Idling vehicles consume fuel, pollute the environment, and are loud and annoying—three reasons no-idling requirements are common from Bismarck to Boston.

Because an idling engine is operating below its optimum temperature, according to City of Durham, N.C., Fleet Management Director Joe Clark, residue deposits can form that lower fuel economy by 5% and shorten engine life. In addition:

Idling is harder on engines than restarting the vehicle or driving;

  • Not idling for five minutes per day saves $30 to $60 annually per vehicle (assuming gas is $3.15 per gallon);
  • The average truck idles more than 1,800 hours a year.
  • Graphic Products’ 6-pound Lobo printer uses preloaded cartridges and can be plugged into a vehicle to make custom labels onsite.
    DuraLabel Graphic Products’ 6-pound Lobo printer uses preloaded cartridges and can be plugged into a vehicle to make custom labels onsite.

  • As fuel prices rise, more fleet departments are requiring internal customers to turn off their vehicles after a certain amount of time. Some use remote engine diagnostics to monitor compliance with anti-idling policies, but there are at least five other ways to get the message across.

    Collaborate. In addition to working with North Carolina’s departments of Transportation and Energy to promote smarter driving practices, idle reduction, and the use of fuel-efficient technologies, Durham is a member of the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition. Comprised of fleet managers, companies, and nonprofit organizations, the 15-year-old coalition belongs to the National Partnership to Reduce Diesel Pollution.

    Win an award. Publicizing your department’s success via programs like the Association of Equipment Management Professionals’ Fleet Masters Awards and Enterprise Fleet Management’s Stevie Award gets the word out to a national audience of your peers. It also raises awareness at home of your operation’s expertise.

    Labels, stickers, and fliers. Durham is designing a No Idling window sticker as a reminder to drivers and operators, technicians, and residents. Stickers made via thermal transfer last for years despite exposure to the elements and repeated washings.

    As the name implies, a thermal printer melts resin onto a material such as vinyl. A $700 to $3,000 labeling system includes print head, transport and positioning system for the ribbon and label material, cutter mechanism, memory and processor to store and run software, and user interface for designing and printing labels, signs, and tags.

    Cost can be shared by other departments, including transportation, construction, and facility management.

    “Our No-Idling and Lights Off/Power Down policies are communicated during new-employee orientation with fliers,” says Bob Mullen of Dunwoody, Ga. “We also ask contractors, through project agreements and via fliers, to abide by these policies.” Adopted in 2009, the city prohibits idling for more than 30 seconds unless running the engine is essential to the work being performed or the vehicle’s in routine traffic.

    Disseminate, promote, and explain online. Some cities disseminate policy changes via internal Intranet and externally by e-mails and blogs. Electronic communication is fast and, thanks to the exponential growth in smart phone ownership, reaches a large audience.

    Get manager buy-in. Introduce the policy at a retreat before presenting it as a fait accompli to both full-time and temporary employees. Retreats reach insiders personally and allow them to comment on and shape new policies.

    Tallahassee, Fla., Coordinator of Environmental Regulation Compliance Tony Murray has a four-step communication program:

    Telling large fleet managers that less idling means better mileage, which increases profit;

  • Having a municipality support communitywide no idling helps bring in partnerships with local businesses;
  • Joining the work and home mindsets of city employees by having them sign an Idle Free Pledge;
  • Reinforcing no idling messages via TV commercials, signs in parking lots, and asking residents to take the pledge at community green events.

While no-idling policies have their fans, there continues to be a need to generate awareness to support these policies as new employees are hired and trained. The most conscientious managers reach out to stakeholders in a variety of innovative ways through the media, and through both electronic and visual communications.

Jack Rubinger is an industrial copywriter for Graphic Products Inc. of Beaverton, Ore., which manufactures DuraLabel thermal transfer printing systems and supplies. E-mail [email protected]; visit For a free sample label, visit here.