"Anything that we can do that takes the amount of fuel that you burn at idle out of the control of the person behind the wheel is what we're looking for." – Dakota County Minnesota Fleet Manager

When Kevin Schlangen, Fleet Manager of Dakota County Minnesota, sought out to source a solution to improve fuel economy for his 380- vehicle fleet, he desired an automated option. After implementing a solution provided by Derive, Schlangen’s vehicles experienced 6-15% improvement in fuel use. Translated into fuel cost and taking fuel price fluctuation into account, the Dakota County fleet would expect to save anywhere from $25-$70 per vehicle per month. A substantial amount when multiplied across their entire fleet.

With fuel costs being an unpredictable expense, seeking out ways to reduce fuel costs is more and more common of fleet managers today. Though some managers are following in Kevin’s footsteps and relying on fleet vehicle technologies to reduce idling, others are implementing anti-idling programs aimed to educate and incentivize drivers into idling more efficiently. Knowing that the amount of vehicles on U.S. roads has continuously increased over the past years and is currently near 268 million, reducing idling is growing in importance for more reasons than one.

To Improve the Bottom Line

Whether it be a small, medium or enterprise sized fleet, fuel costs can impact the bottom line considering their unpredictability and that fuel is a major part of fleet operating spend. In a recent fuel use chart provided by Minute Man Trucks, every hour of idling wastes nearly one gallon of fuel. When a fleet vehicle is in-between stops or paused in traffic, fuel is being wasted which directly relates to fleet fuel costs and wasted spend. For example: With a fleet of 100 vehicles, a daily idling of one hour a day per vehicle can result in nearly $9K in fuel cost losses a month assuming fuel costs are around $3 per gallon. While idling cannot be fully eliminated, there is no denying that reducing it can significantly benefit operating costs.

To Improve the Vehicle Health

Idling not only impacts fuel costs which are part of operational spend, idling can also impact the lifetime of the vehicle. Wear and tear on a vehicle engine can lead to engine performance issues. Over activation of the vehicle engine can result in increased vehicle maintenance and thus, increased operating costs. Aside from fuel costs, vehicle oil changes and fuel check-ups can all increase as a result of excessive idling. None of which positively impacts the overall lifecycle of the vehicle and provides even more reason to tackle the idling issue before it adds to expenses.

To Avoid Costly Idling Fines

Costs associated with fleet fuel are one reason to reduce idling. Costs associated with idling fines are another. Idling in some scenarios is required. For instance, when a law enforcement vehicle needs to power on-board equipment via power take-off (PTO). Or when weather related scenarios make it difficult to start driving immediately before warming up. No matter how normal or seemingly harmless such scenarios seem, many states nationwide are cracking down on permitting idling when it doesn’t seem to be needed.

According to the E.P.A 31 states and Washington, D.C. have put in place regulations that prohibit vehicle idling. Variances between on length of idling time permitted, weather related exceptions and fines per penalty are all dependent on state. These fines can set fleets back in cost quite a bit but can be avoided with the right fleet vehicle technology.

For the Health of Our Climate

The health of the population is not the only health that is of concern when it comes to emissions. Vehicle idling is a known contributor to climate change. When looking at sources of greenhouse gas emissions within the U.S., transportation is a large piece of the pie chart. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2016 greenhouse gas emissions from transportation accounted for around 28.5 percent of the total of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This percentage was the largest contributor in comparison to agriculture, industry, electricity and commercial and residential contributors.

Knowing that fleet trucks consume more fuel per mile and are typically driven more than most other vehicles, reducing fleet vehicle idling can make a significant impact in our efforts to offset climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions.

Solutions to Reduce Idling

With driver training and coaching reducing idling can be achieved and benefits can be experienced. In addition to manager-led driver training, fleet technology exists today that can help reduce idling automatically and without driver intervention. Utilizing fleet telematics solutions can assist fleets in identifying where idling reduction can occur within operations. Solutions, such as Derive go beyond telematics insights to proactively reduce idling. Being able to set manager defined idle shut-off parameters can enable fleets to experience benefits sooner rather than later. When combined with driver education, the potential for improved operations and ability to reduce costs associated with idling becomes even more attainable.

Sometimes unavoidable, vehicle idling is a costly and environmentally harmful act that needs more attention from all. Though some modern vehicles now offer engine shut-off functionality, service vehicles built for utility and vehicles built before such technology existed hold the biggest opportunity to reduce idling. Fleet managers responsible for vehicle operations of any size should look into technologies that reduce idling as effortlessly as possible. The results could be a savings to the bottom line much like Kevin Schlangen, of Dakota County, Minnesota or even greater, a healthier climate and safer air quality. More than enough reason to take action.

About Contributor

Derive is an automotive technology company that empowers fleet managers to optimize their fleet’s performance beyond traditional telematics and driver training. Derive’s solution customizes fleets to be more fuel efficient, safer, and sustainable by using software that upgrades vehicle operating systems. With over 2 million software installations, Derive has transformed fleet performance from one-size-fits-all to mission-specific.