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Idle Time Truly a Waste for Truckers: John Schultz

By John Schultz Contributing Editor, Logistics Management Magazine

Originally posted on Gerson Lehrman Group website

November 2, 2006


Diesel emissions are under assault from various jurisdictions, and this is having a direct effect on the trucking industry.

This editorial strongly favors legislation that would require truckers to only run their engines while idling at truck stops for five minutes every hour. When temperatures are above 80 or under 40 Fahrenheit, slightly longer times would be allowed to cool and heat the cabs of trucks.

Although there is no federal rule in the works on this, many localities and states are taking the first steps to limit diesel exhaust, which studies are showing is a known carcinogen.


Buddha said, “To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.”

He might as well have been a trucking company executive.  Truckers are under slight but growing pressure to limit the amount of time they are allowed to “idle” at truck stops.

California is in the forefront of this. But Pennsylvania, as this editorial from the newspaper of the capital of that state, is also getting into the act.

While this may be a small thing to non-truckers, it directly affects the quality of life of truck drivers, which increasingly are in short supply. They like to run their trucks on idle while at truck stops to heat and cool their cabs, run devices like laptop computers and televisions, and also in-cab appliances such as microwaves.

Any attempt to limit idling will irritate drivers. And that might exacerbate the driver shortage, at least to a small degree.

Fortunately, there is technology on the market that will allow a small amount of power to a truck even while the engine is turned off. This is a sensible alternative, and one who’s time seems to have come. There are various small companies marketing these devices to individual drivers. But until some large fleets such as J.B. Hunt or Schneider National — each with more than 10,000 company drivers — comes on board and buys them, they probably will not be in common usage.

That’s a shame. Air quality affects all of us. Even in days of cheap fuel, having a truck idle for eight hours was a supreme waste of energy. At $2.50 a gallon diesel, it’s a costly exuberance.

The trucking lobby, both in Washington and around the nation in state trucking associations, has been silent so far on this. That’s to be expected. They really aren’t in the forefront of anything that is cutting edge. But this is one area that makes sense for companies to make a breakthrough statement for cleaner air.

Buddha would be proud.


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