Rumble Rules: Idling Regulations

Throughout the country, local and state governments are continuing to adjust their idling laws, and in an effort to create greater uniformity for drivers, several states are embracing statewide regulations versus individual county or city regulations.


Throughout the country, local and state governments are continuing to adjust their idling laws, and in an effort to create greater uniformity for drivers, several states are embracing statewide regulations versus individual county or city regulations.

“Our expectation is that anti-idling will be more encouraged and mandated as time goes along,” said Mike Fielden, chief operating officer, IdleAir. “Regardless of the environmental impacts, the cost of fuel means finding solutions for anti-idling is imperative for the fleets and the owner-operators.”

Starting this year Oregon restricted idling to five minutes in any 60-minute period. However, drivers can idle for 30 minutes while waiting for or during loading and unloading. The regulation also provides exemption for A/C or heat during rest periods or if drivers are loading or unloading when temperatures drop below 50 degrees or exceed 75 degrees.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have at least some type of idling regulation on the books. Those regulations can not only vary state to state, but also within the state.

“We’re seeing more awareness that if something isn’t done at the state level you may have a hodgepodge of local requirements,” said Mike Tunnell, director of environmental research, for the American Transportation Research Institute.

Last summer Colorado adopted a statewide law eliminating the three separate regulations that were in effect in Aspen, Denver and Vail. In Texas, the state created a statewide standard that local jurisdictions can opt into and enforce, and Tunnell said Michigan has also looked at a statewide idling regulation in an effort to avoid a patchwork of regulations that are being considered in local jurisdictions.

IdleAir and Shorepower
Whether drivers are interested in idle reduction to meet regulations or save money, there are several technologies available and two key providers, IdleAir and Shorepower, told Stop Watch they’re expanding their networks.

IdleAir offers a full-service package that includes air conditioning, heating, electric power, Internet and television. IdleAir has 27 locations in 12 states and is working on expanding its network, particularly in the southern states. “We’re going to be growing with Pilot Flying J and Love’s and independents also,” Fielden said, adding that the company has 350 carriers signed up.

Shorepower Technologies, which offers plug-in power service, is also expanding its network along major freight corridors. By plugging in to grid power, drivers can operate heating and air conditioning systems and use in-cab appliances such as microwaves and televisions without the pollution, noise and cost of idling. The service is priced at $1 per hour.

The Shorepower network will have more than 60 sites by this fall. “Similar to building a cellphone network, truckstop electrification requires wide-scale availability to make the network compelling for long haul fleets that travel regular corridors,” said Alan Bates, vice president of marketing for Shorepower Technologies.

Sapp Bros. Truck Stops debuted Shorepower technology in June. “From the day we opened the doors, our focus has been to provide everything our customers need and to make their stop with us, however long or short it is, efficient and productive, with the friendliest employees. We view Shorepower as another benefit to our customers, a way to save them money and help them to be more efficient. Trucking companies need to cut expenses, just like every other business,” said Dan Adams, vice president of operations, Sapp Bros Truck Stops.

Not only can idle-reduction technology provide a customer service, it has the potential to increase profits for operators. “The margins from what they receive from our usage is better than they would have made on that gallon of fuel,” Fielden said.

To better meet operators’ and drivers’ needs, technology is changing. Tunnell said he expects to see original equipment manufacturers sell more auxiliary power units that cut down on the need for idling.

IdleAir is upgrading its technology as it goes along, Fielden explained. “We’re putting in more efficient HVACs and putting solar panels on one of our sites to see how it goes,” he added. IdleAir is designing its current systems to go around the perimeter of the lot. “It takes a certain size and certain shape of a lot for it to be effective,” Fielden said.

Enforcing idling regulations
Tunnell said enforcement can vary as widely as the laws and can put law enforcement officers in a tricky situation. “Enforcement officers need to clock drivers in and out, so does the officer sit and wait? Also, officers don’t want to knock on a cab and wake up a resting driver.”

Bates said, “Some states are much more aggressive than others in terms of enforcement.”

In Utah, the state looks more at education than enforcement, Tunnell said. For example, Salt Lake City planned to tighten its idling regulations this year, dropping the limit to two minutes down from 15. However, the state legislature stepped in and “passed a law that took some of the teeth out of the law,” Tunnell said. Now drivers will get warnings and officers will focus on education. As a state, Utah restricts idling when the driver is not with the vehicle.

Tunnell said officers in California issued 763 citations for commercial vehicle idling totaling $196,000 last year.

Those interviewed said they expect the use of idle-reduction technologies to increase. “Largely, utilization will begin to increase based on network availability, awareness, convenience, adoption of on-board equipment and the escalation of diesel prices,” Bates said. “We believe TSE will eventually become as ubiquitous as wireless internet, and drivers will seek out plug-in locations for a variety of reasons.”

States with idling regulations: 

  • Arizona (Maricopa County)
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Washington D.C.
  • Florida
  • Georgia (City of Atlanta)
  • Illinois (certain cities and counties)
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Michigan (Detroit)
  • Minnesota (Minneapolis, Owatonna)
  • Missouri (certain counties and St. Louis)
  • North Carolina
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio (Cleveland, Maple Heights, South Euclid)
  • Oregon (currently Ashland, statewide in 2012)
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia



This article originally ran in Stop WatchStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.

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