January 4, 2023

Millions of vehicles are on the road every day, which most companies view as an indicator of profitability – and in many cases, it is. But what about idling? Vehicle idling occurs when a vehicle is left running unnecessarily while stopped.

Vehicle idling has a direct impact on multiple areas of a trucking company. The most significant impacts of idling are fuel consumption, carbon emissions, company reputation, and drivers’ health. Understanding idling and managing it is a crucial component of your fleet’s operations.

Here’s a breakdown of why idling matters and what you can do to minimize it or avoid it altogether.

Truck Idling and Fuel Consumption: Seeing the Big Picture

Over the last decade, there has been increased awareness of vehicle idling since it can incur significant expenses and increases your maintenance costs for general wear and tear.

Nationally, trucks burn four billion gallons of fuel each year from idling and diesel fuel hovers around ​​$5.33/gallon, which means that over $20 billion dollars are spent on idling each year.

Here are some other important facts:

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

When you break it down to the per truck and delivery level, it’s easy to overlook idling because the costs seem so small. However, all these little things add up. What starts as a few minutes a day turns into hours a year and billions of dollars in wasted fuel.

Top Reasons for Idling

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. However, this is an outdated concept thanks to modern, high-efficiency starters and higher-quality engine designs.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.

Negative Effects of Idling

While you can easily see the direct impact idling has on your fleet, there are also indirect effects to consider. Here are a few:

Idling and Carbon Emissions

Carbon dioxide – a common emission from truck idling – is widely accepted as a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect and climate change. Vehicle idling increases your carbon footprint. Burning fuel unnecessarily uses up natural resources and increases emissions, which negatively affects the environment.

With the focus on government directives and consumer demands to reduce emissions, all companies should focus on eliminating wasteful idling. Federal, state, and local governments are focused on reducing carbon emissions which means, sooner or later, carbon reduction mandates will be here.

Truck Idling and Brand Reputation

It takes years to build a successful brand, but it only takes a few missteps to tarnish it. Your customers care about the environment. Failing to address issues associated with idling 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 their loyalties to a company that gives a better impression about caring for the environment and their health. If your organization isn’t paying attention to details like this, then you’re falling behind.

Employee Health

Additionally, a vehicle left idling has a number of negative health implications for its driver. One of the fundamental components of gasoline is that it contains carcinogens. Also, other chemicals can damage lung tissue, lower the body’s resistance to respiratory infection, and worsen chronic lung diseases like asthma.

Managing the idling habits of drivers not only leads to more efficient fuel use for cost savings and a reduction in vehicle service needs but also leads to a safer working environment for employees and improved air quality.

Use Telematics to Reduce Truck Idling

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

The facts remain. 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. Learn how you can start using telematics from Omnitracs by exploring our solutions or giving us a call.