Idle Cash

April 1, 2005
Idling would be a smart thing to do if fuel was cheap and in dependable and endless supply, if diesel emissions were good for people and good for the environment, and if truck engines were so quiet you had to strain to hear one running. But none of these things are true and idling has become a national concern. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have statewide idling laws, ten others have

Idling would be a smart thing to do if fuel was cheap and in dependable and endless supply, if diesel emissions were good for people and good for the environment, and if truck engines were so quiet you had to strain to hear one running. But none of these things are true and idling has become a national concern. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have statewide idling laws, ten others have regional and/or municipal idling restrictions and new regulations are being implemented almost every month. What's more, enforcement of idling limits is on the rise as are the accompanying fines and other penalties.

For truck fleets, however, there is a positive side to the idle reduction issue — cost savings. According to several studies, longhaul trucks in the U.S. waste a total of 838-million gallons of diesel each year going nowhere. That equates to an average of 1,860 hours of idling per truck per year for most longhaul carriers and as many gallons of fuel. With the cost of diesel hovering around $2 per gallon, it is easy to do the math. Even without factoring in maintenance and engine wear due to idling, the figures are persuasive.

Today, a number of programs designed to provide financial incentives for idle reduction can make breaking the idling habit even more rewarding for carriers and owner-operators, but see for yourself. Idle reduction may be like a breath of fresh air for your company and your drivers.

Carl Moyer program

Since 1998, the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program has provided grants to encourage the owners of heavy-duty vehicles to go beyond regulatory requirements by retro-fitting, re-powering or replacing their engines with newer and cleaner ones.

Funding for the installation of approved onboard idle reduction equipment is also available now through the Carl Moyer Program, which offers fleets up to $1,600 per vehicle toward the installation of an approved auxiliary power unit. If the device happens to be a high technology system such as a fuel cell auxiliary power unit, then the subsidy jumps to $3,100 per truck, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency's Air Resources Board (CARB), which administers the program through its local Air Districts.

Thanks to legislative action last year, the Carl Moyer Program is assured of funding for the next ten years, with a budget of up to $140 million per year for incentives, according to a CARB spokesperson. “The continuous funding came as a result of the program's success in the past and recognition of the seriousness of the problem,” he noted.

There are a few reasonable strings attached. The main requirements are that the device be certified by the State of California and used within California for a minimum of 100 hours per year for five years. Go to for more information.


The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) issues biannual solicitations to fund transportation research and development. According to Joseph D. Tario, a project manager with NYSERDA, their solicitations in the past have helped fund the first commercial shorepower facility (in Wilton, NY), the first two IdleAire advanced truck stop electrification installations at a rest stop, a ten-truck New York fleet demonstration of the Caterpillar MorElectric Truck and the establishment of Shurepower LLC, a provider of commercial shorepower systems, to name a few projects.

NYSERDA recently published a new Program Opportunity Notice calling for proposals “to support the development, demonstration and commercialization of innovative transportation products and systems.” Two rounds of proposals are scheduled under this program, the first with a due date of April 19, 2005 and the second due on October 5, 2005. Total available NYSERDA funding is $2,500,000. All or none of the funds could be allocated in either round. “All NYSERDA projects focus on new technology,” notes Tario, “but for truck fleets interested in participating in research projects, in something innovative, there are often opportunities to be involved.”

Like all funding programs, NYSERDA has specific eligibility guidelines, including a requirement that the person or group making the proposal (or others) contribute co-funding in the form of cash, labor or other resources to the project. For more information, go to

Low-cost APU loans & tax credits

Small fleets and owner-operators running up and down the I-5 corridor have a new supporter in Oregon, the Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority (LRAPA). According to Sharon Banks, manager of air quality and planning for the agency, the LRAPA has launched a pilot program designed to promote the use of auxiliary power units (APUs) on trucks equipped with sleepers that operate primarily along I-5. The lease-to-own program gives qualifying drivers a choice of five different APUs, which they can finance and install through LRAPA.

“We have about $860,000 available through this program,” Banks says. “Drivers make low monthly payments, typically over a period of 60 months. Payments range from a low of about $114 per month to a high of about $176, depending upon the APU they select and the APU installation costs for their particular truck. All the installation work is done at various facilities here in Oregon. Some drivers tell us they can make most of their lease payment with the money they save by reducing idling, which reduces their fuel and maintenance costs.

“We are also encouraging drivers to add a shorepower connection package at the same time,” she continues. “We have them available for as little as $200, so it adds only about $2.00 more to the monthly payment, but it enables drivers to take advantage of shorepower where it is available.”

APUs from five suppliers are offered through the LRAPA program, including Auxiliary Power Dynamics, Idling Solutions, Pony Pack, Rig Master and Teleflex Canada. More information and an application form are available online at or by calling Gordon Griffin at LRAPA: 541-736-1056 ex. 221.

Support for fleets and drivers implementing idle reduction solutions is also available on the state level in Oregon in the form of tax credits. Administered by Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Clean Diesel Pollution Control Tax Credit program, which began in 2000, offers a 35% credit against Oregon State income taxes to companies that purchase and install diesel emissions control equipment, including approved idle reduction solutions.

The credit may include both equipment purchase and installation costs, but not on-going expenses like fuel or fuel additives. Application fees are just 1% of the project cost, according to DEQ, and more than one engine or vehicle can be on a single application.

There are some other restrictions and requirements, including the documentation of expenditures and the proportion of the time the vehicle operates in Oregon. For more information, call the Tax Credit Program Management Services office at 503-229-6878, or go to

Small business advantage program

Some companies based in Pennsylvania may be eligible for up to $7,500 in matching funds to help support the purchase and installation of idle reduction solutions through a state-funded program called the Small Business Advantage Program.

Administered by the Office of Energy and Technology Development, the program was originally written with other energy-efficient, pollution control systems in mind, according to program administrators, but certain auxiliary power systems and other idle-reduction solutions also fit the eligibility criteria.

Last year, the program had $1-million in funding from the state, administrators note, and they have requested funding at the same level again when the program is up for refunding and reloading in July 2005, the start of their new fiscal year.

At this point, administrators say that they are not sure about funding levels or what exact form the program will take, but updated information will be posted on the program's website as it is available later this spring or summer.

Go to and do a keyword search under “sbadvantage” for updates. Grant applications will also be available online later in the year if funding occurs as anticipated.


The current national interest in reducing idling and the long list of programs and projects it is spawning is, in part, being driven by the requirements of the Federal Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. Section 7407), which resulted in clean air goals for America's most polluted areas (dubbed non-attainment areas) and penalties in the form of loss of federal funding for transportation projects for failure to meet those goals. Forty-one counties in Texas are located within a non-attainment area or designated as an affected county.

The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) was established by the Texas legislature in 2001. It includes a number of voluntary financial incentive programs designed to assure that the air in Texas is safe to breathe and that it meets federal Clean Air standards.

One such program, which includes funding for approved idle reduction solutions, is the Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants program (ERIG), administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Applicants are potentially eligible for incentive funding if they operate or plan to operate primarily in one or more of the non-attainment or affected areas. TECQ expects to issue the next request for applications in late 2005. For more information, call 800-919-TERP or go to

In March, the Houston-Galveston Area Regional Council announced that it would be calling for emissions reduction project proposals in two rounds, one opening on March 7, 2005 and the second on April 11, 2005. Fleets ready to implement approved idle reduction solutions are eligible to apply for a portion of the $35 million total in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program funds and/or an additional $4-million to $5-million in funding available from TERP. Each program has different requirements.

“The $35 million in CMAQ funding must be under contract by the end of the year, or we lose it,” says Shelley Whitworth, program manager for the Houston-Galveston Area Regional Council. As is the case with many programs, there are several funding categories, one of which is idle reduction.

There are requirements for eligibility. Most importantly for fleets, on-road vehicles must travel a minimum of 12,000 miles annually in the Houston-Galveston ozone non-attainment area and remain in the fleet for five years. For more information, contact Jason Salinas at 713-993-4559 or [email protected], or visit


In January of 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a partnership venture between shippers, carriers, logistics companies and the EPA that is designed to help reduce diesel emissions by reducing fuel consumption — voluntarily rather than through regulation. This unique program is dubbed SmartWay, and it is intended to deliver financial as well as environmental benefits to participants.

“To become a SmartWay partner, shippers have to do at least fifty percent of their business with SmartWay carriers,” explains Suzanne Rudzinski, communications director for the program. “Carriers can become SmartWay partners by integrating various strategies into their operations to reduce fuel usage, such as reducing idling, spec'ing light-weight components and so on, and they don't have to do it all at once,” she says. “They can make a commitment to achieve their environmental goals over time and get partial points toward SmartWay certification as they move through the process.

“Fleets can also achieve certification in a variety of ways, by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40%, for example, or by making a percentage improvement in overall emissions over a period of three years,” Rudzinski adds. “Carriers have six months after joining the SmartWay program to decide what they'd like to do and submit their plan.”

To help fleets evaluate what would happen in terms of costs and emissions if they make certain changes, the EPA has developed a software decision support tool that is free to carriers when they join the program, according to Rudzinski. “The tool is designed to help fleets see which emission-reduction strategies they can afford, which are compatible with their business plan, and which net what results in terms of fuel savings and cost reductions,” she offers. “Once carriers are in the program, this tool is also used for reporting results to us annually.”

A core group of charter carriers and shippers worked with the EPA to develop SmartWay, including Schneider National, FedEx, UPS, Coca-Cola and a dozen others. Today the program has grown to more than 120 partners, adding carriers such as Contract Freighters, Inc. (CFI), Wausau Carriers, Shaw Transport and Watkins Motor Lines and shippers such as IKEA, Wal-Mart and Frito Lay, and it is still growing, according to Rudzinski.

“SmartWay is not just for big fleets,” Rudzinski stresses. “It is for one-truck operators up to the biggest fleets and everyone in between. Anyone can benefit. We believe we can help most trucking operations save at least 7% on fuel through SmartWay.

The National Transportation Idle-Free corridors program is also part of SmartWay. It was developed to “zero-out all the idling that is taking place at truck stops, rest areas, parking lots, warehouse facilities — everything from vehicles to locomotives,” according to Rudzinski.

“The focus in this program is really on deployment,” she adds. “We are working very aggressively to put together people from fleets, manufacturing, truck stops, suppliers and this agency to identify logical places to begin building out the Idle-Free Corridor. The goal in the case of trucking is to have entire highway corridors where truck stop electrification is available all along the way. Last year, we issued about $1 million in grants to get the Idle-Free corridors program started. That $1million leveraged about $8 million in additional funding.”

The EPA is also in the process of preparing a new grant solicitation, Rudzinski notes, which will offer a total of $5 million in funding for various idle reduction initiatives, from truck stop and rest area electrification to the installation of onboard idle reduction solutions, such as auxiliary power systems. According to Rudzinski, the EPA hopes to announce this solicitation sometime this April. To learn more about the SmartWay program, go to

There are a number of other federal programs that provide funding for idle reduction and other fuel efficient/lower emissions options for the trucking industry, such as alternative-fuel vehicles, hybrids, exhaust aftertreatment systems and engine retrofit or replacement. Some are administered by the Dept. of Transportation, some by the Dept. of Energy or other federal entities.

In virtually all cases, this funding is awarded to states, which in turn create their own programs for awarding those dollars to the companies and groups that will use the money for actual projects. Each federal funding source typically has its own set of guidelines that the states and end-recipients must abide by.

As this article was being written, the House Transportation Committee had just unanimously approved a $284-billion bill to provide highway funding through 2009, including for the federal grant programs. It is worth knowing about some of these funding sources and how they work:

The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program, for example, is managed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the Dept. of Transportation (DOT). Its purpose is to fund projects and programs to reduce transportation-related emissions in air quality non-attainment and maintenance areas where pollution levels are above national limits. Typically, cities or states are granted CMAQ budgets to help fund projects in their area, and agencies or groups are often hired by the state or city to actually manage and administer the grant funds.

Idle reduction devices are eligible for funding, according to the FHWA: “Programs providing auxiliary power units in heavy-diesel trucks to reduce extended idling can be deemed eligible if there is some assurance that the vehicle's range of operation will be predominantly in the non-attainment or maintenance area” See for more information.

Through the EPA's SmartWay web site, you can find a listing of other idle reduction funding sources ( Like CMAQ, most of these grant funding to individual states for eligible programs and the states handle the actual project review, selection and funding process. Here are a few of the programs of interest to truck fleets:

  • The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) is a DOT-administered program designed to allow DOT to provide direct assistance to sponsors of major transportation projects. (

  • The Clean Cities Program is intended to support the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles and build supporting infrastructure, including idle reduction technology. (

  • The Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program supports the voluntary retrofitting of older heavy-duty diesel engines and includes funding for idle reduction technologies, according to EPA. (

Energy efficient rebate program

On February 2, 2005, Canada's Commercial Transportation Energy Efficient Rebate program was extended until March 31, 2006. Launched in 2003, the voluntary program is designed to provide commercial truck fleets and owner-operators with rebates for installing approved idle-reduction equipment. It is administered by Natural Resources Canada's FleetSmart, in cooperation with various equipment suppliers, to assist fleets in reducing their fuel usage.

Under the rebate program, Canadian fleets can receive 19% off the unit price of approved heaters, air-conditioning units, and auxiliary power systems designed to replace engine idling. The maximum rebate for an APU is $1,400 and the maximum for heater and A/C systems is $350. While the program is for Canadian companies, the equipment may be sourced from outside Canada. For more information, go to

Idling and the alternatives

On-board Services Advantages Disadvantages Idling All No investment High emissions, noise, fuel use Automatic start-stop All, intermittently Low cost Noisy, minimal benefit in winter APU or similar device All Anywhere, anytime Higher cost and additional weight Truck stop electrification All Local emission reductions, quiet Requires equipped location, cost Heater Heating Low cost and weight Not full service Air conditioner Cooling Low cost Not full service, battery may be heavy Source: Center for Transportation Research


By the time this article is in print, there will very likely be other new idle-reduction programs and incentives introduced, as well as other regulations and restrictions in place. Eliminating unnecessary idling is an idea that is rapidly gaining momentum in the U. S. and Canada and elsewhere in the world.

While dealing with regulations is a familiar exercise for the trucking industry, exploring voluntary incentive programs intended to facilitate, recognize and reward fleets for doing the right thing, is an entirely new matter. With any luck, it will also be hugely successful — saving fleets money, reducing the nation's dependence on foreign fuel and improving air quality all at once. If successful, it might even usher in a new era of more voluntary versus mandated “regulation” of trucks and trucking.

View more Fleet Owner news relating to idle reduction, fuel conservation, fuel economy and diesel fuel prices.

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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