Aggressive enforcement of tough new anti-idling laws will affect your business

Last August, a task force from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection made a 20-county sweep through the state. Its purpose? Locate and fine the drivers of Class 6 to 8, diesel-powered trucks idling for longer than three minutes at a time. In all, 101 violators were ticketed in the crackdown.

“All 101 drivers will be fined $200 for the first violation,” says department spokeswoman Erin Phalon. If they idle for more than three minutes again and are caught, the next fine will be $400, she adds. And should these unlucky drivers be caught a third and fourth time for this offense, their penalties will jump to $1,000 and $3,000, respectively.

And it’s not just New Jersey: Almost half the states in the United States currently have some anti-idling laws on their books (see chart on page 66) and, given rising concerns over air quality, noise and perceptions of waste, it’s likely others will follow suit. Right now, the Northeast leads the country in anti-idling legislation, but other states, especially areas with air pollution problems, are considering adding similar legislation to their books. In most cases, enforcement starts with a warning. But in worst-case scenarios, drivers can find themselves hit with a $100,000 fine and a year in jail.

Anti-idling laws aren’t new: The New York state law that limits idling to five minutes, for example, has been on the books since 1996. But enforcement has been lax. That is changing as cities and states scramble for federal clean air dollars and residents near truck stops and terminals clamor for cleaner air and less noise. In fact, more regulations are on the way in California and smog-laden cities like Houston. Diesel prices and maintenance costs are forcing trucking companies to jump on the bandwagon, limiting the time drivers can idle, often without options like gen sets, inverters, electric climate systems or auxiliary power units. For truck owners and drivers, the days of idling are numbered.

Idling wastes fuel, money and uptime
Why do your drivers idle their trucks? Long-haul truckers have some compelling reasons to do so: Keeping warm or cool at night sleeping in a truckstop parking lot, for example, or making sure the food in the sleeper’s refrigerator stays cold when the truck is parked.

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But in most construction applications, there are rarely good reasons for letting the engine idle for extended periods of time. Keeping a cab warm or cool while unloading equipment or supplies is probably the most viable reason drivers give for justifying the practice. But with diesel fuel prices hovering around $2.20 a gallon on average, idling doesn’t make good business sense – law enforcement issues aside.

The EPA estimates maintenance and engine wear costs from idling trucks runs up an additional $1.13 bill per truck per day. Engine makers say idling big truck engines is the least efficient way to run them. A truck at highway speeds is running hot enough to work optimally and has enough cooling capacity. Damage occurs on a number of levels when the truck engine idles:

· The engine’s combustion chamber isn’t hot enough, so pistons don’t fit tight enough, resulting in oil blow-by, deposits on the piston and in the combustion chamber.

· Fuel doesn’t burn hot enough, leaving more diesel mixed in with oil, which reduces the life cycle of the oil and leads to a loss of viscosity.

· Heat builds unevenly, leaving components exposed to high temperatures on one side and cold temperatures on the other and leading to premature failure.

· Fans run at idle to cool the engine, reducing their lifecycle.

Engine oems offer solutions
Cummins has taken advantage of its sophisticated engine management software to allow you to tailor idling characteristics to meet your work demands. “You can program a Cummins engine to shut down at a preselected time if there’s been no vehicle activity,” explains Lou Wenzler, manager, heavy-duty truck sales and support. “You can program it, for example, to idle at 600 rpm for a duration of five minutes. When that time limit is reached, the engine will automatically shut down.”

But what if your truck is working – running a PTO, for example? “Within that idle shut down feature, we also have a programmable load factor command,” says Wenzler. “So even though the RPMs might be low, if there’s a preset load on the engine, the computer will keep it running and working for you.”

But what about dump trucks lined up waiting to load or unload materials on a hot or cold day? Do your drivers just have to sit in a hot or cold cab and suffer? Caterpillar’s new MorElectric technology is designed to counter these very problems.

“MorElectric – initially designed for long-haul trucks – has some significant advantages for construction trucks too,” says David Orr, MorElectric commercial manager, Caterpillar. MorElectric is an electrically driven cab heating and air conditioning system. “Power for the system is supplied by a belt-driven generator that replaces the alternator on the truck,” Orr explains. And because MorElectric eases power demands on the engine, we’re seeing fuel economy increases of up to 2 percent in long haul applications, and fuel savings of 6 percent from decreased idling.”