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New Research Reveals Increased Idling Time, CO2 Emissions During Winter

By Verizon Connect September 16, 2020

Average idle time increased to nearly 22 minutes per stop during the winter of 2018-2019 

In the Northeast, average idle time per stop and average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were up by 28% per stop

Northeast lawn and garden vehicles have the highest winter idle time, resulting in almost twice the CO2 emissions—approximately 5 pounds of emissions per stop in the winter months compared to 2.7 pounds per stop during other seasons

With winter weather, come hazardous driving conditions. This especially makes life tough for the commercial fleets in certain regions of the United States, with an added challenge of frequent stops and longer idle times. A recent study by Verizon Connect revealed that fleet vehicles in a number of U.S. regions experience more stops and longer idle times per stop during the winter months.

With the consistent increase in stops and idle time, the regular issues of fuel wastage, wear and tear, and dangerous emissions snowball into much bigger proportions. Let’s take a closer look at the perils of winter driving based on the data captured from real vehicles and drivers.

Fuel usage, CO2 emissions spike with more stops longer idling

According to Verizon Connect data, the highest change in average idle time year-over-year occurs in winter. The data shows that average idle time steadily increased throughout 2017 and was up to nearly 22 minutes per stop during the 2018-2019 winter season, creating approximately six pounds of CO2 emissions per stop.

With the spike in demand and the consequent deliveries, the December holiday rush adds to the distances travelled and the number of stops made. Our holiday data shows that the Northeast and Midwest regions rank the highest in overall stops and fleet miles driven year-over-year. The number of stops and miles driven by drivers supplying retailers and restaurants between October and December was up by approximately 18% from 2017 to 2018. 

Fleet owners and operators need to keep a close tab on fuel consumption and idling time. According to Energy.gov, a medium-heavy truck consumes 0.84 gallon of gasoline per hour when idle, and based on a study from Fueleconomy.gov, one gallon of gasoline burned produces 20 pounds of CO2.

This trend could have a direct impact on cost and fuel economy of the fleet business. Top that with tighter emission norms and the challenge becomes much larger than expected.

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The Northeast sees greatest idle times, lawn and garden vehicles emit the most

Which U.S. regions are hit the hardest by the winter months in terms of driving? We see a clear trend in Northern regions, as this part of the country is colder and experiences more snowfall. Most notably, in the Northeast, the average idle time and average CO2 emissions per stop were up by 28% in the winter of 2018-2019 compared to other seasons in 2018.

Within the Northeast, lawn and garden vehicles experience the largest increase in average idle time during winter as compared to the rest of the year. For these companies, the average idle time per stop is nearly 18 minutes in the winter compared to roughly 10 minutes per stop for other seasons during the same year. As a result, CO2 emissions were almost double—at approximately 5 pounds of emissions per stop in the winter months compared to 2.7 pounds per stop during other seasons.  

General contractors in the Northeast also see vehicle idle time and CO2 emissions reach their all-time high in winter, at an increase of 63% per stop in 2018-2109 versus other seasons. HVAC (including plumbing) fleets also see average idle time and CO2 emissions increase by up to 49% during the winter period. 

What does this seasonal data mean for your fleet business?

With more frequent stops, additional miles covered, increased idle time and heightened fuel consumption during the winter season, vehicle cost and productivity are key concerns. Safety is also an important factor, given the hazardous road conditions on snow-covered highways where drivers are often driving for long night shifts and into early morning hours.

Proper maintenance is especially critical as trucks take a beating during harsh winter weather, and excessive engine idling can increase vehicle maintenance costs. Here are some facts to consider: 

  • According to US Department of Energy eliminating personal vehicle idling would be equivalent to taking 5 million vehicles off the road.
  • The American Trucking Association estimates that idling can increase maintenance costs by $2,000 per vehicle per year and shorten the life of an engine.
  • Idling causes twice as much wear and tear on internal parts as driving at normal speeds.

Winter-proof your vehicles

Reducing idle time starts with your drivers. Given unpredictable weather conditions, coupled with increased holiday fleet traffic during the winter season, having the right tools is the key. GPS fleet tracking and its associated technologies can help your drivers and your vehicles better weather the winters.

Reduce idle time with route optimization and driving alerts

  • Receive notifications via email or text message when any vehicle in your fleet idles over a certain period of time, exceeds a speed you set or operates a vehicle during unauthorized hours.
  • Save on fuel and idle time by decreasing total miles driven with optimized dispatching and routing, mileage trend monitoring and geofences.
  • Automatically identify routes impacted by inclement winter weather and traffic congestion and direct drivers to more efficient alternatives.
  • Reduce fuel-wasting behavior—one of the greatest expenses for most fleets—by tracking fuel card usage.

Help prevent costly maintenance issues

During the harsh winter months and busy holiday season, keeping vehicles up and running is essential. Fleet tracking solutions help streamline maintenance processes by providing:

  • Access to engine diagnostics data to help identify issues before they result in major repairs and breakdowns.
  • Tracking data on engine hours and driver behavior to detect precursors to wear and tear such as hard cornering and rapid acceleration.
  • Automatic reminders for routine maintenance, by tracking vehicle service and date of completion.

 To find out more about how your fleet can experience efficiency, safety and maintenance benefits checkout this video series.

Verizon Connect

Verizon Connect Staff represents a team of professionals passionate about everything telematics. Get to hear about the latest trends, product features and industry best practices from the desk of Verizon Connect Staff.

Tags: Data & Analytics, Fuel cost management

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