The Idling Semi Truck

by Admin on April 18, 2008

 Idling Semi Truck

Driving all day might not seem like a strenuous job, but like all workers, long haul truckers deserve a break. Whether you’re pulling over on the side of the road to take a nap or getting some work done in your cab at a rest stop, you’re likely to leave your engine idling.  

Leaving the vehicle idling might seem like the safest and warmest choice for most semi truck drivers. Drivers choose to leave the engine idling to warm the cabin and engine during colder months, to power electronic devices, and to dissuade would-be vehicle thieves. But some states are now putting limits on this common practice.   

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, idling costs the trucking industry more than $2.5 billion each year, and emits 11 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency has implemented some restrictions when it comes to idling, in addition to offering incentives to companies that avoid idling. The majority of rules and regulations, however, are still being made by state and local governments, which is why it is so important to be aware of these rules when traveling through different localities.  

The National Conference of State Legislatures article Cutting Down on Truck Idling Reduces Lung Disease lists some of these regulations, while the American Transportation Research Institute offers a complete downloadable list. Understanding these regulations is key, especially since they are so different, with some states providing new technology options that reduce idling and others just imposing limits on the practice. 

For example, In Pennsylvania trucks cannot idle for more than five minutes within an hour unless circumstances are beyond the driver’s control, like traffic jams and stopping for repairs, or if dangerously cold weather is imminent.  

In Texas and other states, certain truck stops provide adaptors that not only provide heat or air conditioning for truckers, but also make wireless internet, television, and movies available. These adaptors are available to purchase and run at a low cost. Some of these states also have idling laws, and others only offer the incentives. The EPA also offers incentives in the form of grants to trucking companies, so that they can buy new devices that allow the driver to get proper rest with the key turned to “off.” 

According to The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the National Conference of State Legislatures, rest is the biggest factor when it comes to making decisions about idling. In addition to regulations meant to protect the environment, regulations are also in place to protect the driver. Because drivers must rest for ten hours after each eleven hours shift, and resting in an overly cool or overly warm cab would be both impossible and dangerous, state and local governments must continue to work with trucking companies to come to a solution that benefits everyone. For now, the American Transport Research Institute continues to study new technologies and regulations, and truck companies and government agencies try to offer more incentives to decrease idling. 

Truck drivers don’t have to keep on top of this research, but they should make sure they are aware as regulations and incentives change, so they can avoid fines and reap benefits.

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