Pennsylvania bill seeks reduced idling

| 9/11/2008

A bill in the Pennsylvania House, which is intended to reduce unnecessary idling of large trucks throughout the state, could draw consideration in the waning months of the legislative session.

In most instances, drivers idling their trucks while sleeping or resting would be exempt from the rule.

Idling rules already are in place in Allegheny County and the city of Philadelphia.

The state’s Senate voted early this year to advance a bill to the House that would implement idling limits statewide. Diesel-powered commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds would be limited to idling for no more than five minutes per hour.

Affected trucks would be exempt from the time limit rule when temperatures are lower than 40 degrees or higher than 75 degrees. The exception would apply only at locations where trucks are legally permitted to park, including truck terminals, truck stops and rest areas – as long as idle-reduction technology is unavailable.

The temperature exemption would expire May 1, 2010. At that time, it is expected that idle-reduction technology will be more widely available.

Violators would face $50 fines. Repeat offenders would face up to $150 fines.

Supporters say that excessive truck idling is extremely detrimental to the state’s air quality. They are hopeful the proposed restrictions would help make cleaner air more widely available throughout the state.

“Idling more vehicles needlessly wastes hundreds of millions of gallons of diesel fuel. … This legislation meets many of our goals for the environment and energy independence,” Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, said in a written statement.

Others say they would like to see the responsibility for idling violations placed on vehicle owners, instead of operators.

“This is an unfair responsibility to place solely on a person that does not own the truck being driven,” said Mike Joyce, OOIDA senior government affairs representative.

Joyce said while some truck drivers use APUs, few motor carriers invest in the technology.

“An employee driver has no say in the economic decision whether to purchase and install these technologies on company-owned equipment,” he said.

Exceptions to the rule also would include situations when vehicles are stuck in traffic; when required by law enforcement to stop; or when idling is necessary “to operate defrosters, heaters, air conditioners or cargo refrigeration equipment.” Installation of equipment to prevent a safety or health emergency that is not part of a rest period also would be exempted.

In addition, idling restrictions would not apply to trucks equipped with 2007 or newer diesel engines with certification from the California Air Resources Board.

The bill – SB295 – is awaiting consideration in the House Transportation Committee. All legislation must be approved by both chambers before the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for late November.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor