Difference Between Excessive and Normal Engine Idling

By: | Updated: Oct-31, 2022
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If you drive a fleet truck or private vehicle, do you know what excessive idling is? The question is an especially crucial one for people who reside in states like California, New York, New Jersey, and many other jurisdictions that have strict anti-idling laws in place. Individuals run the risk of occasional fines and tickets, but transport companies can be hit by severe financial penalties if their drivers don’t pay attention to engine activity. Those are just some of the reasons so many fleet managers and supervisors are employing special technology that works to minimize the practice of letting engines run while vehicles are not moving.

Difference Between Excessive and Normal Engine Idling

Definition of Excessive

But what is the definition of excessive? It depends on what you’re driving and what state’s laws apply. California has some of the strictest rules in place, but other jurisdictions in the US and Canada also have laws on their books that pertain to this situation. California law enforcement personnel fine truck drivers that exceed the five-minute mark, and violations run from $500 to $1,000 per incident.

What is Normal?

There are many definitions of normal based upon the size of a vehicle’s engine, how long it’s been moving, and what kind of fuel it uses. Also, local laws define the word and give it legal power in terms of what the possible fines are. In reality, most drivers know to turn off their vehicles if they’re not moving for more than about 20 seconds. That’s a decision based on common sense. After that amount of time, fuel usage becomes inefficient if a truck remains in the on position but is not moving.

What About Legal Definitions?

While every state and country have its own legal definitions of idle engine status and what defines it, California is a good example of a location that imposes relatively harsh financial and other types of penalties for exceeding the normal limits of engine operation. The state’s Heavy Duty Truck Idle Reduction Requirement offers specific guidelines for owners and operators of commercial fleets. Where vehicle weights exceed 10,000 pounds, there’s a five-minute idling rule. If the engine is powered by diesel fuel, then the rules are even more strict. Not only is the five-minute rule still in effect, but the operator of the truck must not be closer than 100 feet to a restricted area. What is a restricted area?

The State of California usually includes places like schools, crowded pedestrian zones, and dozens of other locations under the umbrella term. The bottom line is that no matter the type of fuel or the location, operators are safe to run their engines while in park for no more than five minutes at a time. After that, they need to drive on the road again before stopping and beginning a new five-minute time period.

Fleet Management Special Concerns

What is the difference between routine and non-routine idling? In addition to the above, there are other legal guidelines that round out the information for fleet managers and transport company owners. In many jurisdictions and states, fleets must use special shutdown software that automatically turns trucks off after five minutes of idle operation to avoid fuel waste and pollution. Fortunately, there are several devices and programs that can help fleets with achieving these stringent regulations. Some are non-programmable and do the job in a fully automatic way. Others merely create detailed idle time reports that list the types of exhaust emissions, the amount of time the truck is in motion, and whether it is in the on or off status.

Excess and Typical: Differences for Sleeper Berth Trucks

California is an appropriate example because its laws tend to be slightly stricter than those in most other states. So, most fleets can use California as a rule-of-thumb to make estimates about how to comply with these types of laws in other states. Any truck that has a sleeper must shutdown within five minutes of stopping, no matter the location. Note that not only California but many other states will withhold license renewal for drivers who have pending fines related to excessive idling.

A General Rule for All Drivers

Whether you’re in Canada, New Jersey, New York, or elsewhere, keep in mind that idle-related laws are becoming more common. Always check online to see what the local rules are where you’ll be traveling. However, the most common difference between excessive and normal idling tends to be somewhere between 20 seconds and five minutes, as low and high limits.

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