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Dangers of Engine Idling & Why It’s Bad


Do the drivers in your fleet let the vehicles idle for long periods of time? It is a common tendency among US truck drivers to allow their engine to idle for hours per day or per week. They think it improves the efficiency and functionality of the engine, but this is completely wrong! The reality is that modern fleet vehicles don’t have to warm-up to run properly. In this article you will learn more about idling and why you should have your team of drivers cease this archaic practice immediately.

Idling: What Is It?

From a technical point of view, idling occurs when the engine is set to drive even though the car is not moving. When the engine is running in idle mode, it produces a sharp sound that may vary per the condition of the engine. The sound of the internal combustion engine running is reassuring to drivers that the vehicle is working properly. Many truck drivers think it is good for the engine and keeps up performance in the long-run. Many put their engine in idle mode simply because their peers do it. If performed for more than 10-15 minutes, idling your engine can have serious consequences.

Why Do Drivers Idle?

Several decades ago, car manufacturers recommended warming up the engine for several minutes to ensure engine performance. Even though the fleet vehicle manufacturing process has undergone a rapid transformation, this practice has lingered on among vehicle operators. In the warmer climate, leaving the engine on also helps the A/C run cooler.

Why Is Idling Bad?

  • It is believed that idling helps in saving gas. This is not true. When your engine is running idle, it not only consumes excessive fuel, but also the gas produced inside washes down the cylinder walls and decreases the oil content surrounding the walls. This leads to greater inefficiency and increases damage to the engine.
  • If your engine is idle for more than 20 minutes, its efficiency drops down to zero. This causes even more performance problems in diesel and hybrid vehicles.
  • Idling performed for a longer periods of time makes the engine more inefficient as a greater quantity of carbon gets accumulated in the piston face, valves, and cylinder of the engine.

How Much Fuel Is Consumed During Idling?

An engine can consume up to 0.026 gallons every 10 minutes when idle. That is approximately 1 gallon of gas lost per hour. If fifty fleet vehicles idle for an hour a day, the annual cost of extra fuel consumption would rise to $48,125!
Many drivers believe that only 0.2-0.3 gallons of fuel per hour are lost during idle time, and that they do it for only about 10 minutes at a time. But, the engine idles for a few minutes when you start it and with every stop too. Thus, vehicles idle for longer than a driver realizes.

The Negative Impacts Engine Idling

  • Chemicals build up inside the engine if it idles for a prolonged period.
  • The ravages of idling can result in significant mechanical degradation and excessive fuel consumption.
  • Many crucial components of the engine, such as the Engine Gas Recirculation (EGR) valve and Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) filter, can be damaged while the vehicle is idle.
  • The airflow inside the engine is interrupted during idle time, leading to the fluctuations in engine temperature.
  • The engine oil becomes dirty and contaminates the DEF filter, leading to increased gas emissions and poor vehicle performance.
  • More damage will occur if your vehicle vibrates while idle. The vibrations indicate complications in the functionality of the transmission mounts of the engine.

The Global Impact

  • A study conducted in California revealed that hazardous diesel emissions can lead to cancer and other respiratory problems. Gas emissions during idling contain 40 dangerously toxic contaminants, which can cause many health complications and even premature death in children.
  • Studies also reveal that 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted through the idling of fleet vehicles. This releases dangerous pollutants into the air and contributes to global warming.

How Long Should Idling Occur?

30 seconds of idle time while starting the engine is enough for optimal performance. Idling occurs naturally when a vehicle suddenly stops at a traffic signal or is going through a slow-moving traffic. These situations will not damage an engine.

What You Can Do Instead

Companies use various programs to significantly reduce idle time.

  • Diesel-powered generators can take care of the auxiliary system of a truck overnight without the need for idling. Moreover, it utilizes only a fraction of fuel needed for idling and does not create any pressure on the integrity of the mechanical infrastructure of the fleet vehicle.
  • Discouraging drivers from driving at night by offering hotel discounts. This tactic save the fuel expenditure of your company and is also good for your fleet drivers’ health.
  • Encourage drivers to fill out reports in other comfortable, nearby indoor locations. This will reduce idle stops throughout a workday while maintaining the happiness of your employees.

Adopt a GPS Tracking Software

Many fleet managers are taking measures to keep track of their vehicles so they can spot “idle abuse” more and run their routes more efficiently. GPS tracking software will provide a detailed report of your vehicles’ activities by the minute. You also receive quantitative data on the engine performance, its environmental impact, and driver behavior. Allow EcoTrack Fleet Management improve your fleet efficiency with proactive tracking today!

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