impact idling has on your fleet, there are also indirect effects to consider. Carbon dioxide, a common emission from truck idling, is widely accepted as a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect and climate change.

With the focus on government directives and consumer demands to reduce emissions, all companies should focus efforts on eliminating wasteful idling.

Government pressures and penalties

Federal, state, and local governments are focused on reducing carbon emissions which means, sooner or later, carbon reduction mandates will be here.

Both the Department of Energy and the Environment Protection Agency already have idle reduction programs. The DOE focuses on future technologies for alternative and advanced vehicles while the EPA has the Environmental Technology Verification Program, the SmartWay Transport Partnership, the Model State Idling Law and Clean School Bus USA.

These programs are here to stay and will likely be joined by mandated regulations in the years ahead. But it’s not just the federal government you need to comply with, many state and local governments are taking action as well.

State & local regulations

All but 11 states have at least one incentive or law in place to reduce idling. For example, the state of Colorado gives tax credits for alternative fuel and qualified idle reduction technologies. The Green Truck Grant Program provides up to 25% rebates to interstate commercial operators who reduce emissions.

Local organizations and governments are also getting involved, especially in metro areas. Many local programs are already in place to reduce idling, ranging from hefty city fees to voluntary requests to minimize emissions.

Threats to brand reputation

It takes years to build a successful, but it only takes a few missteps to tarnish it. Your customers care about the environment. Just like smoking, idling is no longer the “cool thing.” In fact, it can damage your reputation.

You may see dollars going up in smoke when you see your trucks idling, but customers see a truck belching engine exhaust into the street with your big logo painted on the side. With brand identity so carefully guarded these days, this is a huge risk.

Consumers can easily change loyalties to a company that gives a better impression about caring for the environment and their health. If your organization isn’t, then you’re falling behind.

Calculate the cost of truck idling for you

There are countless reasons why idling is bad. But what is it really costing you?

Many of the points above talk about the overall impact of truck idling, but they don’t drill down to individual trucks and make it hard to translate how much idling costs per truck. But by using some simple calculations and basic math, we can estimate how much one truck is costing you as it sits idling.

If you think your drivers are idling two hours a day, it’s costing you:

Not bad considering you’re only wasting $5.30 a day in fuel. But when you roll it up for the year, you’re out over a grand.

And that’s being conservative. A more likely scenario is that your trucks are idling throughout the day but the drivers are attempting to shut down the engine when possible. Here’s what it looks like with six hours of idling:

And some trucks may be used heavily, essentially running all day, never shutting down. This could include a driver who leaves a truck idling at each delivery combined with yard worker’s who leave the truck on during the loading and staging process.

Remember, this is per truck. Multiply any of the estimated idling fuels costs by the size of your fleet and you will get the picture.

Whether you have a ten truck fleet or fleet of thousands, you can’t afford to ignore idling. And remember, this is for fuel consumption costs only — it does not account for the extra repair and maintenance costs from idling, which can range from $500 to $2000 per year, depending on the age and use of the vehicle.

Reduce idling the smart way

Now that we’ve talked ad nauseum about how much truck idling costs you, let’s look at some ways to reduce idling so you can protect your bottom line:

Alternative vehicles and accessories

There are plenty of other power sources your truck could be using when it’s not in use. Many newer trucks have small auxiliary power units (APUs) already installed and included in the purchase price. For older vehicles, installing after-market APUs is possible and should be looked into.

Using hybrid technology vehicles is another option. They are designed to shut down the engine when stopped, even when stopped in traffic, the most difficult segment of idling time to eliminate.

Some conventional vehicles also include start-stop systems to shut off the engine when it would otherwise idle. These are usually set to shut down the engine after five minutes of idling, but in practice, some are unreliable and can be easily bypassed by a driver.

Driver rewards programs

A little incentive never hurts. Having a driver awareness or rewards program to encourage voluntary idling reduction can be very effective. First, it makes driver aware that idling is an issue that needs to be correct. Second, adding a little reward behind it may make the drivers more likely to comply.

Use telematics

The benefits of telematics are widely known, and reducing idling is one of them. Tracking your vehicles allows you to get a direct connection to your truck and your driver. It’s much easy to reduce idling when you can track it in real time.

Get a telematics platform to track your vehicles. By doing so, you get a direct connection to the engine to track engine idling in real time.

But which method is the best?

Each of the methods above can all help you achieve your goal of reduced idling. But they all have their challenges — and costs:

  • Enthusiastic driver participation is hard to achieve.
  • Data collection intensive time/distance studies take time.
  • Procuring new vehicles is expensive and takes time to execute.
  • Changing driver behavior is difficult and would be based on direct driver observation by already too busy driver management.

The fact is the only method that gets you closest to solving the idling problem is using telematics. You can make a dent by getting new trucks or getting your drivers to try to stop idling, but only telematics will you give the data you need to know, namely 1) how much idling is occurring, and 2) what drivers and which trucks are idling the most.

There is no way to know this without telematics, which gives you comprehensive data on exactly what each vehicle is doing and which driver is associated with which vehicle for the day.

Vehicle telematics, like Omnitracs Roadnet Telematics, combines GPS-based onboard monitoring and engine diagnostics with easy-to-use mapping and reporting software to track operating and usage parameters, including engine faults and idling time. The result is a clear picture of your fleet’s risk, productivity and maintenance status — and a clear path toward improvement

By using an “Idle Alert” in your trucks, you should be able to reduce idle time by 10 to 20 percent within a short time frame. This often occurs with very little management intervention or company standards in place because the drivers who idle the most will self-correct rapidly. As noted earlier, idling can be tracked at the truck level and is associated with a specific driver.

Using Roadnet Telematics, along with a driver behavior program, you can easily drive excess idling out. You will have all the data you need to make the right decisions since Roadnet Telematics tracks current and historical activity. You can monitor daily activity and see trends or problem spots over weeks, months, and years.

Telematics also provides the opportunity to see your routes in real time with GPS tracking, manage by exceptions, and make sure your route plan is as good as the reality. Having information on where your drivers are, when they will make deliveries, and if they make changes to route plans is critical to optimal management.

Ready to put a stop to truck idle fuel consumption? See for yourself telematics gives you the power to reduce idling. Click here to watch a three-minute demo on Roadnet Telematics.

So, how does telematics work?

The term “telematics” gets thrown around often. But, how exactly does it work? Let’s take a quick break and take a look at the two core parts of a typical telematics system.

Location hardware

Also known as a vehicle location unit or tracking device, location hardware installed directly in the vehicle.

For a standard vehicle tracking product, it is installed by fitting the device using a simple three-wire connection. Tracking devices usually require the use of an antenna, external to the device, fitted in the line of sight of the sky to receive optimal GPS transmissions.

A second antenna is used to transmit the data off-board the device, commonly using a mobile data network. As stated, the typical tracking hardware for a fleet management solution uses GPS to pinpoint location. Updates are transmitted at a regular timed intervals or after and during an event trigger, such as turning the ignition on or off.

Location and journey data and telemetry

Fleet safety telemetry and journey data are made available to the user by the service provider, via a website, where a secure login lets you view fleet activity live and/or historically, using digital mapping and reporting tools.

Now you know what it is, so why should your fleet embrace telematics?

Why telematics?

You need real-time information of your vehicles and routes in order to keep your fleet running smoothly. With telematics, you get just that: an inside look at your drivers and delivery day, empowering you to make smarter decisions for your fleet.

Telematics gives you the vehicle data to your fleet personnel, allowing for improved management and better utilization of fleet resources. By providing transparency for driver route execution, it makes managing operations so much easier. Telematics may be the key to unlocking a more efficient, safe, and profitable fleet.

Track critical fleet information

Telematics lets you monitor trucks and capture real-time information that allows for proactive maintenance. You can know the minute that something is wrong with your truck, giving you plenty of time to make repairs before a breakdown occurs.

It also gives you the power to keep track of truck positions and all your assets at all times. Now when a customer calls you wondering where their delivery is, you can give them the right answer.

Access fleet safety metrics

With the right Telematics software, your fleet managers can capture driving metrics such as speed, harsh braking, and other risky driver behaviors. It’s also a tool that assists in modifying truck behaviors on the road.

You can help drivers adopt safe habits through speed control and by limiting after-hours use. Also, keeping an eye on drivers at all times encourages them to be at their best.

Streamline fleet operations management

One of the main goals telematics serves is that it makes a fleet manager’s job easier. From improving customer service with real-time drive and stop times to optimizing route performance with route adherence reporting, telematics is a do-it-all solution.

Fleet managers can gain higher situational awareness by knowing where every driver and vehicle is in real-time. This is all in addition to its ability to reduce vehicle idling and saving fuel consumption, making Telematics a no brainer.

Embrace telematics and reduce idling today

Safer drivers, lower fuel consumption, and reduced maintenance costs are all achievable goals. Telematics helps you eliminate excessive idling while gaining insight into vehicle operations, route management, fleet optimization, and more.

The facts are proven, and the opportunity for cost savings is there. Truck idle fuel consumption is costing your fleet big time, and reducing idling can save you big bucks. Using telematics allows you to make sure your efforts are executed intelligently and easily. With minimal investment and a commitment to use incremental changes for driver behavior, every company and fleet — large or small — can reduce wasteful expenses by optimizing fuel usage and idling.

Telematics gives you the data you need to make the right decisions, rapidly correct worst performers, reward best practices and ensure that your expensive vehicles driven by your expensive drivers are not using more expensive fuel than needed. Why hesitate? The true cost of idling is not doing anything about it.

Get started with telematics today and reduce the costs of idling. Click here to watch a free, three-minute on the power of Omnitracs Roadnet Telematics.