OPINION: Idling less this winter to save more than just money

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idling less

Learn how idling less this winter can spare your wallet and the environment.

The Halloween snowfall got a lot of us thinking about winter driving preparedness a little earlier than usual this year.

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For most people, preparing to drive in winter generally means putting the snow brush in the trunk, getting new wiper blades, checking fuel and fluid levels and kicking the tires.

The reality is, operating your vehicle safely in winter starts the minute you start the engine.

Many people still falsely believe proper winter vehicle operation requires letting your vehicle idle to warm the engine before driving it. Others choose to idle their vehicle to give the cabin time to warm up.

The reality is, driving the vehicle helps the engine and the interior warm faster than idling and allows the catalytic converter – which reduces harmful tailpipe emissions – to begin operating sooner. Arguments that vehicle batteries and starters will wear out from overuse when stopping and starting vs. allowing a vehicle to idle are also unfounded, as modern advancements have created more durable technologies.

Leaving your vehicle idling during any season not only wastes fuel and associated fuel costs, but it contributes to air pollution. For public fleets, unnecessary idling equals wasted tax dollars. For private fleets, the fuel lost to idling means added expense and more narrow profit margins.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an idling passenger vehicle wastes about one third of a gallon of gasoline per hour and an idling heavy-dutry truck, .8 gallons of fuel per hour. Each gallon of fuel burned emits 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to air pollution.

While adopting sustainable transportation fuels and technologies is ideal and can all but eliminate harmful emissions, the reality is every single passenger vehicle driver, fleet driver and fleet manager utilizing gasoline and diesel can reduce emissions and wasteful spending by simply reducing idling. Idle-reduction policies for government, private and school bus fleets cost nothing to implement, save fuel, reduce vehicle wear and tear, save money and reduce harmful emissions.

While there are many ways to reduce the choices we make to idle or not idle, there are also instances where it becomes more difficult, such as when drivers are stuck in traffic, particularly in cold weather. Technologies such as battery-powered cabin heaters can help reduce idling while providing comfort for drivers of trucks, buses, emergency response and other large vehicles, but they don’t address the larger issue of traffic jams.

Our partners at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) are working hard to reduce congestion on area roads as they map out future transportation plans for the Region. They know reducing congestion goes beyond just making for more pleasant commutes and vehicle trips for residents and ensuring the efficient movement of goods to benefit our economy. Traffic congestion is a large source of idling related emissions and clearing up clogged traffic arteries can help create cleaner air.

South Shore Clean Cities and NIRPC are partnering with the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program for a Green Fleet Program Winter Preparedness Training for Fleets from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Nov. 22 at the Lake Station Riverview Park Cabin at 2701 Ripley St. in Lake Station. The free training will cover a variety of topics, including idle reduction technologies, equipment, policies and success stories for winter fleet drivers to reduce emissions and save money on fuel. Snow plow safety, techniques and spreader calibration as well as winter storm preparedness will also be addressed.

Learn more and register online here: https://bit.ly/36wsuch

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

This column orginally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

Read more alternative fuel opinion pieces here.

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