HALIFAX, N.S. – By his own admission, Ron Zima was a “typical Canadian idler”, contributing to poor air quality wherever he drove.
But it didn’t really hit home until he started noticing cars idling in the parking lot of his children’s elementary school in 2006, and realized how much vehicle exhaust was affecting the health of kids.
That was when Zima decided to do something about it.
The former radio and TV host quickly teamed up with the school and concerned parents to launch the Children’s Clean Air Network with the slogan “Idle free for our kids.”
Zima has been championing the cause of clean air since then, helping fleets and individuals reduce the use of fuel and emissions.
Within two years of launching the initiative, Zima said, he helped reduce idling at a major tour company in Atlantic Canada by 80%.
When he was building the program, people started calling him the “Idle-Free Guy”.
“Naturally, the name stuck,” said Zima.
“It is now part of our branding and a registered trademark.”
The campaign is now run by Zima’s GoGreen Communications, an enterprise he says is dedicated to helping fleets cut costs via idle reduction.
It offers a certification program focused on behavioral modification training.
“This program is geared for anybody that has the incorrect idling beliefs and behavior,” Zima told trucknews.com, adding that his mission is to inspire and transform.
The wrong idling beliefs include:
- Idling is more efficient and uses less fuel than turning off and on;
- Idling does not damage the engine;
- It is hard to restart the vehicle; and
- Idling warms up the engine in cold weather.
“We are trying to engage the drivers as opposed to carrying the stick,” he said.
“When drivers understand, and they buy-in on this, they reduce their idling significantly.”
Among those idle-free certified is trucking safety consultant Chris Harris of Safety Dawg.
Zima said the campaign is now gaining significant traction with a lot of interest in the program, and that he is also working with two major utilities in the country.
The training is available through e-learning. Zima said individuals interested in the program can access some of the material free of cost.
Zima said due to rising awareness about climate change, large customers such as major retailers are now demanding data from their trucking supply chain vendors on how they are reducing emissions. That means fleets have to find ways of cutting their carbon footprint, he said.
The other reason fleets are interested in the program is because of driver engagement and retention.
“Large trucking companies have told us that their green fleet leadership is key to attracting millennials and retaining socially conscious drivers,” Zima said.
Cost of idling
Of course, idling is a huge drag on the environment and health.
A U.S. study that looked at air pollution inside the cabs of idling trucks found that the levels exceeded the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Idling costs money too. A lot of it.
In the U.S. alone, rest-period truck idling consumes up to 1 billion gallons of fuel annually at a cost of $3 billion, according to the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Ill. That does not include the cost of engine wear and tear.
In the U.S. and Canada, the annual cost of idling all types of vehicles when parked is estimated at $22 billion.
Numerous idle-reduction solutions for trucks have emerged over the past few years. They include onboard diesel and battery units, engine start/stop systems and diesel heaters.
“By investing in idle-reduction technologies, a fleet can save 1,800 gallons of fuel per truck per year,” the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) said in a report published in July.
“If we extrapolate that over 400,000 trucks that may have a need to idle, that is a little over 700 million gallons of fuel,” NACFE said.
But it is the driver who can ultimately make a difference, Zima said.
“For a big chunk of this idling, it is human behavior and avoidable… The most cost-effective solution out there is driver engagement and training, and that’s what we’re providing.”
He believes idling can be cut by 80% through such engagement.
And Zima’s message to drivers: Flip the switch.
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