Idling exemption ends, leaves room for Texas-sized enforcement

| 8/17/2009

Truckers stopping in Texas may soon see enforcement of anti-idling rules stepped up as an exemption of many local government-enforced idling restrictions expires.

On Sept. 1, truck drivers will no longer be allowed to idle during federally mandated rest periods. Cities and counties in Texas that enforce idling restrictions have agreed to sign a memorandum of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that limits idling to five minutes at a time.

The memorandum exempted idling during “government-mandated rest periods,” but that exemption ends on Sept. 1, 2009.

Some exemptions, however, will remain.

Vehicles aren’t restricted from idling in Texas if they:

  • Have a gross vehicle weight rating of 14,000 pounds or less and do not have a sleeper berth;
  • Have a gross vehicle weight rating of 14,000 pounds or less, after Sept. 1, 2009;
  • Are forced to remain motionless because of traffic conditions;
  • Provide power source necessary for mechanical operation;
  • Are being operated for maintenance or diagnostic purposes;
  • Are being operated solely to defrost a windshield; or
  • Are being used to provide air conditioning or heating necessary for employee health or safety while the employee is using the vehicle to perform an essential job function related to roadway construction or maintenance.

During its recently concluded legislative session, the Texas Legislature considered a bill to extend the idling exemption during sleeper hours until April 2011.

The proposed measure, however, died.

The Dallas regional area has 23 city and county entities that restrict commercial truck idling, said Amanda Brimmer, senior transportation planner with the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The Austin, TX, region has five counties and six cities that also limit idling.

A list of governments that restrict idling is available by clicking here.

Fines in Dallas can be as high as $500, and depending on the jurisdiction truckers can be fined by code enforcement officers or peace officers, Brimmer said.

Some local governments choose to emphasize education rather than enforcement, she said.

“It really depends – some are going all the way and enforcing with stopwatches and issuing tickets,” Brimmer said. “The spectrum is all over the place.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer