Should your fleet be allowed to idle when the temperature outdoors is either extremely cold or extremely hot?
Canadians take pride in our local hockey teams, our national anthem—and the way we shrug off our extreme weather conditions.
But all too often, that means over-extending car heaters and air conditioners, and wasting fuel. For fleet managers, that can be a big problem.
“Idling time increases significantly in the winter time when drivers are trying to warm up the cabin before they drive away, or get the vehicle to operating temperature,” says Ryan D’Souza, Regional Director for Prairies, Jim Pattison Lease.
He recommends installing old school block heaters, which can cost $150 to $200, but significantly decreasing the amount of time it takes for a vehicle to warm up. “All you do is plug a vehicle into a 110 volt outlet, and it’s going to warm up the oil and coolant, which will significantly reduce your warm-up time,” says D’Souza. “When the coolant is at a higher temperature, it warms up the cabin quicker.”
Telematics track idle time
Telematics can help for fleets of all sizes. “Most modern telematics are as simple as a plug and play solution that plugs into a vehicle port and tracks idle time, fuel economy,” says D’Souza. “Many also provide gamification, where you set up rules or a program for fuel efficiency, and create a game through an online app for drivers.
For bigger fleets, telematics that track idle time are very popular. “It’s very successful for bigger fleets to monitor their idle time in order to get it low,” D’Souza explains. “It’s probably one of the top five things that fleet managers look at when searching out a telematics provider.”
According to Andy Hall, Assistant Manager, Fuel and GMS Products, Global Product Management at ARI, the topic of idling should be addressed in a strong policy. “It’s also important to understand that there’s good idling and bad idling,” he adds.
“If you’re running a PTO, then obviously idling is necessary. You need to be realistic, since some fleets operate in conditions where it’s a safety issue in really extreme conditions, both hot and cold.”
A good fleet policy could address how long idling is acceptable, and also identify weather conditions. “I’ve seen policies that say you shouldn’t be idling, say, unless it’s over 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) or under another specific temperature,” Hall explains.
Telematics can be an enormous help. “There are some different calculations for number of minutes, hours the engine is idling, and how that translates to fuel spent,” Hall says. “Putting a dollar amount to it helps drive the message home.”
Gamification is also effective, depending on the type of fleet. “Drivers can perhaps win gift cards or something to incentivize them, but really, just the positive reinforcement will help,” Hall explains. “They often hear negative things, but they don’t get any thanks for doing the right thing. So just a positive message and knowing they’re doing great compared to other divisions and other regions, can be beneficial.”