Cover Story
The Future Is Now
CARB, other agencies clock idle times and issue fines.

By Charlie Morasch
staff writer


Steve Lindsey backed into the truck stop parking space in Ontario, CA, and hopped out. He climbed into his trailer to do a quick spot check, running the Volvo 780 a few minutes to cool its turbos that spring morning.

Less than five minutes later, Steve shut off the truck engine went into the TA and bought a soda. He returned to the truck, started the engine, and began to update his logbook.

The veteran driver looked up and noticed a citation from the California Air Resources Board taped to his driver’s window. The ticket claimed his truck idled from 10:26 a.m. to 10:39 a.m. – eight minutes beyond California’s five-minute limit.

California – long praised by environmentalists but cursed by truckers – made noise for years about its approaching idling regulation. Only in early 2008, however, did the state begin issuing citations with $800 fines for truckers who idle beyond five minutes.

For truckers stopping in the Golden State and other states and regions, the future is now.

The OOIDA member from Old Town, FL, never saw an inspector watching his engine idling, and he said he never saw the agency’s pickup truck on the premises. And he’s particularly puzzled by the officer’s note on the ticket: “driver sleeping.”

“I’d locked my tractor and it was running, but I was in the trailer,” Steve said. “If that inspector knocked on my window – I think I would have known there was somebody knocking on my door.”

Two years ago, veteran company driver and OOIDA member Amanda Cicoria read about California’s idling regulation in Land Line. Just six months later, Cicoria watched as a black pickup crept through the truck parking area at a California truck stop, stopping for several minutes at a time.

Cicoria told the truck stop manager about the pickup.

“It made me nervous,” said Cicoria, of Cottonwood, AZ. “But the manager said, ‘It’s probably someone timing trucks idling.’”

In 2008, the state of California issued only 511 idling citations. That netted the state $84,325 – with fines still due on some of those citations.

Flash forward to the first month of 2009. In January alone, the state issued 106 idling citations, and collected $18,550 in fines – roughly 20 percent of the citations and fines issued for the entire year of 2008.

The state was unable to provide information on fines and citations for any other months in 2009 as of press time.

Serious idling enforcement is here and now.

While California gets attention for its idling restriction, several other large trucking states are rolling out and enforcing idling restrictions.

Florida approved its own idling regulation in 2008. The rule limits idling to five minutes but allows idling during sleeper time until 2013. The restriction will be enforced beginning in mid-December.

Florida focused on educating drivers about the rule in 2008 and 2009, said Julie Ferris, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“Our impression is that basically things are OK. There aren’t big problems with idling,” Ferris told Land Line. “We’ve been focusing on getting word out about the idle rule.”

When enforcement of the regulation begins in mid-December, the state wants to continue educating, though it will enforce a minimum $500 penalty on repeat offenders, Ferris said.

Florida is considering lowering the fine amount, and wants to stress compliance more than issuing fines, Ferris said. Her office occasionally receives complaints about trucks idling at a nearby grocery store, she said.

“We’ve found that most people will right away just turn their engine off,” Ferris said, adding that state enforcement will likely focus on repeat offenders who don’t change idling behaviors.

The EPA’s county-by-county air quality standards were a hot topic during a 2008 roundtable discussion among officials from Missouri and Kansas state transportation agencies, the EPA and others at OOIDA headquarters.

Suburban counties like Johnson County, KS, were near or at the EPA’s threshold for maximum particulate matter and ozone, EPA representatives told the group.

In Texas, eight counties have idling restrictions, although the Lone Star State allows idling in order to meet hours-of-service rest requirements.

As of late June, Wisconsin’s draft idling law would exempt idling during sleeper time and in extreme temperatures. Brett Hulsey, formerly of the Sierra Club, said a growing number of his state’s counties are failing federal air quality compliance thresholds.

“Wisconsin has at least three and maybe as many as six counties in non-attainment for particulate matter and others for ozone non-attainment as well,” Hulsey said. “California has the worst air quality in the country, but we (Wisconsin) have some non-attainment issues as well.”

Wisconsin environmentalists are hopeful that a statewide idling limit will be introduced by fall. LL


Editor’s note: Steve Lindsey, the OOIDA member from Florida, has contacted an attorney. He’s researched the regulation and says he’ll contest the citation.