Idling Reduction Regulation Approved for Public Comment

HARRISBURG – A new regulation approved for public comment today by the Environmental Quality Board will help clean Pennsylvania’s air and save trucking companies millions of dollars in diesel fuel. The regulation, developed by the Department of Environmental Protection after it was petitioned by the Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania, would limit the amount of time a diesel-powered commercial motor vehicle can idle its engine to no more than five minutes in a 60-minute period. The rule is aimed, primarily, at long-haul truckers, many of whom idle their vehicles during federally mandated rest periods to provide heating, cooling and power to their bunks and cabs. It will also affect other vehicles, such as many delivery trucks, school buses, transit buses and motor coaches.

The regulation must now be opened to public comment and be discussed in a public hearing before final consideration by the EQB. It then must be approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which reviews all proposed state regulations and, finally, the state attorney general.

Because of its extensive interstate highway system, there is a heavy volume of truck travel in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth has some 260 truck stops, 47 public rest areas, and more than 13,000 truck parking spaces—providing many convenient areas for heavy-duty diesel vehicles to idle.

According to a study by the commonwealth’s highway emissions consultant, Michael Baker Jr. Inc., total statewide idling related to truck travel rest is estimated to be more than 21 million annual hours. That total represents 96 percent of long-duration idling, or instances when the engine of a still vehicle is left running for more than 15 minutes. DEP estimates that 13,000 long-haul trucks idle in Pennsylvania each day. 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.

Diesel powered vehicles emit nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds, both of which contribute to ground-level ozone, as well as fine particulate matter. Both ozone and fine particulate matter are pollutants that can cause or exacerbate breathing problems, especially in people with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. DEP says the new regulation—once fully enacted in 2010—will reduce annual emissions of NOx by about 1,610 tons, VOCs by about 45 tons, and particulate matter by about 30 tons. This rule will also help reduce carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Under Governor Edward G. Rendell leadership, the commonwealth already has made investments to encourage alternatives to idling. It has awarded $1 million in grants to support the installation of alternative power sources to truckers, with more than another $1 million in grants to small trucking firms to help them buy on-board alternative power units.

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. Other exemptions include idling for:

· Active loading or unloading of passengers or property;

· Operating work-related mechanical or electrical operations other than propulsion; and

· Maintenance, repairs, 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 non-driver passengers are on board. Pennsylvania joins 14 other states, including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New York in adopting anti-idling measures. The EQB will accept public comment on this proposed regulation for 60 days following the regulation’s publication in the Pa. Bulletin. It will also hold three public hearings on the proposal.

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