I know I said my next post would be about dispatchers, but I’ve got something fresh on my mind; mainly because it’s happening right now. So please humor me.

I’m guessing from the title that you can tell which of side of the argument I take when it comes to truck idling laws. First off, let me say that I do care for our environment. I don’t litter, I try to reuse anything I can, and I hate to waste paper of any kind. However, I’m on the opposite side of the coin from those enviro-wackos who constantly measure their carbon footprint. I’d like to put my footprint right up their carbon-hole.

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For those of you who have no idea what a truck idling law is, let’s get you up to speed

Trucks need to idle their engines for a few reasons.

  1. To power their stuff inside their cabs, such as a TV, computer, or microwave oven.
  2. To provide heat or air conditioning for the truck.
  3. To provide power to their PTO (needed by some trucks for loading or unloading)

What about Auxiliary Power Units (APU)?

Before anyone has a chance to jump on it, I’ll let you know that I’m fully aware that a truck-mounted APU (auxillary power unit) can do everything an idling engine can do, with a fraction of the exhaust fumes. But I’m also aware that these units cost thousands of dollars per truck, and because of that, most carriers haven’t installed them. I’m also aware that idling options such as IdleAire exist. But they are only available at select truckstops and they have an hourly fee; a fee which most companies won’t reimburse to their drivers. Besides, you aren’t always at a truckstop when you need to idle.

Limited idle time

Some states have decided to limit the time that large trucks can idle their engines. New Jersey and New York were a couple of the first to start this nonsense, and of course, California wasn’t far behind. Part of the problem is that there are no national guidelines. One state may limit idling time to 5 minutes. Another says it’s okay to idle 5 minutes out of every hour. Still another adjusts idling time to the temperature or the time of year. And the variations go on and on. How the heck are we supposed to keep track of it all?

What’s even more impractical is the spirit of these laws.

The media and anti-truck organizations are always mouthing off about tired truckers, but these same unreasonable people are the ones standing with the ecco-freaks in the no-idling movement. Well, to put it nicely, poop or get off the pot!

If I’m trying to sleep in 90 degree weather, what good is 5 minutes of idle time? You can’t cool the cab of a semi in 5 minutes. Likewise, if it’s 30 degrees, there’s not a chance that your engine will heat up enough in 5 minutes to provide you with even the slightest bit of heat. I don’t know about you, but I don’t sleep well when I’m lying in a pool of my own sweat or shivering underneath the covers. If I don’t sleep well, I’m not as alert when I drive. That’s the opposite of promoting safety. Besides, I’m betting that these folks and everyone else leaves their climate control on at their house 24/7. Since we live in our trucks, shouldn’t we be able to have the same comforts?

Customer idling rules

As if things weren’t bad enough, now many of the shippers and receivers truckers deal with are implementing idling rules of their own. They usually let you know that they provide a drivers lounge for our “convenience.” When you go inside, you’re confronted with four folding chairs and a couple of half empty vending machines. Wow, that’s great. . . and sooooo comfortable. My butt gets numb just thinking about it.

The safety factor

But what makes their no-idling policies so annoying is the fact that they don’t take into consideration that you just might have a co-driver who is trying to sleep. Is it safe for them to have to wake up to go into the driver’s lounge while the trailer is being unloaded for two or three hours?  Remember, they have to drive later on that day.  Even if they don’t require you to vacate your truck (most don’t), it’s still going to be hard to sleep without any air circulating through the truck.  Sure, I could open the windows in nice weather, but how much of the year is the temperature perfect for that?

Luckily the point of this little rant is somewhat unnecessary. Although these state laws and company policies exist, they are rarely enforced. Go into a truckstop in most any state and you will find plenty of trucks idling away. At this facility, there are signs everywhere telling you that idling will not be tolerated, yet here I sit doing just that. The yard jockeys (drivers who shuttle trailers in and out of docks) have been driving past me for the past three hours and no one has looked at me twice. This happens all over the country, too. And that makes me happy. Let’s hope it continues.

The Golden Rule

The reason I get so riled about all this idling stuff is because it’s just one more example of people not caring about anyone but themselves and their own agenda. I just wish that people would think things through before they promote agendas that they don’t fully understand.  Think about how others will be affected by your actions before you act. Sure, you want to clean up the planet for your children. That’s commendable. But what if a tired trucker collides with your vehicle and wipes out your entire family because he/she isn’t getting enough rest due to strict idling laws? Trust me, you’ll see this kind of story in the news more often if they start enforcing these idling laws.

Besides, if you really want to save the ozone, why don’t you go after the most evil producer of methane gas on our planet. . . cow farts.

About the Author
I'm a 22-year truck driver with an interest in tech stuff. I do the Trucker Dump podcast and blog, which is all about life as a trucker. I have also written two trucking books, "Trucking Life" and "How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job."
4 comments on “TD11: The Insanity Of Truck Idling Laws
  1. vernon george says:

    man are u naive. do u really expect rational thought from any local, state, or federal legislature. we have insane laws forced on us for over a hundred years now. now the people themselves have elected sheik obama, a muslim in socalists clothing. Our insane debt is bought the chinese who hate our guts and we all shop at walmart where you cannot hardly buy anything there that does not have a made in china tag. we’re all nuts

  2. Todd McCann says:

    Not bitter, are we? LOL. Good point though. Rational thought is a hard to find nowadays.

  3. jennifer says:

    well…..just finishing up the organic part of my chemistry class i do have to say that the enormous amount of hydrocarbons produced by big rigs and all automobiles alike is a very serious problem. and as long as there is need for supplies from the trucking industry, there will always be damage to the atmosphere. u take all these hippies and greenpeacers and take away their goods then maybe they would shut the hell up. but they do have good intentions. the more hydrocarbons, the more the earth heats up. and i am all for building “green” houses..i would love to have and energy bill of 5 bucks a month, its just that nobody has the money to build those houses. so unless we all revert back to the horse and buggy days, i don’t see any end in the idle crisis-because truck drivers have to have it. put one of those greenpeacers in a hot truck and make him sleep in it and see how he likes it…but i think the world’s population has become accustomed to convinience and hi-speed travel and are just too unwilling to trade in their transportation for a painted mare. but our children and our children’s children and so forth will have to deal with it, right?

  4. My motto is “Eat Steak, Save Planet=Win Win Situation”. It’s the damn tree hugging vegatarians who are failing to do thier part in saving the planet. However, the cows would NOT be so gassy if they were allowed to subside on an all grass diet like God intended instead of being force fed undigestable corn feed months before slaughtering. If the cows were not slaughtered, they would die horrible un-natural deaths within weeks. See movie “King Corn” for further edju-ma-cation.

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