EPA fine-tuning final draft of SmartWay model truck idling law

| 3/8/2006

Environmental Protection Agency officials say they are only months away from releasing a model law that could help create a uniform, nationwide policy for truck idling.

The model law is part of the EPA’s SmartWay program, a partnership between government and the freight and transportation industries. It’s designed to help adopt fuel-saving strategies and reduce emissions without reducing profits.

Tanya Meekins, a spokeswoman for the EPA, told Land Line the guidelines – which communities can adopt on a voluntary basis – should be released by the end of this year. However, she said specific details of the program are not yet available.

“EPA is not promulgating any type of regulation regarding vehicle idling,” Meekins said. “EPA’s role is limited to that of a facilitator on behalf of the federal government to respond to the trucking industry’s request to better involve the trucking industry in the development of idle reduction laws.”

According to an EPA press release, about half of all states have laws restricting where and for how long trucks can idle. Under SmartWay’s model, Meekins said, communities would be able to adopt uniform policies, making it easier for truckers to know the rules from city to city.

SmartWay had a number of informational and decision-making conferences throughout the country during the summer of 2005 to generate ideas for state idling laws that would be effective on a nationwide scale. Specifics of possible idling laws – including time limits, weather conditions, months of enforcement, and exemptions for specific vehicle types, emergencies and situations – were discussed.

A number of OOIDA members and board members attended the SmartWay conferences across the country to discuss the topic. Meekins said the model law will be based on some of the main points discussed during these conferences.

“Many of these laws differ from state to state, creating an inconsistent patchwork of laws which is confusing to truck drivers and fleets,” she said. “The goal is to develop a consensus approach to eliminating these inconsistencies.”

In addition to unifying idling restriction laws, SmartWay is also developing other environmentally friendly programs aimed at the trucking industry. Most recently, the organization awarded a $5 million grant program to the Texas Transportation Institute – a state-funded research facility at Texas A&M University – which will be used to research shore power technology and truck stop power options to help reduce idling.

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 – which President Bush signed into law on Aug. 8, 2005 – SmartWay will receive $94.5 million during the next three years for the purpose of reducing extended idling in heavy-duty vehicles.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer