Idle time refers to the amount of time a vehicle is running but not moving, such as when a driver is sitting in traffic or while a delivery is being made. Although it may seem like a small thing, idle time can add up quickly and lead to significant fleet costs, as well as significant emissions that could be avoided with an optimized approach to this often-overlooked issue in fleet operations.
There are nuances to "idle time" which means there is no "one size fits all" solution for reducing this waste. For example, if the majority of a driver's idle time is after their deliveries or before leaving the lot, then the solution may be to encourage drivers to keep the vehicle turned off while performing their pre-inspection or handling paperwork; however, if the idling is typical during the trip, then this might be an indication of route inefficiencies like traveling through congested areas at peak times.
Regardless of the type of vehicle idling time a fleet is exhibiting, a fleet manager will benefit from the ability to have an in-depth look at what's actually happening and is typically shocked to discover how truly wasteful these easily-solved matters are.
A robust telematics platform gives a fleet manager deep insights into specific behaviors, meaning they will be able to see when the idling is happening, where it is happening, and depending on how in-depth their platform is, may even be able to get a direct visual of the driver to see their actions during this car idling time.
In our work with clients across the globe, we've found the results to speak for themselves: With the combination of telematics and our AI dash cam, fleets see a 15% reduction in fuel costs and a 25% increase in productivity. When just using a telematics platform without AI coaching, there is a 7.5% reduction in fuel costs and a 10% increase in productivity. Each of these improvements is directly influenced by a reduction in idle time that needlessly consumes fuel and emits greenhouse gases.
Idle time not only impacts a company's budget due to the increase in fuel consumption but also because of the opportunity cost of having a vehicle and driver sitting idle when they could be completing other tasks. Additionally, this downtime can actually be an indication of decreased morale for drivers who feel like they are twiddling their thumbs instead of working.
On a macro level, vehicle engine idling also contributes significantly to emissions. In the United States, passenger vehicles and trucks account for 29 percent of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, and while this number has been steadily declining due to more fuel-efficient vehicles, there is still significant room for improvement.
In a study by the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounted for 27% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Within the overall transportation segment, light-duty vehicles accounted for 57% of GHG emissions, while medium- and heavy-duty vehicles accounted for 26%. Extending the benefits of past cost-savings for a fleet, and instead thinking about the benefits to our environment that a telematics platform can offer, imagine the environmental upside of a 15% reduction in fuel use across the entire sub-segment of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the country!
While this number will vary based on the fuel type of the vehicles involved, it is clear that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time a vehicle idles and the emissions it produces.
Depending on where your fleet operates, there are a number of laws specifically designed to curb idling. As a fleet manager, it is your responsibility to know the laws about idling as it relates to your fleet, which can quickly get complicated if you are operating across state borders — especially in states with drastically different legislation.
While legislation is one way to curb idling, it is not the only way, and in many cases, voluntary efforts by companies to reduce their idling can be even more impactful. Getting a fine is frustrating, especially for such an avoidable behavior, but alternatively, fleet drivers can save money on fuel costs by reducing idling AND won't need to worry about paying penalties. This type of win-win is just one of the many benefits of implementing a telematics platform.
GPS tracking is one of the most effective ways to reduce idling time, as it provides fleet managers with real-time data and visibility into the whereabouts and behaviors of their drivers. If a driver has a habit of stopping for lunch and eating in their vehicle without turning it off, this is just one of many simple and easily-corrected behaviors that a telematics platform can enable. A fleet manager will simply need to cross-reference a vehicle's location and its status — whether it is moving, idling, or turned off — to determine exactly what is happening.
Additionally, GPS tracking can monitor driver behavior and identify patterns that may indicate inefficient routes or excessive idling. For example, if a driver regularly arrives at their destination well before their scheduled time, it may be an indication that the route is not properly optimized and can be adjusted in a number of ways. If the driver is consistently arriving late, or a particular leg of a routine delivery is constantly showing high or abnormal idle times, it might be a clear indication that this leg needs to be adjusted to avoid peak traffic times.
When all of this information is aggregated into MiX Telematics' dashboard, a fleet manager can identify areas for improvement with ease and can back their decisions with facts and hard data that, until recently, was difficult to gather, input, and process into useable information.
By implementing a telematics platform, fleet managers can get specific insights into their drivers' behaviors that can provide them with a deeper understanding of how and why drivers are idling. Additionally, there are some more general tips to save on fuel costs and idling reduction that can be applied across fleets.
One way to reduce idle time is by using a telematics platform with route optimization capabilities. This type of software takes into account things like traffic patterns and customer locations to create more efficient routes. It also can help monitor and adjust driver behavior by providing factual information about how and why a certain driver is idling (or wasting fuel in other ways) more than other drivers in the fleet.
Fleet managers may also consider how to encourage drivers to not keep the engine running when stopped for long periods of time: This could be done through educational materials, such as an article or video explaining the impacts of idling and how it can be avoided. With MiX's AI-powered dash camera, a virtual coach can provide real-time feedback on unwanted behaviors such as unnecessarily idling that can cause engine wear.
Incentivizing drivers for reducing their idle time is another great option, which could be done through a leaderboard or other recognition system that highlights the drivers who are doing a good job of avoiding excessive idling. Again, this is made simple with a telematics platform that a fleet manager can pull extensive data from, including when and where the idling is taking place and providing context about why the driver may have been idling at that time.
Investing in idle reduction technology is another great way to reduce idling in certain situations. There are a variety of devices and software programs that can help reduce idle time, such as engine shut-off timers and automatic startup/shutdown features. If your fleet is primarily diesel, these may not be the correct solution for you.
These are just a few of the many ways that idle time can be reduced across a fleet. By taking the time to understand how and why drivers are idling, fleet managers can make more informed decisions about which strategies will work best for their particular operation. At MiX Telematics, we are biased, but we firmly believe that useable data is the key to making lasting improvements to a fleet, and tracking these improvements is simple with our fleet manager dashboard.
With a little bit of effort, fleet managers can make a big impact when it comes to reducing their fleet's idle time. By doing so, they can not only save money but also help reduce emissions and improve driver safety.
If you're interested in learning more about how MiX Telematics can help you reduce fleet idle time, contact us today. We offer a variety of solutions that can be customized to meet the specific needs of your fleet. Whether you oversee a fleet of 3 vehicles or 3,000, we can help you make the changes necessary to improve your operation.