Idling Awareness Day – with a message of ‘Make engine idling a turn-off’, will put idling in the spotlight. It aims to highlight the impacts that drivers, who do not switch off their engine, whilst stationary in standing traffic or pulled up for some reason, cause to both the environment and their own fuel bill.

Idling Awareness Day takes place in Walk to School Week. HH Driveright will be inviting drivers to consider the health impacts they are having, when leaving engines running as children walk past them on their way to and from school.

Ironically, however, surveys have found that engine idling is commonplace around schools, with the culprits being parents waiting for children.¹ Parents could help set a better example.

Engine idling increases the amount of exhaust fumes, with these containing harmful gasses including carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and various hydrocarbons. Both asthma and lung diseases are linked to these pollutants.

“Air pollution is a silent killer and responsible for the deaths of around 40,000 people a year,” says HH Driveright’s managing director, Rebecca Hall.¹¹ “It impacts on children walking to school, other pedestrians, cyclists and outdoor workers in particular, so if we can do some simple things to reduce it, we should. Not engaging in engine idling is a very simple thing to do. However, it needs drivers to think, act and change a bad habit. In fact, it’s such an engrained habit that even motorists with stop-start technology often override that functionality, in order to idle.

“We need to remember that air pollution is everywhere and is not just an inner-city phenomenon.¹¹¹ Drivers, across the UK, need to act more responsibly.”

Fleet vehicles, mostly running on particularly harmful diesel, are a particular focus for HH Driveright, which has the technology to identify engine idling, amongst other bad driving behaviours, through its GM2020 device. Fleet managers can take a very easy step – making it a company policy to not engage in engine idling – and, by using their GM2020 dashboards, see whether or not drivers are adhering to this instruction.

The outcomes of clamping down on engine idling within fleets could be hugely positive. HH Driveright says one hour of idling per day, in a Ford Transit van (20 plate), can create 11.9kg of CO2, which means 238.4kg of CO2 per month and 3100.5kg per year. When this is multiplied across all the vehicles in a fleet, the impacts on the environment cannot be ignored.

However, the costs of engine idling can also be measured in money terms. One hour of idling per day can waste up to 4.5 litres of fuel. At a diesel price of £1.75 per litre, that equates to £7.87 burned off unnecessarily per day and £2047.50 wasted in a year, per vehicle in a fleet.

Added to all of this, engine idling is actually prohibited by rule 123 of the Highway Code. This rule states that drivers must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running, or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while the vehicle is stationary on a public road. The penalty is a fixed one – £20 – but only levied if the driver refuses to switch off their engine. Given this relative lack of deterrent, it is for drivers and fleet managers to actively elect to act differently, in HH Driveright’s view.

“We want every driver in the UK to consider what happens when their engine is left running, whether that is whilst delivering goods, waiting at a level crossing or in a traffic jam, charging up a phone, heating or cooling a vehicle or picking someone up.

“Engine idling is a turn-off and engines should be turned off, whenever possible. If we all did that little thing, we could have significant impacts on air quality and also save ourselves money,” says Rebecca Hall.

Fleets can also enhance their green credentials by becoming idling intolerant, which could mean additional business, particularly with corporate clients with strong ESG policies. Delivery companies can also help avoid instances in which vans, left running by the roadside, are stolen by organised gangs or opportunistic thieves.