Clean Air Council


Idling motor vehicles are a major source of illegal and unnecessary air pollution in America. Walk down the street in any city and you’ll likely see at least one idling vehicle. In a city as large as Philadelphia, it’s a major problem. Idling from delivery trucks, city vehicles, and private cars all add up to significant emissions.

The Council has long worked to reduce motor-vehicle emissions, and has been working on anti-idling programs for approximately a decade now. Our current focus is on reporting idling vehicles to major fleet operators so they can use the data to devise better internal anti-idling policies. In the 2 years since the program began, we have reported over 800 instances of illegal idling to various agencies, and plan to soon unveil a new website to involve the public in this reporting.

Idling Facts and Myths

One of the biggest myths around idling is that it’s more efficient to leave a car engine running for a few minutes than to shut it off and turn it back on again. The truth is that with modern (post mid-1980’s) fuel-injection technology, starting a car requires almost no fuel. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers estimates that the amount of fuel required to restart a car is the same amount used in just 6 seconds of idling.

Another myth is that there are no laws around idling, and people are free to leave their cars running if they choose. The fact is that 30 states have laws around idling, including New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has its own, even more stringent anti-idling laws. Philadelphia Parking Authority tickets for “Excessive idling” cost violators $101, and can be issued in many cases after just a few minutes of idling.

An important fact around idling that almost everyone recognizes is that it’s wasteful, but few know the true extent of it. An hour of idling wastes almost an entire gallon of gas in heavy-duty trucks and transit buses.

Ending Idling

As mentioned above, the Council has been working with various agencies in Philadelphia to report idling among its fleets. These agencies have a strong interest in eliminating idling, not just because it’s illegal but also because of the cumulative fuel costs. In late 2016 the Council deployed a mobile phone friendly website that anyone can use to report incidents of idling in the Philadelphia area. The Council collects these reports and sends them to the applicable city agency like PECO or SEPTA so that they can reduce the amount of idling done by their drivers leading to increased efficiencies in their fleets as well as increased air quality in Philadelphia.

To learn more about idling, get help if it’s happening around you, or begin reporting idlers yourself please call Logan Welde at 215-567-4004 ext. 126, email or use the website found here.

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