Vehicles were designed to move. They can also park, sitting around with engine off and doors locked, quite nicely. It is when cars and trucks are forced to stay in an idle, intermediate state that problems arise.
Idling a motor uses gas, releases greenhouse gasses and other pollutants, and causes engine wear without the truck actually going anywhere. It’s the worst of both worlds. And while occasional, brief idling, such as at a traffic light, is probably unavoidable, a trucking company can significantly reduce its costs and its ecological footprint by keeping idling time to an absolute minimum. And in many jurisdictions, avoiding idling is also the letter of the law—failure to comply sometimes carries fines into the thousands of dollars.
In principle, not idling is simple; the driver simply turns the engine off. The problem is that the vehicle’s heating and cooling systems and its electrical systems all run off the engine, so if the engine is off, so are they (or the battery is being drained). That is a major problem for truck drivers sleeping in their cabs in winter, for police cars that carry important electronic equipment, and for virtually everyone else who makes their living by driving.
Most anti-idling technology is therefore aimed at providing alternative power sources for the vehicle’s systems, from secondary diesel engines to electric motors to plugs and cables designed to tap into shore power. Some shut the engine off and turn it on again as needed in order to conserve battery power and these have the advantage of preventing excessive idling during unexpectedly long traffic jams or similar events.
Fleets that embrace anti-idling technologies typically find the purchases pay for themselves very quickly through the savings in fuel and engine wear.
Yet the most important anti-idling “device” is still the driver, because he or she can turn the engine off. Proper training can do a lot to persuade drivers to avoid idling, but since leaving the engine running is often the most convenient course, it is difficult to make an anti-idling policy stick without any form of supervision and enforcement.
Fleet management software not only allows fleet managers to track where vehicles are and how they are moving, it also makes it possible to see which vehicles are at idle for how long. Managers can arrange to receive alerts for excessive idling or periodic reports on which vehicles idle how much. They can then use this information to identify which drivers have a problem with idling so they can initiate conversations about why. It is possible the drivers in question have some kind of issue that appropriate anti-idling technology can resolve.
These conversations also quickly pay for themselves.