New EPA Emissions Standards Target Idling Trucks

September 14, 2016 by Clarissa Hawes

Buried deep within the Environmental Protection Agency’s new 1,690-page greenhouse gas pollution rule book is a requirement to slash the particulate emissions coughed out by the idling diesel engines of heavy-duty trucks.

The new EPA emissions standards aim to cut the pollution caused when truckers either keep their engines on, or use small diesel-fueled auxiliary power units, or APUs, to cool or heat their cabs and run household appliances while parked.

It is a significant source of pollution caused by trucks. Long-haul truckers park for long periods of time, both to sleep and to comply with regulations requiring rest breaks and limiting the number of hours they can drive during a day or week. They need power in their cabins to cook, watch television and keep the temperature at a comfortable level.

Truckers are worried about the new restrictions.

The rules are “a great example of how people who have encouraged this type of public policy have no clue about the realities of driving a truck,” said Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs for Western States Trucking Association. “Truckers do live in an extreme temperature environment and can face temperature extremes from way below zero to well over 100-plus degrees.”

“There is no APU or bunk heater that would have been able to supplant some of the extreme environments I’ve lived in other than the main drive engine,” Rajkovacz said.

But others are prepared to deal with the new regulations.

Ronnie Sellers, owner of Sellers Transportation based in Tennessee, has three trucks, all equipped with APUs. He told he isn’t worried about varying idling laws because his drivers have idle- reduction equipment on their trucks.

Regulators, however, see limiting truck idling as a crucial way to reduce carbon emissions and particulate matter from trucks, which account for about 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the U.S. They are requiring the industry to slash pollution from the APUs by as much as 95 percent by 2024.

The idling rules are part of the federal government’s recently publish Phase 2 standards, which are the second step by the Obama administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trucks. The emissions standards were developed jointly by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

By mandating the rollout of more efficient medium-and heavy-duty vehicles and semi-truck trailers, the rules are expected to cut oil consumption by up to two billion gallons and save vehicle owners about $170 billion in fuel costs by 2027, regulators said.

Idling has long been an issue with state and local governments. The California Air Resources Board worked with federal regulators to develop the new standards.

California was the first state to enact idling restrictions. It has a five-minute idling limit with a minimum violation of $300 for a first offense and subsequent violations ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Some California cities have harsher restrictions. In Sacramento, idling fines range from $100 to $25,000 per violation.

This has prompted other regions to also crack down on idling.

In Rockland County, N.Y., truckers can be jailed for 15 days for idling more than three consecutive minutes. In New Rochelle, N.Y., drivers idling longer than five minutes face a $50 fine and may receive a 15-day jail sentence as well.

As state and local regulators attempt to improve air quality by reducing emissions, a patchwork of city, county and state idling laws has made it difficult for truckers to know whether they are in compliance at a particular location.

Limiting idling and adding new technology to trucks to reduce emissions will increase the expense of the vehicles.

Regulators will require APUs to meet a particulate matter emission standard of 0.02 parts per million by 2024. The current standard is 0.4.

Also, the Phase 2 standards will require that new trucks be equipped with a diesel particulate filter, or DPF, to curb emissions, said Melissa Harrison, an EPA spokeswoman.

The device traps particulate matter and uses exhaust heat to break down, or oxidize it, into less harmful components. The EPA estimates the cost for a DPF to be around $2,000, Harrison said.

APUs are a costly alternative to truck engine idling.

Many large fleets don’t equip their truck cabs with APUs for driver comfort because of the expense or maintenance costs — a new APU can cost upward of $10,000 or more.

XPO Logistics’ trucks are not equipped with APUs. Instead, they have an idle shutdown device that is triggered by ambient air temperature, said Gary Frantz, the trucking company’s spokesman. This prevents a truck from idling more than five consecutive minutes if the outside temperature is between 35 and 65 degrees.

“Our drivers can idle the trucks longer for safety and comfort when the external temperature is outside this range,” Frantz told

When temperatures reach 35 degrees the primary source of cab heat while parked is a bunk heater, which a driver can run at any time.

“Below 20 degrees, we ask our drivers to idle the engine to avoid undue stress on the equipment from frequent starts,” Frantz said.

The EPA has supported other forms of idle-reduction technologies on the market, including battery-electric APUs. The battery packs are charged while the truck is running.

IdleAir and Shore Power Technologies provide electricity connections, which are becoming an increasingly popular idling alternatives for vehicles at truck stops.

But IdleAir and Shore Power are available at just 100 locations nationwide, and there are more than 3 million big rigs on U.S. roads, according to the Federal Highway Administration. However, there is parking for only about 300,000 trucks in the U.S., the agency said.

None of the 4,500 trucks in C.R. England’s massive fleet are equipped with APUs. The company relies on IdleAir’s services for its drivers’ power needs, said Ron Hall, vice president of equipment and fuel for C.R. England.

However, the company also has a weekly “target usage list,” which punishes truckers who idle too long, Hall told

“Drivers who wind up on the list receive coaching on idle practices, and we make sure there have been no changes or modifications to the truck’s idle parameters,” he said.

2 Responses

  1. Larry Faulkner

    I purpose a study to be performed with satellite imagery of the effects of trucks idling at truck stops over a course of 5 years. I think a more informative insight on the enviromental impact of a idling trucks can help regulate the laws of idling trucks.

    This study should observe the seasonal changes, geography, median temperatures, daily temeratures, and surrounding population. To go even further, there has to be a difference in the detection of the emissions from diesel engines to gasoline engines.

    The technology is there, why not use it?

  2. Erren Barbhard

    Neighbor starts his large truck up every morning and leaves it idling for half an hour. I worry about how healthy it is for surrounding neighbors.


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