Truck News


Working to avoid the idle

OTTAWA, Ont. - Picture it, you're ready to clamber into your bunk for the night, you fire up your new auxiliary heater and you just start to doze off when a couple of rigs roll up beside you and end u...

OTTAWA, Ont. – Picture it, you’re ready to clamber into your bunk for the night, you fire up your new auxiliary heater and you just start to doze off when a couple of rigs roll up beside you and end up idling all night.

Most drivers will tell you they can sleep through the sound of their own truck idling, but the truck next to them – well that’s another story.

To make matters worse, have you ever considered the quality of the air above the truck stop where you’ve pulled over to rest? Think about the concentration of exhaust systems at a truck stop – hundreds of trucks pulling in and out – many of them idling for hours over the course of a day.

The sum total of fuel wasted is just incredible. And as every trucker should know by now wasted fuel is wasted money. And that’s to say nothing of the emissions they churn out, which many experts insist contribute to the greenhouse gas problem.

Obviously there are places where idling is a way of life – especially among the hearty folks running the North. As well, there are certain applications, particularly trucks using power take-off units to run truck-mounted equipment, where idling is the most efficient game in town.

However, a significant amount of excessive idling could potentially be avoided if truck stops were to introduce voluntary quiet/no idling zones where vehicles would park idle-free for the duration of their stay at the facility.

It’s a balloon being floated by the FleetSmart group – part of Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency. The idea is truck stops could highlight a portion of their parking spaces as idle-free, where truckers who use an auxiliary heater could park and expect a certain amount of peace and quiet.

Given the shortage of adequate truck parking in this country, everything would need to work on a voluntary basis – perhaps a trucker who “keeps the peace” as it were, could be treated to a coffee in the morning.

Certainly no trucker could ever be asked to leave or even forced to shut down if they refused to comply, but the idea is one that deserves some consideration.

Air to compare

“I think there should be no idle zones for the simple reason that some trucks are louder than others,” says Norman Joly, an owner/op out of Mirabel, Que. This trucker’s ’98 Kenworth is contracted to Formula Transit and he can generally be found pulling steel or lumber depending on the day.

“Trucks that don’t idle properly can cause added pollution and let off fumes that can give you a headache,” he adds.

FleetSmart has developed a baseline of emissions at truck stops to better understand this cumulative effect over an entire parking lot filled to varying capacities.

The estimated diesel fuel spent by idling rigs at any given truck stop may vary from 93,121 to 232,802 litres per month, which translates into 1,117,450 to 2,793,625 per year, depending on the size of the stop.

This translates into as much as $135,258 per month in the case of a facility with about 100 parking spots and up to $1,623,096 per year for a stop with about 250 spots.

While that may sound like a lot of revenue to give up, the fact is air quality around truck stops isn’t the best and if the industry doesn’t take a proactive approach, Kyoto may bring with it forced restrictions that cost even more.

When you think in terms of air contaminants, these idling trucks generate about 3.7 to 9.3 tonnes of volatile organic compound (VOC), 27.9 to 69.8 tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO), 16.7 to 41.8 tonnes of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 0.8 to 1.9 particulate matter (PM10) per truck stop per year.

While across much of the country, truckers have enjoyed an unseasonably warm winter, emissions levels for the season still tend to creep up because truck drivers have to heat their cabs much longer and more frequently. This can result in levels twice as high as the average.

When you’re driving, you quickly leave your emissions behind. But what are the long-term effects of constantly intoxicating yourself with these pollutants?

Numerous studies, although hotly-contested around the industry, have linked PM to aggravated cardiac and respiratory (heart and lung) diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and to various forms of heart disease.

NOx, VOC and PM are the main ingredients in smog, which is something currently under review by a number of experts.

Growing problem

Idling in a truck stop also generates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), linked by some scientists to climate change.

These idling trucks can emit about 3,081 to 7,703 tonnes of GHG emissions per truck stop per year.

What do several thousand tonnes of GHGs look like? Imagine 1.1 to 2.7 times the volume of Toronto’s SkyDome and that will give you an idea of the size.

Idling reduction scenarios

To see the impact of reducing idling in truck stops, FleetSmart has looked at a few scenarios.

The federally-funded group assessed the impact of the introduction of quiet idle-free zones and – depending on the truck stop size – a reduction of 10 per cent in idling may save up to 23,280 litres of diesel per month per stop.

At the same time, reducing idle time by 50 per cent may save up to 116,401 litres of fuel.

This translates into savings for truckers and the fleets they work for to the tune of $13,000 to $67,629 per truck stop per month.

Fortunately it isn’t exactly a zero-sum equation facing truck stop owners.

Think of the owner/operator who saves money on fuel.

Now they’ve got more cash to spend on food and other consumables – these sorts of items generally carry higher margins for the stop owner.

At this point it becomes a win-win-win situation: the owner of the service station still enjoys healthy profits while his customers save on their fuel bills and all the while emissions are reduced.

Many truck stop service centers pride themselves on providing drivers with comfortable surroundings, clean showers, nutritious meals, exercise equipment and expanded services able to meet the ever changing needs of the industry.

It seems like a natural step to extend this to include a quiet place for truckers to rest and enjoy a healthy dose of fresh air.

Sound off

What do you think? We’d like to know. If you would like to be heard on the issue of creating no idle zones, drop us a line at: “No idle,” c/o Truck News, 1450 Don Mills Rd., Don Mills, Ont., M3B 2X7.

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