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3-Ways to Turn Idle Happy to Idle Free

Idling not only gets you nowhere, it’s also very costly. Some fleet managers are shocked to discover that over 70% of the engine hours on their vehicles can be attributed to idling. That’s not a typo. We’ve documented it many times. Unnecessary or excessive idling is extremely expensive, tough on vehicles, and hard on the environment. Find out how you can turn your fleet from idle happy to idle free.


Simply put an idling engine burns fuel. That increases your fuel bill, service and maintenance costs, and creates harmful emissions.

Higher Fuel Costs

The easiest cost to consider here is that idling literally gets you zero miles to the gallon. Depending on the size, tuning, and engaged accessories of an engine it can consume between one and four litres of fuel per hour. In our collective fleet data with ranges of idle time between 10% – 70% of engine hours, going nowhere quickly adds up to a significant hit to the bottom-line.

Increased Maintenance Expenses

An idling vehicle contaminates its engine oil more quickly than if it were driven. In fact, studies have shown that prolonged idling reduces the effective operating life of engine oil by up to 75%. We know that neglecting maintenance in a fleet can create significant problems. The risk in fleets where excessive idling is a problem is that maintenance schedules become distorted. That’s because schedules are created based on the odometer or calendar rather than engine hours which is a more accurate scheduling metric. Vehicle life decreases, breakdowns occur more frequently and fuel consumption escalates in fleets where unreliable maintenance schedules are followed.

Escalating Emissions

A running engine produces a significant amount of pollution that damages the environment and poses public health issues. Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are pumped into the air contributing to global warming. Nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions from partially burned fuel produce smog and ground-level ozone. Political and public support for stronger idling policies across North America are becoming increasingly prevalent. Further steps to crack down on all non-productive engine idling (including idle free zones altogether) are showing up in urban centers right across the continent.


Realistically, your traditional fleet vehicles may not be able to go completely idle free but, here a few ways to help significantly limit it.


Warm up or cool down the cabin interior by driving, not idling. Today’s engines don’t need to warm up, even in winter. In fact, the best way to warm the engine is by easing into your drive and avoiding excessive engine revving. After just a few seconds, your vehicle is safe to drive. The vehicle’s engine warms in less than half the time when driven. Your vehicle’s heating or cooling system is able to deliver a comfortable cabin temperature more efficiently when it’s driven. Tests have shown that by driving the vehicle just after start-up it takes 12-minutes to raise coolant temperature from -10°C to a normal operating temperature of 80°C. In contrast, it takes 30-minutes to raise the coolant temperature to the same level by idling. Driving also gets the rest of the drive train working. You warm up the differential, transmission fluids and tires. Idling can’t do this, no matter how long you wait.

Turn it off

Turn the ignition off if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds. Restarting your vehicle doesn’t burn more fuel than if you left it idling. In fact, idling for just 10 seconds burns more fuel than restarting the engine. Contrary to popular opinion frequent restarts are not hard on an engine. Idling is actually harder on overall engine wear. An idling engine doesn’t burn its fuel completely and this fuel gets into the crankcase. The added wear to components such as the starter and battery is much less costly (no more than $10 a year) than the cost of additional wasted fuel and recommended maintenance (which can add up to $650 a year, depending on fuel prices, idling habits and vehicle type).

Break the habit

Idling isn’t necessarily a reflection of poor character. It’s just a habit that may not be paid much thought. To most, idling seems fairly innocuous, but it’s not. It has a detrimental effect on your vehicles engine, wastes fuel, and is often done based on mistaken assumptions or outdated logic, or simply out of habit. It takes effort to completely abandon the practice but it’s worth it. The simple cure is to remind yourself when you catch yourself idling for more than a minute. Awareness is the first step to the cure. From a fleet perspective that requires an understanding of how much your vehicles are in fact idling. What gets measured can be managed and with this in hand fleet managers can significantly reduce idle time across their fleet.

Idle Free Conclusion

Unnecessary idling is wasteful. Regulatory measures continue to be assessed to solve problem idling. It’s important for fleet owners and managers to take steps to address wasteful idling for the benefit of the health of the company, its vehicles, employees and the public at large. Titan GPS helps fleet managers by collecting accurate idling data for each vehicle. This data is simply reported and easily accessed. Let’s call this ROI your “Return on Idling” metric. Key performance indicators like this can be used to educate and set targets towards an idle free, more cost effective and productive fleet.

Find out how Titan GPS can show you how close to idle free your fleet is and how we can help you manage it.


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