When a commercial vehicle is stationary, it is unproductive whether the engine is running or not. Breakdowns and unscheduled maintenance are valid reasons for a vehicle to be idle with the engine is switched off. However, when the engine is running and the vehicle is idling, productive time is wasted.

Idling means that the engine is running but the wheels are not, determined by a speed of less than 1 km/h. According to the US Department of Energy, an idling vehicle can burn 0.8 gallons of fuel per hour. This means unnecessary fuel expenditure, costly wear and tear of engines, and air and noise pollution.

Do you know how much time each day your fleet spends idling and how much it costs your business?

Main reasons why trucks are idling

  • Queuing up to load or unload at suppliers’ and/or customers’ premises
  • Gridlocked traffic or toll booths
  • Stopped to process documentation manually or electronically
  • Stopped to use a phone
  • Warming up the vehicle’s engine or cab
  • Stopped at a rest stop to eat or sleep

Idling costs

All idling time is costly to a business. Fuel and oil waste increases running costs. Excess run-time increases vehicle maintenance frequency. Idling also has a social and environmental cost, polluting the atmosphere with carbon emissions and creating excessive noise.

Running Costs

It is estimated that for a truck that consumes $70,000 worth of fuel on an annual basis, up to 8 percent ($5,600) of the fuel is wasted on idling. If you have a fleet with hundreds of trucks, that cost can quickly jump up to tens of thousands of dollars and more every month. Substantial fuel efficiency and cost savings can be achieved by tracking and monitoring excessive idling across your fleet.

Maintenance costs

Idling accelerates engine wear and tear creating a need for more regular maintenance and an increase in the number of oil changes. This means more unproductive downtime and potentially costly repairs, both of which increase operational costs.

Environmental costs

In the U.S., the transportation sector is responsible for 29 percent of the total annual energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Reducing idling in your fleet can make a positive impact on the environment by reducing the amount of CO2 your fleet expels into the air.

Similarly, noise pollution is an increasingly important social issue as it has an impact on the quality of life of the communities you serve.

Failure to adhere to environmental and community regulations can incur fines and cause reputational damage.

Driver rest periods

The Argonne National Laboratory, under the auspices of the United States Department of Energy, estimates that rest-period idling results in “the emission of about 11 million tons of carbon dioxide, 55,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 400 tons of particulate matter annually in the U.S.

These emissions contribute to climate change and diminish air quality, which can affect the health of not only those living in the community, but the truck drivers themselves. Argonne states that rest-period truck idling in the U.S. consumes up to 1 billion gallons of fuel annually and costs $3 billion.

Telematics: where telecom and vehicular technology meet

Idling time can be significantly reduced with the use of telematics, which provides fleet managers with tracking data about vehicle location and engine status. Data processed from idling events can provide insights into patterns from which decisions can be made to reduce the frequency and length of idle time.

Fleet management solutions can track idling time using an online time-tracking facility. Tracking software can detect when the engine is switched on and the vehicle is not moving, which gives accurate readings of idle time.

The resulting data creates a view of individual truck productivity which can be summarized in various ways, e.g., per route, per terminal, per driver or rolled up to show trend information for the entire fleet.

How drivers can help reduce idle time

Many drivers remain in their trucks at rest stops and keep the engine running. This is an expensive and polluting way to keep drivers comfortable. Many drivers may not be aware of the financial and environmental cost of excessive idling. The US Department of Energy says that “idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more CO2 than restarting the engine.”

Driver training can have a major influence on fuel savings and reduced maintenance costs. By asking this question and explaining the importance of the answers, major improvements in reducing idling time can be made:

Question: Why do we want to reduce idling time?


  • Save money on fuel costs
  • Reduce harmful emissions
  • Reduce engine wear and tear

Cost savings and fuel efficiency are only possible if we know how much fuel is being wasted through unnecessary idling. Tracking idling time in detail can help you and your drivers identify the times and circumstances when it is possible to control and limit idling.

Make it a goal to reduce idle time

We can take steps to reduce unnecessary idling through driver education and training. Reducing idle time lowers noise, emissions, and hard costs—a win all around.

The best solution to minimizing idling will include detailed measures, such as tracking the amount of idle time per truck/per day/per trip and the same for each driver.

Dashboard-based reporting can give you summarized and detailed reports on idle time in a visual format. These results allow direct focus on specific drivers who idle for too long or too frequently.

Idling cannot be eliminated completely, but by utilizing real-time monitoring and tracking solutions, you can reduce its impact on your business. The potential is there to gain substantial savings on fuel and maintenance and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Motive offers an end-to-end fleet management platform. Tracking vehicle utilization and idle time are just a few of the many Motive features that can help you manage your fleet more efficiently and reduce operational expenditures.

Call 844-325-9230 any time to talk to our customer support team about how Motive can help your fleet.