How To Reduce Idling While Saving Fuel
Everyone’s been guilty of it: You’re parked for a short rest and, to ward off the blazing heat or frigid cold, you leave the engine idling to keep the cabin comfortable. This has long been a tricky topic for fleet owners to tackle because, on one hand, they need to keep their drivers safe and happy, but — on the other — they have to manage fuel consumption for the sake of good financials and reducing pollution.
While a common practice, it’s no secret that unnecessary idling wastes fuel and even increases the maintenance costs associated with a vehicle. Fortunately, many new technologies can be used to help reduce fuel costs and keep drivers comfortable all at the same time.
Why Is Idling So Bad?
Here are the quick facts offered by the American Trucking Association:
- Idling is more damaging to the engine than starting and stopping it
- Idling can increase maintenance costs by about $2k per truck each year while shortening the engine’s lifespan
- Idling causes double the wear and tear to internal parts than driving at an average speed
On top of all of this, “excessive” idling is actually illegal in most jurisdictions.
What Can Be Done to Reduce Idling?
Trimming down idle times is entirely possible through policies and tech and, if you invest in the right combination of tech, you’ll be able to do it without causing discomfort or dissatisfaction amongst your drivers. Plus, this is a move that won’t just save you money, but one that will also boost your brand thanks to better environmental practices. At least, that’s what the North American Council on Freight Efficiency (NACFE) says fleet owners can expect when they invest in these idle-reduction technologies.
“By investing in technologies and practices, fleets can reduce idle to well below 20%. The challenge is figuring out which set of technologies are best for you and being diligent in making it work,” said the executive director of NACFE, Mike Roeth.
In 2017 alone, fleets in the United States consumed over 1 billion gallons of diesel for idling alone. That’s around 8% of all the fuel burned that year, and that represents major costs and major wear-and-tear on engines. If the US fleets could reduce idling by just 10%, that saves about 1% in fuel economy, or up to $700 in savings based on $3/gallon for diesel and a truck’s rate of 100,000 miles annually. For those who drive more often, the savings only increase.
In the report NACFE released recently, they took a deep-dive into potential tech to reduce idling, like diesel APUs, battery HVAC systems, fuel-operated headers, automatic start/stop systems for engines, and a change in driver behaviors. The fact is, these are all solutions to idling, but not just one will do. To be effective, it’s going to take implementing a combination of these technologies alongside an investment in driver education.
It may also take some upgrades to the cabs themselves, like better insulation and the use of a light-colored paint so they don’t absorb heat during the summer. For trucks that primarily operate in cold weather, darker colored paint may be the better solution to help attract heat.
Combining The Right Technologies
Ultimately, NACFE found that the most effective way to reduce idling for a fleet is to combine complementary tech. They determined the four best foundation technologies to be:
- Driver controls and fuel-operated heaters; or
- Diesel APU and fuel-operated heaters; or
- Battery HVAC and fuel-operated heaters; or
- An automatic engine start/stop system
As a fleet owner, you should consider trying one of these combinations to start off the idle-reduction initiative. Each one has pros and cons, of course, so while you’ll need to do your research, NACFE asserts that many technologies are widely available and proven in the long-term.
Even still, adoption rates have been fairly low in the past few years, which has left many industry leaders asking: What are fleet owners waiting for? The potential cost savings and even functional extension of trucks is well worth the up-front investment in these technologies, and since the right combination can even improve driver satisfaction and help brands with their “green” image, there’s really no better time to start looking into these solutions.