Tips: cold weather and idling

Now that the season of cold mornings and short days is here, let's take a moment to review your fleet's idling policy. Most states have anti-idling laws in place to reduce local air pollution caused by stopped trucks and cars, but the rules always allow exceptions in colder weather.

New York State

217-3.2 Prohibitions.
No person who owns, operates or leases a heavy duty vehicle including a bus or truck, the motive power for which is provided by a diesel or nondiesel fueled engine or who owns, leases or occupies land and has the actual or apparent dominion or control over the operation of a heavy duty vehicle including a bus or truck present on such land, the motive power for which said heavy duty vehicle is provided by a diesel or non-diesel fueled engine, shall allow or permit the engine of such heavy duty vehicle to idle for more than five consecutive minutes when the heavy duty vehicle is not in motion, except as otherwise permitted by section 217-3.3 of this Subpart.

217-3.3 Exemptions
(f) A diesel fueled truck is to remain motionless for a period exceeding two hours, and during which period the ambient temperature is continuously below 25°F.

Source: NYS

This law does not apply to light-duty vehicles in most parts of the state, with the notable exception in Saratoga Springs, NY where virtually all vehicles are banned from idling.

So what does this mean for your fleet?

If you had a shorter summer allowance for idling, say one to two minutes, it might be a good idea to extend that amount of time during the winter months to around three to five minutes. Any longer will only cause excessive wear and tear and will not warm the vehicle up any quicker than driving will.

Drivers may still want to idle their vehicles for longer periods of time, but it is important to educate drivers about idling myths and urban legends:

Myth: Diesel engines need to idle for 5 minutes or more in the morning, especially on cold days.
Fact: This is one of the most commonly held myths in North America concerning diesel engines. Most engine manufacturers recommend that newer diesel engines run for no more than 3 minutes before driving.

Myth: The engine should be warmed up before driving
Fact: Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle.  Today's electronic engines do not need long warm ups, even in winter.  The best way to do this is by easing into your drive and avoiding excessive engine revving.  The vehicle's engine warms twice as quickly when driven and also warms up the catalytic converter and other mechanical parts of the car.

Source: CCGS

For more information, review our sample Idling Policy.