Excessive engine idling in New York City threatens public health and contributes to environmental problems because laws prohibiting it are rarely enforced, according to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund.
“Every year, unnecessary idling in New York City causes as much smog-forming pollution as nine million large trucks driving from Hunts Point in the Bronx to Staten Island,” the report stated. “To absorb the global warming pollution spewed out by New York City curbside idlers, we would need to plant an area the size of Manhattan with trees every single year.”
The study, “Idling Gets You Nowhere,” offers a number of solutions for fleet managers to reduce idling. According to the report, New York City has had a three-minute idling law on the books for all drivers since 1971, but it has been rarely enforced, leading people to simply ignore the regulations.
The Environmental Defense Fund said it supports a 1-minute allowable idling time while in the city, as well as allow officers to issue two tickets for idling—one to the driver personally and one to the company if the driver is in a company-owned vehicle.
According to the group, anti-idling technologies provide alternatives to fleets in instances when auxiliary power is needed, and help fleets save money in the long run through reduced fuel and maintenance costs, despite requiring an initial investment.
The devices the report recommends include sensors that signal the engine to shut down when in idling conditions; supplementary diesel heat that do not require the engine to burn fuel; electric-powered devices that prewarm the engine when it is started in cold weather; plug-in power systems; battery or electricity-powered auxiliary engines; and generator sets or auxiliary power units (APUs)
“Though anti-idling technologies can achieve long-term cost savings, high upfront costs often deter investment,” the Environmental Defense Fund said. “Improved financing options and tax incentives could help small fleet owners overcome this barrier to installing anti-idling equipment. There are some financing options for anti-idling technology available through federal programs such as the EPA’s SmartWay Partnership and Voluntary Diesel Retrofit program.”
The study noted that fleet managers need to properly educate their drivers about idling, giving them the opportunity to test the equipment before having it installed. In addition, it said that the use of onboard computers makes it easier for fleet managers to record idling time for each individual driver.
Idling vehicles in New York City produce 940 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, 2,200 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds, 24 tons of soot particles and 6,400 tons of carbon monoxide each year, the report said. It also noted that truck pollution concentrations were found to be significantly higher inside the cab than outside, leading to increased health risks for drivers.