Medium-Duty Vehicle Idle Reduction Strategies

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Use the Idle Reduction Savings Worksheet to calculate your potential savings.

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Typical medium-duty trucks include utility, courier, and package delivery trucks. Some utility trucks, such as bucket trucks, idle to provide power for the truck’s primary work function. Other trucks idle to provide heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for drivers waiting in queue to make pick-ups or deliveries or who are working in their vehicles. Educating drivers about the use of idle reduction technologies can help save fuel and reduce emissions. Two fact sheets, Work Truck Idling Reduction and Idling Reduction for Emergency and Other Service Vehicles, provide more information for specific vehicle types.

Modify Driver Behavior

For medium-duty trucks, the primary idle reduction strategy is to turn the vehicle off when parked or stopped for more than 10 seconds (except in traffic), pay attention to signs indicating no-idle zones at schools and other locations, and consider the purchase of electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles with built-in strategies that limit engine idling.

Adopt Idle Reduction Technologies

Alternatives to idling for medium-duty vehicles depend on how the vehicle is used. Most medium-duty truck idling happens during working hours. The idling may be confined to short stretches of time, or it might be quite long, as in the case of utility trucks that need power to perform work while stationary. Possible idle reduction technologies include:

  • Air Heaters

    Air heaters are useful for medium-duty trucks that primarily idle for comfort in the passenger compartment. They are separate, self-contained units that blow warm air directly into the vehicle interior. They are powered by engine fuel but use a fraction of the fuel used by an idling engine.

  • Coolant Heaters

    Coolant heaters use the vehicle's regular heat-transfer system and are mounted in the engine compartment. The heater draws gasoline or diesel from the fuel tank to heat the vehicle's coolant and pumps the heated coolant through the engine, radiator, and heater box. Coolant heaters keep the engine warm, reducing the impact of cold starts.

  • Waste-Heat Recovery Systems

    Another option for keeping a vehicle warm is an energy recovery system, which uses the vehicle's heat-transfer system much like a coolant heater but without a separate heater. A very small electric pump is connected to the water line, which keeps the vehicle's cooling system and heater operating after the engine is turned off, using engine heat that would otherwise dissipate. As with coolant heaters, energy recovery systems keep the cab warm.

  • Battery/Auxiliary Power Systems

    For medium-duty trucks that require power take-off throughout the day, a secondary power plant, storage battery, or hydraulic storage system can be an excellent solution. In the case of a battery, it can be mounted in the back of the truck and charged overnight and recharged if needed during the day. For more information, see conversions to plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) vehicles. In the case of an auxiliary power unit, it can have a small diesel engine like a generator, which uses less fuel and produces fewer emissions than an idling vehicle's main engine would.

For an example of a battery power system, see the case study, Electric Refrigeration Translates Fuel Burn into Savings for Nonprofit.