In previous posts, including our last article detailing Telematics for Greener Fleets, idling featured as one topic of discussion. While it may seem harmless, idling actually effects vehicles in many different ways that cumulatively cause it to be an area of focus for improvement. These different ways include fuel loss, impact on environment, vehicle health and maintenance, and even infractions and interruption of business.
First, though, what exactly qualifies as idling, and when is it necessary?
What is Idling
Simply put, idling is when the vehicle is stopped but the engine is still running. While that seems easy to cut out, idling occurs all the time. I know personally, I am victim to idling in front of my house after a long day to scroll through my phone for a bit before going inside. Other situations occur frequently too. Stepping into the shoes of a fleet driver, imagine being hundreds of miles away from home and needing lunch. Eating in the car and listening to the radio while doing so seems like a great option. Or imagine finally completing a long drive and making it to the destination but needing to wait for people to receive the shipment. Idling can happen in that situation without the driver even consciously knowing. Other situations, though, necessitate idling. In regions where winter hits hard, everyone sacrifices some idling so that they can warm their vehicle to a level that is adequate for driving in.
But overall, most situations in idling can be reduced and minimized. Reducing idling in fleets can help in numerous categories that likewise help a fleet’s bottom line.
Benefits of Idling Reduction
The biggest and easiest to identify benefit of reducing idling comes with fuel savings. Fleets, and even everyday drivers, always try to maximize their fuel efficiency when driving. Idling is the complete opposite of that. Idling essentially equals 0 miles per gallon. Burning fuel and not progressing anywhere means that that fuel is wasted, and those fuel costs are sunk. Idling can waste between a quarter to half a gallon of fuel per hour, which adds up very quickly when thinking of all the different situations in which idling comes about. Argonne National Laboratory estimates that over 1 billion gallons of fuel are burned by idling trucks every year. Reducing idling whenever possible can help save significant costs.
As discussed in our last post, idling also has costly environmental impacts. Greenhouse gases are emitted whenever fuel is consumed, and with idling it is no different. Organizations and fleets everywhere are constantly working on building a greener future, with fuel efficiency and alternatives at the forefront. However, no matter how efficient a vehicle is when driving, idling will always have 0 miles per gallon. So, by minimizing idle time in the vehicle, fleets can work towards not only saving on fuel costs, but also reducing their carbon footprint.
Idling also increases the wear and tear on a vehicle. Even though it seems safe—the vehicle is not moving nor going through bumps or harsh brakes and turns—the engine still churns while the vehicle sits idle. In fact, idling for one hour equates to approximately 80 miles of engine wear and tear. In terms of vehicle health, cutting out unnecessary wear and tear is vital and can extend the lifetime of fleet vehicles significantly. Even more, since idling is often not a planned activity, maintenance can become more frequent than forecasted, which can cause delays in shipments and other hurdles. For fleet managers, the benefit of reduced maintenance and better vehicle health alone makes active efforts to reduce idle time worthwhile.
Infraction and Business Interruption
Some areas and communities have laws and rules in place to eliminate idling. When fleets idle in those regions, they become at risk to receiving unnecessary infractions and fines. On a similar note, for construction and other service companies, idling while conducting the service can cause complaints from neighbors or other people close to the area, as idling is often loud. For companies like these, having high customer satisfaction is very important, especially when business can be gained from people seeing good work being done and wanting it for themselves.
How can Telematics Help
Thanks to innovative telematics solutions, such as Positioning Universal’s FT7500 gateway solution, idling can now be tracked real-time, and alerts provided when the idling is done. Identifying when idling is occurring is the first, and hardest step in minimizing idling, and telematics solutions solve that. By identifying when the idling occurs, fleet managers can both solve the short-term issues and likewise build long term solutions. Short term, with the real-time updates, managers can simply contact their driver to shut off the vehicle. But also, by identifying when it occurs, managers can build long term solutions to the present problems. For example, say it is found most drivers idle between drop offs of cargo as they wait with the radio on in the truck. By identifying the source of the issue, managers can build alternatives for drivers while they wait, and work with the cargo receiving teams to respond quicker when the driver arrives. Overall, through the power of telematics, fleet managers can be better connected to the driver and work to build more sustainable and cost-effective solutions for their fleet.