Truck Idling: Need, Problems, Cost and Alternatives Overview

We are providing an overview of truck idling — including the need, problems, cost and alternatives — on this and linked pages.

Truck Idling: Overview of Need, Problems, Cost and AlternativesThis subject affects (and is affected) by a number of different aspects of life including money, health, lifestyle, the environment and politics.

None of these areas stands in isolation, but each bleeds over into the others.

While we attempt to address the issue from a number of viewpoints, our primary goal (of course) is to look at this from the perspective of truck drivers.

Hopefully, the way we have broken up the issue into sections will help you read it a little at a time.

Basically, idling is running an engine when it is not being used to move a vehicle.

It can be done

  • when a driver is stopped and waiting to drive safely and legally (such as at a stop light or stop sign, waiting for traffic to clear when making a left hand turn, or being stuck in a line or a traffic jam) or
  • while the vehicle is parked.


The Need

Among the reasons why a driver might need to idle his or her truck while being parked include:

  • To allow the truck time to warm up, especially in cold weather;
  • To let the truck build air pressure for the release of its brakes;
  • To keep certain products in non-temperature-controlled trailers from freezing in the winter;
  • To run appliances from the truck’s electrical system via inverter without draining the batteries (that is, provide electrification); or
  • To achieve and maintain a comfortable temperature inside the cab (that is, climate control).

A short section of a June 4, 2004 article from Land Line Magazine provided a driver’s perspective on the issue.(1)

For the purposes of the rest of this page, we will restrict ourselves to discussing trucks at idle only when it is parked during a driver’s rest break for climate control and electrification.

We dedicate this series of pages of our site to Gary, a professional truck driver whom Mike met in May 2010.

Gary said his trucking company

  • forbids its drivers from running their engines while parked,
  • does not provide any climate control or electrification alternatives,
  • does not permit the drivers to use even the smallest inverter, and
  • punishes drivers with reduced maximum speed if their idling percentage is too high.


Calculating Hours Spent and Fuel Used

Many newer model trucks record and display idle time (in hours and minutes) as well as the number of gallons of fuel burned (broken down to tenths of a gallon).

This record does not distinguish between what is “required” during driving versus “discretionary” while parked.

Display on Freightliner dash showing idle hours.At right, you will see a photo of such a display, from one of the Freightliner trucks that Mike used to drive.

Some trucks allow drivers to “reset” the time for each trip.

However, the truck continues to store cumulative numbers which drivers may or may not be able to see or access easily.

We recognize that this issue is very complex.

We are hopeful that more and more trucking company owners will realize the dangers associated with putting drivers in a no-win situation, caught between

  • sacrificing their health, their jobs, and
  • being fined or punished for wanting to be comfortable.

In order to adequately address this issue, we have had to break it up across numerous pages:

Note: We may use the terms “rest break” and “sleep break” interchangeably on pages on this site.

They refer to the same federally-required non-driving, non-working time during which professional drivers are supposed to sleep.


truck drivers money saving tip iconMoney saving tip: Seek to avoid running your engine while parked whenever you can without sacrificing your health.

If it is mild outside, you may be able to run only a fan for comfort.

If you are employed by a trucking company who provides no idle alternative and this is important to you, seek out a company who values its drivers (that is, its human resources).

Bear in mind that not all climate control alternatives are created equal.

Consider the pros and cons of their energy sources.

Realize that some alternatives may not be paid for by your trucking company.

Decide whether it is worth it to you to invest in your own comfort at your own expense or whether you can offer to split the cost of the savings if you pay for something up-front.

Return from Truck Idling: Need, Problems, Cost and Alternatives Overview to our Truck Operations page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.


1. (no longer online)