Winter Does Not Have To Mean Idling

Jan. 16, 2015
Don't supsend idle-reduction programs just because it gets cold.

Winter and idling seem to go hand in hand. I was reminded of this recently when I was reading the Chicago Tribune and saw an article titled “No need to idle in cold.” The article talked about the fact that people believe they need to warm up their cars in winter before they drive. It went on to point out that this was a misconception and in fact because of technologies like electronic fuel injectors warming up was unnecessary. The article also pointed out the obvious negatives of idling: wasting fuel and discharging greenhouse gas emissions.

This got me thinking about big truck idling. And yes I understand that trucks and truck operators face different challenges — fuel gelling and keeping driver comfortable during their rest periods — than their car owning counterparts, but that still doesn’t mean idling is the only answer.

Last fall NACFE released its Confidence Report on idle-reduction solutions. Our study team identified nine categories of idle-reduction technology and a total of 19 different specific options. 19 options. There are choices out there; some quite simple like investing in additional cab insulation and training drivers to optimize their idle times. Other solutions are more complex and may require a combination of technologies and practices to achieve the desired results.

 I think the whole process needs to start with setting idle-reduction goals. There is an old saying that if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there. I think the same is true with reducing idling. If you just say you want to do it, you may make small inroads, but if you set an actual goal of what constitutes acceptable idling for your specific operation, you are more likely to make real strides.  As much as I would like to, I can’t tell you what your idling goals should be. Fleet operations vary so much and a fleet operating in Minnesota in the winter has different challenges than a fleet operating in Texas in July.

The point is to start somewhere. Determine what your current idle percentage is, for the different seasons. With today’s telematics devices, that’s a relatively easy thing to do. Then set some specific goals. Large fleets we interviewed for the idle-reduction Confidence Report had goals of under 10% and some said they would like to see their idle percentages under 5%.  Maybe a goal of 20% is a stretch, but achievable with a plan and the desire.

If the whole prospect of setting idle-reduction goals and then determining the best way to reduce your fleet’s idling seems daunting, rely on us. We’ve already done a lot of the work for you by not only looking at these 19 different technologies but also by putting together some complementary idle-reduction technology packages that are based on five anchor technologies and additional technology solutions that enhance their effectiveness. Best of all we have given confidence ratings to each technology that takes into consideration their payback period and how much data is available.

I’ll admit the report is long, but I think once you get into it you’ll find it is time well spent if it helps reduce the 3 billion gallons of diesel fuel that is used by the nation’s sleeper tractor fleets when idling. Even with fuel prices at their current level, that’s a lot of money flying out the tailpipe.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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