Delaware now enforcing anti-idling regulation

| 10/26/2006

Although the regulation's been on the books for more than a year, enforcement officers are now officially cracking down on idling trucks in Delaware.

Since Sept. 1, the enforcement division of the state's Department of Natural Resources has been watching for trucks idling for more than three minutes. The move is in accordance with a regulation that passed into law in April 2005, which prohibits most heavy-duty vehicles from excessive idling.

Under the regulation, drivers of vehicles with gross vehicle weights of 8,500 pounds or more are allowed to idle for a maximum of three minutes. Violators face fines of $50 to $500 for a first offense, and $500 to $1,500 for all subsequent offenses.

The new rules exempt vehicles that are idling to provide heat to the occupant and sets the allowed temperature range between minus 10 and 32 F. The rule specifies in that range, an engine may idle for up to 15 consecutive minutes.

However, if it's real cold, idling during a trucker's sleep time trumps the regs, said Phil Wheeler, Planner for Air Quality Management.

"We know that having fatigued drivers out there on the road is bad, so when they need heat to sleep, that takes precedence over everything," Wheeler said.

If it is colder than minus 10 F, the driver can idle the engine.

"If it's less than minus ten, you can keep the engine running. However, if that idling causes a complaint, causes a nuisance, we might ask the trucker to turn his engine off," Wheeler said, adding that Delaware has not seen "minus 10" in years.

As far as a high end on temperature restrictions, Wheeler told Land Line Magazine that the state did not set a rule that would allow idling if it were, say, 90 F or so.

"We figured keeping warm during cold weather was the main thing," he said.

The new rule exempts any vehicle using auxiliary power for equipment to perform the intended operation of the vehicle, including, by way of example, a power take off generator for any utility truck; or any vehicle idling for the "necessary power for a heater, air conditioner, or any ancillary equipment during sleeping or resting in a sleeper berth such that the vehicle's location is not within 25 miles of a parking facility with available truck stop electrification equipment, either shore power or an advance system that is approved by the Department including meeting all compatibility requirements with existing onboard truck shore power equipment."

Breakdown situations and traffic standstills are also on the exemption list, as well as a repair situation, during a routine inspection and any situation where it is necessary to bring the on-road heavy duty vehicle to the manufacturer's recommended operating temperature.

Emergency vehicles are exempt from the regulation, plus military vehicles engaged in training. There are some exemptions for school buses, too

Kurt Reuther, chief of environmental enforcement for the state's DNR, said that since the regulation's passage last year, his department has been working to educate the trucking industry on the new rules.

"We've been working behind the scenes, doing outreach with a variety of different trucking firms and people in that industry, letting them know that we'd be starting this," Reuther told Land Line.

Unlike many anti-idling regulations, which place the burden of enforcement on the state police, Delaware's enforcement is being handled almost entirely by the DNR. And, according to Reuther, his department will be actively looking for offending trucks, as well as taking complaint calls from the public via a hot line number.

"We have a force of environmental protection officers that work out in a variety of areas throughout the state of Delaware," he said. "They'll be keeping an eye out for anti-idling violations."

Reuther said the state police are also allowed to issue citations for the regulation, but said he was unaware of a similar enforcement push by them.

And as for the question of whether idling enforcement can ever be truly and thoroughly enforced, he said the number of trucks and truck parking facilities in the state will make it a relatively simple process.

"It would actually be somewhat easy for one of the environmental protection officers to basically just go watch," Reuther said. "Watch the activities, watch the areas where the trucks do their business, and if they don't meet any of the exemptions and are idling for greater than that three-minute timeline, then it's really just a matter of observing it and issuing the criminal summons from there."

- By Land Line staff