What is vehicle idling and why does it matter?

Posted 8 Jul 2024

Commercial vehicle idling is a major headache for fleet managers across all industries. Leaving engines running when vehicles are stationary leads to fuel bills skyrocketing, increased maintenance costs, and a hefty environmental footprint. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of this problem and explore some innovative solutions to help you tackle it head-on.

Excessive idling: a costly habit draining your fleet

Simply put, vehicle idling is when the engine is running, but the vehicle isn’t moving, something we’ve all been guilty of – waiting for somebody in the shop or quickly running into the office to grab something you forgot. During these moments, the engine is still burning fuel and emitting emissions, even though you’re not going anywhere.

It might seem harmless, but idling can waste a lot of fuel and contribute to unnecessary pollution.

“Idle time represents one of the biggest inefficiencies in fleet management, costing the industry billions annually in wasted fuel and maintenance expenses. Implementing idle reduction strategies can significantly improve a fleet’s bottom line.” Geotab

Sometimes, it is unavoidable,  for instance when trucks need to warm up in cold conditions or when stationary vehicles must run equipment like refrigeration units. Emergency vehicles also remain idle to ensure they are ready for immediate response. This is known as operational idling.

Why we should we eliminate vehicle idling

Vehicle idling poses several significant concerns, including financial implications, environmental impact, reduced vehicle lifespan, and health risks for individuals and communities.

Each of these aspects highlights the importance of addressing this issue proactively. Let’s explore these topics in more detail.

The financial costs

For commercial fleets, often consisting of large numbers of vehicles, this can result in substantial fuel costs. Studies have shown that idling can use up to half a gallon of fuel per hour for light-duty vehicles and even more for heavy-duty trucks.

Idling also contributes to increased wear and tear on vehicle engines and components, necessitating more frequent and costly maintenance.

As you can imagine, the cumulative impact of these costs can escalate rapidly for companies managing large fleets of vehicles.

“For every hour a truck is idled, it costs approximately $2.50 to $4.00 in fuel, maintenance, and operational expenses.”  American Trucking Associations (ATA)

The environmental impact

The environmental impact of idling is a big concern. When vehicles idle, they release pollutants like carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter into the air, which significantly adds to air pollution and climate change.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), vehicle idling pumps out millions of tons of CO2 each year.

For companies aiming to reduce their carbon footprint and meet Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) targets, cutting down on idling is an important step. It’s not just good for the planet— it enhances a company’s reputation and strengthens their position in the eco-conscious market.

Increasing vehicle lifespan

Idling doesn’t just waste fuel; it’s a major culprit in engine wear and tear. This means more frequent, costly repairs and shorter vehicle lifespans. Let’s face it, keeping a fleet on the road is no small feat. Regular maintenance and unexpected breakdowns can really hit your bottom line.

Health implications

Vehicle idling has a significant impact on people’s health and quality of life. When vehicles idle, they release harmful pollutants into the air that can lead to a variety of health issues, particularly for vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and those with existing respiratory problems.

“Air pollution is a national health crisis that contributes to thousands of premature deaths each year. Reducing vehicle emissions is vital to improving the health and quality of life.” Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

By cutting down on idling, we can improve air quality and create a safer, healthier environment for everyone. This is why many countries are implementing laws to reduce vehicle idling and enhance air quality. It’s a vital step toward a healthier, cleaner future that benefits us all.

Are there any vehicle idling laws in place?

Many places have cracked down on idling to improve air quality and public health. The US, especially states like California (California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), New York, and New Jersey, have strict rules, particularly for large trucks. And in the UK and Germany, letting your engine run for more than a few minutes can land you in hot water.

Fleet managers in these areas need to stay on top of these regulations to avoid hefty fines. Keeping tabs on a big fleet can be a tough task without the right tech – that’s where we can help out.

Slash fuel costs and emissions with CameraMatics technology

CameraMatics empowers you to optimize fuel consumption, reduce emissions, and enhance fleet efficiency through precise idling management.

By partnering with Geotab, our platform offers real-time monitoring and comprehensive data analytics, enabling you to pinpoint excessive idling, measure fuel consumption, calculate costs, and assess your environmental impact. By benchmarking your fleet against industry standards, you can identify opportunities for improvement and implement targeted strategies to reduce emissions.

Additionally, our advanced telematics and camera technology provide real-time visibility into vehicle activity, enabling you to identify and address idling incidents promptly. This data-driven approach empowers you to coach drivers, optimize routes, and ultimately reduce fuel consumption and environmental impact.

Environmental and financial gains from cutting vehicle idling

Addressing vehicle idling offers significant environmental and financial benefits for companies. By introducing something like gamification, you can incentivize your drivers to reduce idling times with rewards, leading to reduced fuel use, enhanced efficiency, significant savings, plus a boost in company morale.

Combining this with our driver scoring system, which monitors driving habits like harsh braking and steering, can lead to substantial savings. For instance, McCulla Refrigerated Transport  estimates that installing CameraMatics has saved them around £200K per year across the board.

Beyond financial savings, reducing idling decreases harmful pollutants released into the atmosphere, leading to better air quality and a healthier environment. For companies committed to sustainability, monitoring and reducing vehicle idling can significantly impact scope 1 and scope 3 emissions.

Isn’t it time to embrace a future where sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand? Contact CameraMatics today to get started.