No idling proposal targets truck exhaust

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(Host) The state is poised to propose new regulations prohibiting large trucks and buses from idling for more than a few minutes at a time. The move comes as “no-idling” legislation languishes in the Legislature. The trucking industry says it favors self regulation.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) For the past year, the Department of Environmental Conservation has been working on a new regulation that would, in most cases, prohibit heavy-duty diesel vehicles from idling in one place for more than three minutes. The department is expected to release the proposed rule this week to get further input.

David Love is an environmental analyst with the department. Love says heavy diesel trucks and buses make up only two percent of the vehicles on the state’s highways, but they account for 65 percent of the toxic emissions. Love says toxic and cancer causing compounds adhere to the particles that make up the familiar black or gray exhaust from diesel engines.

(Love) “There’s great concern about the direct public exposure to these pollutants, particularly elderly folks, people with existing heart and respiratory conditions and school aged children.”

(Zind) Love says nitrogen oxides from diesel engines also contribute to air pollution.Children are especially susceptible to the diesel emissions, mostly from school buses, which would be covered by the new regulation. Some school districts in Vermont already have no-idling policies. Love says six other states in the region have adopted regulations similar to those being proposed in Vermont.

Bill Gouse is with the American Trucking Association. Gouse says idling regulations are unnecessary because trucking companies already do their best to minimize idling time.

(Gouse) “It’s expensive. Idling costs fuel and wear and tear on the equipment. A lot of companies give drivers performance bonuses so they’re encouraged financially to not be thoughtless about it.”

(Zind) Gouse says today’s trucks have technology that enable a company to monitor how long a driver has left a truck running. Meanwhile an effort in the legislature to pass a no-idling law appears dead for the session. Grand Isle Democratic Senator Dick Mazza heads the Senate Transportation Committee. Mazza says representatives of Vermont’s trucking industry told the panel they’re willing to voluntarily limit idling. Mazza says he favors that approach. He doesn’t think a law would work.

(Mazza) “It’s unenforceable. I would rather have truckers and the bus companies get together and come back with some thoughts on what they intend to do to monitor their own industry.”

(Zind) The current draft of the new regulation contains some exceptions to the idling limit, including allowing long haul drivers who often spend the night sleeping in their trucks to keep their engines running.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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