1.(of a person) spend time doing nothing
2.(of an engine) run slowly while disconnected from a load or out of gear
Recently while getting fuel, I noticed some of the trucks were left idling while the drivers filled their tanks and also while they went inside to get receipts, use the restroom, or grab a snack. One truck that stood out was the driver fueling up next to me. He was fueling when I pulled up, he then went inside, all the while letting his truck run. I finished fueling, pulled up, grabbed my receipt, used the restroom real quick, and then went back outside to continue my day. The driver who was next to me was still inside the truck stop, with his truck still running. All together it was probably 15 to 20 minutes. It was probably also 1/4 -1/3 of a gallon of fuel. Granted, with today's fuel prices, that isn’t much, but a wise man once told me, “if you watch your pennies your dollars will take care of themselves.” He isn’t wrong.
Why It Matters
Whether it is lowering operating costs or working to obtain a fuel bonus, unnecessary idling costs money. The example I spoke of above probably cost less than a dollar. Now let’s say that driver also idled while he was checking into a shipper or receiver. Maybe that was another 15 minutes, another dollar. Those little minutes here and there add up, much quicker than you may think. When fuel prices are low, it may not hurt the wallet as much, but as prices rise, those few cents can turn into dollars in a hurry. Dollars that could be going into your wallet.
Let’s also consider something else that is harder to quantify, wear and tear on the engine. This is harder to put a price tag on, but common sense will tell you that when something mechanical is running, it is wearing down. When it wears down enough it will fail, and failure always equals dollars. The bigger the failure, the higher the price tag. Let’s not forget the downtime that always comes with repairs. That downtime hurts whether you are a Company Driver or own your truck. A truck sitting isn’t earning.
Some Idle Is Necessary
I’m not saying you should NEVER idle the truck. Being comfortable and sleeping well are extremely important to remain alert and aware while driving. If you must idle to remain comfortable, by all means, do so. People who require a C-PAP or other medical devices may also need to idle to prevent the batteries from draining.
Some idle time is also required while doing some routine things, such as airing your system back up while doing your pre-trip brake inspections, or running back and forth while sliding your tandems. While this may burn some fuel, it is time-consuming to keep waiting for the truck to cycle through its diagnostics each time you jump back in the cab.
Mechanical issues such as a bad starter may also require you to idle. You gotta do, what you gotta do.
You Can Reduce Idling Easily
Here are a few tips to reduce your idling and put some money in your pocket.
If you’re out, turn it off. If you get out of the truck to check-in or out while fueling, or while running into any facility, shut the truck off. These 10-15 minute idle events add up, and they waste fuel and money.
Buy yourself a small fan and a small heated blanket or heated bunk pad. You may need to buy an inverter to run these, but these can help keep you comfortable while reducing idle time. Team Run Smart Pro, Henry Albert, has said his electric bunk pad paid for his son’s college education. I have a small portable box fan that I use year-round. In moderate temperatures, I put it in the window to draw in fresh cooler air.
Window screens help keep air moving. These, in addition to a small fan really help, to keep one comfortable without running the engine.
In an earlier post, I wrote, Keeping the Charge in your Batteries, discusses how to conserve battery power if you have a battery-powered APU. Many of these tips will help preserve power and reduce the need to run your engine to recharge the batteries. You can find that blog and lots of other good info on TeamRunSmart.com.