School Bus Idle Reduction Strategies

No-idle zone sign

School bus idling leads to wasted fuel and increased emissions. This can have negative health impacts for those near the buses, such as students.

As a general rule, bus engines should be turned off immediately after arriving at loading or unloading areas. The school bus should not be restarted until it is ready to depart, and during early morning warm-ups, idling should be limited to the manufacturer’s recommendation (generally no more than five minutes to warm the engine). Additional heat, provided by auxiliary equipment, may be required to warm up the passenger compartment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the Clean School Bus Program to reduce school bus idling. This campaign:

  • Provides an opportunity for bus drivers, transportation managers, school administrators, teachers, parents, and children to learn about air quality and diesel emissions.
  • Recognizes the positive contributions being made by school bus drivers.
  • Promotes idle reduction as an easy way to save money by saving fuel, reduce engine wear and tear, protect the health of drivers and children, and improve air quality.

School Bus Idle Reduction Technologies

For school buses (and transit buses) that operate in cold climates, small on-board diesel cabin heaters and electric block heaters can provide passenger compartment and engine warming capabilities far more efficiently than idling can. These heaters can be programmed to start remotely, saving on labor costs. The EPA has more information available about these technologies.