HARRISBURG  – Pennsylvania’s extensive interstate highway system invites a heavy volume of truck travel through the state. With 260 truck stops, 47 public rest areas, and more than 13,000 truck parking spaces, there are many convenient areas for heavy-duty diesel vehicles to idle.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania introduced a new regulation to limit the amount of time a diesel-powered commercial vehicle can idle its engine. No more than five minutes will be allowed in any 60-minute period.

The rule is aimed primarily at the 13,000 long-haul trucks that sit idling in Pennsylvania each day. Many drivers idle their vehicles during federally mandated rest periods to provide heating, cooling and power to their bunks and cabs.

It also will affect other vehicles, such as delivery trucks, school buses, transit buses and motor coaches.

Several exemptions are included in the proposed anti-idling measure, such as allowing a vehicle with a sleeper compartment to idle when the outside temperature is below 40 degrees or above 75 degrees Fahrenheit when stationary idle reduction technology is not available. This exemption expires May 1, 2010.

A number of companies have developed commercial shore power products for the trucking industry to reduce idling. The companies offer the truck stop stationary infrastructure as well as the on-board tractor equipment to connect to shore power. For a comprehensive list from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, click here.

Other exemptions include idling for active loading or unloading of passengers or property, operating work-related mechanical or electrical operations, and maintenance, repairs, or inspections for safety-related purposes.

Passenger and school buses may idle for up to 15 minutes during a 60-minute period to provide heating or cooling when passengers are on board.

The regulation, developed by the Department of Environmental Protection after it was petitioned by the Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania must now be opened to public comment and be discussed in a public hearing before final consideration by the Environmental Quality Board.

It then must be approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which reviews all proposed state regulations and, finally, the state attorney general.

A study by Pennsylvania highway emissions consultant, Michael Baker Jr. Inc., estimated total statewide idling related to truck travel rest at more than 21 million annual hours.

That total represents 96 percent of long-duration idling, when the engine of a still vehicle is left running for more than 15 minutes.

If each of these trucks used alternative means to provide drivers with power during rest periods, fuel use would be cut by more than 20 million gallons a year.

Estimates are that a tractor-trailer uses about one gallon of diesel fuel per hour when idling, which means that truck idling related to travel rest in Pennsylvania consumes 21 million gallons of diesel fuel each year.

At diesel’s current statewide average cost of $3.19 per gallon, truckers are spending nearly $67 million each year on fuel to idle their vehicles during rest periods. 

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