Idling restrictions advance in Rhode Island, become law in Illinois

| 6/22/2006

A Rhode Island Senate panel has approved a bill that is intended to reduce unnecessary idling of large trucks.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday, June 20, to advance a bill to the chamber floor that would prohibit truck drivers from idling their engines for more than five consecutive minutes in any 60-minute period. The House approved the bill in May.

Rep. Raymond Sullivan Jr., D-Coventry, said the bill is meant to reduce smog and cut back on pollutants that have been linked to health problems, including asthma.

The measure would give the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management until July 1, 2007, to develop regulations to limit idling. The restriction would apply only to diesel engines.

Violators would pay up to $100 fines. Subsequent violations would result in up to $500 fines.

Among the exemptions that would apply are for situations when vehicles are stuck in traffic, required by law enforcement to stop or “when it is necessary to operate defrosting, heating, or cooling equipment to ensure the health or safety of the driver or passengers or to operate auxiliary equipment; when it is necessary to bring the engine to the manufacturer's recommended operating temperature; or when the engine is undergoing maintenance or inspection.”

The bill – H7756 – also clarifies that auxiliary power units and vehicles delivering fuel or energy products are not included in the restriction.

Sullivan said his bill is about common sense.

“There isn't any benefit to letting an engine run unnecessarily. It wastes fuel and money, creates pollution and wears down your engine,” Sullivan said in a written statement. “I would hope that people would choose on their own to protect the environment, but it would be helpful to have a law to make people understand the importance of this issue.”

Rhode Island isn't the only state this year to pursue idling restrictions for large trucks.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a bill into law June 9 limiting idling for big rigs in certain areas of the state. However, drivers idling their trucks while sleeping or resting are exempt from the rule.

The new Illinois law prohibits diesel-powered vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 8,000 pounds from stationary idling longer than 10 minutes per hour in areas that include Chicago and East St. Louis, IL. It takes effect July 1.

While waiting to weigh, load or unload cargo or freight, truckers will have their idling limited to no more than 30 minutes per hour, “unless they are in a line of vehicles that regularly and periodically moves forward,” Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plains, wrote.

Violators will face $50 fines for a first offense. Second or subsequent offenses within any 12-month period would result in $150 fines. Certain exceptions apply.

The idling rule will be waived when temperatures are less than 32 degrees or higher than 80 degrees.

Truckers will also be allowed to operate defrosters, heaters, air conditioners, or other equipment necessary “to prevent a safety or health emergency.”

The idling prohibition will not apply when idling of trucks is required “to operate auxiliary equipment to accomplish the intended use of the vehicle.” Examples specifically cited in the bill include “loading, unloading, mixing, or processing cargo; controlling cargo temperature, construction operations; lumbering operations; oil and gas well servicing or farming operations.”

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor