How Engine Idle Time Impacts Fleet Costs

April 11, 2019 Published by
Image -Male truck driver in orange shirt speaks into his cb radio while holding a steering wheel

When you’re managing a fleet of trucks for your business, it’s always important to find ways to lower your fleet costs without negatively impacting driver performance.

One of the easiest ways to cut fleet fuel costs – while simultaneously reducing engine wear-and-tear and exhaust emissions – is to reduce engine idle time.  After all, if your engines are running, but the freight isn’t going anywhere, then you’re losing money.

A GPS fleet tracking system can help make this easier by automating the process from start to finish. But it’s important to distinguish between necessary operational idle time and true idle time.

True Idle Time Vs. Operational Idle Time

Some idling is going to occur as your drivers are out doing their routes. For instance, before and after loading at a loading dock some idle time is necessary while waiting for other vehicles to maneuver out of the way. Some idling will occur at red lights and in rush-hour traffic as well. So some idling is always going to be necessary and unavoidable.

But idling that takes place unnecessarily should be reduced whenever possible. Idling at a truck stop while taking a lunch break or shower break should probably be avoided. Idling outside the donut shop while your partner runs in to grab some donuts and coffee and use the bathroom can also be eliminated.

All of these little breaks can add up. It’s not that the breaks themselves are unnecessary – drivers need to stretch their legs on a long line haul or get a meal from time to time. That might be just fine. But does the engine need to be running the whole time?

What Increases Idle Time Costs

A U.S. Department of Energy study found that heavy-duty trucks tend to burn about half a gallon of gas for every 60 minutes of idle time. That might not sound like a whole lot, but every time a driver leaves the engine running while filling out paperwork, taking a quick phone call or some other type of break – that engine just keeps burning gas.

When you’re managing a fleet of 10 or 20 trucks or more, all those little breaks can add up quickly. If you have 20 drivers, and each driver idles five minutes here and five minutes there for a total of 60 minutes throughout the day, then your fleet is burning up an extra 10 gallons of fuel every single day. At three dollars a gallon, that’s $30 a day in wasted gas. And that can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a year.

How to Reduce Idling Time

So what can you do to reduce engine idle time and save money on fuel throughout the year? Well, the best place to start is to begin by accurately tracking engine idle time.

Tracking technology not only allows you to see the location of each vehicle in your fleet, but it can also provide detailed information about the status of each car or truck and its activity throughout the day. Some metrics include arrival time, departure time, engine start time, engine stop time and of course – idle time.

You can even set up alerts through your smartphone, tablet or computer that will let you know if one of your vehicles has been idling for too long, say more than five minutes or whatever parameter you set. Then you can contact the driver to see if everything is okay, and you can also keep a record of such instances and address them during meetings and employee evaluations.

Employee training is another critical component of lowering fleet fuel costs. Some drivers might not like the idea of changing the way they do their job, but most drivers will be easy to work with if they understand the reasoning behind the changes. Using fleet tracking technology, you can show your employees specific data and numbers so that they can see for themselves the impact that idling can have on your business and operating costs.

One great way to incentivize your drivers is to offer bonuses to the ones who can to meet specific idle time limits. So that way you can reward drivers who meet those goals each month, quarter or year.

Reducing engine idle time is one of the easiest and least expensive ways of reducing fleet costs. By tracking engine idle time, increasing driver awareness of the costs of idle time, setting idle time reduction goals and rewarding drivers who meet or exceed those targets, you can save your company thousands of dollars in fuel and engine wear while reducing emissions.

 

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