From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published July 20, 2010 05:04 PM

Idling Vehicles

Pending court approval, several companies affiliated with National Car Rental will pay a fine of $475,000 for repeated violations of motor vehicle idling regulations at two New England airports: Logan International in Boston, Mass. and Bradley International near Hartford, Conn. What is so wrong about idling? Diesel combustion releases fine particles and gases into the air. Commonly called soot, these particles are typically smaller than 2.5 micrometers or 1/30 the width of a strand of hair and are easily inhaled and may cause respiratory harm. By law in many states (especially urban ones) idling too long is an issue.


Pollution from diesel engines is a widespread problem in many urban areas. It is most noticeable for people when they are stuck in traffic. The solution is not easy and will require not only new technology but, more importantly, a change in lifestyle and habit.

On road mobile sources (heavy duty trucks, buses, light duty cars and trucks) contribute the majority of the total diesel exhaust particulate emissions. Other mobile sources (mobile equipment, ships, trains, and boats) contribute the next most amount while stationary sources contribute the remainder. So the source of idling emissions are within the control of the ordinary vehicle driver and are not so much associated with industrial sources.

Idling vehicles are everywhere and can include local school buses as well as truck traffic.

In the New England case in 2006 and 2007, EPA investigators observed the shuttle buses that carry passengers from the airport terminal to the rental car locations idling excessively. Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as many other states have clean air rules which limit motor vehicle idling for a very few minutes with exceptions allowed for vehicles undergoing maintenance, making deliveries or in extreme cold conditions.

Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office stated. “Diesel pollution is very harmful, especially for sensitive populations such as the young, elderly and people who suffer from asthma. It is critical for the health of the surrounding community that companies like National Car Rental comply with anti-idling laws.”

The current owners of the shuttle service have been taking steps to address excessive idling at the Logan and Bradley facilities, including more management oversight, posting no-idling signs, installing electronic idling controls and retraining drivers.

The new Consent Decree requires the companies to continue with their current anti-idling measures.

In New England, diesel engines are the third largest human made source of fine particles, contributing more than 20 percent of total fine particle emissions.

Idling engines are wasteful in that they waste fuel for a driver's convenience. As a result, it makes good economic and environmental sense to minimize idling. Moreover, idling can be also harmful to engines, increasing maintenance costs and shortening engine life. For a wait time of more than a few seconds, turning off the engine saves fuel, protects the engine, and helps improve air quality.

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